The recent brouhaha around the Magodo Housing Estate in Lagos put the Inspector General of Police, Usman Alkali Baba, and the Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, in the spotlight. The estate was a subject of litigations between Shangisha landowners and the Lagos State government. After years in courts, the Supreme Court settled the debacle in the interest of the landowners. At the time this was done, the whole land was fully built up. This created a dilemma about how to implement the judgment. Since the judgment allocated the plots of land to the landowners, will the owners of the house on them carry their properties elsewhere? This was a question that was not difficult to resolve because there was no way the houses could be moved. So, what should happen?
The Lagos State government, which was a party in the suit, tried to allocate some other plots outside of the estate to the landowners, who felt they were being short-changed because the proposed plots were far removed from their prime property duly returned to them by the apex court. Days turned into months and months into years after the judgment was given and there was no resolution to the debacle. It was at this point that the AGF and the IGP intervened. Policemen were drafted in to enforce the court judgment. Lagos State governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu decided to intervene. He got there and a drama ensued and was blown out of proportion. The AGF explained that his involvement was in line with his responsibility as the Chief Law Officer of the country. It was nothing near a Gestapo raid as some select individuals would want members of the unsuspecting members of the public to believe.
The first question is, does the AGF have an interest in Magodo? The answer is no. Did the Nigerian Police Force act in isolation? The answer is no. Was there a court ruling in that regard? The answer is yes. Did the AGF exercise his powers as the AGF, and the answer is yes. And are there contending issues that ought to be resolved through the instrument of the law? And the answer is yes.
So given these facts, it, therefore, defeats common sense as to why there was so much sensationalism that greeted the police action. We must understand that Nigeria is not a banana republic where some vested interest would ascribe to themselves the monopoly of arrogance towards this issue. The facts on the ground indicated that the AGF didn’t act in insolation. In Nigeria, such acts can’t be sustained because Nigerians are enlightened and never afraid to address issues, especially under the Buhari presidency.
The police were there on lawful duty to enforce a Supreme Court judgment. The AGF is the Chief Law officer of the country and was doing his work for all irrespective of ethnic or political considerations. But some people translated the action of the Police to have a religious and ethnic colouration because the AGF is a northerner. But they forgot that the AGF is not known to be a religious or an ethnic champion. As a fact, I am not convinced that religion or ethnicity was in consideration in the Magodo issue.
Instead, the AGF displayed an act of courage that must be commended within the law’s ambit. Those who would want to disagree with this position would do themselves some good if they took the time to study the origin of the Magodo issues from 1993. Until they understood the issues, they would continue to be susceptible to the whims and caprices of a select few, whose stock in trade is to whip up unnecessary ethnoreligious sentiments.
One thing I can attest to as a well-informed party in the matter is that the AGF and the Nigerian Police acted in good faith. Those with a contrary opinion should do well to counter this position in a most civilised manner. I think the AGF indeed saved the day. This is what most persons and organisations might not realise; instead, they busied themselves conjuring narratives that suited their purpose while ignoring the substance of the matter. This is the trend in recent times, but this time around, it didn’t serve its purpose due to the avalanche of facts before the public domain.
The AGF in particular, while displaying a grasp of the issues managed the dynamics inherent in our legal system with enviable decorum, for he indeed saved the day in what would have been a monumental impasse. I say this because justice starts from how the law keepers behave and not what the court says actually.
We must learn to call a spade a spade and avoid making sensational headlines out of every situation. The AGF has saved the country the error of implementing the law on its head as some disgruntled elements would desire. And this has rocked the boat for some vested interest—my two cents. By so doing, Malami preserved the spirit of the constitution. This is regardless of what anyone may think about his personality.
I don’t envy him, but I admire his courage and strength of character in the way and manner he has carried on with such decorum that leaves some of us in awe. He is not your regular loud chap. But he is steadfast and stands by any action that preserves the spirit of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.