By Emmanuel Onwubiko
There is a general climate of lawlessness, anarchy and apprehension in Nigeria. These negative but frightening feelings among the majority of Nigerians are occasioned by the seemingly unrelenting regime of impunity and the apparent failure of law enforcement mechanisms. This climate of impunity has continued with no immediate hope of ending. The vicious cycle keep expanding by the day even as the release last weekend of the report by the Federal Road safety commission (FRSC) into the recent killing in a road accident of the renowned Nigerian scholar and university teacher-Professor Festus Iyayi shows another level of conspiracy on the part of some government institutions to perpetuate anarchy and lawlessness.
My first intellectual encounter with the late Professor Iyayi was in my early senior high school in Kafanchan,/Kaduna State when I bought a beautiful book he authored titled Climate of fear. I reminisced with profound nostalgia how I devoured the contents of the fairly bulky novel in no time and if my memory has not failed me, I think the erudite scholar was full of pain in that prophetic book about the upsurge in violence which several years later has become monstrous.
Sadly, Iyayi was killed violently on his way to Kano state to make peace and negotiate a truce between the then striking Nigerian University teachers and the recalcitrant federal ministry of education. We cannot forget so soon that Nigerian public universities were left to close down for half a year by the government officials and the ever demanding and insatiable university teachers. Iyayi was killed precisely in Lokoja, Kogi state as he drove himself from Benin, Edo State and it was then speculated that the driver in the Convoy of the Kogi State governor was responsible for his death due to reckless driving.
Understandably, the Kogi state government reportedly denied responsibility for this dastardly act of reckless driving which led to the killing of this profoundly respected university teacher and Unionist. But following intense pressure from the organized civil society community the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) proceeded to probe the circumstances surrounding the killing of Professor Iyayi and has reportedly indicted both the Kogi state governor’s driver and a construction firm handling a road project in Lokoja for the incident.
The official report into the accident in November 2013 was issued based on a freedom of information request sent to it by the law firm of Femi Falana (SAN) who did it on the express legal briefing of the national executives of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU). Falana’s letter to the commission was dated February 12th 2014 even as the commission obliged the request in a reply endorsed by Mr. Wole Olaniran, an Assistant Corps Marshal and legal adviser of the FRSC.
The report pointedly blamed the driver in the governor’s Convoy who veered off his own lane which led to the accident. Recall that both the governor and another top flight official had had accidents on the same federal highway prior to this incident making Nigerians to wonder why the drivers attached to the Kogi state governor to be this reckless.
In a news report dated April 7th 2014, FRSC was quoted as saying that the accident was caused by the failure of the driver of a black Toyota Hilux pick-up Van in the governor’s convoy, carrying 7 policemen, to move to his lane of travel despite the fact that the road had been confined to a two-lane road way following the protracted construction work on the road. Report said the FRSC said one Danladi Baba, the driver of the Toyota Hilux pick-up, allegedly travelling “on a high but determined speed South-bound of the road, deliberately failed to return to and stick to his lane of travel.
“Contributing to the injury severity was speed; the direction of the impact and one vehicle number 1 (Toyota Hiace Bus) body reinforcement material which pierced the heart area of the fatally injured (Iyayi)”.
The commission also found a construction firm handling the Abuja/Lokoja road project guilty for failing to provide adequate guidance and channelization. It advised governor’s convoy to “maintain adequate lane discipline and desist from running other vehicles off-road”. What a way to spoil a good report. FRSC, by this hollow and substantially weak conclusion, did not recommend punitive measures for the alleged killers of Professor Iyayi because even after finding out the real culprits, it went to the ridiculous limit of preaching to the guilty parties without deploying or invoking its legal powers to punish the offenders. Have FRSC officials become religious preachers? By this show of shame, the commission has promoted official impunity which implied that the law is only meant to sanction the weak and the poor who are in conflict with the law.
The federal government must take measure to prosecute the guilty parties in the killing of Professor Iyayi except Nigeria has officially become a banana republic. This tendency which contributes to general break down of law and order must be reversed if we ever hope to salvage Nigeria from spiraling violence and bloodshed occurring virtually in all segments of our Nigerian society.
Emmanuel Onwubiko firstname.lastname@example.org; www.huriwa.org.