By Taju Tijani
Why did magistrate Abdullahi Ilelah make this legal bed-wetting decision? Why would magistrate Abdullahi Ilelah make a lane crossing to the side of a guilty senator? Why this car-crash judgment where Ms Osimibibra Warmate, the complainant, was thrown under a speeding Ferrari doing a dangerous overdrive.
Why is our judiciary reinforcing the undying belief among Nigerians that in this country we have the chosen ones who are above the rule of law – the kind of heartless chosen ones who will never concede guilt, and allow a person like Ms Osimibibra Warmate get justice? The July 31st, 2020 acquittal of psychopathic Adamawan thug called Senator Elisha Abbo from the gender-based violence instituted against him will linger for a long time like a malodorous smell in all legal chambers in Nigeria.
In this judgment, Nigerians will be able to see the interior mental mooring of some of our magistrates and judges and the insult and disrepute they bring to the noble profession of law in this country. Here, we see a clear case of intentional injustice. This shameful run of play should be sounding the alarm bell for the wellbeing of our society. The growing aberration of our law courts’ blindness to see clear cases of injustice in our society is entering a pandemic zone.
Rather than gloss over this legal impunity with tranquilizing silence, we should all strive to fight the barbarians who muddle the temple of our justice with stupid legalese and technical obfuscation that suspends all sense of morality, fairness, and true restitution to many victims of miscarriage of justice in this country.
It seems that our judiciary has been seized, sad to say, by contrarian magistrates and judges who have brought desecration to the altars of our judicial temple. The Nigerian space is becoming a shaming entity where the elites – legal, military, and political – gain many benefits from oppressing the poor and the weak.
The oppressing group now holds a monopoly on the interpretation of what goes for stealing, looting, corruption, assault, violence and even murder. As things now stand, the poor masses of Nigeria are becoming desperately excluded from the political, social, economic, and legal calculus of our status-driven society. The catastrophic consequence of future price to pay for the insurgency of the excluded is better imagined than seen.
The ongoing judicial fealty to politicians and money bags in our society is symptomatic of serious sickness. We now live in a society of materialistic time bomb where money, privilege and social status can buy you immunity from persecution no matter how heinous, how immoral, how inhumanly despicable your crime is.
What is making this mess more aberrational is our lawyers, magistrates and judges who are enthusiastic protectors of the rich no matter their perversion of our laws. I made this point of Senator Godswill Akpabio just three weeks ago and declared that, “discourse around sexual harassment is often enacted as firewall for the status quo, no matter the evidence, in our society. Sexual harassment is rampant in our society, in both intersecting and contradictory ways and it creates anger, tension and fear. It is a public health crisis in Nigeria. However, in Nigeria, nothing safeguards an elitist sexual offender from persecution than proximity to power as we shall soon see in the unfolding case of Senator Akpabio.”
On May 11, 2019 Senator Elisha Abbo, the misogynist from Adamawa, repeatedly assaulted Ms Osimibibra Warmate in the precinct of Banex Plaza, Wuse 2, Abuja. Before the klieg light of a stunned world, Abbo violated Ms Warmate’s human rights.
There was a mass outrage against abominable Abbo who brought incipient dishonour to senatorial privilege. Few months later, and in a classic insult to public decency, he was awarded with an “ICON at democracy” by Inter-community Awareness for Change and Development. On the depravity meter, his brutalising action was an act of classic hubristic overreach mostly found among our privileged, protected, and pampered elites. They draw their primordial strength from the failure of our laws to protect the poor and the weak and the blanket immunity money could confer, no matter the crime. What is blighting the judicial landscape is the organic conflict in the dispensation of justice in Nigeria and the ongoing bastardisation of our legal canon where there is one rule for the rich and another rule for the poor.
We have sailed into the harbour of Orwellian reign of injustice where your place in the pyramidal pole will determine the kind of justice you deserve, no matter the weight of the evidence against your abuser. This observable paradox could not be more on your face than the judgement of Magistrate Abdullahi Ilelah, who, in Zuba, Abuja, dismissed the assault case filed by the Nigerian Police against the misogynist senator called Elisha Abbo. With this miscarriage of justice, we should begin to write the blackest pages of our judicial meltdown in this country. This country is being accelerated to destruction by lawyers, magistrates and judges who are not only the custodian of our law but also the last hope for the common man but who are now becoming enemies of common decency because of their automatic predilection to shield politicians and the powerful by legal obfuscation and scandalous judgement.
With this injustice, Nigerian civil and criminal laws need a reset especially in a world of new normal where injustices of the past are being interrogated globally. Ms Warmate public battering was a clear case of egregious brutality that induced our moral outrage. This barbarism should not go unpunished. Not in Nigeria. Rather, Abbo was acquitted and the judgement has morphed into a haunting worry and a celebration of outrageous judicial transgression. This injustice, if not reversed, touches on vulnerability, gender oppression, domestic violence, superiority, and helplessness. The question now is this: are our women safe from domestic abuse from the high and mighty? Would they be treated fairly by manipulative men? Can they control what happens to them? Questions like these no doubt have a way to transform into rhetorical weapons in the hands of the setters of our moral values.
Senator Elisha Abbo has social and political power over Ms Warmate. The senator is a beneficiary of this country’s pernicious impunity where the political status quo denies and defends the reality of unjust legal pronouncements that favour them against the rest of us. According to the United Nations, “Violence against women is not confined to a specific culture, region, or country, or to particular groups of women within a society.
The roots of violence against women lie in historically unequal power relations between men and women, and persistent discrimination against women.” Domestic violence, according to statistics, kills more women worldwide than civil wars. This virus is becoming a pandemic as we see in the spate of sexual harassment, misconduct, and assault allegations being levied against pastors, musicians, media moguls, and celebrities including, but sadly not limited to Pastor Biodun Fatoyinbo, Daniel Oyebanjo (D’Banj), Johnny Depp, Bill Cosby, Bill O’Reily, Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, Matt Lauer, Garrison Keillor, Roy Moore, Al Franken and of course, the serial abuser, Donald Trump.
Ms Warmate testimony was graphic, detailed, and captured on camera and yet all her emotional aguish, abuse, public harassment, and gender oppression from the hand of a sociopath called Senator Elisha Abbo would later be dismissed by a chaos-generating and revisionist magistrate called Abdullahi Ilelah. In dismissing the case, judicial provocateur, the unmagisterial Magistrate Abdullahi Ilelah had this to say, “the evidence and exhibits tendered did not disclose a prima facie case of the alleged crime of criminal force and assault against the defendant Abbo. The prosecution’s case centred on the oral evidence of PW1 (Ms Warmate) and the two discs contained CCTV footage of the incident and alleged video clip of an apology from the defendant Abbo.” “The medical report of Mega Sight Eye Clinic did not disclose in detail what happened to the victim and Dr. Ambrose Ibegbule who wrote the report was not called as a witness.
The court also said the video of the press conference showing Mr Abbo apologising was not tantamount to an admission of guilt as it was not a confessional statement. Mr Ilelah added that the testimony of the victim was “so weak because the allegation has not been substantiated in any material particular” and the police did not do a proper investigation as it relied solely on the statement of the victim.” In this judgement, Magistrate Ilelah has normalised and legitimised violence against women. That magistrate Ilelah goofed in this judgement is an understatement. The lesson to derive from this piece of ugly legislation is profound, profane, and poisonous in its dubiety. The foulness in this judgement is hard to communicate to millions of peaceful and law-abiding young Nigerians who may one day fall into the hand of a thuggish fanfaronade like Elisha Abbo. The National Judicial Council and The Nigerian Bar Association must wade into this judicial misconduct.
Judicial provocateur, the unmagisterial Magistrate Abdullahi Ilelah is part of the cowardly mob of elite-loving lawyers who are beholden to the power, position, and the privilege of politicians.
In a world of new normal, these legal luminaries are blindsided by wealth and are too ready to be deferential towards politicians’ madness, criminal tendencies, illegalities, perversions, corruption, and moral pollution of society. Abdulrasheed Maina and Orji Kalu on my mind! The corruption in our judiciary has reached the George Floyd impunity level and our response should not be lesser than the mass defiance of Black Lives Matter model. Through such mass movement, we may see encouraging enthronement of fairness and justice in our law courts that had long eluded ordinary Nigerians. The road to a just society of equality before the law of the land is filled with psychic obstacles, but together, we must conquer and overcome. We need to call out the barbarians desecrating the temple of justice in this country and disrobe and strike them out. This judgement, obnoxious as it is, may serve us right because silence and elitist complicity are our bane in this country. How many conscientious Nigerians are carrying placards and calling out judges who subvert justice? Apart from few feminists, safeguarding organisations and NGOs that came out with clenched reaction to this ignoble judgement, we will rather sit in our air-conditioned homes and indulge in self-loathing and the mournful death of a once great nation.
Without justice, disharmony will continue, and peace will remain a fantasy. Injustice poisons the social fabric, pollutes the collective atmosphere, and creates fermenting resentment, which fuels conflict. It is fed by complacency, which is the principal vice of the privileged, the smug and the comfortable; they have little or no idea of the intense suffering that millions of people are living under, and, fearing that their position of influence and control may be taken from them, they cling to all that they hold dear – instrument of coercion, power and wealth especially in a nation like Nigeria where money could buy you justice. Ms Warmate must swing into action and challenge this rape of justice in higher court. She must not slip into helplessness and resignation. This is the tipping point of our judicial madness and we must bring back common sense into the ranks of selfish, greedy, and corrupt magistrates and judges who have mortgaged their integrity, judicial impartiality and honour to the whims and capricious excesses of politicians and moneybags in our society. We must bring back trust and impartiality to our judiciary. Meanwhile, psychopathic Senator Elisha Abbo must be made a scapegoat to discourage other power drunk politicians from following his obnoxious path of infamy, pathological bestiality, and criminal outrage. Our criminal justice system must disempower head bashing thugs who hide under the dangling cloak of immunity to commit assault and violence on powerless and weak Nigerians.
Culled from “The Guardian“