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The making of a ‘sin city’

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(Photo by Kola Sulaimon / AFP)

Imagine the uncertainties that overrun life and living in Nigeria as citizens and residents: the sheer task regarding going out in the morning and returning home safe after engagements – Kidnappers, armed/unarmed robbers, hired killers, bandits and ritualists ply evil trade in market places, stalls/groceries, banks, school environments, as they do right in living apartments, mosques, churches, and more! The so-called less cities and sub-urban nooks have worsted into killing fields where farmers and peasants – old and young – have fallen victims of routine decapitation and made gory objects of immolation by uninvited visitors that camp about them, some of these often grazing their cattle on ready-for-harvest crops – cassava, maize, everything, anything.

Whole families are vanishing without traces, newly-weds becoming murder victims overnight; petrol-laden trucks falling off its path, roasting lives and devastating properties; settlements burned down by extremist camps; political jobbers and routine careerists – insolent architects of sky-seeking insecurity – have perfected the art  of dispossessing the citizenry of collective belongings, fixating infrastructure, sending the economy to abject ruination; policing and judicial systems have deliquesced into one ludicrous charade – authorities here tell lies to assert performances seen to only extra-terrestrial beings.

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Rapes ever on the rise – fathers now do their own daughters(!), teachers/lecturers leading the rage; the soldiers/policemen shooting innocents dead in the instance of whatever vamped excuse – not infrequently have they secretly facilitated/masterminded crimes, shielded criminals; pastors preaching prosperity, and protection for perverts. To embark on inter-city movements without missing in transit has become a celebrable attainment.

But, the madness has not spared the economy. Today, the price is 100, tomorrow, same has jumped to 100+x, where ‘x’ can be just any figure! Such loss in the country’s currency value has compounded multiple devastations of many an individual life, association and a business. Atop the malady are plans by government to unleash N400 per litre of petrol! To hell with businessmen and their businesses!

However, what makes the scene quite worrisome is not the tendency by criminals to run berserk at every opportunity; it is Nigeria’s patent statelessness – lack of any dependable, consistent deterrence measure. Ours is a system that, in protecting criminals and routinely shutting victims up in unrestituted sorrow, lends criminality the tonic to thrive. Where are the timeless requisites of decency and equity in Nigeria’s justice system? A system that promotes the rights of the wrongdoer over those of victims has prepared fat plinth for sorrow to fester!

On April 5, 2018, a six-member armed gang seized the day for nearly one hour in Offa, Kwara state, killing almost thirty-five innocent individuals of various ages, making away with about seventeen million naira in an early afternoon bank raid! One by one, they were cornered by the police and, in hand-cuffs, they admitted the crime, stating how a former senate president and two-time governor aided the heist.

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Offa killers have been in custody since, just as many other transgressors before and after – Evans the kidnapper, Kabiru Sokoto, Rev. King, and more – who similarly spawned collective outrage in the sheer waste they engineered! Together they promote pitiful impotence of the country’s judicial administration and top level collusion the powers would prefer remained unnoticed.

But criminals, even if arrested and prosecuted, being quite aware of the loopholes in the judicial system, would soon scheme escape, and pronto, are back on the beat! We all must today live with and tolerate evil, largely because the collusive leadership have stifled the system well enough to block access to correction/deterrence – even if judges pronounce death from the thrones, warrants on death would still have to be assented by either the governor or the president for deserved executions to happen, and these don’t ever come!

The few criminals who face the music still are those who lack the connectedness and network to circumvent and pervert. Prison swaps are reportedly performed by some insider clique for ‘powerful’ death-row prisoners, using the ‘powerless’ ones with less sentences. Immediately the crime is committed, phone numbers begin to change hands, and contacts work the magic! To thicken the anomaly, ‘official’ pardons, not infrequently, come from governments for ‘repentant’ bandits, treated to lousy state receptions and awarded scholarships/given jaw dropping cash awards, often through contracts, to begin a new life. Many of these have since proven they relish more the crookery of the rooks and have made their ways back!

Indeed, the complicit structure has made criminality quite alluring/attractive. Criminals are now almost everyone’s next door neighbours. The motor parts sellers share habitation with human parts sellers! Some of them often boast about their influence during ‘difficult’ experiences with the police/law, saying ‘I will come back, and when I come, you are dead.’ Many times, they returned to make good their threats. But, while the criminals can kill and have been killing, they cannot be killed.

They strut the streets and practice lawlessness as career – they now have offices, run associations and are often given juicy political posts! Quite a number of these are popular recidivists and jailbirds who had made our localities unmitigated hell for hapless inhabitants, long before banditry/cultism won prominence. Sadly, it is the law-abiding citizens that suffer the brunt of all perversions.

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How many ‘executions’ and death-row prisoners would Nigeria have recorded among past and present political office holders if mind-blowing thefts that have continued to send citizens to the graves in ramifying shapes earned deserved penalties?  By the end of 2019, according to a Chatham House report, a sum of $582bn has been stolen from Nigeria since independence. Quite a number of the elements responsible for such fate have been in the show whole forty, fifty years to scheme it worse for the country!

Are such humongous payments awarded each other by political office holders at various cadres of governance as salaries and allowances not sufficiently exceedingly graft to ossify hopes? A senator earns enough in just two, three months what will offset all entitlements of a cohort of fifty senior level public servants in state services in 30 years of active service! Today, all global rankings have put the country at the lowest levels in positive regards and at the tops where undesirables are considered.

Rather than a city of angels, opportunities of becoming which Nigeria has to no end, the country has turned into a ‘Sin City’; vast, unpretentious collection of underclass dregs among which criminality wins worrisome welcome and blatant evil freely traded like in a bazaar during church harvests. Who here still sees redemption as a possibility?

Salawudeen, writer and freelance journalist, writes via obastunde@yahoo.com

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