Alex Enumah in Abuja
Human rights activist, Chief Femi Falana (SAN), has placed the blame of government’s violation of the rule of law on the doorstep of attorneys general of states and the federation, whom according to him, have failed to give right counsel to their bosses when occasions demand.
The senior lawyer who indicted governments at all levels in the country for their blatant disregard for the rule of law, however, remarked that the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo was the greatest violator of the rule of law in the country.
Falana made the submission in his presentation on “The Rule of Law and National Security” at the ongoing annual conference of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) holding in Abuja.
“Under President Olusegun Obasanjo, the greatest violation of the rule of law took place in Nigeria, when the judgment of the Supreme Court was disregarded. I am sure you know the case of AG Lagos versus AG of the Federation. It was President Yar’Adua who complied with that judgment when he came on board.
“But I can tell you today that all the governments in Nigeria, Abuja and all the 36 state governors have contempt for the rule of law. And our colleagues, I say because we must face the facts, our colleagues, who are attorneys general connive with the governments. There is no president or governor who would not seek the legal advice of the attorney general if confronted with disobedience to court order. It is our colleagues who would advice, you don’t need to obey the court order,” he said.
The activist recalled how a governor confided in him how his own attorney general advised him not to obey an order of court, and that they should go and appeal because by the time the case will be finishing at the Supreme Court, the governor must has finished his term.
While noting that gross abuse of the rule of law is an age long practice in Nigeria, he lamented that the rule of law has been more violated under the democratic dispensation.
He said: “What the president was preaching on Sunday is what they call in East Africa, rule of the ruler and not rule of law.”
He said to avoid the situation where people are arrested and detained arbitrarily, there is need to strike a balance between the rule of law and national security.
“We have gone through the gross abuse of the definition of state security. State security does not mean the security of the government in power but it means the collective security of Nigerians,” he said.
“From 1984 to 1999, I was subjected to constant harassment by the security and intelligence community in Nigeria, not for posing any threat to the security of Nigeria but for collaborating with the other patriotic forces to fight corruption, abuse of human rights and subversion of the rule of law. I am a security risk for those in governments then and now; therefore who defines what is national security,” he queried.
Falana, referring to President Muhammadu Buhari’s government continued detention of Shiite leader Ibrahim El-Zakzaki since 2016, despite a court order for his release, warned that: “When you disobey a court order you are inviting anarchy and chaos and that is subversion of national security.”
He berated the bar for being so comfortable in spite of the rising disregard for the rule of law and recalled that the NBA once went on strike over the disobedience of a simple court order.