The North They Claim to Love So Much…

Hon. Yakubu Dogara

Ring True

By Yemi Adebowale;; 07013940521(text only)

Few days back, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, accused northern elders of not doing enough to end Boko Haram assault, attacks by killer herders and banditry in the region, contending that their conspiracy of silence fuelled the escalation of the challenges. Dogara wondered why the Borno elders that were so vocal during the Jonathan era suddenly became silent despite the escalation of Boko Haram attacks in the state.

I concur with Dogara, but it is not just the so called northern elders that have failed the North. Northerners who dominate security agencies and political appointments under President Muhammadu Buhari have failed the masses of the people in this hapless region of Nigeria.  It is a shame that the North they claim to love so much has continued to degenerate in the last four years. The power, wealth and positions they enjoy under Buhari have not translated into better life for their people. They are using them for their selfish interest, while the masses of the people wallow in pain and poverty. This region, on whose platform they climbed the ladder of progress, remains the poster boy of poverty in Nigeria; home to the highest number of out of school children; home to the highest infant and maternal mortality and all the negatives you can think of.

Boko Haram insurgency, killer herders and banditry have compounded the misery of this region. The situation is prevalent in Borno, Kaduna, Zamfara, Katsina, Sokoto, Yobe, Adamawa, Plateau, Nasarawa and Benue states. Virtually all the states in the North are in security mess, yet, their sons and daughters dominate Nigerian federal political appointments and head virtually all security agencies, posh departments and agencies.

An obviously depressed Dogara added: “Where are the leaders of Northern Nigeria, where this problem has become endemic? What are they saying? The truth is that if we don’t rise to the challenge, sooner than later, if things continue this way, we are not going to have a country. So, it is our responsibility to rescue Nigeria from the clutches of insecurity, because without security we cannot even understand the meaning of democracy.

“Now, the sad commentary about the elite in Nigeria is that we have all by our silence become enabler to those who have been unable to tackle this insecurity. And you know what enabler do? Enabler don’t build a country, they only instigate or worship an individual to a position where they will compare such a person with God and none of us was built to receive worship. Any human being who accepts worship will meet destruction. That is why we are witnessing destruction in Nigeria, because we have elevated some human beings to the status of God. And we need to rise up as a people to rescue the country from the clutches of insecurity.”

Dogara has spoken very well. I will go a step further. If these so called Northern elders truly love the North, I urge them to spend quality time reading the Human Rights Watch’s (HRW) World Report 2019 released few weeks back. I know pretty well that they have taken a decision on whom to back for President on February 16. Perhaps, reading this report will prick their conscience.

While reviewing insecurity in Nigeria in 2018, HRW blamed the Buhari government for its failure to ensure adequate protection for citizens and failure to hold the attackers accountable: “The government’s failure to ensure adequate protection for citizens and accountability for attacks is a clear indication of huge gaps in security. Nigerian authorities’ response to the heightened violence has led to little concrete and meaningful change. The failure of security forces to effectively respond to attacks and their use of lethal force against unarmed civilians are a troubling trend that needs to be addressed.”

It reported further that at least 1,200 people were killed and nearly 200,000 displaced by Boko Haram in 2018  while another 1,600 people were killed and 300,000 displaced as a result of inter-communal violence in the north central region in the same year.

The global human rights watchdog continued: “Abductions, suicide bombings, and attacks on civilian targets by Boko Haram continued (in 2018) despite proclamations of the group’s defeat by government forces. In June, herdsmen attacked villages in Plateau State, killing 86 people and injuring hundreds, including women and children, apparently in retaliation for an alleged earlier killing of five herdsmen by farmers. In September, suspected herdsmen killed 51 people and abducted about 24 others in Numan, Adamawa State.

“At least 45 people were killed in an attack by bandits in Gwaska village, Kaduna State, in May. Zamfara State was perhaps the worst affected by frequent bandit attacks, which killed at least 400 people and displaced over 38,000 in 2018.”

The attacks captured by HRW were just few of the massacres in the North in 2018. The previous three years were equally traumatic for residents of this region. Genuine patriots will evidently agree with the conclusion of Dogara that the 2019 election should be a referendum about insecurity and hunger in our land. Let us all shine our eyes.

Still on Onnoghen’s Suspension

Those clapping for President Muhammadu Buhari in his ongoing war against the purportedly suspended Chief Justice of Nigeria Justice Walter Onnoghen, always run away from the fact that the CCT order the President relied on to suspend the CJN remains an abnormality. How can a Tribunal that is yet to resolve its jurisdiction to hear a case, go on to issue an ex-parte order? This is an abnormality.

The law is very clear: Once the jurisdiction of a court is challenged, the only thing left for the court is to determine whether it has jurisdiction. The CCT, having its jurisdiction to try Onnoghen under question, lacks the power to grant any ex-parte order as done on January 23, without first determining whether it has jurisdiction. In the 2017 case of Attorney-General of the Federation Vs Attorney-General of Lagos State, the Supreme Court ruled: “There is no gainsaying that issue of jurisdiction is radical and a crucial point which when raised, is challenging the competence of the court to hear and determine the case. Any proceedings conducted by a court which does not have jurisdiction, no matter how well or brilliantly it was conducted, is a nullity.”

The CCT, without determining whether it has jurisdiction to try Onnoghen, progressed to give an unlawful order purporting to suspend the CJN. This is preposterous and a contempt of the law.

It is even more shocking to note that the same tribunal that sat on January 22 and adjourned to January 28, to rule on the preliminary objection of the CJN challenging its jurisdiction to try him without recourse to the NJC, contrary to the decision of the Court of Appeal in the case of Nganjiwa v FRN (2017), suddenly turned around on January 24, to grant an ex-parte order. What a country!

My dear President Buhari, there is nowhere in the Nigerian Constitution that says that the President can suspend the CJN based on the order of a court or tribunal. This is a dangerous precedent and a threat to our democracy. If we are not careful, very soon, a judge will give an order for your suspension too. I urge you to reverse your illegal action in the interest of our democracy. The CJN does not hold office at your pleasure. You need to be reminded that Onnoghen is not your appointee.

The issue at hand is not whether Onnoghen is corrupt or not. It is about respect for our constitution and the rule of law. It is about protecting our fragile democracy. The Nigerian constitution clearly indicates the process and procedure for suspending or removing the CJN. The law is very vibrant on how a CJN could be removed. Our dear President should abide by it in dealing with Onnoghen. He has violated the law in suspending Onnoghen. Buhari’s action is contrary to Section 153 of the 1999 constitution.

As for those singing that Onnoghen is corrupt and deserves to be dealt with, they should note that the right to presumption of innocence is firmly enshrined in Section 36(5) of our Constitution. Onnoghen is yet to be convicted by any court and remains innocent. It is outrageous to argue that Buhari can remove him anyhow, because he is corrupt.

On the flip side, I am happy that the NJC has queried Justice Tanko Muhammad, who accepted to be the CJN. A former President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Mr. Olisa Agbakoba (SAN), had petitioned the NJC, asking it to determine the propriety of Justice Muhammad’s acceptance of the position.

Agbakoba’s petition is thought-provoking. He said by submitting himself to the President to be sworn-in as acting CJN, Justice Muhammad lent himself to constitutional infraction by the executive arm of government.

Agbakoba recalled that Justice Muhammad was part of an NJC panel that sanctioned Justice Obisike Orji of Abia State for allowing himself to be sworn-in as Abia State Chief Judge by the state governor without the recommendation of the NJC.

Agbakoba said, “It is a matter of regret that Justice Muhammad, who participated in this process, will lend himself to this constitutional infraction.”

 “The Chief Justice of Nigeria can only be removed on the recommendation of the NJC. See Section 153 (1), Paragraph 21 (a) of the 3rd Schedule and Section 292 (1) (a) (i) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 and the Supreme Court decision in Elelu-Habeeb v AGF (2012) 40 WRN 1. Justice Muhammad is fully aware of the state of law, yet presented himself to be sworn in by the president.”

It is not too late for Buhari to reverse the suspension of Onnoghen and allow the NJC to carry out its constitutional responsibility. This is the only way forward for our country.

The Ruins of Rann

Rann, in Kala Balge Local Government Area of Borno State is now a ghost town. The inhabitants of Rann have been fleeing to Cameroon in droves since last Sunday following the withdrawal of the military from the town. They feared a massive renewed attack by Boko Haram, which eventually occurred on Monday night. 60 people were killed in the renewed attack by Boko Haram fighters.

According to figures from the United Nations, an estimated 30,000 people have fled across the border to Cameroon.

“All the population seems to be panicking and they are on the run as a preemptive measure to save their lives,” UN refugee agency spokesman, Babar Baloch told reporters in Geneva, Switzerland.

Over the years, inhabitants of Rann have been repeatedly attacked by Boko Haram, leaving hundreds of people dead. Even the IDP camp in the town had been attacked severally and aid workers killed. It is a big disgrace that they have to abandon their beloved Rann, due to the failure of government to guarantee their security. Inhabitants of so many other towns and villages in northern Borno State have also relocated to Cameroon due to government’s inability to secure their lives and property.

The war against Boko Haram is clearly sagging. The Nigerian government has failed the people of Borno State. All the lies about having defeated Boko Haram have fallen like a pack of cards. My position has not changed: The Nigerian military can’t tackle Boko Haram alone. They need external assistance from countries with strong military traditions. Any government genuinely interested in ending the Boko Haram mess must engage mercenaries from Israel, South Africa or Russia. This is the only way forward. Our gallant soldiers have done their best.