Interesting things typically happen in transit on flights between London and Lagos. Tolu Ogunlesi’s recent YNaija piece reminded me of a few of my own experiences. Once, a woman who’d probably got lost in the Terminal 5 Duty Free, and on account of whom the flight had been delayed for nearly 45 minutes (they were about to take her luggage off the aircraft) finally showed up, wheeling in a humoungous holdall. Now, even if the overhead locker above her seat had been empty she would still have had trouble fitting her luggage into it. However, this was the London –Lagos flight and she was the last person to board, so the odds that it would be vacant were next to nil. Said lady, opening the locker and seeing it full, casually remarked “You Nigerians sef, is this your seat?” and proceeded to toss all the other bags on the floor. Of course, pandemonium ensued.

The incident after which this piece is titled is no less remarkable for its shock-factor. We were well into the British Airways flight, dinner had been served and cleared, alcoholics had had their nightcaps and passengers were falling asleep on their second or third movies. The lights had long since been dimmed and we were nearing the end of the silence just before the flurry of activity that usually precedes landing; that point when the flight map shows the aeroplane somewhere between Morocco (?) and France. Suddenly, three sharp slaps rent the air, thwap, thwapp, thwapp! “You thief!” the slapper accused.

Going by standard fare in Nigerian comedy circles, the recipient of the slaps must have been a Yoruba man, as the final syllables of all the exclamations that followed left him with his mouth wide open.

“Ha! Ha! Haaa! You slapped me? Me, you slapped me?? I will kill this old woman o!” he screamed. He spread his fingers wide and raised his arm in a pre-slap arc. A gentleman sitting in the row behind them quickly grabbed him mid-swing. “Control yassef” he urged the incandescent man, “are you not a man?”

“You stole my money,” the middle-aged lady alleged.

“Me???!! Steal money from you??? I have three thousand pounds in my brief-case!” as he lunged for her again. But the intervener refused to let go. “You’re a man. Control yassef. Control yassef,” he urged.

By this time, the BA flight attendants had run over in military formation and asked the man to come four rows back, to the rear of the plane, two seats away from me. A male attendant remained with the woman, while the person interviewing the alleged thief was female.

“Did you take her money sir?” the attendant asked. The man, in his late 30s to early 40s, started denying very loudly but she insisted he calmed down before answering. The man, still upset, very firmly refuted the accusation. The male attendant came over very shortly afterwards and asked to confer with his female colleague in the galley. They soon emerged, with female attendant looking slightly embarrassed.

“Ok sir, Let me first of all apologise for what just happened. My colleague has spoken with the passenger beside you. She’s now said she’d been dreaming that someone’s hand was inside her purse and suddenly woke up… I’m really, really sorry sir…we’ll also have to ask you to remain here at this seat until we land at Heathrow… I’m so, so sorry, sir.”

The man was silent for a few seconds, appearing to contemplate the misfortune that had just befallen him. Then, with absolutely no warning, he burst into tears and cried thoroughly, bitterly, broken-heartedly for a good five to ten minutes.


In the wake of the gruesome extrajudicial murder of the four young men who have since come to be known as the “Aluu4”, author Okechukwu Ofili drafted a bill against mob justice and began an online campaign to support the passage of the bill into law. As the act of a concerned citizen not merely contented with wringing his hands and lamenting the abyss that Nigeria is inching towards, it is an act that must be commended. However, if we put the good intentions of Mr Ofili and his supporters aside and examine the substance of the petition and the bill itself, we will find that it actually isn’t as punchy as its enthusiasts believe.

The petition begins with the misconception that mob justice is not a crime in Nigeria. Several tweets were sent out along the lines of “[Counterfeiting stamps] is an offence in Nigeria but mob justice isn’t. Sign the petition and say ‘Never Again’ to mob justice!” I say ‘misconception’ because there is absolutely nothing about “mob justice” (or ochlocracy, as Teju Cole explains) that is legal, even in the international backwater that we frequently agree is Nigeria. After all, mob justice is the colloquial term given to the actions of a group of people taking laws into their own hands and assuming the positions of judge, jury and executioner over persons suspected of committing a crime.

What are the acts that constitute “mob justice”? Typically, the Nigerian “mob” sets on the suspects, strips them naked, beats them senseless and very often murders them by setting them on fire. To say that mob justice is not a crime is to suggest that each of these heinous acts is perfectly legal. Clearly, this position is absolutely untenable.

Before we even venture into the Criminal Code, let us examine the supreme legal document in the land – the 1999 Constitution. Chapter IV of the constitution states the fundamental rights of each and every Nigerian citizen.

Section 33(1) tells us that “[E]very person has a right to life and no one shall be deprived intentionally of his life, save in execution of the sentence of a court in respect of a criminal offence of which he has been found guilty in Nigeria.” Section 34(1)(a) says “Every individual is entitled to respect for the dignity of his person, and accordingly no person shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman and degrading treatment.” Section 36 guarantees the right to “a fair hearing within a reasonable time by a court or other tribunal established by law and constituted in such manner as to secure its independence and impartiality.”

It is clear that nothing that happened in Aluu is “not a crime in Nigeria”, going by the Constitution.

But what about the Criminal Code? Section 315 provides that “[A]ny person who unlawfully kills another is guilty of an offence which is called murder or manslaughter, according to the circumstances of the case.” Sections 351-356 clearly state what constitutes assault. Chapter 54 tells us that it is a criminal offence to conspire with other persons to commit a crime. Grievous harm (i.e. “ bodily hurt which seriously or permanently injures health, or which is likely so to injure health, or which extends to permanent disfigurement or to any permanent or serious injury to any external or internal organ, member, or sense)is also an offence under the criminal code. On the parties to an offence, Section 7 of the Criminal Code is very clear and I reproduce the pertinent part below:

“When an offence is committed, each of the following persons is deemed to have taken part in committing the offence and to be guilty of the offence, and may be charged with actually committing it, that is to say-

(a) every person who actually does the act or makes the omission which constitutes the offence;

(b) every person who does or omits to do any act for the purpose of enabling or aiding another person to commit the offence;

(c) every person who aids another person in committing the offence;

(d) any person who counsels or procures any other person to commit the offence.”

It is therefore also clear that nothing that happened in Aluu is “not a crime in Nigeria”, going by the Criminal Code. Not even standing by or cheering on the murderers.

For me, therefore, the entire campaign was based on an entirely false premise. I was unable to bring myself to retweet or advocate for support for it. The truth is that the so-called “Mob Justice Bill” does not and will not change the law. Mob justice is already illegal. If it wasn’t, there would be no basis for charging the persons who have now been arraigned for the crime that was committed in Aluu.

Is there a bigger implication for social media advocacy? Yes. We cannot sit on our technological high horses and accuse the government of profligacy or inefficiency and engage in conduct that encourages the very same things. If we intend to be taken seriously at the very highest levels, we need to ensure that our actions are not only sentimentally sound but that they are also valid under the rule of law.

There is even a more potentially dangerous side of which we must all be aware. In law school, we are taught that criminal law is the easiest aspect of law for newly qualified lawyers to get into. This is because offences are broken down into separate components and once a lawyer can show that even one component of, say, a five component offence is absent, his client walks. Laws that would create crimes must be mindful of this “flip side”.

Again, we must separate the intentions of the “Mob Justice Bill” advocates from the obviously unintended outcome of their actions. We cannot deny that the Bill was borne out of the desire to make a change and the intention of the promoters of the Bill should be acknowledged.

Finally, does this piece mean that we should all sit down in our comfort zones and do nothing about unlawful killings and extrajudicial justice? By no means. Like most things that are fundamentally wrong with Nigeria, strengthening [democratic and judicial] institutions is the key to progress. The faith of the common man in the justice system must be restored. To achieve this, there must be police and judicial reform. Extensive work has already been done on a framework for the reform of the Nigerian police and can be found here. Turnaround time must be reduced in the judiciary and advocacy that would achieve an end to mob justice would be better channelled, in my opinion, along these lines.

RF (@TexTheLaw)

This Logic Matter

They say the mark of having had a fulfilling time in the university is that not only do you pass through the university but it also passes through you. I’ve never quite been sure if that expression is anything besides a fluffy Nigerianism but, if the university passing through you means that some of the things you learnt remoulded you and will stay with you forever, then logic (aka Philosophy 102 – Arguments and Critical Thinking) really passed through me. Mr. Owolabi, God bless him and his crutch, would frequently say “Let’s do what they’re incapable of doing in Aso Rock; let’s think!”

That elective has probably gotten me into the most trouble with my wife since we met. For some inexplicable reason, I would rather logic prevailed over intuition even though I know full well that life is more than inductive and deductive reasoning. When trying to interpret other people’s actions, more often than not, I use my logic filter. Mrs Tex (whether or not it’s because she’s a woman and therefore more likely to be more intuitive anyway) doesn’t have this ‘handicap’ and over the years my logic has prevailed over her intuition only 1 out of 5 times on the average. Which makes my devotion to it increasingly infuriating for her.

So maybe not everything in life can be subjected to the rigour of testing the validity of the thinking behind them. However, the greatest thinkers of any generation, and their critics and disciples, have no other means of establishing or disputing the authority of their ideas. No meaningful discussion can be had otherwise.  If you want your conclusions to be accepted, you need to give valid, logical, reasons why. It is therefore somewhat sad, for example, to read rejoinders to articles and opinions that, rather than discussing the original issues raised are nothing more than attacks on the person of the original writer. Or, on the comment threads of some online articles, to find an opinion roundly criticised only on the basis that it was expressed by someone from a certain tribe.

Clearly, we are products of our environment and sentiments and bias will have some bearing on the attitudes we adopt and ideas we express. And that’s probably acceptable for private discussions. When ideas are being propounded for public consumption though, I believe logic must relegate sentiments, intuition and bias. I may be wrong but I am convinced that until we elevate the way we discuss issues (and actually discuss issues), especially those of us outside the “cabal” crying for change, we may find progress elusive.

Below are a few examples of prevalent thinking (from the educated segment of our society) – they should give us pause:

  • El-Rufai is only criticising the government because his own party lost the elections [has he raised valid issues?]
  • Kathleen doesn’t support the doctors’ strike because she wanted to marry a doctor but failed to [has she given valid reasons why they shouldn’t have gone on strike?]
  • We know Ijeoma’s antecedents in XYZ corporation, how can she castigate us? [are you guilty of the allegations she has levelled against you, though?]
  • I couldn’t have orchestrated fraud because I actually taught at Harvard [yes, we all know Harvard is next to the Vatican in preparing people for priesthood and sainthood]
  • We’re revoking the contract because it was skewed in favour of the concessionaire [I killed my parents but you should have mercy on me because I’m now an orphan]
  • You’re a foreigner; Nigeria’s issues should only be discussed by Nigerians [Boko Haram issues should only be discussed by terrorism experts too, right?]
  • This kind of backward, myopic (etc) thinking can only be found in the [pick your choice] tribe [and everyone is a genius where you come from? Even that your uncle that the entire family mocks?]
  • Do you know who I am? [If Obama, Putin, Cameron and Merkel jointly put forward a stupid idea, it’s STILL a stupid idea!]

On a lighter note, logic served my friends and I very well at Sade Eleja. There was always someone willing to buy us another round of drinks and catfish peppersoup to prevent us from leaving early. “Mo n gbadun yin gan an…”

Beware the Roads of Lagos

Heegnoranz” can certainly not be “hegscuze” for anyone that falls prey (metaphor intended) to the new traffic law of Lagos State. It has been so well-publicised that one hopes this manner of publicity will follow documents of accountability of the government. The law is available for download here, in case anyone’s still looking for a copy.


I have suggested elsewhere that draconian laws may be the drastic measure needed to get us back in line but, given LASTMA’s penchant for sacrificing the spirit of the law on the altar of its letter and the 1000% increase in applicable fines (in many instances), I may very well rue my words.


So what does the law do? No, it doesn’t ban eating or drinking while driving, at least not specifically (closest I came across was “counting money or otherwise engaged in other activities when driving”). It does however, like its sister Act (*chuckles*) the LASTMA Law of 2004, prohibit smoking while driving. I have set out a table below, comparing some of the old offences and penalties with the newer version. You should probably skip down there if you want to avoid the boring legalese that follows.


The consensus on the law is that the punishments appear to go too far. Apart from this, I think it short on the definitions of some offences. For instance, a driver is liable upon conviction for dangerous driving, to a fine of N100,000 and/or two years’ imprisonment. An offence with such a hefty penalty should not be left solely to the discretion of the LASTMA of today. (See the UK Road Traffic Act and its definition of dangerous driving).


Section 20, on “careless and inconsiderate driving” also throws another curve ball. Subsection (2) appears to give the court the power to direct the accused driver to be charged with a different charge if the court is of the opinion that the original charge has not been proved. This would appear to go contrary to the long-establisheddouble jeopardy rule in criminal law. Apart from being a principle of common law, “double jeopardy” is also prohibited by section 36(9) of the constitution, which reads-

“No person who shows that he has been tried by any court of competent jurisdiction or tribunal for a criminal offence and either convicted or acquitted shall again be tried for that offence or for a criminal offence having the same ingredients as that offence save upon the order of a superior court.”


Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol is rightly prohibited but, while the law gives LASTMA the power to test blood and urine, no maximum limit is stipulated. You may be charged with this offence if it seems to the LASTMA official that the extent of your inebriation is such that you are “incapable of having proper control of the vehicle.” This sounds reasonable enough but in actual fact, it leaves all the power in the traffic authority’s hands.


There is a fine for abandonment of vehicles. There is a related fine for failing to notify the police or LASTMA that a vehicle has been abandoned near your premises. The law doesn’t tell us what constitutes abandonment, however. If my car breaks down and I have to leave it by the roadside until my mechanic is available, after how long can it be deemed “abandoned”? 12 hours? 24 hours? 48 hours? Whatever LASTMA feels constitutes abandonment?


The motorcycle-related provisions of the law also appear to apply to ALL motorcycles. No distinction is made between private and commercial motorcycles. Thus, technically, LASTMA could arrest a sports bike (“power bike”) rider for being on a route on which motorcyclists have been banned (see page 29 of the law). It must be pointed out that the new restrictions on motorcycle traffic (permits, maximum number of passengers, etc) seem quite sound, however.


It is also an offence for your vehicle to break down on the road and cause an obstruction to traffic. No, that’s not a typo. And you’d be fined N50,000 and still have to pay the cost of towing, Would it not be more reasonable for the State to provide free recovery services to a non-obstructive point, like LCC does on the Lekki-Epe expressway (I don’t believe I just paid LCC a compliment!)?


The question remains though, as to why the fines have been increased so dramatically. Many of these offences already existed, suggesting that a lack of enforcement (and not the mildness of penalties) is the reason why traffic remains chaotic in Lagos. Are the enormous fines a stealth tax or fund-raising initiative?  It would have also helped the considerably large smoker population if the policy behind banning smoking was properly articulated (even though this offence was listed in the 2004 law). Lagos would seem to be the first city in the world to impose such a ban. Perhaps the purpose of the law is even to reduce traffic by making Lagosians too frightened to drive.


In any event, safer driving will ultimately be a good thing and one earnestly hopes that LASTMA and the VIO will adopt a common-sense, non-predatory approach to the enforcement of the new regulations.

Be safe, everyone!



2004 provisions are in black; 2012 are in red







Driving without a valid Driver’s Licence 2/2 2,000/[no fine stated] Impound Vehicle/payment for removal and storage and evidence of payment for the licence.
Learning to drive on a major highway 3/2 2,000/1st Offender N20,000; subsequent offender N30,000 Dislodge Driver/ payment for removal and storage and evidence of payment for the licence.
Driving with fake number plates 4/4 4,000/1st Offender N20,000; subsequent offender N30,000 Impound Vehicle/imprisonment of 3 years or both fine and imprisonment
Driving a vehicle with unauthorised or defective reflective number plate 2/2 2,000/1st Offender N20,000; subsequent offender N30,000 Impound Vehicle/imprisonment of 3 years or both fine and imprisonment
Driving without a valid MOT Test Certificate 2   Impound Vehicle/payment for removal and storage and evidence of payment for the certificate.
Driving without a valid roadworthiness certificate 2   Impound Vehicle/payment for removal and storage and evidence of payment for the certificate.
Violation of route by commercial vehicle 2/2 2,000/ 1st Offender N20,000; subsequent offender N30,000
Disobeying traffic control personnel or traffic signs 1/2 2,000/1st Offender N20,000; subsequent offender N30,000
Disobeying traffic lights 4 5,000  
Failure to yield to right of way of pedestrians at a zebra crossing 4/3 5,000/ 1st Offender N20,000; subsequent offender N30,000  
Failure to give way to traffic on the left at a roundabout 2/2 2,500/ 1st Offender N20,000; subsequent offender N30,000  
Driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs 2 2,000/N100,000 or 2 years imprisonment or both Impound Vehicle
Smoking while driving 1/2 2,000/ 1st Offender N20,000; subsequent offender N30,000  
Tailgating an emergency vehicle 4/3 5,000/1st Offender N20,000; subsequent offender N30,000  
Failure of slow-moving vehicle to keep to the right lane 2/2 2,500/1st Offender N20,000; subsequent offender N30,000  
Assault on a Traffic Officer(physical) 4 5,000/[no fine stated] Prosecute in court/Imprisonment for a term of three (3) years or both fine and imprisonment
Driving in a direction prohibited by the Road Traffic Law [i.e. “one-way”]/Neglect of traffic directions 4 25,000/[forfeiture of vehicle to the state] Impound/ 1st Offender – one (1) year imprisonment and forfeiture of the vehicle to the State; 2nd and subsequent offender (3) years imprisonment and forfeiture of the vehicle to the state; offenders to have data and biometrics captured.
Bullion vehicle driving in a direction prohibited by the Road Traffic Law 4/5 50,000/ [Forfeiture of vehicle] Impound/Imprisonment for a term of three (3) years, or both fine and imprisonment
Illegal U-Turns 2/3 2,000/ 1st Offender N20,000; subsequent offender N30,000 Driver Training
Making or receiving phone calls when driving 2/2 2,500/1st Offender N20,000; subsequent offender N30,000  
Counting money, or [being] otherwise engaged in other activities when driving 2 1st Offender N20,000; subsequent offender N30,000  
Failure to display reflective warning triangle sign [i.e. “C-Caution”] at point of breakdown 4 10,000  
Causing obstruction on highway if broken down 2 N50,000.00; cost of towing