BY ROGERS EDOR OCHELA
“No evil deed can go unpunished. Any evil done by man to man will be redressed, if not now, then certainly later, if not by man, then certainly by God, for the victory of evil over good can only be temporary”—-Late Dele Giwa
In the last three days or thereabout, the issue of the illegal closure of the new corporate headquarters of Peace Corps of Nigeria situated opposite Jabi Lake, Abuja, has persistently been intruding into my sleep. All attempts to shrug it off with the consolation that in the fullness of time, or better still, sooner than later, the monumental injustice against the Organization will be redressed proved abortive.
It is on this note that I have decided to revisit the issue once again with this write-up, believing that it will prick the conscience of those concerned to do the needful: obey all subsisting Valid Court Orders and unseal the office for official business transaction.
Agreed, what is presently on the front burner of public discourse as far as the Organization is concerned is the topical issue of the Nigerian Peace Corps (Establishment) Bill, which the National Assembly is already doing justice to. But even in the midst of the euphoria nay clamour for the expeditious adoption and presidential assent to it, we must not lose sight of the grave injustice meted to the Corps as epitomized in the illegal cum unjustifiable closure of its rented corporate headquarters since Tuesday, 28th February, 2017.
Apart from the patent injustice underpinning the closure, the financial implication of it cannot be quantified. And whichever angle it is viewed from, the over two years’ closure has left concerned Nigerians, including the staffers of the Organization scandalously perplexed beyond comprehension.
It is quite heart-rending that the Rule of Law and adherence to due process have taken flight from Nigerian courtesy of some agencies of government. And what we have as replacements are mindless impunity and jackboot oppression by these agencies, a development that has given rise to flagrant disobedience to court orders. The pertinent question to ask is: if the actions of these agencies are not curbed, are we not inexorably paving way for the enthronement of anarchy in Nigeria?
Talking about disobedience to court orders, the list is simply inexhaustible; but what is utmost concern to this writer is the illegal closure of the office of Peace Corps of Nigeria, a legal entity registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission, CAC, under its Companies and Allied Matters Act, Cap 1990, Part C in accordance with the National Youth Development Policy. So far, two Federal High Courts in Abuja presided over by Justices Gabriel Kolawole and John Tsoho, have ruled on 9th November, 2017 and 15th January, 2018 respectively, that the action of the police in sealing off the office was patently illegal and therefore, ordered that it be unsealed immediately.
Thereafter, the Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, wrote two letters to then Inspector-General of Police, Ibrahim Kpotun Idris, ordering him to comply with these court judgments. And that is not all as the House of Representatives threw its weight behind the Corps via unanimous Resolution which gave the Police 21-Days Ultimatum to comply with the Court orders. Even some well-meaning Nigerians have severally waded into matter, but shockingly; all these have been blatantly ignored till date.
At this juncture, it is necessary to ponder on the following questions: should this injustice against a law-abiding entity be allowed to continue to subsist in a democratic society such as Nigeria? What does this manifest impunity portend for Africa’s largest democracy? With this kind of ugly development, how do we expect foreigners to come and invest in Nigeria? Does this onslaught against a patriotic Nigerian’s private initiative not send dangerous signals to other Nigerians who might want to come up with such initiative in the future?
However, no matter how bad the situation appears to be, all hope is not lost as millions of Nigerians are quite optimistic that President Muhammadu Buhari, a man known for his strong aversion for all forms of impunity, has all it takes to resolve this matter once and for all, at least for the sake of the image of his administration which stands to be rubbished if this injustice is not expeditiously redressed. In this second leg of his tenure, he needs all the goodwill he can garner if he expects posterity to generously pass a positive verdict on his administration.
Methinks that the time has come for all Nigeria’s numerous human rights organizations and other patriotic well-meaning individuals to stand up and be counted on the right side of history by appealing to the conscience of the authorities concerned to immediately reopen this office. Take it or leave it, its continuous closure remains a dent on our image as a country in the comity of nations. Posterity will not forgive anyone who is in the position to weigh in on this matter, but decides to take refuge in the cold embrace of indifference or adopts a stand-offish disposition towards it. The sealed new corporate headquarters of Peace Corps of Nigeria must be reopened forthwith in the interest of peace and justice. Chikena!
Ochela, the media consultant to Peace Corps of Nigeria is based in Abuja and is reachable via firstname.lastname@example.org (090-94411666—text only).