By Rogers Edor Ochela
‘’In Germany, they first came for the Communist and I did not speak out because I was not a Communist; then they came for the Jews and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew; then they came for the Trade Unionists and I did not speak out because I was not a Trade Unionist; then they came for the Catholics and I did not speak out because I was a Protestant. Then they came for me and by that time, there was no one left to speak out’’—German Poet
That the history of several Third World countries is replete with stories of injustices occasioned largely by lack of fidelity to Rule of Law is no longer news. Like it is generally acknowledged, injustice to one is injustice to all. And from whichever angle it is looked at, the continuous illegal closure of the new Corporate Headquarters of the Peace Corps of Nigeria (PCN) in Jabi, Abuja since Tuesday, 28th February, 2017, by the Police is a classical case of man’s inhumanity to man. For want of a better expression, it is a monumental injustice of epic proportions.
As a matter of fact, one will merely be stating the obvious to assert that the numerous brushes or better still, face-offs between Peace Corps and the Police, which has been occurring with the rapidity of Lake Victoria Falls over the years bears eloquent testimony to the above quoted statement by a distinguished German Poet and above all, it is equally very instructive.
It would be recalled that Justices Gabriel Kolawole and John Tsoho of different Federal High Courts in Abuja had on November 9th 2017 and January 15th 2018 respectively, declared as patently illegal and subversive the continuous closure of the office. But in a move that defies rational comprehension and which has left legal experts reeling in stupefaction, the Nigerian Police under the leadership of Ibrahim Kpotun Idris, has flagrantly disobeyed all these judgments. To make matters worse and to also prove that he is above the law and simply untouchable, the IGP has also allegedly thumbed up his nose at five (5) different letters written to him by the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Shehu Malami urging him to comply with these judgments. Surprisingly, the AGF seems to have thrown up his hands in utter surrender to this willful spitting on the hallowed temple of justice, a development that has ensured that the office of Peace Corps, a legal entity in Nigeria remains under lock and key based on the whims and caprices of an individual.
This ugly development automatically triggers some salient questions, which are urgently begging for answers. What is Nigeria turning into? Where are the nation’s numerous human rights activists and their ubiquitous organizations? Where are the once powerful Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) that used to be the conscience of the nation? Why are they not speaking out now against this grave injustice that is been perpetrated against a peaceful and law-abiding organization?
What makes this matter quite worrisome is that even some respected highly placed Nigerians, whose voices are usually accorded respect and recognition, have decided to take refuge in cold passivity by maintaining sealed lips as the bully called the Police continues to recklessly trample on the Fundamental Rights of Peace Corps without sanction or any form of reprimand. Is this the same country that our founding fathers bequeathed to us?
It might interest Nigerians to know that from 2010 till date, Peace Corps has won 12 landmark judgments against the Police and other Security Agencies. The import of these judicial victories is symptomatic of the fact that the activities of the Corps are in sync with the Rule of Law, a development that has ensured that the organization keeps a reasonable distance from breaching the laws of the land. And what resonates from this entire ugly episode is the sad reality that Peace Corps has lost a whooping sum of N13.5 million annual rental fee it paid on the property in question as a result of its illegal closure by the Police. Little wonder, Nigerians are in agreement that it is this kind of wicked attitude of the Police that has succeeded in alienating it from a high preponderance of the citizenry.
Ignorance, it is often said, is no excuse in law. For a supposedly law-enforcement agency like the Police to flagrantly disobey valid Court Judgments and break the laws of the land with impunity calls for serious concern from all well-meaning Nigerians, especially practitioners of the legal profession.
The current Police action against the Peace Corps of Nigeria (PCN) is not new considering the fact that the Force had similarly visited similar unspeakable atrocities on the Nigerian Security Organization (NSO), the precursor of the present Department State Service (DSS); the Federal Roads Safety Corps (FRSC); the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) and most recently, the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC).
Even when the enabling law to empower the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS) and Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) to bear arms was about to be passed, the Police equally rose up in anger against these organizations. So, Nigerians do not expect a different treatment for the Peace Corps, the darling organization of Nigerian youths. The only surprise is that apart from been a bully, the Police have turned itself into a breaker of the law, which it is statutorily mandated to enforce.
Similarly, to further justify their patently unjustifiable action against the Corps, these jackboot oppressors have engaged in all manner of ‘alawada’ propaganda couched in primitive falsehood with the hope that ordinary Nigerians will swallow up such lies hook, line and sinker. Unfortunately for them, these lies do not cut any ice with millions of discerning Nigerians.
At this juncture, it is pertinent to sound a note of warning to the powers operating behind the scene and urging the Police to continue with its insidious action not to unseal the Peace Corps office in compliance with the orders of the Courts. They should profit from the lessons of history and must be told in no uncertain terms that worse agents of oppression have passed through this land in the past and had left people highly traumatized by their wicked acts. When they spoke or acted, it was simply to trample on the sensibilities of Nigerians. Some even boasted (just like the current oppressors of Peace Corps) that no power, not even the presidency could rein them in or render them irrelevant. But when denouement came like a whirlwind, they were swept into the dustbin of history. So, in a nutshell, history is like gallows, it hangs those who ignore its poignant lessons. It is on this note that IGP Ibrahim Kpotun Idris is advised to ask his former boss and predecessor in office, Tafa Balogun for a few useful tips on how to discharge his assignment in office with the fear of God and survive peacefully thereafter in retirement. Let those that matter in Nigeria today begin to speak up now on the grave injustice been meted to Peace Corps of Nigeria or forever hold their peace!
Ochela is media consultant to Peace Corps of Nigeria, PCN