“Because of who you are, we will take these armed robbers to court. But guess what? The judges will set them free,” the officer-in-charge of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad told me matter-of-factly. He had painstakingly gone through the file, occasionally mumbling something under his breath.
Then he shoved it to the investigating police officer and rose to his full height of six feet plus. I figured the robbers had as much chance of being set free as a cripple had in playing for the Super Eagles – which is nil. This was supposed to be an open-and-close case.
The stolen items were found in the robbers’ residence. The evidence was water-tight. I had identified the robbers. How could they be set free? Idle police talk! The policeman may have read my mind, so he continued, “You people think that we are corrupt, that the police are corrupt.
Yes, we are, but the judges are more corrupt than the police. Mark my words, you will see.” This was about 20 years ago. One night, armed hoodlums broke into my house and demanded all the money I had. My mother (now late) was recuperating in my house after a spell in the hospital. My father (also now late) had come to keep her company. My eldest sister had also come to lend a hand in caring for our mother.
I left my room to go and stay with my parents. We prayed while the bandits were breaking down doors to get to us. They came in and requested for the man of the house. My parents began to cry. I stepped forward and said I was the one. They threatened to shoot if I did not give them all the money in the house. They got all they could and disappeared into the night. My mum’s blood pressure shot up, but everyone was fine – no one was injured. Investigating the case was one herculean task.
I sponsored the police on several trips to Port Harcourt from Akwa Ibom State. Eventually, the robbers were rounded up and taken to police custody. Shortly after, they were arraigned in court. The second day the case came up in the court, one man, who smelt of wealth and was in his fifties, approached me and asked that we should settle the case out of court.
He explained that one of the robbers was his stepson and his wife (and the boy’s mother) was distraught over the case. He opted to bear the cost of what was stolen in my house if I would agree to an out-of-court settlement. It was a strange request in a criminal case! I recalled how my aged parents were traumatized by the incident.
“I find your request a little strange,” I replied. “It is not about the money, but the trauma. In any case, can you discuss this with the lawyer from the Ministry of Justice prosecuting the case? I will listen to whatever she says.” Well, the man did not meet the prosecuting attorney.
Perhaps he did not want to risk the lawyer spilling the beans. He obviously decided to meet the judge – a woman. After all, what a man can do a woman can do even better. She did better. On the next court day, the judge inexplicably released all the armed robbers on bail and adjourned the case. The man did not look at me. The judge did not look at me at all. At least as her breadwinner (or someone who brought her the game) she should have given me an understanding glance.
That was the end of the case. The robbers never showed up in court thereafter. I left the case sadder but wiser – I regretted all the months and resources I spent in helping the police with their investigation. If I knew I would have left the matter in God’s mighty hands.
But that was how justice crumbled under the weight of money. Two weeks after their release, the robbers attempted to storm my house again but could not break in because God protected us and by His grace, we had put more secure locks in the compound.
There is a saying in Annangland which goes this way, “When you finish advising the chicken to be careful of the hawk, also advise the hawk to leave the chickens alone.” It could be disheartening for a good policeman to spend years hunting for a dangerous criminal and after they eventually take the criminal to the law, a corrupt judge sets him free.
The moral of this story is simple: after the reggae, play the blues. After we finish fixing the Police, let us also fix the judiciary and ensure that when excellent police work (courtesy of #EndSARS, #EndPolicebrutality, and hopeful government action) is done, it does not get frustrated by detestable and corrupt judges.