MARTHA Solomon, 17, is a minor in the eye of the law. Yet, her detention, in a police cell in Abuja since August, is another ugly window into how fellow citizens suborn the police to shackle the law, and resort to brazen self-help. Incidentally, the all-notorious but disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) was involved, according to depositions in a court case.

Situations like this must be roundly condemned; and those involved swiftly and roundly brought to book.

In an action, CV/3079/2020, filed by Mrs Blessing Adamu, Martha’s mother, to press her daughter’s fundamental rights, Mrs Adamu averred the following: that Martha was a JSS 3 pupil of the Government Secondary School (GSS), in Karu Local Government of Nasarawa State.

That, by mutual consent and due to her family’s rather humble means, Martha was employed, as a domestic staff, by one Mrs E. Uju, at her home at Galadimawa Estate in Abuja. Though Mrs Uju agreed to “take care of the applicant, by providing the applicant care and training, since I, the applicant’s mother is poor and was unable to afford the upkeep and training of the applicant” (according to the court papers), it soon turned a case of alleged domestic violence, thus forcing Martha to flee to her mother’s place. Indeed, Mrs Adamu claimed her daughter “was seriously beaten and threatened to be burnt with hot electric pressing iron.”

That the mistress-house girl dispute later snowballed into a police raid (involving some SARS operatives) on Martha’s mother’s place; and the seizing of Martha in August. After making the rounds in police stations in Nasarawa State and Abuja, Martha has been held at one of the FCT Police Command cells since August 19.

For being arrested by a heavily armed SARS unit, therefore, and for being kept under lock and key since mid-August (and only God knows what abuse a female minor could have endured in a police cell meant for adults, not even talking of her trauma), Martha’s lawyers are seeking damages in excess of N2 billion.

Martha’s case is yet again another confirmation of the disturbing penchant of privileged Nigerians to use the police to oppress less-privileged ones, whenever a dispute arises. Still, since the other side has not responded to the suit, it’s only fair to factor in their own side of the story. That would expose what Martha had done — did she steal, for instance, among other household infractions? — to merit such ire from her mistress.

That taken, nothing can justify the detention of an under-aged citizen in adult cells. That is boxing the ear of the law; and all those involved must pay the consequences. The law is clear: if you must detain a minor, do so at children/teens remand homes, not police cells; and the sanctioning authorities are the courts, not rogue police cadres rippling with impunity. Besides, there is a limit to which you can detain a citizen, adult or minor, without charge.

That is why the IGP (incidentally joined in the suit) should take a very serious view of this abuse; and ensure that everyone involved, no matter how remotely, should not go unpunished.

Of course, the illegal detention in police cells also dovetails into the flagrant abuse of SARS resources. The police should never be a tool for settling personal scores, just because one of the parties has the cash to suborn police rogue elements. So, the IGP should also probe Mrs. Uju’s police connection; and punish every abuse, on both sides of the illicit aisle.

But even as the legal battle rages, eyes should stay focused on the Martha odyssey. The priority must be getting her out of detention fast.  Every passing day she spends there, her life becomes a bad dream, from which she must jerk awake.

After freeing her, the state must check and repair her mental and psychological state. This is absolutely important because some state agents clearly abused their powers, to put a helpless minor in clear jeopardy. No matter how the court case ends, the state must make amends for the recklessness, if not outright outlawry, of its agents.

That is why Martha must be released forthwith; and thereafter checked into appropriate health facilities, at no cost to her parents.