By Josef Omorotionmwan
THINGS equal to the same thing are equal to one another”. To be able to remember C.V Durrell after many years of a successful escape from geometry should be much closer to the realm of the miraculous.
That popular theorem could have been Durrell’s mathematical way of saying that similar cases within the same jurisdiction must be treated with universal equality.
This could sometimes be carried to the point of absurdity. For instance, one gets amazed when one hears complaints bordering on the war against corruption being directed at one political party. They speak in a tone that seems to suggest that when you arrest one corrupt politician from Party ‘A’, you must quickly manufacture another corrupt politician from Party ‘B’, otherwise you are biased. They fail to realise that it is he who goes to the river that breaks the calabash; and that all the parties are not equally exposed to situations of corruption.
The greatest merit in their claim, though, is that all things being equal, if you arrest 100 members of Party ‘A’ before stumbling into one corrupt member of Party ‘B’, the 101 offenders must be treated equally.
Senator Shehu Sani (APC/Kaduna Central) is relevant here. He once wondered why “corruption in the Judiciary and others is treated with insecticide while corruption in the Executive is treated with deodorant” – a height of discriminatory enforcement!
Universal Equal Treatment, UET, simplifies issues and raises fewer questions. In an ideal situation, the function of the Criminal Justice System, from detection through conviction is simply the process of search and comparison; and nothing more. As much as possible, they look at what the law says; compare them with previous cases and how they were decided. The sample nearest in shade invariably supplies the applicable rule; and you march on.
Unfortunately, government handling of the case of the Fulani herdsmen leaves much to be desired. It is rather sad that the national government cannot realise up till now that on the issue of the herdsmen, Nigeria sits on a keg of gunpowder that can explode anytime and everyone in sight shall be consumed.
Apparently, the UET has no appeal to the Federal Government. What you get on the issue of the herdsmen is determined by where you come from.
Perhaps, for the first time, the Federal Government has just demonstrated openly that where its interest is affected, it has the capacity to deal with any situation. We are wonderfully impressed at the swiftness with which the Nigeria Police arrested and paraded 20 Ile-Ife indigenes and transferred them to Abuja, over the inter-ethnic crisis that erupted in the ancient city recently.
We condemn in their entirely, the gruesome killings in Ile-Ife but prompt as the Police action is, it raises a number of supplementary questions: are we now seeing the assurance that the police have finally woken up from their slumber? In a crisis between the Ile-Ife indigenes and the Hausa Community, why are we seeing arrests from only one side of the divide? Even granting that the crime involved is a federal one, why would the suspects be whisked off to far-away Abuja when there are several federal courts nearer the scene of the alleged crime?
What is good for Ile-Ife must also be good for other places. While not going into any ancient history, we recall that those responsible for the recent massacre of innocent Nigerians at Zaki-Biam have not been arrested. Neither have the herdsmen responsible for the mass killings in Benue State been arrested and paraded the way the Ile-Ife indigenes have been treated. What types of federalism is this?
Again, the herdsmen allegedly responsible for the intermittent massacre of the indigenes of Southern Kaduna have not been arrested and paraded. The open duplicity of the Federal Government in all this is worthy of note. At the onset of the Kaduna crisis, the Federal Government declined direct intervention on the ground that Nigeria operates a federal system of government. But the Federal Government went ahead to equip Gov. El-Rufai with the enablement to deal with the situation, which gesture the Federal Government is not extending to other affected States.
Everywhere, the cow-men have become sacred cows and they are on rampage, killing and maiming numerous people all over the country with impunity without any swift intervention of the security agencies as happened in Ile-Ife.
The Agatu incident in Benue State provides a classic example of the modus operandi of the cowmen wherever they go: in Agatu, they razed the community; burnt down their houses; slaughtered everyone in sight; and even raped the women before killing them.
The Interim Secretary of their umbrella body – Gam Allah Fulani Association – Alhaji Saleh Bayeri – claimed that it was a reprisal for the killing of a Fulani man and stealing of his cows. Not a single person has been questioned on this incident and Saleh Bayeri walks our streets in unfettered freedom!
We remember the case of one Bridget who was brutally murdered in broad daylight, last June, in Kofar Wambai market in Kano on allegation of blasphemy. We have not heard of any arrest and diligent prosecution in that case. For how long are we going to continue this way?
If we must progress, government must quickly seek a permanent solution to the issue of the marauders. The double-standard stance of the Federal Government is not an answer. Luckily, the crimes involved here are not time-barred. We urge our “born-again police force” to immediately arrest those herdsmen and their so-called leaders who claimed that the killings in Benue, and everywhere were reprisals for the killing of herdsmen. We also demand the immediate arrest of the killers of Bridget.
The Federal Government must stop its open bias. Governors of affected States must, like Governor El-Rufai of Kaduna, be empowered to deal with the situation.
The problems posed by the herdsmen and their cattle certainly portend grave dangers; and if we must survive, the time for the Federal Government to take decisive actions is today. Tomorrow may be too little too late!