President Buhari’s Assault on the Rule of Law

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Ring True

By Yemi Adebowale; yemi.adebowale@thisdaylive.com;  07013940521 (text only)

Iwasn’t shocked by President Muhammadu Buhari’s attack on the Rule of Law while declaring open the 58th Annual General Conference of the Nigerian Bar Association in Abuja on Monday. Our President, who has sworn to protect the constitution of this country, declared that the rights of Nigerians must always take a second place where national security and public interest are threatened. He has suddenly forgotten that one of the legs of the Rule of Law i.e. supremacy of the law is the foundation of his current position.

The Buhari administration is erroneously guided by the belief that the Rule of Law must be subject to “the supremacy of the nation’s security and national interest,” and has persistently/mischievously demonstrated this in the last three years, using it to pummel perceived opponents and the opposition party.

It is disheartening that our President also falsely informed the nation that his position on Rule of Law is backed by a judicial pronouncement. Buhari said: “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 their being threatened, the individual rights of those allegedly responsible must take second place, in favour of the greater good of society.”

This is not true. I have spoken to several erudite lawyers and they also confirmed that there was never a time in the history of this country that a case bothering on the Rule of Law and national security came before the Supreme Court for adjudication. It has never been an issue before the apex court. The highest court of our land did not at any time rule that The Rule of Law – the foundation of all sane societies – must take a second place where the so called “national security and public interest are threatened.”

What Buhari was referring to was just a passing remark by one of the apex court justices during the battle for bail by Asari Dokubo. The Rule of Law Vs National security was never contested in the apex court. So, it is wrong for Buhari to say that his position was based on the pronouncement of the Supreme Court. This is ludicrous.

The stance of Nobel Laureate, Wole Soyinka, on Buhari’s absurdity is instructive. Soyinka said history had shown repeatedly that those who tamper with the rule of law never end well.

He added: “The rule of law, however, outlasts all subverters, however seemingly powerful. If the consequences for society in defence of the rule of law were not so costly, any new attempt would be merely banal and boring, hardly deserving of attention. We know, historically, where it will all end… Here we go again! At his first coming, it was ‘I intend to tamper with freedom of the press’, and Buhari did proceed to suit action to the words, sending two journalists – Irabor and Thompson – to prison as a reward for their professional integrity.

“Now, a vague, vaporous, but commodious concept dubbed ‘national interest’ is being trotted out as alibi for flouting the decisions of the Nigerian judiciary. President Buhari has obviously given deep thought to his travails under a military dictatorship, and concluded that his incarceration was also in the ‘national interest’.”

The opposition PDP was apt when it remarked: “Our national interest is thoroughly embedded, protected, expressed and enforced only under the rule of law as provided by our constitution and there is no how Nigerians can allow an individual to superimpose or override the Constitution with his personal whims and impulses.

“President Buhari should therefore be made to answer for the litany of human rights violations in Nigeria, including documented disobedience to court orders, extra-judicial and arbitrary executions, unlawful arrests and political detentions, killing of persons in custody, torture and excessive use of force by security forces on innocent citizens.”

Cerebral lawyer, Kayode Ajulo said Buhari’s stance raises genuine fears as it sweeps up the need for fundamental queries regarding both the conceptual and legal implications of this position.

Ajulo explains: “While national interest is often referred to as a country’s goals and ambitions, whether economic, military or cultural, the Rule of Law is essentially the restriction of arbitrary exercise of power, the subordination of power to established laws. National interest in the context of political transactions may have its roots in a political association’s ideology or calculation. The same cannot be said of the Rule of Law.

“The President may need a candid reminder of the fact that the ultimate national interest is codified in the Constitution, wherein the fundamental human rights are given primacy and hinged on the Rule of Law. It therefore portends a dangerous trend where the Rule of Law now has to play a second fiddle and be at the mercy of a political power. A more dangerous implication on the commentary is that, the President, by the statement, is equating Nigeria, a Federal Republic, to a Banana Republic.”

A former minister, Kabiru Turaki, added: “A situation whereby anybody that is supposedly elected, and no matter the office that person had been elected into, will stand up and look at Nigerians and say that the rights as recognised and protected by the Constitution would be subject to certain sentimental consideration by any other person is highly unacceptable.”

Buhari’s position on the Rule of Law is evidently odd to Nigeria’s laws and therefore intolerable. It is only an attempt to justify and sustain the mass of impunity under his administration. This administration has been hiding under this false Supreme Court pronouncement to perpetrate injustice. This is why his government has refused to comply with several court orders admitting the former National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki to bail. He is being unjustly detained without a lawful order for almost three years.

On December 29, 2015, when Dasuki’s bail conditions were perfected, and the warrant of release signed by the court, the operatives of SSS stormed Kuje Prison, immediately rearrested the ex-NSA and clamped him in their detention camp. 

Dasuki also approached the Court of Justice of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), and in a landmark judgement, the detention of Dasuki was declared unlawful, null and void. The court subsequently ordered his immediate release in addition to imposing a fine of N15 million on the federal government as compensation for the breach of Dasuki’s fundamental rights. The federal government refused to obey the order of this international court,

Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu of the Federal High Court Abuja on July 2, this year admitted Dasuki to bail upon discovery that his detention was a breach of the Nigerian Constitution and that of the fundamental right of the ex-NSA. Upon meeting the bail condition, the warrant of release of Dasuki was signed by the court and served on the Director General of SSS and the Attorney General of the Federation for their compliance, but they arrogantly ignored it. In fact, our chief law officer, Abubakar Malami confidently declared that the order of the court would not be obeyed by the federal government.

What about the impunity trailing the superfluous trial of the Shiite leader, Sheikh Ibrahim El-Zakzaky? This cleric has been in the custody of the DSS since 2015 in spite of multiple court rulings approving his freedom. Clashes between soldiers and his followers left 347 of his supporters dead. On December 6, 2016, a Federal High Court presided by Justice G. O. Kolawole ordered the release of El-Zakzaky and his wife and awarded them N50 million damages.

The Nigerian Army and the Kaduna State Government had callously demolished and set El-Zakzaky’s residence on fire on 15 December 2015. As a result, the Federal High Court also ordered the federal government to provide them with a suitable accommodation. These orders have been ignored by the Buhari administration. Rather, the Kaduna State Government dragged the leader of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria and his wife to a court in Kaduna on charges of culpable homicide and unlawful assembly. What a country!

Just as I had done in previous articles, I will again remind Buhari to always remember that power is transient. All those applauding his impunity will disappear once he’s out of power and he will face the music alone. Our President must learn to place the laws of our land above his sentiments. His recant on Friday while addressing visiting German Chancellor, Angel Merkel, is deceptive. We must remain alert.

Victor Umeh Vs Chris Ngige

The battle for Anambra Central Senatorial ticket in 2019 is already on. It’s going to be a straight fight between incumbent Senator Victor Umeh and the Minister of Labour, Chris Ngige. Umeh is familiar with Ngige’s tactics and knows the best approach is to start ‘exposing’ him as D-Day approaches. The incumbent Anambra Central Senator fired several salvos recently, including accusing Ngige of using President Buhari’s name to deceive the people of the state. Umeh, former National Chairman of All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), noted that Ngige had been campaigning on the promise that the president would make him the President of the Senate.

Umeh said: “Anyone is free to contest with me. Ngige told some traditional rulers that he was under pressure from some Igbo leaders to vie.He has been going about telling different people different things. He is simply dropping the president’s name and using it to deceive many people.”

 Ngige is yet to respond, but I know that lies will win very few votes in 2019. Politicians cannot fool all the people all the time. Ngige should look for a better peg for his campaign in Anambra State. Ndi Anambra are wiser.

Carnegie Report on APC, PDP Corruption

For those who have not been following the story, a recent report by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace on corruption involving actors in our two leading political parties – APC and the PDP – has confirmed that corruption is not just a PDP affair as the ruling party wants us to believe. Many actors in the two parties are corrupt and “inclined to using political power to steal public resources.” The report titled, “A New Taxonomy for Corruption in Nigeria,” said despite President Buhari’s anti-corruption posture, there was little difference between his party, APC, and the PDP.

The report said, “Kleptocratic capture of political party structures is a sine qua non of gaining power and thereby unlocking corruption opportunities across a range of other sectors. Little distinguishes Nigeria’s two main political parties in this regard. Both are constellations of fluid national, state, and local elite networks.

“Both are almost identically structured, non-ideological organisations. Both rely on misappropriated public funds to finance election campaigns. Neither values internal party democracy, allowing money and high-level interference to corrupt candidate selection processes.”

According to the report, top politicians in the two major political parties are always seeking, by hook or by crook, opportunities to secure lucrative public appointments or high-level backing for their ambitions.

It stated further that party officials always sought to monetise their influence over internal party processes by soliciting cash from aspiring politicians or seeking to be co-opted by them.

Well, the US-based international organisation did not say anything new other than to amplify what genuine patriots had been saying all the while about the one-sided anti-corruption war of the Buhari administration. While the EFCC pummels the corrupt elements in the PDP, it simply looks the other way when it comes to corrupt APC elements. Majority of those in the APC government at the federal and state levels are not clean. They are only being shielded by the anti-graft agencies. This is the truth that must be told.