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What These Stories Teach Us Is…Trouble


Kole OmotoshoTHAT we Nigerians should do our crimes in Nigeria where neither the police nor magistrate bothers the criminal. Whenever we have ventured into other countries and other climes for our crimes we have been hammered by the punishments that are prescribed for criminals of our types in such places and space. It is not that the tricks of the criminal profession that works here at home do not work somewhere else. Rather, it is that there are some crimes, which each society considers unforgiveable and must be heavily punished.

There was the story of Bobori (not his real name, name changed to protect this person), a former governor of a state and foundation block of the ruling party. He was accused of misappropriating some public money but the justice system in Nigeria said that was not the case and that he was free to go free. (“Massive fraud involving at least 250 million pounds, part of which he squandered on lavish houses abroad; a private jet; a fleet of armoured land rovers; expensive cars and$200,000 monthly credit card bills).”In spite of this freeness, his case was re-opened but he then fled to Dubai where Interpol caught up with him and deported him to Great Britain. He had been charged there for money laundering and he had fled to some other place. Anyway, he ended up in Britain where he was retried and sent to prison.  Keep out of Great Britain if you do crime.

Then there is the story of Adamasingba, (again not his real name, name changed to protect the person) was accused of stealing money from the state. He was tried and sentenced to six months in prison. He served his term of imprisonment and was then given state pardon by the president of the country. At some time he went to Great Britain where he was promptly arrested and detained. He did some abracadabra including egbe (a combination of escalator and lift) and he found himself back in. Since then he has not tried to go back to Great Britain where he might be asked to explain his disappearing tricks.

The most disturbing story of recent Nigerians doing crime in other climes is the case of Indonesia. Drug addiction is a major social problem in Indonesia. Families are destroyed, lives of young addicts are lost and millions of dollars are spent on hospitalization and rehabilitation. The country took a drastic position vis-a-vis those enriching themselves by providing the drugs. On arrival anywhere in Indonesia, it is clearly indicated that any form of drug trafficking attracts the death sentence.

The so-called Asian Tigers did not make it economically successfully by being authoritarian, they made it because they took policy decisions and refused to let anything derail them from such decisions. A memorable incident took place in Singapore years ago. In that city-state, you are not allowed to chew gum. You are not allowed to spoil the faces of walls and rocks with graffiti. If caught and charged and found guilty, part of the punishment was public caning! Well, an American citizen obviously believed the hype that Americans are special and would not be caned according to the laws of Singapore. Caned he was and he peed on himself in the process.

It is one thing to serve time in foreign climes for various crimes. Time passes and the timeserver finishes his prison term and can go back home. But imagine the condition of someone facing the firing squad in a foreign country. It would be lonely. It would be final and no relation would be around to care for the remains of their loved one. Yet these are not the real criminals. These are the carriers, mere mules ferrying the goods for those who eat the insides of the addicts.

It is this fact that the Indonesian authorities do not solve the drug problem by killing the carriers. What about those who grow the product? And those who harvest it and send it internationally to do the damage that the Indonesians wish to prevent? To put the greatest benefactors of the drug trade out of business is why some activists plead that drugs all must be legalised and not criminalized.

Anyone who has had a relative succumb to the ravages of drug addiction with the heart-breaking regime of recovery, relapse and pain would not feel pity for those who suffer the maximum punishment. Yet, thinking of one’s relative being shot by a firing squad somewhere far away is not comforting either. This is a terrible tragedy all around.

A single mother pleaded that her child had a debilitating disease. She had no helper. She needed to raise money to pursue the cure. Carrying a small quantity of anything that would give her this money seemed do-able. Unfortunately, she was caught. She perishes.

And the child perishes?

Let’s keep our crimes at home. Somewhere along the line we will learn to punish our crimes.

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