CHRISTMAS IN LAGOS – Chux Gilbert Okonkwo

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Last week, there was a neighbourhood clash between some youths from Pako- Ijesha and their counterparts form Aguda, Surulere, Lagos. Earlier in October, a similar clash took place in Itire and two persons were killed. Hours after the clash and the hoodlums have disappeared, men of the Nigeria Police Force rounded up over 50 innocent citizens as the culprits. They spent thousands of Naira to go through the Bail-Is-Free process at the Police station.

About 26 of them who could not give money to the Police were slammed with murder charge and breach of the peace, arraigned before Yaba Magistrate Court 1 presided over by Chief Magistrate Ojo. One of them, a Ghanaian is my auto electrician.

I had gone to his workshop to sort out an electrical fault in my car’s door power windows and he told me that he just came back from Ikoyi prisons. That was in November. He informed me that 7 of them who all shared the same workshop were in their place of work when some Policemen came and arrested them.

They were arraigned and remanded in Ikoyi prisons where they spent over a week before they met the bail conditions and were released. After their remand, they contributed money and engaged the services of a lawyer to represent them. I however promised him that at the next adjourned date, I will be in court. Then he gave me the bombshell. The next adjourned date was 24th December 2019. 24th? Bad date. When I will be enjoying the cold harmattan weather in Nimo, Anambra State?

Anyway, I promised him I’ll be in court and cancelled my trip to the villa so I can keep the date. Yesterday was 24th and I was in court. However, their lawyer was not around. I got his number from them, called him and told him that one of his clients is my auto electrician. I then asked for his permission to hold his brief. He authorised me to go ahead.

The matter took quite a while to be called because the prison vehilce conveying those still in custody came late to court.

At long last, the matter called and all 26 defendants squeezed themselves like sardines into the dock. Prosecutor told the court that the I.P.O. who is his witness was not in court.

I prayed the court to rise to the occasion and strike down the high handedness of the Police. It was a pretty long address and the Magistrate graciously considered my oral application. After I addressed the court, the Prosecutor stood up to respond but the Magistrate ignored him and ruled “Charge struck out. The defendants are hereby discharged”.

There was a thunderous uproar in court. It tool quite a while to control their emotional relations some of whom are their aged parents. The Defendants didn’t understand what the Magistrate said. I beckoned on them to leave the dock and go outside the courtroom.

Outside the courtroom, over twenty people whom I assumed were their relations came and were speaking to me in Yoruba. I was nodding and acknowledging, pretending that I understood what they said. Meanwhile, I am a real “olodo” in understanding the language. I only understand “wa”, “owo da”, “elo” (how much) and a few other words.

They quickly rallied round and contributed some money to give me. I got to know this when one of them wanted to tuck an envelope into my palm as I was leaving the court premises. I realised and told him to give it back to the contributors because I didn’t come to court for the money.

And so, that’s the reason I’m spending Christmas 2019 in Lagos. I never planned it but those shouts of joy and gratitude in the courtroom from people I don’t know made it worth the while.

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