“Police is your friend”. The sign hangs in police stations nationwide to buttress the commitment of law enforcement to citizens.
But, as a Nigerian celebrity couple are finding out, the law can be quick to pitch its tents with the elite regardless of the latter’s status as accused or accuser.
- Last month, photographer Busola Dakolo revealed in a tell-all interview that two decades ago, as a minor, she had been raped by the flamboyant Biodun Fatoyinbo, one of the country’s most popular preachers.
Even before the global #MeToo campaign, religious leaders in Nigeria have been under scrutiny as allegations of sexual misconduct continue to swirl around them.
- After the Dakolo interview, a female author accused popular televangelist TB Joshua of sexually molesting her for 14 years, alongside other minors. Bisola Johnson, whose book details her experiences, told the press of her ordeal at one of the mass protests outside COZA branches.
- Joshua’s The Synagogue, Church of All Nations (SCOAN) responded by releasing old videos of her serially retracting her allegations in the church over a decade after making the accusations.
Policing (for) the powerful
In June, the Dakolos initiated a police complaint anticipating the beginning of an investigation just as the clergyman took a temporary leave of absence, his hand forced by the mammoth protests outside the Lagos and Abuja branches of his Common Wealth of Zion Assembly churches.
At the protests, a prime military asset was deployed to ward off demonstrators in a spectacular misuse of government funds. “Unbelievable”, tweeted Murtala Abdullahi, a security analyst at the Abuja-based Goro Initiative:
Unbelievable: Nigerian Navy Special Boat Service – embedded in Armed Forces Special Forces trained for CT-COIN deployed to protect COZA and suppress Protest.
Millions of naira spent to train & equip these Guys to fight insurgents & protect NatSec. Who gave the authorization https://t.co/HSIBddSQK2
— Murtala Abdullahi (@MurtalaIbin) June 30, 2019
Last weekend, a special tactical police detachment also delivered invitation letters for interrogations to the Dakolos… not for their case but for a counter-case filed against them for criminal conspiracy, mischief, falsehood and threat to life.
- “We had filed the petition before the release of the interview that had been recorded three weeks before. The interview was published on June 28″, explained musician Timi Dakolo, Busola’s husband, in a press conference. “We have on several occasions met with the police in the course of investigation. We were therefore shocked by the invitation to Abuja when no visible action was taken to interview Mr. Fatoyinbo.”
The police also made their residential address in Lagos public, in a move that could put the family at risk.
Nigeria’s security agencies are perpetually understaffed, but a significant percentage of policemen and soldiers are still assigned on a regular basis to eminent personalities, furthering reducing the number of those available to police a bulk of the citizenry. To further deploy expensive security assets to protect a civilian not in public service is worrying, say analysts.
- “When we have members of the Navy’s Special Boat Service, and then members of the police’s Special Tactical Squad being deployed to protect a non-governmental actor, then we should be extremely worried, all of us”, wrote Cheta Nwanze, head of research at Lagos-based SBM Intelligence in his column for Guardian Nigeria. “Mr Fatoyinbo […] has made use of his position of power, to abuse the system.”
Bottom line: In Nigeria, the police is your friend truly, but only if you’re in a position of power.
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