Bankole, Other Thieves and the London Superwoman Landlady

by Taju Tijani

Can anyone tell me the most acutely poignant aberration of our justice system in Nigeria? It is this. We treat our uncommonly wealthy and uncommonly powerful criminals with kid gloves when they are caught in the web of the law as fraudsters. Is there any secret coalition among the elite to rally round and protect their own? I have a serious grumble with our Police force, Customs, EFCC and other agencies empowered to arrest, arraign and prosecute criminals before the court of justice. When a police officer arrests a common criminal who is commonly poor for stealing, or caught for other minor infringement for that matter, he is, as a matter of standard procedure, handcuffed, beaten, verbally assaulted, ill treated and shoved into a dinghy cell. His fundamental human right is denied through the uncommon power of an average Nigerian police recruit.

Now for the uncommonly wealthy and powerful like the former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Dimeji Bankole, the Police, EFCC and the SSS treated him like a victim of sadistic justice system in Nigeria. The guy was accused of stealing N10billion public money and none of the arresting agencies had the courage to handcuff, beat, abuse or ill treat this high profile thief. The anti-hero who abused his office and public trust by going to bed with high corruption as a bed mate was seen walking around his captors, smiling and shaking hands with the very common people he fleeced so recklessly. The deference, snugness and respect given to this artful thief in Nigeria are all ancient to the UK justice system. Consider this parallel. Three weeks ago, I watched as Lord Taylor of Warwick, a Tory peer and the first black member of the House of Lords walked with sombre carriage to court to listen to his sentencing to Wandsworth prison for 12 months. He was accused of defrauding the peers’ expenses system of £11,000. His ultimate humiliation came when he was allocated the second of two bunk beds in a 10ft by 6ft cell with another expense scammer, Elliot Morley, the former Labour Minister. Lord Taylor and Elliot Morley are two uncommonly powerful and uncommonly wealthy members of the British establishment but commonly treated by mother justice for defrauding the British public and their collective wealth.

Uthman Dan Fodio was the epitaphist who said that conscience is an open wound and only truth can heal it. Tom Campbell, 39, rattled by his conscience has just stepped down as Boris Johnson, Mayor of London’s cultural strategy manager after fessing up on life as a shoplifter. In a naive and arrogant outburst Campbell said: “If I ever go into a chain store like Tesco Metros, Nandos and Pret A Mangers for lunch, I always have to steal something…..I ensure they don’t make a profit out of me. I always steal the pudding or the soup or something.” What I find bizarre in this shoplifting scandal is this. Campbell is a young, intelligent and educated chap who earns £45,000 a year selling outworn cultural trash to Boris Johnson as an adviser, yet he could not resist the urge to steal. Like minded plunderers could be found among the tribe of our senators and legislators, especially the strippers who are expert at stealing furniture, electrical and beddings in their official apartments at the expiry of their unproductive years to political debate.

It would be unfair as a pundit to beam the moral searchlight on my white host while my black brother is parried just because he is from ‘Naija’. I have never been known as a partisan gink. Whisper that not among the Igbo Diasporas! While Tom Campbell’s crude fingers shoplifted, that of Ifamuyiwa Callisto was caught riffling through lockers and suit jackets in barristers’ changing rooms. Callisto, a court worker, nicks cash, mobile phones, wigs, cash, wallets and expensive pens left in his care while the barristers argue on the court floor. Callisto (where in Nigeria do we bear that name?) was eventually caught in a sting operation by City of London’s detectives as he stole photocopied dummy banknotes in a wallet under the watchful eyes of police cameras. The 52-year-old Nigerian geezer from Tower Hamlets will now spend 9 months in jail for what he called “easy pickings” of other people’s belongings. Sacked and divorced by his wife, this man from Hamlets has behaved like many other village dwellers who eye the tempting riches of the city.

Well, if the riches of the city could tempt the soul to stealing, who then will steal from arguably Nigerian richest London landlady? The buzz in the buy-to-let housing business suggests that a Nigerian super rich and superwoman is buying up a large chunk of Hyde Park and Knightsbridge. The feral frenzy, a common gene among Nigerians, is at full play in the business guts of Folorunsho Alakija in her role as a leading landlady in the Hyde Park-Belgravia-Sloane Square-Knightsbridge axis of true wealth. Alakija, 60, is the proud owner of 4 flats in One Hyde Park. For each flat, she shelled out £6-£6.5million earlier this year through her company Rose of Sharon. What stops my mind dead is her recent purchase of a four-bedroom, 10,000 sq ft flat on the eighth floor of Knightsbridge block of flats which she bought for £59million. Yeah…open ya mouth wide!

Ms Alakija, an oily billionaire can now step out in oily style and be counted as part of the new generation of wealthy African women that are set on breaking into the Western capitals as scavenging sharks interested in everything from oil to fashion.

She made her wealth through the family oil company called Famfa Oil. Seriously, how many people from Oloibiri, Itueke, Warri and many other oil producing villages in the Niger Delta can boast of an expensive schloss in Lekki, not to mention Hyde Park? When the Delta baboons dey toil the oil wells…..pssschhhhh…..the South West monkeys dey chop the banana. Merciful God, the unjust harvest of unjust federalism. Someone just whispered James Onanefe Ibori…

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