Taofeeq Alatise Esq.
Once again, the police have taken their reign of terror to a disgraceful height. This time the victims are lawyers. It happened in Ilorin, the capital of Kwara State. How did we get to this sorry state? We may never know. But the legal profession is in trouble and the country is not safe.
Lukmon Olanrawaju Bello had thought that Tuesday the 16th of October, 2018 would pan out like the usual days. He would go to court, plead his clients’ cases, and file some processes before retiring to his office to complete those written addresses waiting for attention. He was right. That is the life of a lawyer. Bello was at his office when he received a distress call that one of his clients has been arrested by the police officers and detained at the ‘A’ Division of the station. He was needed to secure the bail of client. Bello had his plan for the day and going to the police station was not part of it. That wasn’t in his diary. But a client had just called. He needed to go. “I will be there very soon”, Bello assured his client. As he left the office, Bello said this might be a good brief, after all. He would go to the station, make a fantastic legal argument and secure the release of his client, collect his professional fee and then smile home for a day well spent. Bello was confident, or at least he thought.
Inside the police station, there is a police training college and a thoroughfare that leads to the ‘A’ Division of the station. At exactly 5:30pm, Bello was already at the premises of the station. As he attempted to pass through the gate, he was stopped by stern-looking students of the college to identify himself. “I am a lawyer”, Bello replied. Enraged by his identity, the trainee policemen pounced on him, tore his clothes before giving him the beating of his life. In all these, Bello remained calm, collected, insisting that he is a lawyer and had a legitimate right to be at the station. But the students would not listen. “Lawyer our foot!”, the students hissed. They would continue to beat the young lawyer until Bello couldn’t speak any longer. And then, it happened. Bello fell on the ground.
Lukman Olanrewaju Bello has been battered.
The Chairman of NBA Ilorin, M.A.I Akande is usually a busy man. Combining his job as a Prosecutor and Chairman of the Ilorin branch of lawyers’ pressure group has been a challenging experience. But he is moving on and like a professional he is discharging his duties effectively. “The day has been well spent”, Akande said to a colleague. He wanted to go home. The wife and kids were waiting. But before going home, he must prepare for the following day and part of that includes collecting his clothes from the laundry man. “Tomorrow would be better”, Akande said as he drove from the office.
“Hello, Hello, Mr. Chairman, there is a problem! One of our colleagues has been arrested and detained at the police station”, some group of young men yelled out in anxiety. Akande could barely recognise these men, but they were young lawyers and they knew their chairman. Akande knew them as well. After listening to them, the Chairman was not happy. “For God sake, why should police molest a lawyer”, Akande queried. But the deed had been done and so he needed to resolve the problem. “Listen, listen, listen to me”, Akande said as he began. “This is very unfortunate, but I can assure you this injustice will not go unpunished. I urge you be calm and peaceful. Dr. Adua and myself will be heading to the police station to register our dissatisfaction and bring back our detained colleague”, Akande declared amid applause from the young lawyers.
It was already 7:pm. The sun has yielded the space to the moon. Mr. Chairman arrived at the station and was led to the office of the Headmaster of the college. Akande introduced Dr. Adua as a lawyer and himself as the Chairman of NBA Ilorin. At this point, the Headmaster knew their mission for coming. He said the lawyer was rude to his students because he is a lawyer. The Chairman didn’t buy the story. Akande demanded to see the detained lawyer. Bello was brought out from the Cell, looking pale, empty, reduced to his singlet and boxers with scars all over his body like a common criminal. “This is injustice”, Akande snapped. As they made to leave, Mr Adua took a picture of the distraught Bello. Piqued by this, the officer pounced on the Chairman and Dr. Adua. They were manhandled, embarrassed and given a dose of Bello’s formula. “This is not the end”, Akande promised as they walked out of the station. Realising it has courted trouble, the officers immediately released Bello, who is now receiving treatment in a Hospital. Akande led-NBA-Ilorin administration called an emergency meeting of lawyers where the ignoble conducts of the police officers were condemned and a position was taken to challenge the unconstitutional violation in court.
Ours is a country governed by laws and good conscience. But events in the recent times have shown that these laws have boundaries. The law has failed even its greatest admirer. Bello will never forget this. It is one law at the public spaces and another at the police stations. Cases of police brutality of lawyers, who were merely doing their legitimate duties, are assuming disturbing and worrying dimension. This has festered because of lack of severe sanction on the men in the uniforms. A society is damned when lawyers are not secure, goes a saying. The legal profession is under attack. Are we endangered species? This is the time for the leadership of the NBA to make a bold statement condemning this inhuman treatment and ensure that so many Bellos in this country get their deserved justice.
Taofeeq Alatise is a legal practitioner writes from Ilorin.