Alex Enumah in Abuja and Martins Ifijeh in Lagos
More reactions Wednesday trailed President Muhammadu Buhari’s comment that the rule of law must be subject to the supremacy of national security and interest, as human rights lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN); National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Prince Uche Secondus, and an advocacy group, Access to Justice, berated the president for trying to subjugate his interest as a national interest and his personal political security as national security.
The president had while addressing the opening ceremony of the 2018 Annual General Conference of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) in Abuja last Sunday said the security of the country could not be sacrificed on the altar of the rule of law, where national interest was threatened.
According to him, the “Rule of law must be subject to the supremacy of the nation’s security and national interest.
“Our apex court has had cause to adopt a position on this issue in this regard and it is now a matter of judicial recognition that where national security and public interest are threatened or there is a likelihood of them being threatened, the individual rights of those allegedly responsible must take second place, in favour of the greater good of the society.”
But Falana disagreed, saying national security is subject to the rule of law.
Falana, in his presentation at the NBA conference yesterday, said Nigeria’s political history has subjugated the rule of law at the detriment of protecting the rights of Nigerians.
On his part, Secondus said at the centre of every national interest as contained in the constitution is the rule of law of the country, adding that democracy is anchored on them.
The national chairman of PDP made the assertion when he received two presidential aspirants of the party – former Sokoto State Governor, Alhaji Atahiru Bafarawa, and the incumbent Governor of Gombe State, Dr. Ibrahim Dankwambo, at the party’s national campaign office otherwise called legacy house in Maitama, Abuja.
According to a statement from the national chairman’s media office signed by his media adviser, Ike Abonyi, Secondus warned that President Buhari’s interpretation of national interest and national security should be disregarded because it was all aimed at enabling him create Order 6 to appropriate legislative and judicial functions, and operate a full blown dictatorship.
On its part, Access to Justice expressed its displeasure over President Buhari’s statement that the rule of law must be subject to national security.
The group said the president missed the mark when he gave the impression that national security and rule of law were competing or exclusive notions, or that a state must prioritise one over the other.
Stating this in a statement made available to THISDAY yesterday and signed by its Director, Joseph Otteh, and Programme Officer, Daniel Abioye, the group said national security and the rule of law do not contradict one another, neither are they mutually exclusive concepts.
They said: “The rule of law embodies the principle of governance that all persons, institutions and entities, including the state itself, are bound by duly made laws, including laws on national security. A state of war or emergency may be legitimate grounds for limiting the exercise of some human rights, but even then, the limitations have to be imposed in accordance with the law.
“There is, therefore, no conflict between the two notions. In any event, no state of emergency has been declared in Nigeria neither is the country in a state of war with another country.”
The group urged President Buhari to respect the limits of executive powers and not misuse those powers on the grounds of national security.