By Olaoluwakitan Babatunde
The Civil Liberties Organization, CLO, today, berated the President Muhammadu Buhari-led government for chasing shadows while the country slides deeply into economic crisis.
CLO’s position followed the failure of the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) to begin the prosecution in the case of alleged forgery of Senate Standing Rules, which it preferred against the Senate President, Bukola Saraki; his Deputy, Ike Ekweremadu; and two others.
The CLO in a statement by the Executive Director, Comrade Ibuchukwu Ohabuenyi, accused the President Buhari administration of misplaced priorities, leading to worsening hardship in the country and increasing the spate of death by suicide among Nigerians.
They declared that the reopening of investigation by the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and the Inspector General of Police (IGP) into the alleged forgery of the Senate Standing Rule, which is pending before the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja as well as the stalling of the trial by the AGF came to to to them “as a rude shock”.
It statement continued: “This is so because the AGF had earlier tendered an Affidavit of Conclusion of Investigation deposed to, on oath, by Mr. Okara Neji Jonah, Litigation Officer of the Federal Ministry of Justice avowing that the Police Force Criminal Investigation and Intelligence Department had ‘concluded investigation of the case and has forwarded the file to the Honourable Attorney General of the Federation for Prosecution.
“Only at the resumed hearing of the case at the Federal High Court, Abuja on Wednesday, the AGF and his team could not prepare their reply to the written address, over 90 days they were tendered by counsels to the accused.
“As a result, the court could not sit on the matter nor the Senate whose two presiding officers were dragged to court. While the leaders of the country are supposed to sit down to plan on how to proffer solutions on how to revamp the ailing economy that is causing monumental hardship to the citizens, the principal actors of the state are in engrossed in legal duel that consume their legitimate time of national service”.
The CLO expressed worries that “the whole exercise smacks of a desperation by the Presidency to cripple and pocket the federal legislature, the nation’s hallowed institution of democracy, by every means possible”.
Following the trend of events, the Executive Director declared: “CLO can assume that the Office of the AGF and Ministry of Justice have committed perjury, having earlier deposed to an Affidavit on Oath, to the effect that investigation had been concluded on the allegation and a water-tight case established against the accused men, but only to turn round to reopen investigation on the same matter.
“CLO recalls that His Lordship, Justice Gabriel Kolawole of the Federal High Court, Abuja, ruled on June 28, 2016, that the prosecution of the Presiding Officers and two others by the AGF, who was, until his appointment as a Minister, was a legal counsel to the Respondents in the suit challenging the constitutionality of Executive’s meddlesomeness in the internal affairs of the Senate without allowing the court to determine the legality of the police investigation/report, was “a gross abuse of legal process” and an action taken in desperate haste.
“This obscene manipulation of the machinery of justice to subvert the foundations of democracy, prioritise the will or rule of man over the rule of law, and indeed reduce our hard-won democracy to a civilian junta is very worrisome. “CLO is disturbed by these anti-democratic practices because we were one of the organisations that led the struggle that wrestled powers from military and restored democracy to Nigeria with huge prices in human and material terms”.
It said it expected the Federal Government at this point to wear it thinking cap to “rescue Nigerians from the present economic quagmire and restore happiness and hope to the citizens, rather than waste time on inanities”.
The group added: “Meanwhile, the last time we checked, naira had slipped to N445 to a US dollar in the parallel market and N308 on the interbank market, while cost of living has hit the rooftop.
“Police report, earlier this month, showed that 62 Nigerians, so far, have committed suicide in the last six months. Nigerians are no longer suffering and smiling, we are suffering and dying.
“The continued hunting of National Assembly leaders close to two years after they were elected while our country is gradually dying is a testimony to the fact that this government does not share in the sufferings and hardship of the people as it pretends to.
“It, therefore, worries us more that the Federal Government is busy chasing rats, while the entire house is on fire.
“Besides, it also gives cause for deep concern that a government, which intends to woo and retain foreign investors would hurriedly dock the presiding officers of its highest lawmaking body like common criminals without any credible evidence as it is turning out to be”.
They could on President Buhari “to get his priorities right” and “separate primordial from national interest”.
“This Senate forgery trial is so fraught with manipulations that tend to make one think that the “war” is not about national interest. It is a distraction that we can do without in this dire times when Mr. President is supposed to inspire confidence, trust, and unity among our people than the dance of “kokoma” that this regime has danced since it came to power.
“What Nigerians need now are food on the table, jobs for their teeming children, respect for the rule of law, due process and human rights and bouncing our economy into a robust one that can give hope to all of us, not fight of acrimony that neither enriches our system nor promote our economy”, the CLO stressed.