Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Judgement Day

Since June 19th was a Monday it was also ghost town in Bamenda. I stepped out of the house in the morning and there was no public transport. No taxis honking, no fear of okattas running you over. Kind of nice and quiet, but the challenge was to get to court upstation Bamenda, which was 250 CFA by taxi or 400 CFA by okatta or roughly 3 miles up Sonak Street to Finance Junction and then the long road up towards Santa. One practically climbs out of the bottom of a volcanic crater up to the rim in a switch back fashion. But today my focus was not on the lovely view one has over Bamenda. Ghost town means no public transport, no business activities whatsoever. Banks are closed, Businesses are boarded up and tidily locked. Owners are fearing vandalism and street crime. People who do not heed the call and are trying to send thir kids to school or doing some business risk getting their school or store burned to the ground. I was prepared. The day before I bought some bread and chocolate to have something to eat. I got up early to make sure I have enough time to walk the three miles, which for me as an avid hiker was easy to do.
What did not close was government institutions and hospitals. With lawyers on strike but the courts open for business I found a receptive prosecutor in Magistrate #5 Madam Belinda Ngu and judge Samuel Chenwie. The docket was long, but everyone - except me - arrived hours late and many did not show up, or only half of the people needed showed making the court rescheduling most cases.
When it was my turn I asked the Judge to instruct me freely and to forgive my ignorance.
They asked me to step into the witness box - correct the case is "people vs. Nche Aliu Umaru", although some people on facebook mocked me saying it my as well be called "Hodel vs. Nche Aliu Umaru". In any case. The Judge asked me to recount the entire sage. Luckily the prosecutor had previously keyed me as for what they were loocking for. My testimoney took several hours with the judge writing everything into his big book. When I was done they called Irissu Nopu Sahfua, one of the two gendarms who moved to all these places Umaru send us to find the cocaine. Idrissu seemed eager to stay on the case. With Hussini, the other gendarme, recently reassigned to serve in the North Region of Cameroon, we had no other witnesses. Rev. Fr. Josph Awoh, acting vice chancellor of the Catholic University of Cameroon in Bamenda (CATUC) whom we supeanrd but who send a lawyer to tell us that he did not have enough time to prepare and thus did not show up. In any case Idrissu did a really good job. He filled in a few things like mentioning that the brigade commander was relieved of his duty and the gendarme who searched my house without a search warrant were both punished severely. He also recounted that at each location no bad or expired drugs were found, and that I was never the subject of an investigation and never accused. That was something His Excellency, the Prime Minister Philemon Yang was very concerned that by testifying I may incriminate myself. I was not worried since my concience was clear.
The prosecutor convinced the judge to schedule the sentencing as soon as possible since I travel soon. He scheduled it for Friday. Then it was over, and I felt like falling in a whole. Idrissu rushed off to whatever else he had to do and I lingered not sure which way to turn but ended up walking home.
Friday morning I took breakfast and took a taxi upstation arriving early but not as early as I did Monday. The Judge gave the verdict. He gave Nche Aliu Umaru five years jail time, more if he does not pay the court fees. Unbeknown to me they had granted my request to add the civil case to the criminal case, so in an additional verdice he was also found guilty of fraud and was ordered to pay 20,000,000 CFA to AIDSfreeAFRICA. Again, I left the court but the prosecutor caught up with me and told me that we had to wait for ten days after the judgement to see if the accused files an appeal. She cautioned me to stay quiet but to come back after that period to pick up the judgement.
Amazingly, Nche Aliu Umaru did not appeal. Since he had asked the second judge assigned to the case to recuse himself - successfully, claiming the judge was biased - I expected him to do something. But the verdict stood and on July 4 I went back upstation to get the verdict but get an ear full that papers have to be written and corrected, and written again and signed and applications filled and by the way I should get to taxation and pay 1,000,000 CFA about $2000 for taxes on the money I would collect from the verdict. WHAT!!!??? I was send from one office to the next: Oh no, I would not know this. This office is for the criminal cases only, go to the other office that deals with civil cases. The first helpful person was the Chief of Registration for civil cases. First he took 5200 CFA to put a intake stamp on the judgement, but he listened to my upset rants and did what he was not supposed to do, he gave me a copy of the verdict. He explained to me that I have to pay taxes which I can collect and add to the money Umaru owes me. He also explained that I should hire a bailiff and let him do all the running around - but of course again pay big bugs for getting nothing done. In frustration I left the state council and figured I get the Governor involved since he had a stake in it, after all he came to the Alpha Royal Clinic in person and with entourage to see the cocaine himself, but ended up seeing a rice cooker instead and a studdering Umaru trying to talk his way out of this mess he had gotten himself into. Why not, it can not hurt to see the big man. I walked down the street to the governors offices and found his secretary a kind and alert man, who said the governor is out and I could wait or come tomorrow morning. I opted for the next day but when I left the building his motorcade came in and I ruhed back upstairs. I saw the man in almost no time. He made no move that would have told me that he even remembers but he listened and said I shall complain to the PG and CC him. I did so by walking over to the PG and writing the complaint by hand. The PG told me that I do not have to pay the money immediately but I would be penalized if I pay later, and for now I could proceed without paying. Since I had the copy - which he asked how I got this one.... and I told him I don't remember - it was actually possible. If I thought it was over, it was not. If anything it went on. I wanted to see what happens when I try one "little" thing, like ask for info on Umaru's Eco Bank account and have it frozen. Inform the Embassies and shut down the airports......  make sure Idrissu has the arrest warrant and all pertinent information to find and arrest Umaru.

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