C-o-o-u-u-r-r-t-t!!! Yekinni, the court clerk, yelled like someone grabbed by the balls. Everybody inside the Court-of-A-Piss jumped to their feet. This is Her Lordship’s Court. She’s a beautiful, no-nonsense High Priest in the Temple of Justice. Everybody respects her because she’s formidable, courageous, intelligent and connected.
Devotees in the Temple of Justice look to the door of the inner chamber, expecting Her Lordship to emerge, but she took some time in making her entry. Lawyers, litigants, journalists, clerks, etc remain standing, however.
In a fleeting moment, a phone’s ringtone pierces the solemn air, “Wahala! Wahala! Wahala! Zah Zoo! Zeh before dem nab you, Madam Zehnab! Akoi fura!”
Her Lordship steps out of her chamber in judicial majesty – long, black robe signifying the blindness of justice; her golden wig symbolises both an air of anonymity and an assurance that Milord is nonpartisan. She bows to the court, the court bows back.
Clerk: The first case before this honourable court today is the case with Suit Number AD/321BC/2023, involving a point-and-kill incident in the Maraba district of Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory, filed by Mallam Mai Chutta against Mallam Audu. Mallam Mai Chutta!
Mai Chutta: Yes, mai Load! (Enters the dock)
Clerk: Mallam Audu!
Audu: Yes, mai Lude! (Enters the dock)
A senior lawyer stands up, introduces himself, and announces his appearance for Mallam Mai Chutta. I’m Chief I.K.A Ajanlekoko, appearing for the plainthief, my lord.
Clerk: Looks in the direction of Audu.
Audu: I’m appearing por my sef! I no get am for money to haya a loyah.
A Senior Advocate of the Masses, Chief Fawehinmi, stands up and introduces himself as a friend of the court, who is willing to appear for Audu pro bono.
Clerk: (Reads the charge) It has been brought to the notice of this honourable court that you, Mallam Audu, on the 29th of May, 2023, at 19:00 hours, went to Chop-and-Quench Restaurant owned by Mallam Chutta. That you pointed to a live fish to be killed and made into pepper soup for you. That after eating the steamy full plate of N3,000 pepper soup and drinking a bottle of beer costing N600, you refused to pay for the pepper soup and the beer, thereby committing an offence contrary to the Criminal Code Act of the Federal Capital Territory, punishable with a fine of N500,000 and, or a jail term of 10 years. Guilty or not guilty?
Audu: I no guilty, mai Lude.
Fawehinmi: My Lord, I daresay that this suit is ill-conceived, embarrassing, wicked and ungodly! How does the plainthief expect a man who ordered a N3,000 plate of pepper soup and a bottle of cold beer for N600 to pay N15,000 because while the fish was being prepared, the President announced the removal of fuel subsidy? I rely on the Principle of Estoppel which says you can’t change the terms of a contract midstream without a rational cause.
Ajanlekoko: (Interjects Fawehinmi) Milord, my client relies on the provisions of the Freedom of Contract, which gives the leeway for him to increase his prices at will, coupled with the fact that the presidential pronouncement of fuel subsidy removal is tantamount to executive fiat.
(A murmur sweeps through the court) The phone rings again, “Wahala! Wahala! Wahala! Zah Zoo! Zeh before dem Nab you, Madam Zehnab!” The judge brings down her gavel, ‘Gbam!’
Ajanlekoko: My client is ready to supply your chamber with a similar plate of pepper soup and cold beer, for you to determine if the N15,000 price charged is appropriate or not.
Her Lordship: Ok. I’ll await the supply in my chamber. Please, add garlic and ginger, no salt. I rise for a short adjournment, the court will reconvene in two hours!
(She strikes her gavel down the table)
(The phone rang again, “Wahala! Wahala! Wahala! Zah Zoo! Zeh before dem Nab you, Madam Zehnab!”
(Court reconvenes after two hours)
Fawehinmi: My Lord, I plead with your honour to strike this frivolous suit out and fine the plainthief for damages occasioned by harassment, psychological trauma, time loss and embarrassment. You cannot increase the price of commodities just because you heard a presidential speech. It’s wrong. What changed between the time the customer ordered the fish and when the order was prepared?
Ajanlekoko: Your Honour, milord. Prices changed! The defendant should have asked for the new prices while eating because the presidential broadcast was aired live on radio and TV. He can’t claim to be unaware. He should’ve known prices will change.
(Murmur in court)
(The gavel sounds. Absolute silence in court)
Her Lordship: (Clears her throat) Here’s my judgement. Having tasted the delicious pepper soup and chilled beer, this honourable court will affirm the technical aspect of the law over the substantive aspect. It’s wicked of any customer to eat such a delicious meal and wash it down with cold beer, and expect not to pay any amount demanded by Chop-and-Quench Restaurant. I hereby find the defendant guilty on all counts. He will pay the fine and serve the jail term. I rise!
(Outside the court, a battery of journalists interview Chief Fawehinmi)
Fawehinmi: This judgement cannot stand! We shall go on appeal! This is wickedness. People who steal billions are given national awards, chieftaincy titles and honorary doctorates. What type of country is this that kills its own by injustice? And we worship in churches, mosques and shrines, and expect grace to abound, what nonsense! We’re going on appeal. I will appear without collecting a dime from Mallam Audu!
Journalists: What if your appeal is struck out?
Fawehinmi: Then, this country is forever doomed! Nigeria is the only country in the world where government spends billions of dollars on fuel subsidies yearly, cries that the monies go into the wrong hands, yet no one has ever been brought to book. Not one single individual! So, that means the government knows the criminals siphoning fuel subsidies, yet cannot name and prosecute them. What kind of mafia country is that? Armed robbers investigating bandits. I shall go to court to compel the government to name the oil thieves. I know them. They are the big multibillionaires. If the government doesn’t name them, I will! Awon olori buruku gbogbo!
(Her Lordship’s two-car convoy zooms out of the court premises, and her police orderly sits in front of the car with her driver)
Her Lordship: Sergeant, what did the people say after my judgement?
Orderly: They were just grumbling. Stupid people. That troublesome man, Fawehinmi, was threatening to go on appeal. He said the judgement was wicked. The man too worry, na busybody.
Her Lordship: Don’t mind him.
Orderly: Yes, ma. I enjoyed the pepper soup leftover you gave me, ma. It’s costlier than N15,000.
Her Lordship: Give me a toothpick from the glove compartment.
Orderly: Yes, Your Honour.
Her Lordship: Please, tune the radio to Fire FM for the network news at 4 o’clock.
Orderly: Yes, My Lord.
Fire FM: The time is 4 o’clock. Here are the news highlights: Uproar in Nigeria’s Senate over judiciary integrity; FG may open Seme Border; Kwara boat tragedy: Death toll hits 106; Obi faults proposed 114% increment for president, governors; Messi set to win 8th Ballon d’Or. Let’s go for a commercial break, we’ll be right back.
Fire FM: Now, the news in full: The senator representing Booger-Chewer North Local Government senatorial district has said that he encroached on the freedom and independence of his wife while she served as a judge. Speaking at an event yesterday, the senator thanked his wife for allowing him to encroach on her official freedom and independence when he sought her help for his senator colleagues in need. The senator, who said his wife offered the encroachment help, was hushed by the Senate President, Alhaji La-1, whose re-election into the Senate, another senator, Chief Okoro, described as the 8th Wonder of the World.
(Another commercial break)
A nasty smell engulfs Her Lordship’s car even as the police orderly is shocked as a tiny stream of brown liquid from the back seat floor hits his boots.
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; Facebook: Tunde Odesola; Twitter: Tunde_Odesola.
. Published in The PUNCH, on Friday, June 23, 2023.