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Bobrisky should not have pled guilty: He was led into a trap — By Emeka Ugwuonye

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It is clear to any discerning mind that the conviction of Idris Okunuye (Bobrisky), the cross-dresser shows Nigeria as a country of exceptional cruelty. The whole case was a set-up involving a failed law enforcement agency and the judge in a bid to achieve a political objective. The case shows the true essence of the EFCC as an unserious law enforcement agency.

The EFCC is a cynical morality police, which falsely claims to fight economic crime, while in fact every past chairman of EFCC ended up accused or suspected of extensive corruption.

Whenever criminal prosecution is used to achieve a political objective, it is called a political trial and Nigeria is notorious for this from the trial of Obafemi Awolowo to the trial of Bobrisky.

This was how it played out: Many EFCC officials are bigots and ideologically driven people, and the ideologies that dominate their thoughts are the basic and mundane, such as ideology of ethnicity, religion, gender-differences, etc. Many of them were offended by the notion that a man could dress like a woman and be seen doing so. But the EFCC has had the habit of seeking grants from international agencies all over the world. As a result, the agency could not openly show that it has an agenda against gay people. Otherwise, it would offend its foreign donors and partners. So, the EFCC used bogus charges to go after Bobrisky. They came up with money laundering charges that had no basis. They then attached a charge for abusing naira.

The same EFCC which has been clueless on what to do to save Naira from criminal devaluation of the currency decided to save the value of Naira by keeping the Naira notes clean. With bogus charges like money laundering attached, Bobrisky was goaded into believing there was a real plea deal if he pled guilty to abuse of Naira charge in exchange with the EFCC dropping the money laundering charges. Bobrisky did not understand that there was no way the EFCC could have won on the money laundering charges unless they intimidate the judges. Also, based on previous cases, Bobrisky was convinced that the judge would give him an option of a fine, if he pled guilty. He did not know that the EFCC and those behind this symbolic prosecution could have induced the judge behind the scene to put him in prison.

If Bobrisky had not pled guilty, trial would have been on and he would have been granted bail. There is no way he could have been convicted after a full merit trial. The reasons for this view are numerous. First, the EFCC is lousy and grossly incompetent in prosecuting cases if the accused could be patient and go through trial. Second, this is a selective prosecution. Every weekend in Nigeria, people are holing parties where they do what Bobrisky was accused of doing and no one gets prosecuted. Further, if time was allowed, the prosecution this case would have been more damaging to the EFCC than it would hurt Bobrisky. The EFCC would have been forced to abandon the case. Bobrisky’s lawyers would have used the case to reveal the true intention of the EFCC to the world and show that the EFCC cannot enforce the economic crime laws of Nigeria, but would continue to target students and cross-dressers as the easy preys. But unfortunately, Bobrisky was railroaded. He pled guilty and now he is going to be in prison.

The judge was a political actor in this case. This is the first time a person is serving jail term for this offence. That ought to weigh on the mind of the judge. But it was a pure set-up in which the judge was not functioning as a judge, but as an active participant in a plot to deal with the LGBT community. It was a pure set-up. It was all to send a message to the LGBT community in Nigeria. Also, EFCC has confirmed again that it is merely an instrument of pollical control and suppression of dissent, rather than a genuine law enforcement agency. It was really a pity that Bobrisky did not defend the case on the merit. Now, there is a lesson. Never agree to any plea-bargain with the EFCC. Insist on trial. Otherwise, you will help them achieve some dubious political objective.

Can Bobrisky appeal against this sentence? Yes, he can, and he should. It is difficult to argue against the conviction since he pled guilty, unless one of the grounds for appeal is ineffective representation of counsel. That ground will be valid, also.

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