A pro-democracy and civil society organisation, Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA), has raised the alarm that the progressive weakening of the legislative institutions of the 36 states of the federation by the governors poses one of the greatest threats to democracy in the country.
In a statement issued yesterday, the rights group carpeted the governors of Kaduna, Kogi, Imo and Abia States specifically for actively putting mechanisms in place in their states to destroy legislative independence and to seek to set up state dictatorships.
The group also accused the state governors of sponsoring groups that antagonise independent platforms and non-governmental organisations that are operational in those states with the aim of totally muzzling and stiffling constructive oppositions to the state governors.
â€œStates such as Kogi, Ebonyi, Abia and Kaduna are no-go-areas for independent-minded non-governmental groups and individuals for fear for their lives as there seems to be some fanatics armed to kill off any visible opponents of their â€˜altar egoâ€™ and political demi-gods who are currently the state governors,â€ HURIWA said.
HURIWA specifically criticised the Kaduna State Governor, Malam Nasir el-Rufai, for actively instigating the unfair suspension of the key representatives of the largely Christian Southern Kaduna constituencies of Zangon Kataf, Mr. Bitiyong Nkom of PDP and Kaura, Mr.Danladi Kwasu, also of the PDP, from the state House of Assembly.
The group accused Governor Rochas Okorocha of illegally spending the Paris fund refund that accrued to Imo State without recourse to the state legislature and the good people of Imo State.
HURIWA pointed to the reported boycott of the presentation of the 2018 budget by the governor earlier scheduled for yesterday and the protest by some state legislators over lack of transparency and accountability in the management of Imo State resources as strong indications that democracy in Imo State is under attack from the occupant of the office of governor.
HURIWA blamed the growing insecurity in Kogi State and the widening poverty occasioning suicides by state employees to the dictatorial tendencies of the Governor Yahaya Bello who has relied on federal military and Police might to stifle dissenting voices in the state assembly and the political class and especially from the opposition parties.
The rights group condemned the recent gruesome murder of the labour leader in Kogi by unknown armed hoodlums and blamed the security forces for compromise.
â€œWe have watched with considerable trepidation and consternation the unconstitutional and undemocratic tendencies of state governors who have relied on the toxic provisions of section 308(1) of the constitution on executive immunity to transform themselves into political demigods and have constructed massive capacity for destroying potential independent political voices in their state Houses of Assembly and have emasculated the administration of local council areas in a bid to set up state â€“wide dictatorship of the governors.â€
HURIWA lamented that the absence of funding autonomy for the state legislators has created opportunity for tyrannical governors to convert the state legislatures as appendages thereby impeding the powers of the state as enshrined in section 4(7) of the Constitution which states that: â€œ(7) The House of Assembly of a State shall have power to make laws for the peace, order and good government of the State or any part thereof with respect to the following matters, that is to say- (a) any matter not included in the Exclusive Legislative List set out in Part I of the Second Schedule to this Constitution; (b) any matter included in the Concurrent Legislative List set out in the first column of Part II of the Second Schedule to this Constitution to the extent prescribed in the second column opposite thereto; and (c) any other matter with respect to which it is empowered to make laws in accordance with the provisions of this Constitution.â€
HURIWA cited the recent suspension of the members of the state House of Assembly representing Zangon-Kataf and Kaura and the sponsored political attacks by attack dogs of Governor El Ruffai against Senator Shehu Sani of Kaduna Central senatorial district as indications that democracy has collapsed in Kaduna State.
The rights group has asked the National Assembly to take over the legislative duties of the Kaduna State House of Assembly until such a time that constitutional norms of equity and equality of all ethno- religions groups are restored in the state.