The Communal Stage Of Crime And Corruption
IT must be obvious by now, at least to lawyers, and judges of experience, that it is impossible to curb crime and corruption through punishment because of the plural rather than merely individual beneficiaries of the proceeds of crime and corruption. One beneficiary of crime and corruption is easy to deal with and put away in prison. Multiple beneficiaries of the proceeds of crime and punishment fight back and invariably prevent the punishment of crime and punishment.
They ensure that the central character in the crime and corruption does not get to appear in court to answer to his or her crime and corruption. The best qualified lawyers join the benefitting mob to defend the human rights of the criminal. Never mind that the possession of human rights exists within communities that are not molested by criminals and corrupt members of the community. Contradiction defending contra-distinction.
Somehow, no criminal is alone today in his crime and corruption. By the natural order of his socialisation whatever goodies he has acquired benefits his family (hence ‘relathieves’). In fighting back, the criminal and the corrupt do not fight alone. Can we call the communities benefiting from the proceeds of crime and corruption as ‘communithieves’ as well?
There was a case that became famous in the 1950s Ondo Province. Someone was killed when there was a stampede and one person was brought to court accused of being responsible for the death of the person who died. In court, his defence lawyer used a broom to kill a fly. He then turned to the prosecutors to point out the particular stick in the broom responsible for the death of the fly.
The accused was discharged and acquitted because the laws did not have room for punishing the many. So, no one was ever held responsible for the death of that man in spite of the fact that he died in front of that crowd. Will laws ever be made to punish multitudes? Would such laws affect corruption and the beneficiaries of the proceeds of crime? And is this particular challenge peculiar to the match of western jurisprudence? What about Islamic jurisprudence – is there room for dealing with communal sinning and punishment?
We all know the story of Robin Hood of Sherwood Forest who robbed the rich and gave to the poor. He was considered a hero and nothing could touch him. Fast forward in time and in space and land in Latin America. Immensely rich drug over lords, hiding in the open amidst poverty and governmental neglect. No power on earth could arrest these pampered alternative commanders of the space of the poor.
That is the story of Pablo Escobar of Columbia. How did we move from Robin Hood and Pablo Escobar to relathieves and communithieves? If the laws of the modern state could not deal with the criminalities of Robin Hood and Escobar, are they likely to be able to deal with those of the relathieves and communithieves? Not likely.
When Alam escaped from British justice dressed as a female, he arrived as a hero. The church held a special service of thanks to God for delivering the hero back to his grateful people. It was reported that a former minister in the previous government gave eighty-two million naira to a church. Would that be ten percent of what had been harvested from the communal funds for the people of the village?
Communal crimes have always challenged the laws of the land. All through history, communities have committed crimes that the society had not been able to punish using the normal laws of the land. Society has always taken refuge in putting the leadership of the communities on trial. And the defence that they were merely following orders have never been enough to let them off. And then we come to the twentieth century and arrive in Rwanda and South Africa.
In Rwanda ordinary men and women woke up in the morning, sharpened their machetes and went to work, killing their neighbours and their relatives, for a period of three months. In South Africa, whites fed fat on the sufferings of Blacks for more than three hundred years, the last 40 years legally under the disgusting apartheid laws.
When the time came for these people to be held accountable for their actions, there were no laws large enough to contain and confront the enormity of their crime. Recourse had to be made to traditional processes of reconciliation, rather than of retribution and payback.
Transitional justice came into being. Reconciliation. Forgiveness. Justice for the offended. Justice for the offender. Justice for the offended party is understandable. How would justice for the offender work out? Here then is the domain of TJ – Transitional Justice. There is even an institute in Cape Town dedicated to the concept. As to be expected, the offender got easy satisfaction, while the offended struggled to understand, to master and to subdue their sense of assault and debasement.
Which takes us back to the struggle of fighting corruption as defined by the present President of the country, former General, now Chief Muhammadu Buhari. He must have seen the number of sitting ‘distinguished’ senators who accompany Chief Saraki when he deigns to appear before the CCT. They accompany him to show their solidarity with him. Meanwhile he tries his best to get his lawyers to stop his trial, in spite of a law, passed by the National Assembly, of which the ‘distinguished’ senators are part, specifying that no law can stop trials for corruption any more. The relevant courts have already spoken twice but twice is not enough.
Is it so difficult for this president to understand that the nature of crime and corruption has changed since his last sitting on the throne? Can President Buhari ignore the fact that corruption has become a communal activity and no present laws can deal with it adequately? That we need to begin the process of Transitional Justice in order to get the money back, placate the offended majority and reconcile our comrade thieves to the rest of our comrade communities and move forward with our lives? TJ is the answer – Transitional Justice.