By Comfort Obi
A scandalous scene played out at a Federal High Court in Abuja on Wednesday, March 4, 2015, before the Hon. Justice Ademola Adeniyi. The actors were a former governor of Kogi state, Abubakar Audu, his police orderly, an Inspector, and an operative of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, Haruna Ashade.
The EFCC has been after Audu formerly of the PDP, but now with the APC, over alleged corruption while in office. Like the cases involving a couple of his colleagues, his is taking eternity to conclude. But this day, when Audu appeared in court, a shocking and scandalous scene took the shine off the case.
While Audu was seated in court, Ashade, the EFCC operative, began his work, one of which was to take photographs of Audu. As he did so, Audu hit the roof. How could anybody want to take photographs of a whole him in court?
In Nigeria, many big men and big women are above the law. They think laws are made for the lowly, the under-privileged. To Audu, it was a double insult that the EFCC would charge him to court, and then, an ordinary EFCC operative would dare take his photograph for record purposes.
So, as operative Ashade clicked away, Audu demanded his camera from him. You know, a suspect in court was demanding for the camera of an operative of the agency prosecuting him. Only in Nigeria! Anyway, Ashade refused to give Audu his camera. The camera is not Ashade’s personal property. It is the property of the EFCC, and Ashade was on an official duty. Scandalised by Ashade’s audacity, Audu beckoned on one of his aides to deal with Ashade.
Enters, his police Orderly who descended on Ashade. A scuffle ensued. The Inspector, according to newspaper reports, hit Ashade severally in an attempt to take the camera from him. Confusion reigned in the court room. But the entry of Hon. Justice Adeniyi saved the day. The bewildered Judge sent one of his assistants and his police orderly to restrain Audu’s Orderly from his continuous assault on Ashade. That done, the Judge asked Ashade to release his camera for safe keeping in his chambers till after the court sitting. Ashade did, but surprise, surprise. When Ashade was given back his camera thereafter, all the photographs he took of Audu were deleted. I will come back to this later. For now, let’s dwell on the rightness of what Audu did.
Audu is not an illiterate. He was the governor of a state. Meaning that he knows a bit about the laws of the land. So, why would he brazenly break the law, and ironically, in a court of law? The only reason I can give here is that Audu thinks that both the court and the EFCC operative are beneath him. He felt it was belittling to appear before the court, and an insult for his photograph to be taken. He didn’t want the public to see him in the dock. Yet, that does not subtract anything from the fact that he is a suspect, being tried for corruption!
But let me say this: Unless it is for the records, I don’t know why the EFCC would take Audu’s photograph in the dock. Was it to confirm that he truly appeared before the courts? His records with them would show them when he appeared. Having said that, however, Audu’s behaviour is a show of shame, and a misuse of power.
The questions to ask are: What was Audu even doing inside the court with a police orderly? Do suspects enter the court room with their guards and/or Orderlies? Or did he go there with them in order to intimidate the court? If that was his intention, he not only succeeded, he also assaulted an EFCC operative in the process.
I am shocked by Audu’s action, and stunned that his police orderly, an Inspector, would obey such an illegal order. He acted beyond his brief as an Orderly. His job is to protect his principal, in this case, Audu, if he is in danger, and not to help him break the law and/or attack innocent citizens. In the instant case, Audu was not under any danger. He was breaking the law, and called on his Police Orderly to help him do so brazenly. If Audu is forgiven, this policeman should not be forgiven.
In the NPF, obeying an illegal order is a big offence. If his case is taken up, as I think it should, the Police would slam him with several offences some of which will be assault, breaking of the law, misconduct and an action which has discredited the NPF before the public. He has also obstructed evidence in a criminal matter. Which brings us back to the camera of the EFCC operative.
According to the report, when the camera, kept in the custody of the court, was brought out and given back to Ashade, Audu’s photographs which Ashade took had been deleted. Who did? And who ordered them deleted? The report did not say the Judge did. He only asked his orderly and another aide to restrain Audu’s orderly from his continuous assault on Ashade, and to keep the camera safe. Whoever deleted the photographs did it while the camera was in the custody of the court. Meaning: either the Judge’s assistant, Police Orderly or the person in whose custody it was kept did that.
This is a deliberate destruction of an evidence before the court. The Judge, unless he so ordered, should be interested, and order an investigation with an eye on bringing the culprit to book. Ashade has been treated by the court with contempt. Indeed, by deleting the photographs, the court has connived with Audu to break the law. But back to Audu.
He should be ashamed of his conduct. The EFCC boss, Ibrahim Lamorde, is a serving Commissioner of Police. I sincerely urge him to report this discreditable conduct on the part of Audu’s Orderly to the Police authorities. His job is to protect Audu and not to act as his thug. The Inspector cannot take refuge in the fact that he was obeying his Oga. Policemen and women are responsible for their individual actions. When such cases come up, they are liable for what you did. Police personnel are not expected to obey illegal orders. Obviously, by using his police orderly as a thug, Audu has abused the privilege given to him, and has ruined, if care is not taken, the career of this Police Inspector. If his career is ruined, it will be good for him. A number of them attached to big men and women are overzealous, and don’t know there is a borderline.
I have a suggestion here to make: This Police Inspector should be withdrawn from Audu. And until he gives an undertaking not to abuse the privilege given to him, Audu should not be given a replacement. What’s wrong with these people, anyway?