Adedayo Akinwale in Abuja
The presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, has petitioned the United States, the United Kingdom, France and Germany over the constitutional breaches by President Muhammadu Buhari, saying Nigeria is swimming into anarchy.
But the Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs has stated that the fact that some foreign governments are helping to fund Nigeria’s elections does not give them the right to make unguarded comments about the forthcoming elections.
The former vice president in the petition dated January 27, 2019 and made available to journalists yesterday in Abuja, said Buhari is threatening the country’s democracy by serially breaching the provisions of the constitution and undermining organs and institutions of state in order to advance his personal interest.
Atiku said that while the president has ironically taken oath to safeguard and defend the constitution of Nigeria, the reality of his selective and wanton violations of its provisions means that his oath is observed only in the breach.
According to him, “I have chosen to write this letter to Your Excellency for the enviable role that your country plays as champion of democracy and the rule of law. I am also writing you as Nigeria’s international development partner working together to deepen and strengthen our democracy as well as to help in the transformation of our economies and societies for the better.
“And as Your Excellency very much knows, respect for the rule of law is integral to promoting and preserving the values and principles of democracy. Sadly, however, by the actions of the government of President Buhari, one is forced to think otherwise.’’
Atiku noted that as a presidential candidate in the forthcoming general election that would be conducted and supervised by the Buhari-led federal government, he felt the urgent need to share some of these key violations of the provisions of the constitution with heads of foreign missions in the country and demanded that they pile pressure on the federal government to desist from those violations and ensure a level playing field for the elections that are only a couple of weeks away.
He added, “We acknowledge with profound appreciation the positions taken by some members of the international community in Nigeria and urge Your Excellency to add your country’s very strong voice against these breaches of Nigeria’s constitution. Your voice is very important to the survival of Nigeria’s democracy.”
He explained some of the constitutional infractions of Buhari, while also urging the countries to take appropriate actions as they might deem appropriate to whip the president to line.
On the purported suspension of the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen, the former vice president said, “On Friday, January 25, 2019, our nation woke up to the shocking news of the unilateral and extra-constitutional suspension of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Onnoghen and the immediate appointment and swearing in of Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad, as the new acting Chief Justice of Nigeria.
“This action of President Muhammadu Buhari, not only breaches the Nigerian constitution, but has also managed to undermine presidential democracy by assaulting one of its hallowed doctrines of separation of Powers.
“For the records, Onnoghen is the head of one of the tripartite but mutually independent organs that form the government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. To attempt to muscle out the Chief Justice of Nigeria, using phony charges at a time when His Lordship was primed to play a central role in the fast approaching nationwide electoral process represents the boldest steps in the march to undermine our democracy.
“Need I say, this brazen authoritarian and imperious stride of President Buhari is the latest action in a series of carefully planned onslaught on our nation’s hard earned democracy by an extremely power hungry and anxious president and the cabal that feeds fat around him as February 16, 2019 draws nearer.
“The fact that the unlawful suspension of Onnoghen was announced just as it became public knowledge that the CJN was about to constitute the election petition tribunals is not lost on discerning Nigerians and the international community.
“This act of desperation is geared towards affecting the outcome of the 2019 presidential election. Indeed, it is not just the CJN that has been suspended, it is the Nigerian constitution that has been infracted and, in effect, suspended, under the guise of the suspension of the CJN.’’
Atiku further explained that the case involving the legality or otherwise of the charges against Onnoghen is in court, as it should be, saying so far, the judiciary has ruled in Justice Onnoghen’s favour and wondered why Buhari did not allow the court to adjudicate on the matter.
“Let me therefore take the opportunity of this letter to urge your country and all well-meaning members of the international community to mount pressure on this government and all its anti-democracy functionaries know that their actions will have consequences, strong consequences”, the PDP presidential candidate urged the international community.
He stressed that in April 2018, Buhari approved the purchase of Tucano Aircrafts for the Nigerian military at the sum of $496 million without seeking prior approval of the National Assembly, contrary to Section 80 (3) and (4) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), which states very clearly, how the President can spend monies belonging to the federation.
He said Section 80(3) states: “No money shall be withdrawn from the Consolidated Revenue Fund or any other public fund of the Federation, except in the manner prescribed by the National Assembly.
“(4) No monies shall be withdrawn from the Consolidated Revenue Fund or any other public fund of the Federation, except in the manner prescribed by the National Assembly.”
Atiku added that Buhari administration has serially violated court orders, going against the rule of law especially in three known cases, including that of former National Security Adviser (NSA), Col. Sambo Dasuki (rtd). He said that after various courts had granted him bail on at least six different occasions the Buhari-led government has persistently refused to comply with the court orders.
Also he said that the leader of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria, Ibrahim El-Zakzaky has been in detention without trial for over three years after his followers were massacred in broad daylight; his wife and family killed and his home burnt, in a gory and shameful show of brute force by the Nigerian Army.
Atiku said that on December 2, 2016, the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court presided by Justice Kolawole ordered the release of El-Zakzaky and berated the Nigerian government for violating his rights, but the order has been blatantly disobeyed.
He explained further that the Nigerian government through the National Economic Council (NEC), again in contravention of Section 80 (3) and (4) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), granted approval for the release of $1 billion from the Excess Crude Account (ECA), for the procurement of military hardware and other equipment to fight insecurity in the country, ahead of the 2019 General Elections without recourse to the National Assembly.
Atiku also lamented that the enactment of the controversial Executive Order No. 006, as an executive legislation, which permits security agencies to freeze the assets of persons standing trial or undergoing investigation without recourse to court orders.
This, according to him, was a usurpation of legislative and judicial powers of the National Assembly and the judiciary as enshrined respectively under sections 4 and 6 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and reminiscent of the military era of decrees.
Meanwhile, the Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs has stated that the fact that some foreign governments are helping to fund Nigeria’s elections does not give them the right to make unguarded comments about the forthcoming elections.
The ministry said this in a statement, which was also directed at the United States, the United Kingdom and the European Union which have all faulted President Buhari’s decision to suspend Onnoghen.
The federal government said Nigeria was also funding the elections of some other African countries but had not used that as a basis to interfere in their elections.
The statement read in part, “It is insulting for any foreign representative to claim the right to interference in Nigeria’s internal affairs based on the premise that its government has invested heavily in the election.
“Nigeria has invested enormously, over the years, in election processes of many African countries and will continue to do so without interfering in their internal affairs. Interference in Nigeria’s internal affairs under any guise will therefore not be accepted.