A litmus test for Nigeria's Appeal Court in Bode George’s case.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

 Olabode Ibiyinka George

For Olabode Ibiyinka George, former Deputy National Chairman (South) of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), these are not the best of times. Since October 26, Boy George (BG) or Lagos boy, as he is known, has been in jail where he is serving time. He is to spend 30 months in prison for atrocities committed during his tenure as chairman of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA). Specifically, he and five others were convicted for contracts’ splitting, abuse of office and disobeying lawful authority. George as the number one convict stands out among the lot.

As the star attraction among the convicts, Bode George embodies the NPA six. You can talk of George without the NPA six, but you cannot talk of the NPA six without George, who did all he could to avoid prison. In a society like ours where people throw their weight around, George thought he could use his influence to pervert justice. No one ever dreamt that he could be tried not to talk of being jailed. Indeed, everything was done to ensure that Bode George was not tried after the Nuhu Ribadu-led panel indicted the NPA board which he headed between 2001 and 2003 of financial embezzlement.

With former President Olusegun Obasanjo still at the helm of affairs, George knew that he could get away with anything including murder since he was in Baba’s good books. Even though Obasanjo loved Ribadu as a child and used him to settle political scores with some people, he was not ready to sacrifice Bode George then. He still had use for the one whom he loved to call Bode and so he referred the Ribadu panel report to another panel.

Expectedly, the interministerial panel found nothing against George as a person. But the panel indicted the board which he headed. But pray can a board on its own commit fraud? Can there be a board so called without human beings? What makes a board-the people on it or just the inanimate object called board? The interministerial panel thought it was helping George by clearing him and indicting his board.

Unknown to the panel; it dug George’s grave and that is why the sailor, who turns 64 on Saturday is today in jail. Bode George’s road to jail was paved, unknowingly, by those who thought they were helping him from not going to the gaol. For instance, Obasanjo, who was in the vanguard of George-must-not-go-to-jail campaign, turned his back on the former Ondo military/governor when it became politically expedient for him to do so. The Bode that he did not initially want to sacrifice became a burnt offering to the gods when the chips were down.

The party too stood by him, arguing that it would be a disgrace to the family for such an eminent member as George to face trial for whatever reason. They were only postponing the day of reckoning for Boy George. Notwithstanding that he served as director-general of Yar’Adua-Jonathan Campaign Organisation, the present administration did not shy away from putting him on trial when the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) chair, Mrs Farida Waziri, laid all the facts bare. It was not easy for Mrs Waziri to bring George to trial because one, the case file had been hidden and two, there were threats to her life.

Hear her: "I remember when I brought out the case file of Chief George from where it was buried, completed every other thing that we needed to do to make the matter ready for court, there was really no threat, blackmail and pressure that I did not receive. But then we were strictly guided by the facts before us". So was the judge who heard the case. Mr Justice Joseph Olubunmi Oyewole applied the law strictly in his handling of Bode George’s case.

Justice Oyewole has written his name in gold for not allowing himself to be bought by those who believe that justice is for the highest bidder. With his money, influence and connection, George was made to eat the humble pie. What happened to him should serve as a lesson to his ilk that nobody is above the law. This aphorism is incidentally the motto of EFCC. I know that we have many Oyewoles on the Bench who are ready to dispense justice without fear or favour, affection or ill-will. But the few bad eggs among our judges have made people to look down on the judiciary. The courts are no longer the last hope of the common man, but the bastion of corruption, greed and avarice.

It pains me the way many judges twist the law to suit their own purpose, which in most cases, is for filthy lucre. The rich among us believe that they can buy justice and get away with whatever they do no matter how grievous it is. Bode George had this belief until Justice Oyewole proved to him that there are still angels on the Bench. We are praise singing Justice Oyewole today not because he jailed Bode George but because of the courage behind the action he took. To me, there is no big deal in imprisoning a convict, but where the convict is a big fish like George, the judge must be lion-hearted in applying the law without looking at the personality involved. If the matter had involved a common man it would have been an open and close case. But it is still occupying the front burner today because Bode George is involved.

Today, the Court of Appeal, sitting in Lagos, will hear his application for bail, which was rejected on November 9 by Justice Oyewole. Bode George is seeking bail on health grounds and because of the congestion at the appeal court. But if really there is congestion at the appeal court, will his bail application be slated for hearing today barely two weeks after it was filed? Is the motion being taken out of turn? If it is, why the haste? Why must the case of a Bode George be fast forwarded while the case of say, a Sunmonu Karimu, who has been in jail since 2001, is yet to be listed for hearing? Is there a justice of the court pushing Bode George’s case? If there is, what is the justice’s interest in the case?

According to EFCC, Justice Bode Rhodes-Vivour has shown so much vested interest in the Bode George’s case that the agency could no longer keep quiet. Therefore, the agency is seeking that he should excuse himself from the case, or in the alternative, the president of the court, should constitute a new panel to hear the matter. I don’t like to cast aspersion on judges, especially those on the higher Bench, and when people tend to throw stones at them I usually rush to their defence. I do this because of my belief that the easiest way to wreck the judiciary is to run down the judges. No doubt they are human beings like us who are also fallible but they carry on their shoulders enormous burden for which they need our support and encouragement.

Even before George’s case got to the Appeal Court, there were rumours that Justice Oyewole may set him free because he had been "reached". We all know better now. Could it be the same case with what we are hearing about Justice Rhodes-Vivour? I find it difficult to answer this poser because of the EFCC petition. There is no way EFCC would have written that petition if it does not have strong evidence at its disposal. Many stories abound about the appeal court which I would not like to delve into here. But one thing I know is that it would not like to soil its image by miscarrying justice in Bode George’s case.

What is the concern of any justice if Bode George marks his birthday in jail? Will he be the first prisoner to do so? I don’t think he is. Bode George should only be granted bail if he deserves it and not because Saturday is his birthday. But how does a birthday party look like in jail? Please tell me if you have been to one.Happy birthday, sailor.

Source: www.thenationonlineng.net

Related Posts:

0 Feedback:

Site Meter