SERAP Urges Buhari to Uphold Rule of Law

Muhammadu Buhari

Davidson Iriekpen

The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has urged President Muhammadu Buhari to make everyday of his second tenure in office a rule of law day.

SERAP’s Deputy Director, Mr. Kolawole Oluwadare, disclosed this in a statement issued in Abuja Wednesday.

He said the group had sent an open letter to the president ahead of Wednesday’s inauguration.

Oluwadare said the group message was centered on ensuring that every segment of Buhari’s administration daily operations is lawful and rule-of-law compliant.

“SERAP expresses serious concerns that the results of the ‘rule of law MOT’ in the past four years are uniquely damaging to your government’s fight against corruption and to the country.

“Making a public commitment to dedicate every day of your second term as a ‘Rule of Law’ day will help to ensure that decisions of our courts are fully obeyed, refocus, improve and reinforce the anti-corruption agenda.

“It will also serve as a reminder that no one has immunity from the law, not even the government,” he said.

Oluwadare said the deficits in the Rule of Law in the country have been particularly notable in three areas- failure to obey decisions of Nigerian courts, failure to push for transparency in asset declarations by high-ranking public officials.

“There is also failure to push for unexplained wealth orders against former presidents and former governors and other senior public officials suspected of living on proceeds of corruption and ‘dirty money,” he said.

He urged Buhari to use his second term in office to implement his oft-expressed commitment to the rule of law by immediately obeying decisions of Nigerian courts.

Oluwadare also urged the president to promote transparency in asset declarations by publishing widely, details of his assets declaration as well as encourage the vice president and all ministers to publish their asset declarations.

He said SERAP also want Buhari to immediately instruct his next Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice to pursue unexplained wealth court orders against all former presidents.

He said the order should also include former governors, former presidents of the Senate and former speakers of the House of Representatives.

He said that the action would force those suspected to be living on proceeds of corruption and ‘dirty money’ to reveal sources of their fortune or risk forfeiting it.

“Nigeria’s democracy ought to have as its foundation respect for human rights and the Rule of Law.

“Treating the decisions of Nigerian courts as not binding is antithetical to any contemporary notion of the Rule of Law and democracy, and clearly counter-productive to the fight against corruption.

“Ignoring or refusing to obey decisions of our courts is implicitly rendering the judiciary powerless to enforce constitutional and legal rights, violating separation of powers, undermining the rule of law, and raising questions on the government’s commitment to fight grand corruption,” he said.

Oluwadare said persistent disobedience of decisions of the courts by government had opened the way for many state governors to do the same within their states including using anti-media laws to suppress the civic space.

He said government had refused to obey court orders including at least two high-profile judgments obtained by SERAP.

He said the first is the judgment by Justice Hadiza Rabiu Shagari ordering government to tell Nigerians about the stolen asset it allegedly recovered, with details of the amounts recovered.

He said the second judgment is by Justice Mohammed Idris, ordering government to publish details on the spending of stolen funds recovered by successive governments since the return to democracy in 1999.

Oluwadare said that another court order which is yet to be complied with was the order for the release of Islamic Movement of Nigeria leader, Sheikh Ibrahim El-Zakzaky and his wife, Zeenah.