By Bright Okuta
The atmosphere was shrouded in a clangour of mourning as the remains of Bamise Ayanwola, the 22-year-old girl who was abducted, raped and murdered after boarding a bus rapid transit in Lagos, were laid to rest yesterday December 16, at the Atan Cemetery, Yaba, Lagos.
As her family members screeched in pain, it was difficult to reach an acceptance of the reality that their daughter was gone. But where is the hope for justice?
I remember the story of Bamise, and how it ignited flames in Nigeria. There is a common tradition that citizens use social media as a medium to call for justice whenever a crime that sparks public outrage is committed. The people protest online, seeking justice for the deceased. Hashtags are birthed and there is a public furore. Call for justice rents the air, but it lasts for a few hours to a day, and it then withers.
There is condemnation and ‘shock expression’ from politicians. Tension grips the security agencies for some time. Sometimes, they launch an investigation that moves with the speed of a Slow Loris. The tempo reduces, and then it finally collapses. Everything goes back to normal. And we forget about the deceased.
The family of the victim gets no Justice, and nothing is heard about the case again. And another day, another person is murdered, and justice for the person trends again. And it withers again, and nothing happens. And it continues like that.
Another critical example of this is the story of Deborah Samuel, a student of Shehu Shagari College of Education who was lynched by her colleagues in May 2022, over a claim of blasphemy. Her body was burnt in broad daylight. Her charred remains were buried a week later.
What happened in the aftermath?
In August 2022, three months later, the Sokoto State Police Command stated that its men were still searching for the killers of Deborah. What a ludicrous thing to say!
Photos and videos of persons who boasted of killing her littered the internet, with one of them displaying the match stick with which the deceased was set ablaze, yet the police could not take action.
The students linked to the death of 12-year-old Sylvester Oromoni, a student of Dowen College, Lagos, were pampered. In January 2022, the Lagos state government exonerated them. Dowen College is back and fully floating with academic activities.
These are just a few cases that were deprived of justice. There are a plethora of cases all over Nigeria that do not get justice. The deceased would be forgotten and they never get the justice their peaceful souls deserve.
The next president of Nigeria should be intentional about national security and judicial reform. He should be particular about working with the Chief Justice of Nigeria to overhaul the judiciary and reform the justice system. We need a sui generis approach to overhauling the police, kick-starting a judicial reform, and tackling the unbearable insecurity in the country.
Bamise did not commit a crime by boarding a government-owned bus. Sylvester did not commit a crime by being in a boarding school, neither did Deborah commit a crime. But their lives were clipped, and the least they could get was justice. But this has proven to be impossible in Nigeria’s grotty democracy.
How glaring it has become that the people have even lost trust in the government and security agencies who were employed to do the job of securing lives and properties. The people have no trust in the police and they do not trust the judiciary too. They know that the government is fantastically corrupt and to depend on them for justice is a wild-goose chase. Unfortunately, the social media outcry about justice ends up with little or no impact.
For a society like Nigeria that is barren of peace, it is necessary to overhaul its justice system because the absence of peace and presence of conflict is not unconnected to the absence of justice.
Like American author Tessa Hicks wrote: without justice, it is impossible to have peace because they are intertwined.