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October 16, 2006

Lives on our Roads: In the Hands of our Vulture Class

by Farouk Martins, Omo Aresa --- Our roads are so bad, they claim so many unreported lives as a result of foreseeable accidents. Even more dreadful are deaths at the hands of robbers and armed forces. There are very few people in Nigeria that has not been accosted by gun flinging policemen or witness a case.

My experience during the war at face to face with the barrel of the gun during a soldier’s spot check still leaves a disgusting memory. A few years ago, my wife also saw a pointed gun up close. We heard about school children being shot aimlessly because drivers did not submit to 20 Naira bribe. Appalled, a visiting friend was slapped so hard two years ago by a soldier, passersby had to calm him down for his own sake.

The total lack of respect for the sanctity of live bothers every human being, even those who perpetrated these massacres of their fellow citizens. But a few rationalize it as pay back, or the problem of the other guys. Well, police are now killing one another, soldiers are killing police and we are now renting ammunition from them to kill one another. It is fair to ask about the type of Country we live in. Has killing become so habitual on our roads that it is no more a big deal in our Country?

Roads were not that great in those days either, but with fewer vehicles we can safely travel from Lagos to Kano or Onitsha without the fear we express these days. Not only the fear of accidents or robbers but also at the hands of those who are supposed to keep us safe. When I read about the eye witness death of Mr. Victor Okonkwo, the Atiku security aide, all my fears came back again. As if we do not have enough problems, jealousy amongst police can be easily manipulated into political killing between Ali Baba and the forty thieves, ethnic killing or turf fight. It is a good example that if we wait until air crashes to cry out in the form of National disaster, Nigerians will never appreciate peaceful driving. We take lives of others too casual because it is not ours but then, ours are next. We maneuver to avoid pot holes, accidents, armed robbers, police and soldier.

Road contracts are the easiest and one of the most common forms of corruption in our Country. It goes to friends, relatives and dear selves. Newly constructed roads are not passable and maintenance is almost non-existence. Though we have discovered solar street lights in a few model villages, one would think that it would be nationally applied to our roads for safety and security. But when friends, relatives and dear selves refuse to deliver quality roads, are we surprised that it is those friends, relatives and selves that die on our roads? Yoruba say “ipa npa arare, oloun npa aja.” Indirect self-annihilation.

People ask all the time why black people are so wicked to one another. If we can not love, give and take, and respect our precious lives, how can anyone that we claim we are related to outside our continent respect us? I have for many years struggled with the same question and it boils down to comparative poverty. Not only will I never be poor again, my children and grandchildren and their greats will never be poor again. See how we selfishly fool ourselves? Some of us live in these fabulous houses but once we step out onto the street, it is right into the rubbish filled gutters and death-trapped roads again.

Comparative poverty can create different meaning for different people. I have seen cash driven poverty in the southern part of USA that I have never seen in Africa. Yet, they do not realize how poor they were until they come up north. Life can be rich, peaceful and loving with family and friends around us. A simple life does not mean a poor life. Until we compare our lives with others, we do not realize how poor or rich we are.

Growing up in Nigeria in those days, I thought we were very rich. Rich? We had to share a room with relatives’ and friends’ kids. Children of our parent’s friends who went to schools near our house live with us in the same room for boys or for girls–(No way Jose!) Sometimes, we switched houses, especially during holidays. I still remember that I stopped eating in the same plate with my cousin because he used to “short my ration”. All we eat is rice, rice and gari, in combination with beans and stews. Meat and fish, oh yes, but I preferred isan (ligament) or ora (fat). We disliked amola and iyan that has become my favorite food now. We loved sausages, bacon, butter and ora that I now consider poisons. We loved sara – “eyin omo kekeke ewa je sara!” Children, children, it is time for food party. Nobody at home knew I ate sara. Omo okele. So what made me think we were rich?

We were comparing ourselves to other children, what they wore and what they brought or did not bring to school. Some of these children turned out far better than us, while some of us fell by the way side depending on rents if the inherited houses have not been sold. Generally, Africans pray that the next generation do better. The parents or children of depression teach the next generation how to manage the little they have. The vulture class is different; they want to make sure nobody but them do better. Unfortunately, the poorly trained, unlettered and uninformed ones are some of the ones swearing that their children and greats will never be poor again.

Our fore-bearers were very concerned about animals and their environment. They have certain ceremonies they perform when our animals and environment are desecrated. This is what we see in the western countries these days. The rational behind it is not necessarily out of sympathy for the animals or our environment but for us. If our surrounding is threatened and marked for extinction, we are next. Do unto others as you want others to do unto us have both religious and historical meaning.

So when I see soldiers ruling the Country and policemen killing and assaulting us on the street, I wonder if they are paying us back from the years of neglect and humiliations we used to subject them to. Our vulture class relishes the position they find themselves today and are willing to do anything to retain it. We may be going through some sort of silent revolution without realizing it. Hooligans control our transport, our roads. However, if they did not like what we did to them or how we used to look down on them, what makes them think we like what they are doing to us now? It is a vicious circle that has to stop.

When was the last time the vulture class respect Sultan, Oba or Obi? If they become too independent, they are dethroned. Rankadede has no permanent loyalty. Abinibi is different from ability. That is, those who were born with silver spoon in their mouth are different from those who pull themselves up through the barrel of the gun and those are different from those who pull themselves up by their boot straps. Our roads can be dangerous to your seemingly exalted position. It is not the place for settling of old scores.

Farouk Martins, Omo Aresa

Posted by Administrator at 11:21 AM | Comments (0)

Darfur: Shame on Black Muslims!!

by Nafata Bamaguje (Daura, Katsina State, Nigeria, USA) --- During the recent Israel-Hezbollah war in Lebanon, Muslims here in Nigeria's Islamic North demonstrated in support of the Shiite terror group. Several months ago, Muslims here in northern Nigeria massacred hundreds of non-Muslims in response to the Danish cartoons.

Five years ago, when America attacked the Taliban in response to 9/11, Muslims in Kano, northern Nigeria orchestrated a bloodbath of non-Muslims. In the past, there have also been numerous demonstrations and protests in support of the Palestinian cause here in northern Nigeria.

But so far Nigerian Muslims and for that matter black Muslims in the rest of Africa and the American Diaspora, have been conspicuously reticent on the genocide and ethnic cleansing of black Africans from their ancestral land in Darfur by the racist Arab occupation in Sudan. Hardly even a whimper of condemnation talk less of demonstrations.

In the last 3 years, over 2.5 million of our Darfurese brothers & sisters have been massacred, raped and ethnically cleansed from their land by the racist Arab occupation in Sudan, and recent reports indicate that fatalities are rising.

Obviously Arabs in Lebanon / Palestine, and cartoons in obscure foreign newspapers are more important to Nigerian Muslims than the horrendous suffering inflicted on our African brothers and sisters by the genocidal racist Arabs in Sudan.

Interestingly most of the black African victims of the racist Arab onslaught are also Muslims. This isn't the first time the Sudanese Arab occupation has targeted black African Muslims. During the decades long, unsuccessful Jihadist war to forcibly Islamize Southern Sudan, the genocidal Islamo-Nazis in Khartoum also targeted Nuba Muslims.

Evidently Arab Muslims are superior to non-Arab ones...particularly black ones. Hence the reluctance of black Muslims to criticise or condemn Allah's chosen race - Arabs.

Since black Muslims have constituted themselves into a fifth column for their Arab masters, we Africans lack the unity of purpose and resolve to decisively address the Darfur genocide as we did against apartheid South Africa...which neither enslaved nor perpetrated genocide against us. As we do not wish to be seen to be divided along religious lines on the Darfur crisis, due to the same misconstrued concept of "African unity" that condoned the enslavement of black Africans by racist Arab occupations in Sudan and Mauritania.

It was even the persistent spotlight and criticism on the Darfur atrocities by Western media and leaders, that prompted the belated, halfhearted AU response in the form of a meagre, ineffectual "observer" force that has so far failed to stop the progrom.

Even South Africa, a major African power and beneficiary of a united African support during her successful struggle against apartheid racism; has failed miserably to rise to the occassion. Madiba has not lived up to his reputation on Darfur.

The effectiveness of the AU in the Darfur crisis is further undermined by the presence of the North African Arab-Berber occupation within the AU.These Arab-occupation countries in North Africa are unlikely to endorse any drastic action against their Arab cousins in Darfur.

Hence AU is hobbled and threads carefully in Darfur. Consequently, African governments which unequivocally rejected negotiations with apartheid South Africa - a la Reagan-Thatcher "constructive engagement" - are reduced to begging the Islamo-Nazis in Khartoum for deployment of the ineffectual AU intervention force, which is hamstrung by poor logistics and crippling rules of engagement. Little wonder the Arab league backs the racist Sudanese Arab occupation as it reluctantly concedes to the inept AU "observer" force rather than an effective UN intervention force.

We black Africans must therefore insist on the immediate deployment of a robust, proactive (not "observer") UN intervention force, which should be composed of black Africans, with or without the consent of the Arab Nazis in Khartoum. Like the ethnic cleansers in Bosnia 11 years ago, the ethnic cleansers in Khartoum should be bombed and strafed into submission if they continue to resist the deployment of UN troops.

We Africans must also solidly unite to mobilize the sympathetic international community - as we did against apartheid - to diplomatically and economically strangulate the ethnic cleansers in Khartoum. Only a united black Africa, can intimidate the supporters of the genocidal Sudanese Arabs in the Arab world, and compel obstructionist powers like China - who are only interested in Sudanese oil - to fall in line and ostracize the racist Arab occupation in Sudan.

We cannot afford to fail our Darfurese brothers & sisters as we did in Rwanda 12 years ago.

Furthermore we will no longer be bamboozled by so-called "Afro-Arab solidarity", which is just a ruse to garner African support for the futile Jihad to destroy the only non-Muslim nation in the Middle east, which Muslims consider Dar-ul Islam - Land of Islam. Hence Muslims all over the world get so worked up about Israel, but don't give a damn about the monstrous atrocities perpetrated by Muslim Arabs on our suffering brothers & sisters in Darfur.

Actually, the monstrous atrocities inflicted by Arabs on we black Africans started well over 1400 years ago when Arabs raided for and trafficked in African slaves, more than a millenium before the trans-Atlantic slave trade.

Islamic historical tradition even documents that their "prophet" Mohammed had black slaves (Sahih Bukhari 8:73:182, 3:43:648, 6:60:435, Malik Muwatta 21.13.25, Sahih Muslim 10:3901). The racist "prophet" valued his black slaves less, as the Hadith reports he sold by barter two of his black slaves for a white one - Sahih Muslim 10:3901.

Arabs trafficking in Africans operated the world's largest slave market in Zanzibar until the British shut down that inhuman bazaar in the late 19th century.

In accordance with the dictates of their Quran (Q 23:1-6, 70:29-30, 4:24), Arab slavemasters raped our women giving rise to some of the so-called "black Arabs", many of whom are complicit in the Darfur atrocities.

Male black slaves were castrated so that we could not reproduce. This cruel racist prohibition of Negroid procreation is the major reason for the absence of a sizeable indigenous black population in the Arab world as in the Americas...even though Arab enslavement of Africans lasted much longer (over 1400 years) than the trans-Atlantic trade (just 200 years). In fact Arab enslavement of Africans continued up to the last decade in Sudan and Mauritania.

The Arab castration of male black slaves / captives often involved amputation of the penis. Many of our brothers died of complications of this primitive surgery. Others had to live with agonizing complications... repeated infections, dribbling of urine etc.

The unquestioning, mental servitude and subservience of black Muslims to their Arab masters, and their conspiratorial silence - no doubt a consequence of Islamic indoctrination - prevents we Africans from from addressing these issues and demanding reparations from Arabs for their historic atrocities and illegal occupation of lands in North Africa.

Perhaps because the chief protagonist of the slave reparation movement was a Muslim - the late MKO Abiola - we only focus on slave reparations from the West, even though Europeans never raided for slaves in Africa; in contradistinction to Arabs who were involved in slave raids (although they also bought some from treacherous African collaborators).

We stupidly raided each other for slaves to sell to European slave dealers who paid us with guns (to raid for more slaves), trinkets, mirrors, liquor and other trivial commodities we valued more than our siblings in the American Diaspora. We have European powers to thank for helping put an end to Arab enslavement of Africans, albeit not necessarily for altruism

We Africans should be wary of the bogus, alien, unAfrican dogmas (Christianity & Islam) of our erstwhile colonial and slave masters (Europeans & Arabs), that glorify alien races (Jews & Arabs), while demonizing our rich ancestral heritage as "heathen" and "evil". The resulting inferiority conplex is the major reason why Black Muslims haven't got the guts to stand up to Allah's chosen race, even as the racist Arab occupation massacres millions of other black Muslims in Darfur.

Our identity as AFRICANS that we are born with, supercedes any alien identity (Muslim, Christian) with which we've been brainwashed.

If our recent history here in Northern Nigeria is anything to go by, rather than confront their Arab masters on the Darfur genocide or other historic atrocities, the mindless Arab minions that are the lot of Muslims here in Nigeria's Islamic north will react to this "slanderous, insulting provocation" with their characteristic religious violence, orchestrating another bloodbath of Aarne (non-Muslims). I hope to be proved wrong, but I seriously doubt it. Therefore kudos to any media that has the courage to publish this write-up. If we black Africans must progress, we can't all be intimidated by retrogressive religious extremism.

Nafata Bamaguje
Daura, Katsina state

Posted by Administrator at 10:34 AM | Comments (0)

October 15, 2006

I Thank God She Survived

by Jerry Orisakwe (New York, USA) --- It all stated in the early hours of the morning of
30th of July 2005.When the members of massob women
wing protested by means of peaceful rally against the
arrest of some of the members of massob by Nigeria police.

My mother who is one of the strong members of
massob,that was arrested after that incident. she was
wanted because her premises was where the members of
massob are recruited and registered, therefore her
case was followed up seriously by the men of the
Nigerian police force.

Wherever the Igbo community is in Nigeria, the
treatment is always fierce. For instance, anytime
there is a clash, riot it is usually an avenue to
distort, steal, kill and destroy the properties of the
Igbo nation living within the other ethnic group
society, especially the north. Or should i talk about
the marginalization going on, which is raising serious
political debates and also had led to kidnappings of
oil workers in the delta region.

However, I would want the world to come in to our aid.
I was not happy with the way my mother Mrs. Ijomanta
favour victor was treated. It was improper and denial
of right of her human right, by detaining and
torturing her in police cell the without trial. This
is not proper and it is against a person’s fundamental
human right.


Chijioke Ijomanta.

Posted by Administrator at 03:15 PM | Comments (0)

The Resurgence of Ayelala in Benin Kingdom: An Indictment of the Conventional Dispensation of Justice in Nigeria

by Akhilomen Don, Ph.D., LLB. (New York, USA) --- Introduction This topic, in plenitude and depth, is fascinating and perhaps controversial. It is a topic that has held the entire nation of Nigeria and particularly Benin City in Edo State spell-bound and agitated for over some months now. In the early 1980’s, with an apparent revolution in Christian religious activities in the city of Benin, the belief in traditional divinities was seemingly abandoned for the Christian faith.

Many saw this as a sign of great change in the historic City of Benin which was hitherto known for its traditional religion and culture. It can be rightly said that the reason why Benin City is still popularly referred to as “the ancient city” could be as a result of the people’s strong affinity to traditional deities and expression of traditional values, culture and religion.

In this paper, we shall seek to examine the resurgence in the belief on Ayelala, a traditional deity, and the ever increasing erosion of confidence in the criminal justice system which comprises the police and the judiciary in Nigeria. We will also attempt to proffer far-reaching recommendations that will help to properly accommodate and regulate the practices connected with Ayelala belief; a belief now becoming widespread among the Bini speaking people of Edo State in Nigeria.

Position and Size of the Binis in Edo State

One unique feature of Edo State is the seeming homogeneity of the people with similarities in culture and language of the various constituent groups. Presently, there are eighteen (18) local government areas in Edo State with the state capital located in Benin City1.

Edo State has an area of 19.794 square kilometers and a provisional population of 2,159,848. It lies roughly between longitude 05o.04o and 06o43oE and latitudes 50o44oN and 07o34N. It has boundaries with Kogi State to the north, Delta State to the south and Anambra State to the east2.

The Bini speaking group appears to be the single largest group in Edo State as they can be found in the areas making up the Edo South Senatorial District made up of Egor, Ikpoba-Okha, Oredo, Orhionwon, Ovia North-East, Ovia South-West and Uhumwode Local Government Areas. The Oba of Benin, the paramount traditional ruler in the State, is the revered custodian of the custom and tradition of the poeple3.

The reality on ground in Benin city, as it is in most communities in Africa, is that in spite of the vast changes occasioned by Christianity, Islam and modernity, there seems to have been a persistence of traditional religious beliefs and practices. Ezeanya S.N. aptly refers to this attitude as “the endurance of conviction.4 A walk through the Streets of Benin City today, will clearly reveal a return to traditional religious practices as calabashes of traditional religious sacrifices litter every nooks and crannies of the city.

Ayelala: Origin and Functions

Ayelala is a deified goddess whose place of origin can be traced to the area of Ilaje in Ondo state, Nigeria. According to J.O. Awolalu, the cult of Ayelala arose out of the vicarious sacrificial compensation of the life of an Ijaw slave woman, killed in substitution for the atonement of the sin of a run away Ilaje adulterous man.5 As a scapegoat, the slave woman was made to bear the consequences of the sin of another who had run to take asylum among the Ijaws; an act which caused serious disaffection between the Ijaws and the Ilajes.

While being sacrificed, the slave woman, in great pain and anguish, could only mutter the words “Ayelala”, meaning “the world is incomprehensible” or “the world is a mystery”.6 From then on, Ayelala became the name by which she was known and called.
It is vital to add that before sacrificing her, a covenant of reconciliation and ritual kinship was made between the Ilajes and Ijaws on the following terms, amongst others7:
-Ayelala was to kill any member of the parties to the covenant who plans evil against one another;
-Ayelala was to punish with death any member of the two groups who practices stealing, sorcery and witchcraft against each other;
-All contractual relationship between the two covenanting communities was to be faithfully and honestly executed under the watchful guidance of Ayelala who was invoked to kill all covenant breakers.

Before she was finally sacrificed, Ayelala the slave woman made a solemn vow to witness to and punish non-compliance to the terms of the covenant and all future covenants to be reached in her name. Ayelala eventually became deified after her death when it was observed that several deaths occurred in default of the covenant sealed on Ayelala’s blood.8 In consequence of this, Ayelala became popular as a deity who dispenses justice and protects morality. Her cult started spreading far and wide, even to the Benin Kingdom.

The Nigerian Police and Ayelala Challenge

In traditional societies where written laws do not exist, informal sanctions deter deviations from the social norm. However in modern and more socially complex societies, the police have emerged as the primary means for promoting and maintaining social order.

In this modern era, the police have developed into a body of individuals who are organized to investigate breaches of the law and preserve the peace. In most industrialized societies, police functions include traffic control, crime prevention and investigation. Different security apparatuses generally exist for gathering political information, counter espionage and the protection of top state officials.9

Even before the advent of the modern day police, our traditional societies had in place, adequate machinery for the preservation of peace and harmony. According to A. Emiola10, in such a society where the king is the paramount ruler, he and his chiefs in council ensure obedience within that community. Age grades and their allies were also used in maintaining law and other. In spite of their rudimentary nature, there was orderliness and peace.

In most traditional communities, “nature” restrained circumscribed anti-social behaviors. These restraints includes the fear of retaliation by offended or injured persons, social sanctions imposed by gossip and public opinion, customary beliefs and law which include the invocation of ancestors and spirits and other institutional, economic and moral pressures exerted by the communities.11

Similarly, in many communities, religion played a very important role in the maintenance of law and order. Religious offences attracted public attention and amounted to social abominations. The significance of religion in the maintenance of law and order was clearly evident even in the Muslim parts of Northern and Western Nigeria12. Among the Gwari and Soli people of Verre in what was then the Yola province, religion was the very basis for law. 13

The modern Nigerian Police Force is largely a product of colonial intrusion into the soil of Africa. According to Tamuno, “An examination of the origins, development and role of the British inspired police forces in Nigeria reveals that they were shaped by the nature of European in the country and the reactions of indigenous people to their activities”. 14 One long standing European interest in West Africa has been commerce. The European colonialists sought to encourage “legitimate” commerce in palm produce and other raw materials for European factories as well as create markets for their finished products15.

In 1917, the government enacted a Police Ordinance which provided uniform rules and regulations for the combined police forces. Perhaps, the most significant event in the life of the police occurred on April 1st, 1930 when it became known as the Nigerian Police Force (NPF) with the amalgamation of the Northern and Southern Protectorate Forces. A combination of the 1947 and 1951 Constitution gave birth to the regionalization of the Nigerian Police under the command of the Inspector General. Later in 1954, it became known as “Federal Force” when the Lyttleton Constitution came into effect.

However, a military coup in January, 1966 brought about significant changes. A decree issued by the Military Government stated that “All Local Government Police Forces and Native Authorities Police shall be placed under the overall command of the Inspector General”16. The Military government embarked on further reforms which saw to the conversions of the other police forces into a single Nigerian Police Force by the end of 1969.

The current legislation governing the Nigeria Police is the Police Act CAP 359, laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 1990 as well as the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999. It would be recalled that the Police Act was recently (in 2005) amended under the present democratic dispensation and the name “Nigerian Police” replaced the “Nigerian Police Force.”

The Nigeria Police has always been in the news. Of a truth, the citizens of Nigeria seem to have lost confidence in the ability of the police to prevent and detect crime. For example the spate of high profile crimes and robberies still remain unabated. The question: who killed Chief Bola Ige, the then Justice Minister and A.K. Dikibo and a host of other prominent politicians who died by assassins bullets, still remain unanswered.

Apart from the fact that the modes of recruitment and training are poor, the police lack the sophisticated equipment required to perform investigation. Corruption, it is generally acknowledged, has eaten deep into the fabrics of the police. Kayode Afolabi noted that “there is hardly any need to make any suggestion to a police force that has become so unconscionable, deeply steamed in corruption and ossified in methods”17. He concluded in a heart rendering note that “We certainly do not yet have the policing that this country and its people deserve”.18

The manners in which our police handle matters have created room for suspicion and consequently the loss of confidence in their ability. Efficiency on the part of the police in Nigeria today, is nothing to write home about. It takes years unending before a simple investigation can be completed.

However, unlike the police, the use of Ayelala has proven to be very efficient. A case in point is: sometime in 2005, the Oba Market in Benin City went up on flames. As the fire raged, hoodlums in the area had a filled day looting goods belonging to traders in the market. More disturbing was the fact that many shops not affected by the inferno were found broken into and emptied by looters. The next day, Chief John Osamede Adun, a.k.a. “Born-boy”, a prominent citizen in the area, invited the priest of Ayelala, a goddess widely revered and feared in Benin Kingdom. The Chief Priest of Ayelala consequently issued a public warning that as many as have taken away goods which do not belong to them should return same immediately or face the wrath of Ayelala. The following morning, goods earlier carted away resurfaced in the market19. The same feat was re-enacted when the popular Uselu Market was gutted by fire a few months after.

Also, it appears that unlike the conventional police, Ayelala cannot be bribed. Despite the monstrous stature which corruption has assumed in Nigeria, there has not been any allegation of corruption against Ayelala. More worrying is the incessant case of police brutality, extra-judicial killings and a host of other atrocities committed by the police.20These are unknown when Ayelala is consulted. At least the case of “Apo six” which involved the death of six traders, in the mechanic village in Abuja in May 2005, in the hands of policemen, is still fresh in our memory. This situation was clearly depicted by Tamuno when he noted that:

the traditional peacemakers (mostly priests, as in the case of Ayelala) did not employ violence and carried out their purpose – the ending of hostilities - without breaking limbs. By contrast, the modern police riot squads appeared harsh and bereft of the religious sanctions which had reinforced the traditional apparatus for controlling public disturbances.21
More disturbing about the police, is the recent Supreme Court pronouncement where the court held that the Nigerian Police have discretion to investigate allegation of crime made to them. Accordingly, the Supreme Court noted in the case of Fawahinmi V IGP that:
the Police have a discretion whether or not to conduct investigation into any allegation of crime made to them. And the court will not interfere if, on the facts of a particular case, the discretion is properly exercised. There is therefore nothing in section 4 of the Police Act which denies the Police of any discretion whether or not to investigate any particular allegation, or when they decide to investigate to do so to its logical conclusion. Thus the Police have discretion in appropriate circumstances in the way they carry out their duty. The need to exercise discretion in such a matter may arise from a variety of reasons or circumstances, particularly having regard to the nature of the offence, the resources available, the time and trouble involved and the ultimate end result. It may well be balancing options as well as weighing what is really in the public interest. The discretion is not limited to the method of enforcement of police powers. Thus, it is inconceivable that such wide powers and duties of the Police must be exercised and performed without any discretion left to responsible Police operatives. 22

The effect of this pronouncement is that the court has thrown open the floodgate of inefficiency and a litany of excuses for the police in Nigeria at the expense of the citizens.

The Judiciary and Ayelala’s Challenge

The judiciary is usually regarded as the third arm of government. Under the constitution, the judiciary is created by virtue of Section 6 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999. The hierarchy of courts proceeds from the Supreme Court to the High Courts of the various States usually known as “superior court of records”. While Magistrate, Area and Districts courts are usually regarded as “inferior courts of records”. The courts are vested with jurisdiction to determine justifiable controversies between citizens and between citizens and the state23 etc.
It is ideally assumed that the judiciary being the final arbiter and an unbiased umpire is the last of hope of the common man or woman as the case may be. His or her access to court when his rights were threatened or infringed upon was expected to be unfettered.

As a result of the classic attributes of the courts, Sagay I.E. (SAN), a professor of law and a reputable legal practitioner, gave thumbs up to the judiciary24.

Also, a commentator was quoted by Igbinovia, a professor of Criminology, as making commendations of the courts in the following words:

Once it was the envy of the continent. Cloaked in an aura of reverence and manned by lofty judges, the Nigeria Judiciary passed judgment in predictable fairness. The judges dispensed Justice like gods – relief to the aggrieved and reprieve to the guilty, each according to his deeds. There was no higher state to which anyone could aspire.25

This fact “lends credence to the most cynical appraisal of the work of judges throughout the land. It is confidence in the men and women who administer the judicial system that is the true backbone of the rule of law… It is the nation’s confidence in the judge as an impartial guardian of the rule of law”.26

However, in spite of all these praises, their have been a decline in the confidence reposed in the judiciary that has stepped gingerly into a seeming wilderness27. The pitiable condition in the judiciary is clearly chronicled in the book entitled The Nigerian Judiciary: The Departing Glory, by Justice P. Odo Effiong Bassey (2001). As a result of this departing glory in the nation’s judiciary, the federal government decided to set up the Justice Kayode Eso led panel to examine and proffer solutions to the ebbing institution. Some of the ills found in the judiciary as outlined by the panel include28: corruption of judicial officers, long and tortuous litigation processes, expensive legal procedures, myriad and diverse court rules, poor infrastructures, inadequately motivated judicial personnel, etc.

Particularly, the menace of corruption was clearly highlighted by the Supreme Court in A.G. Ondo State v A.G. Federation29. In that case, Uwais, CJN, said that “corruption is not a disease which afflicts public officers alone but society as a whole”. In connection with corruption in the judiciary, Sydney Smith noted that “Nations fall when judges are unjust, because there is nothing which the multitude is worth defending”. 30

Beside the above mentioned malaise, the undue technicalities and delay in the administration of justice has made the citizens resort to the consultation of Ayelala deity. Ayelala’s dispensation of justice is “instant”. At most, within one week of effective consultation, results of who the culprit is must have emerged. There are no technicalities involved.

Moreover, the ideal concept of fair hearing which is expected to be very fundamental and sacred in the administration of justice is observed when Ayelala is consulted. Both parties are allowed to state their case to the hearing of the priest who in turn calls on the deity to dispense justice accordingly. In a situation where one of the party, is not available, emissaries are sent to educate him on why he must be present. Even though he does not show up (although most of them normally show up for fear of the wrath of the goddess), the party present is allowed to plead his cause to the satisfaction of the goddess.

Unlike the courts which sometimes claim that they lack jurisdiction to entertain certain matters before them; and that if they do, it will amount to a nullity31, the reverse is the case with Ayelala. The scope and category of matters entertained by Ayelala is never closed. Thus, citizens find it convenient to settle whatever dispute they may have by consulting Ayelala.

However, the efficacy and operations of Ayelala remains mysterious and enigmatic yet appreciated and patronized by the people when a resort to the conventional justice system appears frustrating.

Is Invocation of Ayelala a Trial by Ordeal?

A logical aftermath of a long and consolidated occupation, control and subjection of any country by an alien people and government, however benevolent, is the inevitable imposition of its culture on such country32. The resulting effect is the supplanting and obliteration of the indigenous laws and custom which are usually regarded as primitive, barbarous and unworthy of preservation in the light of the civilization and technological achievement of the colonizing power. The culture of a people is dictated by many factors, predominant among which are their religion, marriage forms, political and social organization, economic consideration etc33.

Oracle and supernatural forces were basic features of the pre-colonial system in Nigeria. In many traditional societies, custom required one who committed a murder or some other heinous offences to flee his community, obviating the need for criminal investigation. However, when investigation did become necessary, the intimacy of the smaller communities often made them fairly easy. Through a combination of sleight, hypnosis and psychology, diviners and medicine men often succeeded in fishing out the offending parties.
In addition to diviners, people also employed oracles and trial by ordeal in the investigation of crime. The Aro long Juju (Chukwu Ibinokpai), Igwe-Ila-ala of Umunoha and Agbala of Akwa were some of such popular oracles existing in Igbo land. In Benin, Awosunoba was one of such oracles. Among the Isokos to the west of the Niger, their Uzere Juju was found very useful in the detection of crimes.34
A trial by ordeal according to Egharevba:

is a recognized method in primitive African societies, of detecting a criminal. It has its place in the Bini law and many Binis firmly believe today that when the court has entirely failed to clear up a matter, trial by ordeal is an unfailing method of finding the criminal.35

However, with the coming into effect of the Criminal code and Penal code which governs acts or omission proscribed by the state as offences in the Southern and Northern Nigeria respectively, it is now an offence to engage in a trial by ordeal. Particularly Section 207-213 of the Criminal code36 makes it an offence. The effect of the above sections is that mere presence at the scene or agreement to partake in a trial by ordeal is an offence with punishment ranging from one year imprisonment to death sentence. Note that the Act is silent as to the meaning of a trial by ordeal; rather it explains act or omission that may constitute it.

A careful examination of the above statutory provisions clearly reveals that the use of Ayelala is not a trial by ordeal. Firstly, under the Schedule to the Criminal code, Ayelala is not part of the unlawful societies prohibited under Section 62 (2) (ii) of the code. Similarly, Ayelala is not a secret cult within the contemplation of Section 315 of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria.

Can it be correct to say the invocation of Ayelala is contemplated by the criminal code to be an offence? Of course, no! The reason for this, being that the invocation of “Juju” is not an offence. Thus, in Udokwu v Onugha37 it was held that the accused was not guilty for invoking a Juju which resulted in the death of the deceased. The decision of the court was premised on the provisions of Section 36 (10) of the 1999 Constitution which prohibits punishing a citizen for an act or omission which is not an offence and for which no punishment is prescribed in the statutes.

The belief in the efficacy of a deity, divinity or “juju” and in like manner Ayelala has never been in doubt even by the courts. In Ekwo v Enechukwu, Sutton P., acknowledging this fact held that:

I think it is important to remember that the accident occurred in Nigeria where it is common knowledge that a considerable proportion of the population still holds a strong belief in their native doctors. In my view … it is the wide spread existence of it which is relevant…38

Also in R V Odo39, the court commenting on the belief in juju noted that:
a person may lawfully hold a belief whether based on superstition or not, that by some intrinsically innocuous and inoffensive act, he can influence a decision of a court in his favor. The mere doing of such an act cannot constitute an offence…

The above case involved a native who had planted juju around the court premises in order to influence the decision of the court in his favor.
In support of the fact that the consultation of Ayelala is no offence, neither is its invocation, Awa Kalu, SAN, submitted that;
All discerning readers must be familiar with the point that two streams of law are pre-eminent in our legal system. Thus, apart from received English Law, epitomized by common law, the statutes of general application and doctrines of equity imported by colonial powers, what is generally referred to as “customary law” is allowed certain efficacy but in a judicially circumscribed manner. In that connection, mediation and arbitration have continued to survive as instruments for dispute resolution. A lot of faith was placed on the efficacy of juju swearing. All that traditional society required for the establishment of the incontrovertibility of any disputed fact was for one of the disputants to swear to an oath upon pain of punishment by juju. A gestation period for testing the effectiveness of the Juju was generally warranted and once the agreed period expired without the “swearer” dying, or suffering any condition that was not ordinarily explicable, then the fact was unconditionally regarded as proved. Juju swearing in the traditional system operated as estoppels.40

The resort to Ayelala rather than the conventional methods of seeking justice was given further credence when Dennis Szabo notes that “this ambiguous situation gives rise to the fact that in rural areas – and to a lesser degree in the urban centers – the people persist in resorting to their own justice to settle their disputes”41.

It has been said that the reasons why the courts are unwilling to acknowledge belief in traditional deities is to avoid setting a dangerous precedent to recognize superstitions. Thus in R V Ebong it was held that “… to find otherwise would be getting perilously near to the fallacious theory that a genuine belief in witchcraft might be a possible defense to a charge of murder…”42 It does not appear that the courts have really evolved a deliberate policy to break away from this rather painful colonial past, so as to give the rightful place to the progressive development of customary law in a country replete with customary traditional practices in its entire polity43.

Summary and Recommendation

It is obvious from the trend of things that the invocation of Ayelala to settle all forms of dispute has come to finally stay in Edo State, Nigeria. However, what is more important is the need for our conventional legal system to recognize and moderate its practices. It is on this premise that we would re-instate here the admonition of the court in Osula v Osula44 to the effect that the Bini, like some other tribes in Nigeria have some notorious traditions and norms: some peculiar to them, others in common with other races in some part of the world, which cannot be easily written off by mere legislation. Thus, to legislate against and prohibit the consultation of deities like Ayelala, would lead to serious disorder that would make governance and obedience difficult. It is in this light that legislations should be carefully drafted to accommodate and regulate its practices.

Consequently, the provision in the Criminal and Penal code which seeks to impliedly prohibit these practices should be repealed. Customary practices should be given its pride of place in the scheme of things. It is high time we broke away from the painful colonial past and tailor our laws to meet with our beliefs and peculiar circumstances.

Also in matters of superstition, which come before our courts, the court should deem it fit to consult mediums like Ayelala for clarification rather than jettisoning such matters. After all, under the Evidence Act, Cap 112, Laws of the Federation, 1990, opinion of assessors on customary matters are admissible45.

The police and the judiciary should be reformed again so as to bring back those glorious day when citizens had confidence in them. Delays in trial should be tackled headlong. Corruption and bribery should be checkmated and such other factors responsible for the decline in the patronization of the police and judiciary, be phased out.
To also stem the menace of bribery and corruption, it is suggested that members of the law enforcement agents and the judiciary should swear on oath administered by the priest of Ayelala. The implication is that the fear of the wrath of the goddess would deter them from such ignoble acts.

Finally, in the words of Usi Osemwowa, we wish to “call on the Federal Government to make traditional institutions a fourth tier of legislative and administrative authority over matters beyond the capabilities of the police and judiciary in each state”.46 By this the weaknesses of the conventional justice system in Nigeria would have been effectively remedied.

End Notes

1. O.M. Jamgbadi, “Customary Law of inheritance in Edo State”, in Landmarks In Legal Development (Essays in Honour of Hon. Justice C.M.R. Momoh Chief Judge of Edo State, Nigeria) Nobility Press, 2003.
2. Ibid.
3. Reuben Abati; “Benin Palace and the House of Igbinedion”, The Guardian Newspaper, Sunday, December, 9, 2001.
4. S.N. Ezeanya Cited in O.U. Kalu, “Gods in Retreat: Model of Religions Change in Africa” Nigerian Journal of Humanities vol. 1No. P .48
5. J.O. Awolalu, “Ayelala: A Guardian of Social Morality” in Orita, Ibadan Journal of Religious Studies, vol 11/2, Dec., 1968, 80
6. Awolalu, 79.
7. Awolalu, 81.
8. Awolalu, 81
9 Human Rights Practices in the Nigerian Police, Published by Constitutional Rights Project, 1993.I.
10 A. Emiola, Principles of African Customary Law (Emiola Publishers, 1997) P-5
11 Tamuno Tekena, The Police in Modern Nigeria, University Press, Ibadan, 1971, P. 71.

12 Islam makes no distinction between secular and religious offences and regards Allah as the supreme law-maker. Thus, Judges, the Mazalim (wrongs) court, the Shurta (police) and others are only mechanisms for enforcement.
13 Human Rights Practice in The Nigerian Police op.cit P.9
14 Tamuno, Tekena, The police in Modern Nigeria, op.cit
15 Human Rights Practices in the Nigerian Police op.cit. p. 11

16 Official statement by the Military Government of Nigeria in connection with recent developments in Nigeria, Lagos 23 January, 1966.
17 Koyade Afolabi; “The Jurisdiction of Robbers”, The Guardian, Wednesday September, 28, 2005. P. 65
18 Ibid.
19 E. Imariagbe, Personal Interview, Civil Servant, Benin City, 8/4/05, C. 50 yrs
20 CLO report on: Human Rights in Nigeria, 1990. P.7
21 Tamuno, Tekena, The Police in Modern Nigeria op.cit.
22 (2002) 7 NWLR (pt 767) p. 467
23 See Lakanni V Attoroney General, Western Region of Nigeria (1971) 1 UILR p. 201
24 I.E. Sagay, Legacy for Posterity; Works of the Supreme Court (Spectrum publishers) 1986
25 P.E. Igbinovia, “The Criminal in all us; whose ox have we not taken?” University of Benin Inaugural Lectures series p. 94
26 Bush V Gore 531 US p. 9 (12 December 2001) per Justice Sterens.
27 P.E. Igbinovia op. Cit p.93
28 Ibid p. 95
29 (2002) 1NWLR (pt 772) p. 245
30 Sydney Smith quoted in “The Judiciary in the Third Republic” being a lecture delivered by Justice R.A.I Ogbobire (Retired) December 11, 1992.
31 See; Bronik Motors & Wema Bank (1981) Sc P. 1
32 Temple C.L. Native Races and their Rulers (1918) P. 48
33 A.G Karibi–White, History and Sources of Nigerian Criminal Law (Spectrum law series, 1993) p. 262-263.
34 Human Rights Practices in the Nigerian Police op.cit p. 10
35. J.U. Egharevba, Benin Law and Custom (CMS, 1949) p.53.
36 Criminal Code Act Cap 77, Laws of the Federation, 1990 and sections 214-219 of the Penal Code Act cap 89, Laws of the Federation, 1990.
1963) 7 ENLR p. 1
37 (1954) 14 WACA p. 512 at 514
38 (1938) 4 WACA p.71 at 73
39 Awa Kalu SAN, “Attorney – General’s Summation: More doors to open for administration of justice”. Vanguard, Friday March 26, 2004 p. 25
40 Dennis Szabo cited in Awa Kalu, SAN Ibid.
41 (1947) 12 WACA p. 139
42 (1942)12 WACA p.139
43 Niki Tobi, Sources of Nigerian Legal System P. 120
44 (1995) 9 NWLR (pt 419) p. 529
45 S.57 (1) of the Evidence Act
46 U. Osemwowa, “The Customary Law of Inheritance in the 21st Century,” being a paper delivered at the seminar on “Law Review in the 21st Century in Edo State,” organized by Edo State Law Review Commission, 13th-14th May, 2004, Benin

Don Akhilomen, Ph.D., LLB.
Dept. of Religious Management & Cultural Studies,
Ambrose Alli University,
Christian Oronsaye
Nigerian Law School,

Posted by Administrator at 02:43 PM | Comments (0)

Obasanjo War on Corruption: Real or Fiction

by Collins Emeka Eke, Los Angeles, CA --- Nigerians should not take President Obasanjo serious on his recent war on corruption until he starts from himself. Throughout his political life Obasanjo has never been known as someone interested in ending corruption in Nigeria.

So why all of a sudden after six years of his presidency he decided to fight corruption. The possible reason is becuase after wasted Nigerian money traveling around the world begging world leaders to forgive Nigerian debts without any progress, because all insisted that Nigerian problems are not the debts rather corruption, mismanagement and poor law enforcement system. Nigerian problems is not in the world capital but in Nigeria.

If the president really wants the world to take him serious with regard to the so called crusade against Corruption, he should start from himself. The president's adminstration has consistently refused to prosecute Christ Uda who admittedly kidnapted the Governor of Anambra State. Mr Christ Uda vow to make Anambra State ungovernable unless the governor hands him Billions of Naira from the State treasury. The president refused to prosecute this criminal because Chris Uda is rich and is his in-law. Lately, the president has being associating with Babangida, one of the world most corrupt dictator and plans to help him win the presidency in 2007.

Most of Nigerian senators and members of house of representatives have personnaly admitted taking bride, like one senator put it, "it normal to receive money from ministers". Recently, Nigerian Apex Bank, the central Bank has admitted paying members of National Assembly to enable them to pass favourable legislations, fellow Nigerian this is corruption at its worst and the president is very much aware of these behavours. In Nigeria we essentilly have criminals as politicians.

For example, currently the leader of the Republican party here in the United States will now be prosecuted money laundry and two of the President George Bush and Vice president closest friends are now under investigation. In the United States no one is protected investigation be you reverene, a Bishop or Sultan if you are suspected of a crime you will investigated and evidence is found you will be prosecuted according to the law, that is democracy.

Transparency International, a Swedish based international Organization specializing in monitoring governments performance around the world rated Nigeria the world most corrupt country and advice businesses around the world not to do business with Nigerians. If the president can collect all the money stolen by these so called politicians in the last six years we will have more than enough money to pay the $40 Billions debt.

I live in a country where the law enforcement officers are independent and no one is above the law. To Americans law enforcement meant, the police, State and Federal Attorney Generals and the judges. When any politician or any person for that matter is suspected of a crime, it is the responsibility of the law enforcement to investigate and arrest the suspect. Any politician or any individual that comments or get involve with criminal investigation will be arrested for obtruction of justice.

Emeka Collins Eke
Los Angeles, California U.S.A

Posted by Administrator at 10:47 AM | Comments (0)

October 11, 2006

Shame!: Nigerian Universities in Shambles

by Oyeyemi Olodo, Esq. (London, England) --- A quick tour around Nigerian universities and one will fully understand why students are no longer students but yahoo boys, advanced prostitutes and home-bred robbers. I was sickened by the state of students living conditions and studying environment during my short visit to Nigeria recently.

Without naming the institutions visited, Biafra Nigerian Universities in Shambles I cannot understand why any vice-chancellor and even the government will permit students to study under these unbearable conditions especially if it is the intention of the government that the individuals will become leaders of the nation one day.

Why I understand the reasoning behind the flourishing private universities which our beloved president Olusegun Obasanjo is a "share-holder" but I assume that Nigerian Ministry of Education should be wise enough to know that 90% of its youth in the range of university education cannot afford the N350, 000 (Naira) fees that most of these private universities charge per session. This then beg the question, what is the strategy thinking of Nigerian government on getting the next generation ready for the task ahead?

As we approach 2007, parents and students of high institution need to start asking 'want-to-be presidents' their plans for the future leaders of this great country. This is not the time for parents to receive few Naira and sell their children's future to the highest bidder with no strategic approach to one of the greatest potential challenge confronting our nation to date. Students need to stop acting like spoilt brat and becoming more responsible to attract the attention of political parties in the country interested in 'valuable or potential voters' especially knowing that they fall within the voting age.

Why should our daughters on campuses becoming professional prostitutes in order to survive the campus hardship? and why should our future men need to rob innocent Nigerian citizens for their daily bread?.......It is definitely unnecessary and it is time to stop these nonsense. However, the task ahead is the responsibility of all, from parents to students and even the student unions on campuses across the nation. They need to organise themselves and start asking questions about their future plans of leaders.

One thing is certain, a benchmark of Nigerian universities with others in Europe makes one wonder when in the future things will never get better but students in Nigerian high institutions now hold the key in the forthcoming election to make demands from the government on better life. I think it is time to demand the execution of the TEN COMMANDMENT for students in Nigerian universities:
What will be the ten most important demands; I can only guess but a better condition in universities will be one on the list and there is no point asking for things without looking inward to stop some childishness that is common practice on campuses like rioting, cultism etc.

A word is enough for the wise.......

Oyeyemi Olodo, Esq.
The Integrity Magazine

Posted by Administrator at 08:31 AM | Comments (0)

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