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Goodbye to the culture of impunity

By Ayo OyozeBaje
12 April 2023   |   3:12 am
One of the most significant factors that define and drive the engine of democratic processes is respect for the rule of law. That explains why constitutions are drafted and approved, with the aims and objectives to protect human rights and freedom of association and expression. In its full essence, the Constitution prevents the government and its…

President-Muhammadu Buhari and Minister of Finance Zainab Shamsuna Ahmed.

One of the most significant factors that define and drive the engine of democratic processes is respect for the rule of law. That explains why constitutions are drafted and approved, with the aims and objectives to protect human rights and freedom of association and expression. In its full essence, the Constitution prevents the government and its officials from abusing power.

It also specifies the functions of the arms of government, be it the executive, the legislature and the judiciary. As for the 1999 constitution of Nigeria (as amended) it is predicated on promoting the principles, norms and ethos of democracy.

With it, Nigerians are supposed to be separated far from “The law of the jungle” which as an expression has come to describe a scenario where “anything goes”. In fact, the Oxford English Dictionary defines the Law of the Jungle as “the code of survival in jungle life, now usually with reference to the superiority of brute force or self-interest in the struggle for survival”.

Sad to note however, that under the turbulent, eight-year-long tenure of the outgoing President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration, there have been several breaches of the constitution by some politicians within the corridors of power, dovetailing towards the personalization of political power. And just like it is rightly reflected in the above-stated quote by Festus Ogun, that unpatriotic act eventually spells “doom and disaster” for the nation and its people.

In retrospect, a few weeks ago Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) in Nigeria including Transition Monitoring Group (TMG), Transparency International (TI) and the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) stated that the naira policy only affected the poor, adding that small scale businesses have been killed. Specifically, speaking on behalf of the groups, Awwal Musa Rafsanjani, said that President Buhari must take the blame for the failure and the hardship imposed on Nigerians. Also, a senior lawyer, Dr. Emma Okah, told President Muhammadu Buhari to own up to his faults in the mismanagement of the crisis caused by the scarcity of naira notes.

According to the CSOs, even when the minister of finance, Zainab Ahmed, said she was not aware of the policy, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor Godwin Emefiele said President Muhammadu Buhari gave the directives. But as the situation climaxed, Buhari washed his hands clean of the naira mess. Does he always admit to blame? There are doubts to that.

Listed amongst the blatant violations of the constitution in the period under review include the purported suspension of CJN Onnoghen on Friday, January 25, 2019, and the immediate appointment and swearing in of Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad, as the new acting Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN).

Next was the illegal purchase of the Tucano aircraft for the Nigerian Military at $496 million (Four Hundred and Ninety-Six Million United States Dollars). That was when President Buhari in April 2018 unilaterally approved the purchase without seeking prior approval of the National Assembly contrary to Section 80 (3) and (4) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).

Another querulous issue that made the news headlines was the illegal detention of Col. Sambo Dasuki (Former National Security Adviser). That was despite various courts granting bail on at least six different occasions. That included the Federal High Court in Abuja presided by Justice Adeniyi Ademola in 2015.There was also the ECOWAS Court presided by Honorable Justice F.C. Nwoke on October 4 2016.

In a similar vein, Ibraheem El-Zakzaky, leader of the Shiite Group, IMN was held in detention without trial for over 3years. That was after some of his followers were massacred in broad daylight in addition to his wife and family members killed and his home razed to rubble! Though on December 2, 2016 the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court presided by Justice Kolawole ordered the release of Sheikh El-Zakzaky and berated the Nigerian government for violating his rights, Buhari’s government turned a deaf ear!

Beyond the acts of brutality was the failure of the president to transmit power to Vice-President Prof. Yemi Osinbajo when he embarked on medical vacation. By virtue of Section 145(1)(2) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 2011 as amended, the president is under a constitutional duty to always transmit power but did he do so?

Instead, he went further to violate the Nigerian Constitution and the Armed Forces Act Cap A20, Vol. 1, LFN, 2004 by appointing new service chiefs without the approval of the National Assembly. According to much-respected lawyer and human rights activist, Mr Femi Falana, (SAN) the appointments remained inchoate since the president did not forward the names of the proposed service chiefs to the legislature for approval.

With all these clear violations of constitutional provisions, it was little of a surprise when few days before President Muhammadu Buhari met the then American counterpart, Donald Trump, in Washington DC, the United States government released a report indicting the administration of the Nigerian leader of the festering human rights abuses in the country. That was in April, 2018.

The US Department of State in its “Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2017” blamed the reluctance of the Buhari administration to properly investigate allegations of abuses, especially by members of the armed forces and top officials and prosecute those indicted as the main impediment to fighting rights violations. But that was again taken with a pinch of salt!

Still, under his watch, some concerned members of the public were aghast when Godwin Emefiele, the Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), came under scrutiny with allegations of engaging in partisan politics, while still in office. The insinuation went further of the possibility of him clinching the ticket of the APC, and for whom an APC Expression of Interest and Nomination Form for the Office of President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, in the sum of One Hundred Million Naira, was bought (allegedly by millionaire farmers). There was suspicion of him becoming a registered member of APC as far back as February 2021. Wonders, as they say will never end.

These are in violation of Section 1(3) of the CBN Act that establishes the CBN relating to its independence. Others include the Central Bank of Nigeria Act, No 7 of 2007, Cap C4, Vol I, Revised Laws of the Federation of Nigeria (LFN) 2004. That is in addition to the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act, Cap. C 15, Vol. II, Revised LFN, 2004 and Public Service Rules, 2008 Edition.Law.

One’s deep concern therefore, is that cumulatively, such insidious acts perpetrated to serve the leaders’ personal whims and caprices at the expense of the national interest of the state must not continue beyond May 29, 2023. Our political leaders- at the local, state and federal government levels- must learn to strictly abide by the dictates of democracy which they swear to on the swearing in day, in the national interest.

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