By Yemi Adebowale; firstname.lastname@example.org; 07013940521
The bloody protests by members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN), popularly known as Shiites, in Abuja this week did not come as a surprise to me. I saw it coming. I have repeatedly warned key actors of this government but they care less. The IMN members marched violently on the National Assembly on Tuesday to protest the detention of their leader, Ibrahim El-Zakzaky who had been incarcerated along with his wife, Zeenatudeen since 2015. The ensuing fracas between the Shiite sect members and policemen at the entrance of the National Assembly led to the death of a police officer and some members of the movement.
This government is clearly not being advised appropriately on the El-Zakzaky’s case. The Buhari government is playing with another time bomb. Nigeria can’t afford this, while still battling Boko Haram, ISWA, killer herders, bandits and kidnappers. A political solution is pertinent, with subsisting court orders obeyed instantly. That has always been my position. The pro-Iranian cleric has been in the custody of the DSS since 2015 after clashes between soldiers and his followers in Kaduna left 347 of his supporters dead. Dragging theShiite leader and his wife to a court in Kaduna on charges of culpable homicide and unlawful assembly is absolutely unnecessary. This is a dangerous game.
El-Zakzaky has remained in detention despite being granted bail by a court in Abuja. Recall that Justice Gabriel Kolawole had on December 2, 2016, granted bail to the fiery Islamic leader, along with his wife, and imposed a fine of N50 million on the federal government for the incarceration of the duo. The Nigerian Army and the Kaduna State Government had demolished and set their residence on fire on December 15, 2015. As a result, the court also ordered the federal government to provide them a suitable accommodation. But this regime has refused to obey the court orders. This is the injustice members of the movement have been fighting against since 2015.
The Shiites, who had in April threatened to change tactics in their demand for the release of their leader and his wife, confirmed this with the fierce clash with security agents at the National Assembly on Tuesday. They could not endure the tragedy that El-Zakzaky remains in custody despite multiple court rulings approving his freedom.
For me, this government should be thinking more about a political solution to this El-Zakzaky quagmire instead of holding him endlessly and disobeying the court. His supporters have been causing chaos on the streets of Abuja since 2015. The protest on Tuesday was gory. It could explode into something more dangerous if El-Zakzaky is convicted and sentenced to death. I share the sentiments of the former Ambassador of the United States of America to Nigeria, John Campbell, who cautioned the federal government to thread carefully in the way it was handling the El-Zakzaky case, warning that his ongoing trial could worsen the nation’s insecurity. Of course, it is already happening. Let’s hope his supporters are not forced to become guerillas like Boko Haram.
In a piece posted on the website of the American think-tank, the Council on Foreign Relations, Campbell said: “El-Zakzaky claims to have followers ranging from a few thousand to three million. Whatever IMN’s numbers, it has demonstrated the ability to shut down Abuja, if only for a few days at a time. Were El-Zakzaky to be tried, convicted, and executed – the worst-case scenario – Abuja could very well face the ‘black swan’ of an insurrection.”
The former envoy also pointed out alleged similarities between the way the founder of Boko Haram, Mohammed Yusuf, was treated and the manner El-Zakzaky’s case was being handled, cautioning that Nigeria could have something similar to the Boko Haram insurrection.
El-Zakzaky’s health should be of concern to genuine patriots. He is in his mid-sixties and has lost one eye, following the 2015 clash. If he dies in detention, the consequences will be horrendous for this country. “His health has been fading and if you had an opportunity to see him today, it is obvious and clear. He needed a stick to get around. El-Zakzaky’s eyesight is poor. His wife walks with a stick; she was shot severely on her leg,” his lawyer, Maxwell Kyon, remarked after his appearance in court last year.
Kyon said it was the first time he had been able to talk to El-Zakzaky after the court ordered that the cleric should have access to his legal team: “We were only able to speak with him and his wife for a period of five to ten minutes.”
El-Zakzaky’s lawyer, Femi Falana aptly adds: “In the checkered history of Nigeria, this is the first time that a democratically elected government has openly justified the detention of any citizen in defiance of a valid and subsisting order of a competent court of law. Even under the Buhari/Idiagbon military junta, court orders which directed that victims of the obnoxious Detention of Persons Decree No 2 of 1984 be released from illegal custody were complied with… Since the federal government continues to proclaim loudly that it operates under the rule of law, it cannot be permitted to treat court orders with disdain. To that extent, El-Zakzaky and his wife must be released from the illegal custody of the State Security Service since the federal high court has dismissed the official claim that they are held in protective custody.”
Clearly, President Muhammadu Buhari and Governor Nasir el-Rufai must have been listening to the counsel of the forces of darkness on this El-Zakzaki case. These evil forces care less if the country is plunged into another insurgency. Nigeria can’t afford additional insurrection. It is not too late for Buhari and el-rufai to retrace their steps, obey court orders and embrace a political solution to the El-Zakzaky issue.
Needless Trip to Cairo By FG Delegation
I am still struggling to understand why President Buhari approved that an 11-man delegation led by President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, should go to Egypt and cheer the Super Eagles at the second round of the ongoing African Cup of Nation. I often wonder how funds for jamborees come out so easily in Nigeria while those for vital things like health and education get trapped in government vaults. This nonsensical trip to Cairo was absolutely unnecessary and a waste of public fund. Sending a special delegation to a team in the second round of a competition is absolute garbage. Such a waste of public funds must not be seen happening in a country that has become the global poster boy of poverty. The amount of money that went into this needless trip is a closely guided secret. The figure I am seeing is shocking.
Did anybody hear of President Donald Trump sending a delegation to France to cheer the United States football team at the recent final of the FIFA women’s world cup? Neither did the Prime Minister of Netherland that also made it to the final. Things like these don’t happen in decent societies. Our leaders are unwilling to lead us out of this inglorious club of under-developed countries.
It is appalling that Buhari was able to quickly constitute a federal government delegation to Cairo, whereas, families and communities traumatised by Boko Haram, herders, kidnappers and bandits, hardly see such delegations coming to condole with them.
Honestly, I will like to see Buhari’s delegation visiting families and communities devastated by terrorists and connecting with them. As I pen this piece, families and colleagues of the two Chinese expatriates abducted last week in Benin, Edo State, are distressed. They work with a glass and aluminium company in the city. The police orderly attached to the victims was killed during the operation.The family and friends of Bashir Zubayr, a consultant with Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital, are also troubled. Zubayr was abducted along Lokoja-Okene federal highway in Kogi state, alongside two of his younger brothers and a younger sister at Irepeni, about 20 kilometres from Lokoja. They were traveling to Okene for the 40th dayFidau prayer of their late mother.Residents of some communities in the Kankara Local Government Area of Katsina State are still mourning the 11 people killed on Wednesday by bandits. 16 persons were also murdered in the Danmusa Local Government Area of the state. I would love to see a Presidential delegation visiting these communities and consoling the bereaved instead of a lavish and pointless trip to Cairo.
Double Injustice Done to Ademola Adeleke
The injustice done to the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party in the 2018 Osun State governorship election remains unprecedented in the history of this country. INEC sided with the All Progressives Congress. After doing all the counting, Adeleke won. What our notorious INEC did was to illegally cancel elections that had already been declared in seven polling units. A compromised rerun was ordered and the APC candidate, Adegboyega Oyetola, was given a tainted victory.
Adeleke ran to the court for justice. That is what the courts are supposed to dish out. He got one at the Election Tribunal level. At the Appeal Court, majority of the judges chose to focus on technicalities instead of serving justice. Majority gave Oyetola another polluted victory.
The most painful of all these polluted victories was the 5 – 2 verdict in favour of Oyetola by the Supreme Court last week. I was expecting judges at that level to act differently. It did not happen. They were talking about technicalities instead of serving justice to Adeleke.
The majority judgment was that the verdict of the Tribunal had been rendered invalid by the absence of one of the judges on February 6, while witnesses 12 and 13 testified for Adeleke.
The majority decision, delivered by Justice Bode Rhodes-Vivour, agreed with the lower court that the absence of Justice Peter Obiorah, who delivered the lead judgment, from the proceedings of February 6, was fatal to the case of the appellants.
They ruled that the entire majority judgment at the Tribunal was a nullity, because it was written and delivered by Justice Obiorah, who did not participate in the February 6 proceedings of the tribunal where vital documents relating to the election were tendered and when vital witnesses gave evidence.
The Supreme Court held that having not attended the February 6 sitting, Justice Obiorah did not see the two witnesses and was unable to examine their demeanour, as required, “and therefore, it was unlawful for the judge to have authored a judgment in which he reviewed the evidence given by the witnesses.”
So, how was the nonappearance of Justice Obiorah at the Tribunal on February 6, 2019, the business of Adeleke? Was he the one that told him not to appear on that day? Besides, a quorum was formed before the Tribunal sat on that day, while members got proceedings of the Tribunal, whether they appeared or not.
Justice Kummai Akaahs and Justice Paul Galinje deserve commendations for serving justice in their minority judgement. These men ignored technicalities and focused on ending the injustice done to Adeleke.
They dismissed the conclusion in the majority judgment that Obiorah was absent on February 6, adding that even if the issue was to be legally resolved, the respondents ought to file an affidavit to challenge the record of proceedings of February 6.
They further said that the findings of the majority judgment was based on conjecture and a well-articulated speculation, by relying on certified true copy of the tribunal’s proceedings instead of the original record. The minority judgment also held that cancelation of election in seven polling units of four local government area of Osun by a returning officer of INEC was illegal, unlawful and unconstitutional, adding that by section 179 of the 1999 constitution, Adeleke who scored highest votes in the main election and fulfilled the section ought to have been declared winner of the election.
“INEC is supposed to be an unbiased umpire, cancelling election by a returning officer is not allowed by law,” ruled Akaahs and Galinje.
The minority judgment further accused INEC of using inconclusiveness in election to perpetrate fraud and “to do what it wants, even when it is illegal.”
This is the justice five other members of the Supreme Court failed to serve. The names of justices Akaahs and Galinje remain evergreen for standing by justice.