The principle of equality is a cardinal and a fundamental one for the operation of the rule of law and democracy. It presupposes in ordinary meaning that everyone is treated equally before the law. It is a well-respected doctrine that is well preserved all over the world particularly in advanced democracies. It is further demonstrated in the legal maxim that “justicia non negenda, non differenda” this maxim recognizes the fact that the law is blind in its application and is a no respecter of person, office or status or bias. The principle verily reinforces the integrity of the law or the justice system in a polity as impartial in the event of a breach of law.
The above synopsis when juxtaposed with well celebrated and, or ordinary case scenario in Nigeria, will leave an informed mind pondering whatever happened to the safeguard in its application to the Nigerian legal system. There has been selective judicial prosecution in the country even when and where there is a glaring infringement of fundamental rights and objectives of good goverance. That is why it is not uncommon for Nigerians to resort to extra-ordinary means to resolve a simple case of civil breach or motor vehicle accident. It is pitiable to see open fight on the highway after an accident particularly if it involves a novae riche against a struggling or average Nigeria without the benefit of “who know man connection” curiously, the police who are supposed to be impartial are quick to take side with the hugest bidder whose offer of “Egunje’ appears more appealing.
Just a few weeks ago I was reading in dailies the cry of a once untouchable, former inspector general of police, Balogun, crying out at the physical assault he received from supposedly plain cloths policemen right in front of the court. Balogun it was who at the helm of affairs in the police encouraged that era or regime of police brutality. Is it not an ironic twist that today, since the glory of power departed from him, he is being treated like a common criminal as he once did to others. I will refrain from judging what financial wrong doing he commitment. What a civilized judicial system teaches us is to accord him the fullest protection of the law and a respect for his human dignity and fundamental rights just like those he and his predecessors or successors have similarly maltreated, languishing in Alagbon Close and Panti Police Station or even in various awaiting trial stations.
I was dismayed that some of my intelligent and educated colleagues back home did not see anything wrong with what happened to Balogun at the hands of security operatives in front of his lawyer and inside the court premises.
Nobody should prejudge Balogun or others accused of crimes until proven guilty as charged. That is what the rule of law requires. The doctrine of equality also requires that he should be treated no better or favorably that any person who breaks the law. Justice in dealing with the likes of Balogun should wear the blindfold. It should serve as a lesson for us all. The police as an institution as I have continuously asserted, have failed Nigerian democracy and nation. Their job is not to kill the guilty but to protect the civil society.
I still recall cases where members of the legislative house including its first speaker in 1999 were found to have presented fraudulent credentials. Till date, no one has been charged. They were let go like they committed no crime. Even those who stole the mace during the tenure of Okadigbo were never prosecuted. Whatever happened to the Ngige and Ubah upheaval, Nigerians are watching and posterity will judge all. I even read that Orji Kalu foreign account became an issue lately. I dare say that the public office holder today in Nigeria that is without a sin should throw the first stone.
The maxim of equity says he who seeks equity must do equity and must come to equity with clean hands. Half measure or differential justice system can and will never work. It will continuously breed anarchy, restlessness and grief. I doff my hat for the economic crime commission, but in doing their job, they must be impartial. Whatever happened to the nouveau riche military class who turned multi-millionaires prior to retirement? Even if, as they all claim to be farmers, how did they acquire the initial capital, was it through a fair bargain or did they abuse public trust. Not until we as Nigerians are ready to weed out corruption in the entire facet of the society, particularly the “olopkpas” and institute a new orientation where everyone is treated fairly and equally and where everyone who is accused is presumed innocent and protected until the law finds the guilty, we shall continue this run around.