Dear Femi Falana (SAN): Request To Urgently Consider The Transfer Of Sitting Venue To End The Reign Of Violence, Harassment, Brazenly Murderous Acts Perpetuated By The Bloodthirsty Thugs Of Mr. Bukola Saraki Against The Sympathizers Of Sahara Reporters
As the case between Nigeria’s Senate President Bukola Saraki and SaharaReporters continues, I am writing to appeal to you to consider the urgent need for the transfer of the case’s sitting venue, from its present venue at the Ilorin High Court to a neutral venue. My appeal is born out of a noble pursuit to thwart the repetition of violence, harassment, and several brazenly murderous acts unleashed by a gruesome squad of cruel and deadly gang instituted by Mr. Bukola Saraki against the sympathizers of SaharaReporters on the September, 14th 2017.
Essentially, let me make a not necessary but very important admission of my less–“groundedness” on an issue as technical as “transfer of court sitting venue”. I am not a student of law, neither am I am a legal practitioner. Notwithstanding, as one who witnessed and suffered the brutal assault unleashed on unsuspecting bystanders, and innocent students’ activists, free speech advocates and staffs of the SaharaReporters, who had traveled from different part of the country to observe the court hearing by the thugs stationed at the court premises by Bukola Saraki, I need no legal degree to understand that the continued hearing of the case in Ilorin, the hometown of Mr. Saraki, will apparently result in two disastrous outcomes: a denial of fair hearing, and a gruesome record of dead bodies.
To expect to get justice in the Ilorin High Court is to equally expect an earthworm to get justice in a bag of salt
Meanwhile, being sentient of the fact that yourself and your ever-courageous legal team were in the courtroom engaging in a heated up legal proceeding, I am convinced on the need to make a brief narration of the bloody attack that broke out from the thugs of Mr. Saraki against the sympathizers of Sahara Reporters within and outside the courtroom on that fateful day.
At about 9:45 PM, the buses conveying students’ activists determined to observe the much talked about lawsuit halted beside the Ilorin High Court. What accompanied the arrival was a loud chant of “Greatest Nigerian students!” by Comrade Sanyaolu Oluwajuwon, a student of the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) who was one of the leaders of the students. The chant was honored by the traditional response of “Great!” by the mass of students. Meanwhile, a larger group of horribly looking folks, gathered a little distance away from the group of students, were obviously observing the students’ group to ascertain whether they were part of them or not.
They needed to be sure if the newly alighted group of students were as well mobilized by the Senate President for support.
However, after the repeated chants of “Greatest Nigerian Students – Great!” an address of the public began, while other students began to unfurl their placards, with inscriptions, denouncing the corrupt practices of Mr. Bukola Saraki, but bearing their resolute support for the firebrand online media platform, and for the freedom of press and of expression. That was all that cleared the doubt of bloodthirsty Saraki’s supporters. And from them, hostility began to upswing; words of violence began to fly: “Ta n ni awon oloriibu? (Who owns these unfortunate heads?)” “Ah! Awon oku ediye yi ma l’aya. Won wa ka wa mo le, ni Kwara. (Ah! These dead fowls are filled with guts. They came down to our own hometown to meet us, in Kwara!). “Won ni baba wa Saraki n jaole. Sebiowo wa ni n ji? (They are saying our leader Saraki is a thief. Is it not our money that he is stealing?).
Suddenly, the aggressors, armed with wood and with stones, and with a monstrous determination to beat, maim and to possibly kill, charged into the students, who immediately ran for their dear lives. Unfortunately, a young lady, popularly known as Miss Tee, a student of Ladoke Akintola University of Technology (LAUTECH), was not so lucky, as she was apprehended by the mob of thugs, heavily beating her until they bashed her head against the court gate; she fell to the ground, and she collapsed.
Another dastardly act that cannot be forgotten in the daredevil scene of brutality visited on Funmi Jolade Ajayi, a rare woman of valor and courage, who was not only mercilessly beaten to a pulp, but was also stripped half naked like an unfortunate thief caught at Ejigbo market.
The assault and threat to the lives of the sympathizers of SaharaReporters were not the only uncivilized and murderous acts perpetrated by the supporters of Mr. Bukola Saraki. They did more. A trace of their unconscionable onslaught against an innocent people continued before the world and broad daylight. They destroyed cameras, belonging to members of the press, and those belonging to individuals. Judging by the countenances of displeasure and of disenchantment wore on their various faces, the manhandling and bestiality unleashed on the correspondents of AIT, Channels and CORE News, seem to be the very first since the beginning of the careers of the poor correspondents. The thugs as well dispossessed their victims of their belongings. They broke the glasses of a bus that conveyed students’ activists to Ilorin, some advocates of free speech and members of the Sahara Reporters online media platform who came in to cover the event from Lagos were not spared. Yahya Oluwaseun Yahya! That name must definitely ring a bell in the ears of those who witnessed the brutality. Yahya is a student of the Tai Solarin University of Education (TASUED). He was stabbed in the stomach.
Sir, let me emphasize that all of these gory and near–death attacks happened right in the front of a contingent of heavily armed policemen in front of the courtroom. It is torturous to recall how members of the Nigerian Police Force, whose statutory obligation it is to protect lives and properties, ignobly supervised the Sarakians’ brutal assault on innocent citizens. After the brutal beating of the innocent citizens, the Sarakians would then hand over their preys to the police, who then drag them into a van, tagging them: “hoodlums disturbing the peace of the court”. Between the Nigeria Police Force and the paid–aggressors of Mr. Saraki, it was a well–planned collaboration! There is no doubt however that the Commissioner of Police in the state was in a conspiracy with the Senate President.
Sir, let me state that what is most visionary and reasonable, at this point in time, particularly as it has become more substantially obvious that Mr. Bukola Saraki had “thugged” the court is a transfer of sitting venue. The case should be heard in a neutral state where the plaintiff would wield no or less influence to foment crisis. It is not even clear if the judge in the case would ever muster courage to be fair even if he was the famous British judge, Lord Alfred Denning
The right to life is the first and most sacrosanct of all the fundamental human rights, as recognized by all international instruments of human rights and the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended). It is upon this inalienable right that all other rights lean. Thus, if we remain unfaltering to our pledge to the obedience of the spirit and letter of that sacrosanct provision, there is, therefore, an urgent need to transfer the sitting venue to a neutral state where the lives and properties of the observers, opposing counsel, and litigants shall be indeed guaranteed.
Sir, in the interest of the public, please grant me the privilege of brief digression. The identity of an individual callously sworn to the obliteration of the rights to free press and expression deserves to be remembered, but not glorified.
The nascent and nauseating mal–story that characterizes the Senate President’s anthological conduct of predatory economic criminality, political buffoonery, and social frivolity is no news as a sour meal in the mouth of the downtrodden majority of Nigerians. Here is a supposed “honorable man” whose name, at its mention, oozes stench of corruption and dishonesty; ranging from heartless diversion of Kwara state funds for the purchase of private assets, to falsified declaration of assets, to being one of the popes of an investigating committee of the Senate who found our most righteous immaculate heart, Mrs. Diezani Allison Madueke, innocent of looting of public funds.
Like an infant suffering from dysentery and abandoned by a wayward mother to smear her kitchen with watery stool, in the same vein as Mr. Saraki’s irksome sense of unethicality and moral bankruptcy, he desecrates our public space.
For instance, it was published and revealed of how, “on Oct. 26th, 2009, there were cash deposits by several individuals with different names in 87 transactions into Senator Saraki’s GTB bank account. The 87 transactions took place in one day. This was done to circumvent the money laundering law. The transactions were made in that manner because, if made once, it would be above the provisions of the law.”
Furthermore, in turn, Saraki has been identified as a principal in the financial scandal that rocked and ultimately grounded the once boisterous Societe Generale Bank, SGBN, owned by the Saraki family. Mr. Saraki was reported to have siphoned the bank’s depositors’ money to the sum of N17billion to pursue his gubernatorial ambition in 2007, in the wake of an unprecedented political battle the family faced in the hand of another former Governor of the state, late Alhaji Mohammed Lawal. Just last week a group led by a Russian activist visited a mansion he bought around the time which was worth 4.5 million British pounds, they stated clearly that his annual salary was only worth $30,000
Besides, it is also on record that the Nigerian Police Force had repeatedly hunted for Mr. Saraki to explain how a debt of N9.7 billion was dramatically written off in a certain account at InterContinental bank, which was suddenly closed by one Abdul Adamu, a malefactor whom investigations later exposed to be an aide of Mr. Saraki.
What about the Special Fraud Unit on the Nigerian Police Force trail on his heist with a revelation that the former governor of Kwara state was wanted over a N21 billion–bank loan fraud at the defunct InterContinental Bank of Nigeria?
Moreover, it is also known to the Nigerian people of how the Senate President used Kwara State funds to buy properties on No. 17A and 17B McDonald, Ikoyi, Lagos and also on Plot 2A, Glover Road, Ikoyi, Lagos. Both properties are worth N497, 200, 000 (Four Hundred and Ninety–Seven million, Two Hundred Thousand Naira) and N325, 000, 000. 00 (Three hundred and Twenty–Five million Naira) respectively. The list of the private properties vainly bought by Mr.Saraki through the funds stolen from the poor people of Kwara continues…
Like other colossal plunderers of Nigerian resources, the gentle looking plunderer of Ilorin ensconced corrupt practices in governance. He is notorious for legislative banditry, criminality and several blatant scandals wretchedly fashioned. He lacks credibility; he lives a life of moral bankruptcy, if laid in brick form, would challenge the height of the Sphinx of Giza.
In conclusion, Sir, let me humbly reiterate my modest appeal to you for the urgent consideration for a transfer of sitting venue. The case should be heard in a neutral state where the plaintiff would wield no or less influence to foment crisis or oppress others.
Let me also express my convinced cynicism as regards a caricature captioned: Ilorin High Court. Truthfully, the so-called court is merely a theater where Saraki’s political grip of the state will always be staged, even if the Saraki vs. Sahara Reporters case is heard a hundredth time. The N4 billion kangaroo judgment delivered against SaharaReporters by the court on June 20th, 2017, is no less a concrete evidence to render a validation to this claim.
The days of darkness is past and the era of true light now shines. Saraki will try, but the spirit of those who died in the noble struggle for the attainment of free press and democracy will rise against his tyranny, against his violence against freedom of the press and of expression, and against his subjugation, exploitation and usurpation of the wealth of the people of Kwara in particular, and the people of Nigeria in general.
Dear Barr. Femi Falana (SAN), a longstanding defender of human rights, free press and freedom of expression, even in the faces of blood of the military juntas, we trust your presence to mean triumph for the free press space.
Patrick, Majekodunmi Benjamin (SANKARA)
University of Benin (UNIBEN)