Falana: Buhari’s Anti-rule of Law Stance Emboldens Security Agencies on Illegality

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Femi Falana

Peter Uzoho

Human rights lawyer and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Mr. Femi Falana, has again criticised President Muhammadu Buhari for emboldening his cabinet members and security agencies through his defence of their unconstitutional actions against the judiciary and the citizens.

Falana also noted that Buhari’s current civilian administration was even more intolerant to the rule of law than his military regime, saying he obeyed court orders by releasing detainees then, unlike what is happening now.

In a statement issued yesterday in Lagos, titled: “How Buhari Military Regime Released Detainees Based on Court Orders,” the rights activist who went down memory lane on cases of abuse of power and suppression of citizens’ rights by past military rulers, added that “the embarrassing development is an irony because the dreaded Buhari military junta had complied with all orders of Nigerian courts for the release of political detainees and criminal suspects from custody.”

Citing the explanation given by the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami to Buhari’s disobedience of court orders, especially in the cases of Col. Sambo Dasuki and Sheikh Elzakzaky, Falana described such justification as shocking.

He said: “Apart from treating the orders of Nigerian courts with total contempt, the federal government has also ignored the orders of the Community Court of Justice with respect to the restoration of the civil liberties of Nigerian citizens.

“It is regrettable to note that since President Buhari openly defended such brazen contempt of court last year, the State Security Service and other security agencies have been emboldened in treating court orders for the release of political detainees and criminal suspects with disdain.

“Unknown to Nigerians, the recent violent invasion of the Federal High Court by armed SSS operatives was a crude protest against the ultimatum given by Justice Ifeoma Ojukwu for the release of Mr. Omoyele Sowore. Before then the security agency had threatened to report Justice Taiwo Taiwo for granting bail to Sowore.

“Apparently embarrassed by the armed invasion of the Federal High Court by the operatives of the SSS, the Attorney-General, Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN), announced last week that he had taken over the prosecution of the case and that the federal government would probe the incident.

“But Mr. Malami has turned round to say that he could not compel the security agency to comply with the orders of the Federal High Court for the release of Mr. Sowore on
bail.”

“The statement has clearly failed to take cognisance of the case of the State v Ilori (1983) JELR 51804 (SC) where the Supreme Court held that once an Attorney-General takes over a pending criminal case under Section 193 of the 1979 Constitution ( which is in pari materia with Section 174 of the 1999 Constitution) he “possesses the constitutional powers in full and the responsibility for any decision thereupon rests solely on him.”

“Having taken over the case, Malami cannot be permitted to allow the SSS to continue to flout the order of the federal high court.”

According to Falana, “by a twist of irony, President Buhari, who claims to be a “converted democrat” has openly justified disobedience of court orders under the pretext of protecting national security.

However, since the executive has no powers to set aside the decisions of the courts, the federal government ought to halt the subversion of the rule of law”.

He, however, urged lawyers and judges to rise and fight disobedience of court orders and other manifestations of the subversion of the rule of law by boycotting courts proceedings.

Falana also said that judges should be encouraged to exercise their inherent and statutory powers to enforce their judgments and deal with all acts of contempt of court.

He further advised the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) to discipline Attorneys-General and other lawyers who encourage governments to disobey court orders or who fail to comply with court orders.