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The Nigerian judicial system is something to fear, especially if you are innocent

By Emeka Ugwuonye

391

Whenever any dispute gets to the point where the Nigeria government accuses you of a crime, it is time to run for your life. This is because it is not the law or the facts or the evidence that will control the outcome. Before they charged you, they already made up their mind how to make sure you end up in prison, regardless of how baseless the charge is. It has been that way for a long time. That was how they sent Awolowo to prison in 1962/63. Maybe Nigeria is not the only country that uses bogus criminal prosecutions to silence critics. But Nigeria will be on top of countries that use such abusive system the most.

As was reported, when Mohammed Adoke was accused by the EFCC of committing a crime, Adoke left Nigeria and refused to return. That is; he ran away. The same with Ribadu, and others. Someone met Adoke overseas and said to him: “Since you maintain that you are innocent of those charges, why not go back to Nigeria and defend yourself?” Adoke replied: “You don’t know the Nigerian judicial system”.

Adoke, a former Attorney General of Nigeria, with the power to change the Nigerian judicial system, was complaining about the system he failed to change. He was afraid of facing the Nigerian courts because he knew he could be sent to jail regardless of the evidence. So, he chose to be a fugitive until he was forced back to Nigeria, where he now stands trial.

So, you need to understand what it means for me to stand trial and to refuse to leave Nigeria all this while. I understood what Adoke was complaining about. But I chose to stay and defend myself. I understood the risk I took. But I chose to stay and deal with it.

The moment I stood and faced the judge for judgment yesterday, I was not sure what the outcome would be. This is because in Nigeria, it is not the law or the evidence or the truth that controls the outcome. So, I was prepared to be sent to prison yesterday. I did not want to panic my followers, so I did not want to warn you in advance. I had prepared two statements. One would be released if I was convicted and the other would be released if I was not convicted. I was ready to face the outcome. I was so worried about my son. He and I had been communicating and he has been able to understand the risk I have faced in Nigeria. I did not want to panic him, but I knew it would hit hard if I was convicted. As for my daughter, she is aware but not so intimately aware of the situation.

Yesterday’s judgment has come and gone. I was not convicted. The court upheld the truth and the law. But we still have a long way to go before we can have the kind of justice system we will be proud of. I will continue my work. I will never allow fear to govern me. And I thank all of you for your support.


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