COZA crunch

July 25, 2019
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•The police caught in the web of celebrity allegations. Only an impartial, professional investigation can set it free

The rape allegation swirling around Biodun Fatoyinbo, senior pastor of the Commonwealth of Zion Assembly (COZA), has reached a crunch.

Nigerian First Lady, Aisha Buhari, had upped the ante, in a tweet she fired to Mohammed A. Adamu, the Inspector-General of Police (IGP): “Attention IGP. #SayNoToRape, #JusticeForRapeVictims, #SayNoToIntimidation”. Though Mrs Buhari’s tweet was generic, not a few believed it was triggered by the Dakolos’ allegation that Pastor Fatoyinbo was trying to use police intimidation against them. Earlier, music star, Timi Dakolo, had raised an alarm about alleged armed policemen, sighted in a bus, near his Lekki, Lagos, home. He further alleged that a police invitation letter was proof of that illicit Fatoyinbo-Police conspiracy to bully and arrest him and his wife.

The letter, posted on Dakolo’s Instagram account, signed by Kofo Yusuf, Deputy Commissioner of Police, IGP Special Tactical Squad, Force Headquarters: “The office is investigating a case of criminal conspiracy, falsehood, mischief and threat to life that your name was mentioned. You are kindly requested to interview the undersigned officer on 23/07/2019 by 1000 hrs for fact-finding, through DCP Ibrahim Agu, with telephone number 08037864191. Acknowledge receipt. Accept my warmest regards, please.”

This was the Fatoyinbo counter-allegation, against the Dakolos, after Mrs Busola Dakolo had alleged Fatoyinbo had raped her when she was 18.

From the anger that greeted the police letter (Timi Dakolo insists it was an arrest instrument), many wonder why the police would proceed to treat a counter-allegation, while it was tardy over that initial allegation of rape. Part of the anger would appear in Mrs. Buhari’s tweet. Apart from that, a boiling ocean of anti-police rage had engulfed the social media.

But the police have responded, via a statement by  Frank Mba, its spokesman, claiming it was no warrant of arrest but a mere letter of invitation: “The Nigeria Police is confirming that its operatives, today, July 20, 2019, served official invitation letters on Busola and Timi Dakolo.  The invitation is sequel to an ongoing police investigation touching on the wider and higher publicised case  involving Busola Dakolo, Pastor Biodun Fatoyinbo, and others.  It is important, however, to know that a police invitation letter is not synonymous with a warrant of arrest and must not be construed to be one.”

The good thing is that the controversy has forced the IGP to intervene. He has ordered the investigation taken over by Michael Ogbizi, Deputy Inspector-General (DIG), Force Criminal Investigation Department (FCID). He has also pledged fairness to both sides in the case, adding that the police procedure in reaching out to the Dakolos would be probed. Should there be any foul play, the officers involved would be punished.

But the umpteenth bad thing is that, the Nigeria Police appeared to have, yet again, failed a routine integrity test, in its mode of operation, especially when celebrities are involved. It seems to further push the allegation that the police would rather weigh in with the privileged, thus fuelling the belief that Nigerian law is for two categories of citizens: the rich, mighty and powerful (who can do whatever they like and get away with it) and the poor and the lowly (who are condemned to perpetual abuse).

Not a few now believe that had Mrs Buhari not weighed in, the Dakolos would by now be running from pillar to post, while the pastor accused of rape would continue to sit pretty. That is not good enough — not for the police image; and certainly not for the sanity of the criminal-justice system, of which the police force is pivotal.

We also note with distress that the Abuja chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) supported the pastor without investigation. The national body has happily dissociated itself from such scandal.

Let the police investigate both allegations and counter-allegations forensically, professionally and dispassionately. That is the only way we can get to the root of the matter; and the police itself redeem its corporate integrity.

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