Sunday, 8 November 2020

A CATHOLIC COGITATION ON THE FREEZE ORDER AGAINST BANK ACCOUNTS OF ALLEGED #ENDSARS PROTEST PROMOTERS IN NIGERIA


A CATHOLIC COGITATION ON THE FREEZE ORDER AGAINST BANK ACCOUNTS OF ALLEGED #ENDSARS PROTEST PROMOTERS

 

(By Udems)

 

(A) MEMORY VERSES:

  1. "The best weapon is to sit down and talk." (Nelson Mandela) 
  2. "The courts of this country should not be the places where resolution of disputes begins. They should be the places where the disputes end after alternative methods of resolving disputes have been considered and tried” (Justice Sandra Day O’Connor)

 

(B)  BACKGROUND

 

I have seen a copy of an order of the Federal High Court of Nigeria (in suit Number: FHC/ABJ/CS/1384/2020: Central Bank of Nigeria v. Bolatito Oduala & 19 Others), made Ex Parte on November 05, 2020,  directing named Banks in Nigeria “to freeze forthwith all transactions on the 20 Bank Accounts of the Defendants/Respondent for a period of 90 days pending the outcome of investigations and inquiry currently being conducted by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).” The order (attached hereto as Appendix A) is stated to have been made pursuant to a Motion Ex Parte filed by Michael Kaase Aondoakaa, SAN. The first set of questions that popped up in my mind after reading through the order was, Are the young men and women whose accounts were frozen under any form of prosecution in any court in Nigeria? What exactly is the nature of the “investigations and inquiry currently being conducted by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN),” pending which the court is said to have made such an ex parte order without hearing the defendants/Respondents? Did the applicants disclose to the Hon court, the nature or details of the said ongoing “investigations and inquiry” before the court went ahead to issue the order?   A close look at the cases of Enahoro v. The State (1965) 1 All NLR 125  as well as Chibuike Amaechi V. INEC (2008) 5 NWLR (Pt 1080) (per George Adesola Oguntade, J.S.C) illustrates that it is not a simple matter to find a citizen of Nigeria guilty of a criminal offence, or to deprive him/her of any of his constitutional rights, without first ensuring that he is given a fair trial before a Court of Law where in his guilt must have been proved beyond reasonable doubt. I recall a similar scenario back in 2017, involving the freezing for 120 days of a GTBank Account belonging to Chief Mike Ozekhome, SAN, sometime in 2017, on grounds that monies found/lodged in the account were “proceeds of crime.” I recall that Hon Justice Abulazeez Anka of the Federal High Court, had upon an application made by Chief Ozekhome, vacated the freeze (forfeiture) order. (See Court Unfreezes Senior Lawyer, Ozekhome’s Account” <https://www.premiumtimesng.com/news/top-news/227796-court-unfreezes-senior-lawyer-ozekhomes-account.html> accessed 7 November 2020).

 

The more heartwarming aspect of the Ozekhome experience was the pronouncement of his Lordship, Hon Justice Anka, that filing an application to set aside an earlier ex-parte order of injunction as done by Ozekhome cannot in anyway amount to attempting to shield himself from investigation.” (see: https://www.pulse.ng/news/local/ozekhome-lawyer-defeats-efcc-regains-frozen-account/0cbxrtl). If filing an application to set aside an earlier ex-parte order of injunction freezing one`s account does not in any way amount to attempting to shield one from criminal investigation, then it follows that setting aside such a freeze order, would not in any way amount to shielding the account holder from the “investigation and enquiry” which the CBN says it is conducting on the said accounts or the account holders. This is why one must commend the presiding judge of the Federal High Court who granted the Ex Parte order in favour of the CBN. The Hon Court, while granting the freeze-order, had gone ahead to advise and inform the whole world as follows:

“The freezing order is made in the interim. It is directed that any person, whether artificial or natural, that is affected by this order may apply to the court to have his grievance or complaint heard by the court.”

 

(C) THE CBN-PROCURED EX PARTE FREEZE ORDER

Meanwhile, one may ask, is a freeze-account Order, such as the type granted in suit Number: FHC/ABJ/CS/1384/2020, reasonably justifiable in a democratic setting? Answer to this question is not clear-cut, considering the events of the past four-five weeks in Nigeria during, and immediately following after, #EndSARS protests. But we may start by looking at provisions of some relevant extant laws. Section 60B IN Appendix 1 of the Banks and Other Financial Institutions Act (BOFIA), as amended (see https://www.cbn.gov.ng/OUT/PUBLICATIONS/BSD/1991/BOFIA.PDF), empowers the CBN to apply for and obtain an Ex Parte order “where the Governor has reason to believe that transactions undertaken in any bank account with any licensed bank are such as may involve the commission of any criminal offence under any law.”  However, after obtaining such ex parte order, the CBN Governor must refer the matter to the Nigeria Police Force, the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency or any other appropriate regulatory authority for investigation (s. 60B(3)), although where such investigation is not concluded within the period stipulated in the Court order, the CBN Governor may apply to the Federal High Court for an order extending the freezing of the account concerned (s. 60B(4)). Save where the court otherwise directs, any ex parte order made by the Federal High Court is to last not more than 14 days (see Order 26 Rule 10 of the Federal High Court Rules).

 

(D) CLASSES OF PROTESTERS IN RE 2020 #ENDSARS

An objective analysis of the situation in Nigeria over the past six weeks that the #EndSARS controversy has been in vogue, appears to suggest that seven classes of protesters held sway.

(1) The Peaceful #EndSARS Protesters:

As I have noted above, there is no doubt that the #EndSARS protests, triggered by years of vicious dehumanization, brutalization and extra-judicial killing of Nigerians by a segment of Nigeria`s security agents, were peaceful, while the participants were wholly law-abiding and unarmed in prosecuting their demands which included #EndSARS, #EndSWAT, #EndPoliceBrutality, #EndInsecuty, #EndImpunity and #EndBadGovernance. The justness of their cause had attracted huge sympathy and tremendous support from many notable, well-meaning institutions and personalities within and outside Nigeria. It might therefore be reasonable to argue that it was in support of and in solidarity with this very group of peaceful protesters, that financial and other donations/support filtered in from within and outside the country into the now 90-day-long frozen accounts. I doubt people like Tyler Perry, Beyonce,  Beyonce, Rihanna, Nicki Minaj, ChanceTheRapper, Rio-Ferdinand, Jidenna, John Boyega,  Estelle, Trey Songz, Beyoncé Knowles, Kanye West, Anthony Joshua, Twitter's Chief Executive Jack Dorsey, and German-Turkish Arsenal player Mesut Özil, and a long line of other notable personalities could have raised their voices in support of anything else but an obviously peaceful movement, such as the genuine peaceful #EndSARS protests. Accordingly, one may ask whether and when is it has become illegal to contribute money for/towards, or to sponsor, peaceful, non-violent protests? I shall come back to this, later. Members of this group were led by notable Nigerian youth activists, musicians, actors, actresses, models and gender equality advocates (including the defendants in Suit Number: FHC/ABJ/CS/1384/2020 whose Banks Accounts are now court-frozen), as well as many notable non-aligned celebrities, and youth leaders from across Nigeria, supported by fellow Nigerians abroad.

 

These protesters swept the streets, controlled traffic, fed participating protesters, held peaceful consultations with political leaders, the powers that be, etc, all towards resolving the controversies revolving around the SARS brutality/menace, improvement in governance and end to impunity in Nigeria. Many Nigerian governments had swiftly responded to their agitations by making certain public pronouncements. An example, the Federal Government proscribed the Federal SARS, although it had immediately thereafter replaced it with another outfit, SWAT, which the youth described as “SARS Without Any Training” leading to continuation of peaceful protests against Police Brutality generally. Although they continued after the announced proscription of the SARS, some have argued that the mere fact of their continuation is not a factor sufficient to conclusively link them to the later violence and confusion that ensued. However, some others have observed that if they had discontinued the peaceful protest at that point, to give the governments some reasonable time to look into their grievances with a view to implementing the promises already made by government, the later violence and confusion might have been avoided.  One must recall that at that time, government had already accepted the Five-Point Demand of the Youth, which included #EndSARS, increase in police salaries, etc. The early Peaceful #EndSARS Protests held sway in a commendable manner until the reported shooting at Lagos Lekki Toll Gate on 20/10/2020.

(2) The Reprisal-Inspired Protesters

Equally not in doubt is that following (some would say, accompanying) the well-intentioned #EndSARS peaceful protests, was a round of brutal mayhem and wanton destruction of properties, public and private, perpetrated by some faceless people (mainly young people) who are now widely described as “hoodlums.” This second set of protesters had targeted public facilities for destruction, arson and looting and vandalization. Places mainly affected included Courts, police stations, some shopping malls, markets, and some media houses, especially those linked to people/politicians  whom these violent protesters apparently (rightly or wrongly) saw as “enemies of the peaceful protests,” “oppressors of the youth/masses,” or as “sponsors of the mindless shooting and killing of unarmed, peaceful protesters at Lekki Toll Gate on 20 October 2020.”  This second wave of protests, the violent wave, began and escalated from 20 October 2020. There are many schools of thought as to what may have triggered this set of later-day protests. Some have suggested that this was triggered by widespread youth anger against the reported Lekki Toll Gate shooting. Example, there were reports of a pre-planned imposition of curfew to force an end to what was otherwise a peaceful protest; there was the reported disconnection (on the orders of the Lagos State Government) of the CCTV Camera at Lekki Toll Gate hours before the arrival of the team of soldiers accused of masterminding the reported Lekki Toll Gate Shooting; there was the reported dismantling of the light from around the Toll gate on the orders of the State Government; there was the report that it was the Lagos State Governor that had invited the soldiers to the Lekki Toll gate on 20 October 2020. There was the report that the burning down of the popular Orile Police station was a pre-meditated act, carried out to justify the later imposition of the curfew that preceded the Lekki toll Gate shooting and killing of unarmed peaceful protesters. And many more theories. Add this to the bottled-up angst reportedly fermenting in the minds of many youths in respect of the brutality, dehumanization, and extra-judicial killing the Nigerian youth had had to endure in the hands of security agents employed and paid to safeguard and protect them. Some say an aspect of the actions of this class of protesters must have been done out of sympathy for the underserved misfortune that had reportedly befallen the first class of protesters at Lekki Toll Gate on 20 October. A sort of solidarity protest, although there exists does not exist any evidence or suggestion anywhere, that the first class of protesters had called for, nor was in support of, such reprisal attacks and wanton destruction of properties. And this perhaps accounts for why sympathy keeps mounting in support of the first class of protesters, especially in the face of their present ordeals.

(3) The Possess-Your Palliatives Protesters

There was yet another set, a third set, of protesters, which I prefer to describe as “Possess-Your-Palliative Protesters.” This set of protesters targeted mainly properties/warehouses housing any form of COVID-19 palliatives meant for the masses, as well as houses/properties belonging to some public office holders. The protesters were somewhat peaceful in their approach because their target was mainly to possess what they saw (rightfully or wrongly) as their own possessions, their belief being that palliatives meant for the masses had been hijacked and stored away by selfish, self-centered and insensitive politicians and political office-holders. I can recall the reported charge/appeal by the voice of an unseen person, in Ilorin, Kwara State, to this class of protesters to “Go in and loot peacefully. No Wahala. But please, do not destroy any properties, no violence. Just go in and loot peacefully.”  See the news report, “ In Ilorin, Kwara State, Secuirty officials are now begging hoodlums to LOOT PEACEFULLY” (https://observerstimes.com/in-ilorin-kwara-state-secuirty-officials-are-now-begging-hoodlums-to-loot-peacefully/ accessd 7 Novembe r2020). Accordingly, the objectives and actions of this third group of palliatives looting protesters were, as suggested in some quarters, more or less in the nature of Bona Fide Claim of Right, although it is still unclear whether their actions are reasonably justifiable under section 23 of the Criminal Code Law, which provides that “A person is not criminally responsible, as for an offence relating to property, for an act done or omitted to be done by him with respect to any property in the exercise of an honest claim of right and without intention to defraud.” (see < https://lawsofnigeria.placng.org/laws/C38.pdf? Accessed 7 November 2020)

(4) The Opportunist Political Protesters

It has also been argued that, there was yet another set of politically-motivated, and political-opponents-sponsored protests against political rivals. Seeing that all manners of protests were ongoing and cashing in on the ensuing melee, some cowardly politicians must have cashed in on the opportunity to direct their brainless fans to unleash violence on properties of perceived political rivals. The attacks on some properties linked to the Jagaban, the attack on the palace of the Oba of Lagos, and the looting of houses of some public office-holders must have fallen among those affected by this class of protests and perpetrated by members of this class, although unconfirmed stories had it that the second class cited above (the Reprisal-Inspired “Hoodlum” Protesters) were said to have also targeted the Jagaban for reasons best known to them.

(5)  The Sponsored Pro-SARS Protesters

It has been suggested that much of the activities of this class was politically sponsored with the aim of highlighting the good sides of the SARS, and especially to discredit the #EndSARS protests. There is no doubt that this class of protesters represented what I prefer to call a Protest Against (#EndSARS) Protesters. It is believed in some quarters (although unconfirmed) that a segment of the powers that be may have been behind this class of protesters, with the aim of forcing an early end to the initial genuinely-structured and well-intentioned #EndSARS peaceful protests. There is no gain-saying that this class of protesters engaged in violence, maiming, molestation and unprovoked attacks mainly against the genuine peaceful #EndSARS protesters (to scare the genuine #EndSARS protesters) as well as in wanton destruction of properties, perhaps aimed at making it look as if the initial #EndSARS protesters were no longer peaceful.

(6)   The Tribal & Religious War Protesters

The genuine #EndSARS protests had initially advanced in a manner that was not only unprecedented in the history of this country, but with such an amazing unity and oneness of purpose; so much so that many began to wonder, Is this still NigeriaSo, this kind of unity is still possible among Nigerians? What a united youth movement! There are many theories surrounding the sudden emergence of the Tribal & Religious War Protesters, a class of silent, faceless protesters. Some believe that the purpose of planting or sowing the seed of ethnic hate among the Nigerian Youth who were united in protesting against (as reported) police brutality and unsatisfactory governance style in Nigeria, was to dislocate the protests by introducing ethnic and religious hate sentiments. A statement by a group known as Concerned Nigerians had observed:

“There are widespread allegations and some available evidence would appear to support this, that agents of government or other affiliated political actors sought to break the legitimate protests by the youth through sponsoring or promoting thugs to attack the protestors and damage properties which were then attributed to the youth protestors. Some evidence also suggests that there are attempts to delegitimize the protests by seeking to divide and rule the youth through ethnic and religious manipulation. This makes the situation very dangerous for the country. This divisive and cynical approach, if established, portends great danger to the nation and is unacceptable.”  (<https://www.lawandjustice.ng/2020/10/endsars-concerned-eminent-nigerians.html> accessed 7 November 2020)


(7) The #EndInsecurity Protesters 

This class of protesters operated mainly in Northern Nigeria, especially in Kano, Katsina, Kaduna, Niger, Plateau, Bauchi, Jigawa, Taraba, Nasarawa, and many more. Although some of them still promoted #EndSARS, #EndPoliceBrutality and #EndBadGovernance, their major preoccupation was #EndInsecurity, with particular reference to #EndBokoHaram, #EndBanditry, #EndKidnapping, #EndRape, #EndKillings, etc. This set of protesters was nonviolent and peaceful, and it is understandable why this class operated mainly in the northern part of Nigeria; the menace of Bandits, Boko Haram, ISWA (Islamic State of West Africa), Kidnappers, Rapists, Armed Robbers, and other forms of insecurity that had/have held Nigerian down over the past years, appear to be more pronounced in the north, although rape, kidnapping, herdsmen attack, etc., are found also in parts of the south, but not as rampant as they are in the north. The song composed by a Kannywood actor, Adam Zango titled “Arewa na Kuka” which means “the North weeps” was used to promote this class of protests in the north. The English translation of the song reads: “In the name of God, pay attention/We seek your help/The North is weeping/ Our blood is being shed/Our people are being killed/Our property torched. Also, see "#EndSARS: First Lady Aisha Buhari Joins Protest," reported in <https://ab-tc.com/endsars-first-lady-aisha-buhari-joins-protest/> accessed 7 November 2020; "‘Save the people’, Aisha Buhari urges action against insecurity in the North" (<https://www.premiumtimesng.com/news/top-news/421468-save-the-people-aisha-buhari-urges-action-against-insecurity-in-the-north.html> accessed 7 November 2020)

 

(E)  ANY DENOMINATOR OR LINK AMONG THE CLASSES OF PROTESTERS?

There is no doubt that majority of members of the first five classes of protesters identified above, are youths of Nigeria. But it is doubtful, undecided whether there was any common intention or unity of purpose between the original, genuine peaceful #EndSARS protesters and either the Possess-Your-Palliatives protesters or the later-day violent protest-classes. However, these questions have agitated the minds of many a reasonable man and woman in Nigeria since the end of the protests and the violence and confusion that followed, is, Are the Peaceful #EndSARS Protesters different from the so-called hoodlums that visited some momentary but unprecedented violence upon Nigeria? Does the first group have nothing to do with the “angry, hungry” youths that later engaged in the Possess-Your-Palliatives Looting Campaigns?

 

(F)  CONSTITUTIONALITY OF PROTESTS

I need not go into any detailed discussions on legality or constitutionality of peaceful protests in a constitutional democracy; such is not in doubt. Organizing, sponsoring and conducting peaceful protests cannot be legally, validly described as "fomenting trouble," or "promoting aggression." Hence, in his nationwide address on 22 October 2020 (see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LM9h4fO1Jlg), Mr. Muhammadu Buhari, President and Commander in Chief of the Nigerian Armed Forces, had acknowledged that "The choice to demonstrate peacefully is a fundamental right of citizens as enshrined in Section 40 of our Constitution and other enactments; but this right to protest also imposes on the demonstrators the responsibility to respect the rights of other citizens, and the necessity to operate within the law." 

 

(G)                       ONLY PEACEFUL PROTESTS ARE CONSTITUTIONAL?

The Constitution allows peaceful protests, no doubt. Accordingly, where the protests are peaceful, section 60B of the Banks and Other Financial Institutions Act (BOFIA) is inapplicable as it is difficult under such a scenario to say that such protests or any disbursement of funds to/by/for their sponsors “may involve the commission of any criminal offence under any law.” This means that one has first to determine that/whether/when the protest is peaceful, which determination, in my humble view, involves two major factors; one must first look at (i) the Object of the protests and (ii) the manner of conduct of the protests.

 

(i)               The Object of the Protests Must Be Lawful

Peaceful protests sponsored, organized and carried out by unarmed youths and directed in support of #EndSARS, #EndSWAT, and #EndPoliceBrutality, #EndImpunity, without any more, cannot be properly described as illegal, and promoters of such protests cannot be said to be "fomenting trouble" or "promoting aggression," neither could it validly be argued that such “may involve the commission of any criminal offence under any law.”  However, where the object of the Protest is to promote any illegality or unconstitutionality, the Protest Sponsors and or their bank accounts could be proceeded against for sponsoring illegality. This throws up the question, was the objective of the #EnDSARS Protests were unlawful, unconstitutional? Was the protest targeted at anything else other than lawful or legitimate demands of citizens from their Governments? If for example the youths demanded "good governance," "reduction in the pay of political office holders," in addition to the #EndDSARS or #EndSWAT crusade, would this without more, render their objectives unlawful or unconstitutional? I answer “no”. Mr. President himself, had in his address afore-cited, acknowledged the legality of the "legitimate expressions of grievances of the youths of our country." Also, a look at sections 14(2), 16 and 17 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, reveals that elected representives and all those in government have a duty to deliver good governance to the people who are the true owners and beneficiaries of the political power being held on trust, by the leaders. The people are therefore entitled to demand of their leaders, good governance and or to rise peacefully in protest against bad governance. Hence, even #EndBadGovernance protests, if they remain peaceful and nonviolent, are within the people's constitutional, lawful rights.

 

However, where the aim of the organizers go beyond these and extend to, say, adopting any form of lawlessness or processes involving  destruction of public or private properties, or perpetration of injury, maiming or killing of citizens people or engagement in other form(s) of illegality, or targeted at forcible removal or dismantling of any lawfully-constituted authorities or democratically elected public office-holders, the objective could then be treated as illegal or unconstitutional, thus justifying any lawful process against funds used and the sponsors and organizers of the Protests. Any unconstitutional process adopted to have any legally constitued authority removed is a "bad act" and is not a part of a "legitimate expression of grievance." This is so, because section 1(2) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, provides that "The Federal Republic of Nigeria shall not be governed, nor shall any persons or group of persons take control of the Government of Nigeria or any part thereof, except in accordance with the provisions of this Constitution." Besides, section 24 (a) of the Constitution imposes a duty on every citizen of Nigeria to "abide by the constitution, respect its ideals and institutions... and legitimate authorities," while section 24(c) commands every citizen to “respect the dignity of other citizens...."

(ii)             Unlawful Conduct In Promoting A Lawful Object

There may be instances where the objectives of a Protest are lawful, but the manner of implementation of the protest or of execution of the objectives, is illegal, unconstitutional. In such instances, illegal actions perpetrated by protesters cannot be excused on grounds that the objectives are lawful. If any protests, however lawful the aims and objectives may be, is carried out in an unlawful, violent or lawless manner, there may be said to exist, reasonable grounds to support any lawful efforts by Government to proceed against bank accounts used to sponsor such protests and against those involved in promoting, sponsoring, or participating in such Protests. This, however, is not the end of the discussion. Many other questions must be settled before a convincingly reasonable conclusion could be arrived at. For example, what if people in authority actually had sponsored wanton destruction of properties or other form of illegalities with a view to discrediting the peaceful protests in the manner of giving a good dog a bad name in order to hang it?  What if some other people opposed to the protests had interfered and visited mayhem on innocent citizens, which violence is now being blamed on the otherwise peaceful protesters? And what if some angry, hungry, hopeless, and helpless youths (having no connection with and acting in no agreement with, the genuine ENDSARS sponsors) had cashed in on the opportunity offered by the otherwise  peaceful protests to  violently and unlawfully ventilate/express their own grievances and frustrations against powers that be, perhaps on account of failed governance promises, and in a manner previously unknown to, and unapproved by the genuine peaceful ENDSARS protesters and their sponsors, or otherwise in a manner that has nothing to do with the plans and actions of the genuine ENDSARS Protests and protesters? Would it be reasonably justifiable to hold the genuine, law-abiding #ENDSARS Protesters and their sponsors (including their bank accounts) blameful for these later, wholly illegal actions, that have no connection with, nor reasonably contemplated in, the plans and processes adopted by the genuine peaceful ENDSARS Protesters?

 

Unfortunately, these last questions lead us to yet another set of questions, perhaps the most difficult: How does anyone determine whether or that the so-called "hoodlums" that had unleashed unprecedented violence and lawlessness upon major cities in Nigeria, had/have nothing to do with, or are not sympathetic to the cause or plight of the genuine peaceful ENDSARS protesters and their sponsors? Whose duty is it to make, and what are the yardsticks that ought reasonably to be adopted in making, such an assessment/ determination? Objective, accurate, answers to these last questions are very pertinent to a timely, fair and just resolution of this controversy in order to  assess to what extent any actions and or court processes against the 20 Bank Accounts said to be linked to ENDSARS Protest-promoters and sponsors may be adjudged reasonably or lawfully justifiable in a constitutional democratic Nigeria founded on the principle of rule of law, justice, and due process. Unfortunately, this is where the problem lies as everyone offers his view depending of his political, sectional, or other extraneous affiliations and vested interests, leaving unanswered, the central question, "Who will bell the cat to bring about a timely resolution and save us avoidable further, inconvenient backlashes?"

 

(H)                       CONCLUSION AND RECOMMENDATIONS

While concluding his nationwide address on 22 October 2020, on this #EndSARS Controversy, President Muhammadu Buhari had stated:

We will continue to improve good governance and our democratic process, including through sustained engagement. We shall continue to ensure that liberty and freedom, as well as the fundamental rights of all citizens are protected. I therefore call on our youths to discontinue the street protests and constructively engage government in finding solutions. Your voice has been heard loud and clear and we are responding.”

 

Flowing from this beautiful conclusion by Mr. President especially the part that called on the youth to “discontinue the street protests and constructively engage government in finding solutions,” I had thought that  all post #EndSARS protest-efforts on the part of all stakeholders and well-meaning Nigerians, whether in private and public positions, ought to be focused on healing wounds, calming frayed nerves, appeasing injured feelings and in mutual engagement to find a lasting solution by looking instead at what had actually precipitated the ENDSARS Protests and all the violence and wanton destruction of properties that followed them. One had thought that dialogue and consultation should have been the paramount consideration at this juncture, to illustrate that all stakeholders had/have learnt huge lessons in the unprecedentedly unfortunate scenarios from which we had just come out. To what extent could it be reasonably said, at this juncture, that we (all) have explored the diplomatic option? Prosecution of criminal cases in court, is an aspect of litigation. While Abraham Lincoln once exhorted all to “discourage litigation...,” Sandra Day O’Connor, a former Justice of the Supreme Court of the USA (1981-2006) had advised, “The courts of this country should not be the places where resolution of disputes begins. They should be the places where the disputes end after alternative methods of resolving disputes have been considered and tried”. Do we not think that trying to victimize selected youths or using force, intimidation, oppression or bullying tactics, might be counterproductive, as experience should have by now taught us all? George Santayana of America had since said something like that those who forget mistakes of the past are condmened to repeat them now, thereby creating a worse future. During the peak of the covid-19-triggered lockdown in Nigeria and amidst the agitation by a segment of Nigeria's religious sector for lifting or easing of lockdown restrictions to enable Christians and muslims to return to their respective places of worship, I had written in one of my published commentaries as follows:

"Conscience is an open wound; only the truth can heal it (per Sheikh Usman Dan Fodio: 1754-1816). Although the French symbolist writer, Jean-Marie-Mathias-Philippe-Auguste, comte de Villiers de l’Isle-Adam (1838 –1889) had argued that “there are some wounds that one can heal only by deepening them and making them worse,” I prefer to agree with what REBECCA WEST wrote in the book, THE HARSH VOICE: “nobody likes having salt rubbed into his wounds, even if it is the salt of the earth.” The reason is quite simple: 'you can’t patch a wounded soul with a Band-Aid,' says Michael Connelly). The problem with the band-aid (to wounds) is that the band-aid would slowly rip off, and the wound would remain unhealed; so, of what use is such temporary measure that brings no permanent solutions. Besides, as experience has shown, certain wounds can’t heal if you keep touching them. And, as Sue Fitzmaurice said, “Our wounds can so easily turn us into people we don’t want to be.” (See: Udemezue, S.C., 'Covid-19 & Church Closure: You Can Still Go About, As Jesus Went About, Doing Good, Healing The Sick & Raising The Dead' (The Nigeria Lawyer, 10 May 2020) (<https://thenigerialawyer.com/covid-19-church-closure-you-can-still-go-about-as-jesus-went-about-doing-good-healing-the-sick-raising-the-dead-letter-to-pastor-giwa-by-udems/> accessed 7 November 2020).

 

I conclude by suggesting that the future of this great country depends squarely on our present choices, decisions, actions, inactions or bad actions. In the book, Lanthe, published in 2015, author Cathlin Shahriary observed that, “all choices are made with great risks.” So, we must decide for ourselves, individually, collectively, whether the consequences are worth the action we take, whether as individuals, as governments or government officials.  We always know the right thing to do. The hard part is doing it; yet doing the right thing is always the right thing to do. Doing the right thing comprises mainly in facing reality. The reality is that all what we need now is reconciliation with one another, not blaming each other, reparation of damaged relations and society, not bullying of a section of it, reconstruction of devasted hopes, not persecution of those who dared to raise their voices; repentance and reengineering, not exacerbation and heightening of tension. Sometimes, God doesn’t send you into a battle to win it; he sends you to end it. All kinds of fights end at forgiveness. We must therefore evolve for our country a conflict resolution method which rejects revenge, aggression, oppressions, victimization and bullying. Our leaders should stop scaring away our youth and making them feel not recognized nor welcome. Peace cannot be kept by force; it can only be achieved by understanding. Jimmy Carter said, unless both sides win, no agreement can be permanent. And according to John F. Kennedy, peace is a daily, a weekly, a monthly process, gradually changing opinions, slowly eroding old barriers, quietly building new structures."  Nelson Mandela suggested, “the best weapon is to sit down and talk. If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner.” Finally, on the night before he died, Franklin D. Roosevelt had written in declaration that, "more than just an end to war, we want an end to the beginnings of all wars.  I think I have said my own; he or those who have ears, let him or they hear, although, experience has shown that our problem in not hearing is not that we do not have ears; it is just that most of us do not use them, a part of the reason Counsellor Craig D. Lounsbrough once queried, “Do we forget, or, is it that we just refuse to remember?”

Thank you for listening, nay, reading.

Respectfully,

Sylvester Udemezue (udems)

 08021365545, [email protected].




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