“Just because she was there during the conversation does not mean anything! It is not evidence!” The voice was strong and firm. The bearer was a clean-shaved young man. He had on a white shirt over a pair of Black trousers. The shirt’s design gave his profession away.
John Makama was a well-renowned legal counsel. His brilliance and tenacity ranked him among the very best – men of more years than his. Afterall, it wasn’t everyday that lawyers become Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SAN) at the age of 30. But John had. He knew his books and he knew his job. Right now, he was on the verge of detonating the equivalent of a thermonuclear bomb.
Two pairs of eyes watched him as he stood up. One pair belonged to the detective who had picked up Bola at her office earlier. He sat across the single table in the room. His arms were folded across his chest. His face was blank and almost emotionless, but his eyes stayed on the lawyer.
“You have been a Police officer long enough to know that you have no case against my client. Yes; she was privy to a telephone conversation in which sensitive information was divulged. But no; that doesn’t mean that she did anything with that information!” John paused before looking at the detective in the eye. “You cannot hold her. Detective Segun, you know how baseless this is.”
The second pair of eyes belonged to Bola. She sat across the table from the police officer and right next to John. Those eyes stared into nothing. He had been listening to the exchange between John, her legal counsel and Inspector Segun Goriola. But it was fast becoming a drone. She was draining of energy quickly.
It had been four hours now since she had been “invited” by the police to “assist” with investigations. On getting to the police station, it had turned out that she was prime suspect in the robbery incidence.
It was true that at the store the previous day, Madam Tuska had given out sensitive information on the phone. Information like the precise description of where a certain two million naira was kept at her residence. Bizzare why anyone would stash that amount of money in cash at home. But this was Nigeria. Worse things had been reported. What was two million naira in cash?
Apparently, someone had heard that bit of information and acted on it. In less than an hour, her residence had been broken into, and Madam Tuska’s assistant – the very lady at the other end of the phone conversation – was ordered at gunpoint to fetch the stash. The thief got away with the money but not after the young lady was shot in the left leg. Reason: she panicked and screamed for help.
Under questioning, Madam Tuska had mentioned that Bola was the only person in the store during that critical phone call. That made her a suspect.
It all seemed like a dream to Bola. This was not supposed to be happening. She had only wanted new items for her wardrobe. Madam Tuska’s loud drama on the phone had been interesting at first, then she had tuned off as it dragged on. She remembered playing two quick rounds of Angry Birds on her phone to kill time as Tuska had chatted and pranced on. After the second go at the game, she had grown tired of that too and put the phone aside to wait for the end of Madam Tuska’s conversation. That was when she had heard her speak of the money. Of course, she had done nothing with the information. From the store, she had driven straight home, getting there around 6pm and spent the rest of the day indoors cooking and then resting for the most part.
The police were not convinced that she was being truthful. As far as they were concerned, she had left Tuska, and made arrangements via telephone for someone to break into Tuska’s residence. Bola’s phone logs had no telephone records to back that position up, but they insisted anyway. She could have easilly made the call from any roadside call centre, they said.
Nothing definite. Nothing conclusive. No evidence. But she was considered guilty already. Justice according to the Nigeria Police. An accused was presumed guilty until and unless otherwise proven.
The detective tapped on the desk a couple of times and spoke, “I’m sorry, Mr. Makama, but we cannot let her go now. She has to remain in custody pending conclusion of our investigations.”
John Makama had been through this too many times. He knew the game, and it frustrated him to no end. They would keep her anyway. He would file to secure her release on bail, but that process could take weeks. Whatever. His client would suffer in a hell-hole all that time. The law was a pain in the butt here. The police did not respect anyone’s constitutional rights. They simply did as it pleased them. Often, they were judge, jury and executioner rolled into one. The system was so messed up that it was an insult to call it a system at all. It was more of a jungle. Chaos. The very lack of order.
John swore that when the Bible spoke of the earth being without form and void in the beginning, it was Nigeria that the writer had in mind. He had thought of leaving the country a few times, but always eventually renewed his resolve to stay and fight what was clearly going to be a very long battle.
“Mister Makama, this is our job. This woman may look sweet and nice to you, but we have seen worse.”
John interrupted him, “Every case shall be treated on its own merit. You have no right to pre-judge my client based on anything else you have seen. She is innocent until proven guilty! I have seen killer cops, you know. By your line of argument, we should assume that you are one.”
The detective was unmoved. He stood up. “She will remain with us here for now. You know what to do if you disagree with our position.”
That was it, thought John Makama. The ball was in his court from here. The idiot had spoken. Bola would have to be strong while he fought for her. But he would fight. And he would win, regardless of how hard or long it would be. He put his left hand on her shoulder gently but with a reassuring squeeze. “I will get you out of this.”