Let us realise that the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends towards Justice – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr
In case you hadnt heard the story…..former Miss Nigeria and occasional actress, Ibinabo Fiberesima, killed a medical doctor, Dr Suraju Giwa along the Lekki Epe Expressway sometime in 2005.
It was alleged that Ibinabo was seriously drunk at the time the accident happened….. perhaps returning from a party with some female friends.
I don’t much care for Ms Fiberesima so I wont bother too much with her.
As it happened, the late doctor’s family along with the Lagos State Commissioner of Police successfully charged her to court for manslaughter.
The presiding Judge Magistrate A. O Isaacs, a Lagos State Chief Magistrate I, sitting at Igbosere Magistrate’s court stated that he was totally convinced that Ms Fiberesima was indeed guilty of the charges brought against her.
On the first charge of causing death by dangerous driving, Mr Isaacs found her guilty and sentenced her to 7 years in prison.
On the second charge of reckless driving, he sentenced her to 2 years in prison.
Then he went absolutely mental.
Mr Isaacs, in one of the most stupefying acts of judicial recklessness you’ll ever hear of, then decided to give Ms Fiberesima an option of a fine…of N100,000.
For my readers in America, that’s the bank breaking sum of $578.
Or here in blighty, something like £400.
Or 900 Australian Dollars…..and so on.
Ms Fiberesima, perhaps not quite believing her luck, was said to have paid the fine immediately.
I don’t believe anybody will like to go to jail so I have nothing against her for doing anything in her power to avoid prison.
The fact remains that the Nigerian Law should be more powerful than Ms Fiberesima or anybody else for that matter.
The role of a judge or magistrate is to interprete the laws of the land and apply said laws accordingly.
He has no right whatsoever to set aside the law he is paid to interprete and give his own contrived definition.
Like any other country, Nigerian law does NOT give an option of a fine for a manslaughter conviction especially one that arose from a charge of dangerous and reckless driving.
[She was convicted under Section 28 of the Road Traffic Law. Cap RIO Laws of Lagos State 2003…..this law is clear that the sentence does NOT carry an option of a fine]
My biggest fear for the Nigerian state is not corruption in high places.
It’s corruption among ordinary Nigerians…the mekunu…..the talakawas.
This cancer has spread so far, so wide for so long unchecked that it now looms large over us as a seemingly intractable problem.
When a magistrate can decide to impose a fine of N100k for the premature termination of a person’s life by dangerous driving, there is something seriously with us as a society.
How did Mr Isaacs manage to sleep at night after that judgement?
For people who are powerless against a societal system set up against them, the court ought to be their last refuge.
I understand that the late Dr’s family decided to go to court when Ms Fiberesima behaved very non-challantly against them after the accident.
So their child/son was taken away from them prematurely and the perpetrator was perhaps not forthcoming with any kind of compensation and perhaps even remorse.
Surely they must have recourse to justice as their last hope?
How must they have felt when the judge delivered his judgement and they saw Ms Fiberesima walk away after paying her fine?
But all hope is not lost for Nigeria.
As Dr King said, the ultimate destination of the universe’s moral arc is towards justice.
The Lagos State Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Barr. Olasupo Sasore [SAN] , appealed Mr Isaacs decision at the Lagos High Court and Justice Deborah Oluwayemi presiding sensibly set aside Mr Isaacs earlier judgement.
She has now sentenced Ms Fiberesima to 5 years imprisonment and also ruled that her fine not be returned to her.
She thoroughly put down Mr Isaacs judgement and called it the nonsense that it was in no uncertain terms.
It has taken 4 years but Justice has most certainly been done.
In a country where everything seems so hopeless I believe we ought to claim the small victories we get and build on them.
People like Mr Sasore, who appears to be a fine lawyer, give me cause to hope that Nigeria is not finished.
For even having the time and energy to resurrect this case….he deserves to be commended.
So many cases like this go undetected everyday in Nigeria…where the little guy is cheated and left to lick his wounds.
He’s currently looking into the very sad and disturbing case of Modebayo Awosika who was allegedly killed by policemen last September.
I wish him every success……a successful conviction of Bayo Awosika’s killers will strike a powerful blow against injustice and those who act as though they have the power of life and death in their hands.
He MUST succeed….it would be to our collective benefit as a nation that he does.
Evil and injustice will continue to have a field day in Nigeria as long as good men keep quiet and elect not to speak truth to power.
God help us.