- The polls show that there is growing disapproval among citizens
A survey by a national daily showed that majority of those polled perceive President Muhammadu Buhari’s government as contemptuous of the rule of law because of its refusal to obey court orders. The commentators heaped blame on the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Alhaji Abubakar Malami, SAN, for failing to guide the President and the Federal Government to obey the provisions of the 1999 constitution, which they all swore to obey.
We agree that disobedience of court orders is an attack on the rule of law, which is the fulcrum of a democratic government. We also consider it an aberration that a government elected on the principle of change from the mendacious ways of the past regimes, would descend to the bad old days of despotism. We therefore urge the government to immediately release all those unlawfully detained, in obedience to court orders.
The most recent of such abuse is the continued detention of Omoyele Sowere of the #RevolutionNow movement, despite an order of a Federal High Court presided over by Justice Taiwo Taiwo for his release. Ironically, the Department of State Security (DSS), which is holding the activist against the order of the court, relied on the same court to gain a cover to detain the activist for the first 45 days. Yet, when the court ordered his release, after the detention period had expired, there were reports that the agency was even threatening the judge, for making the order.
Such flagrant contempt for the rule of law must be condemned by all and sundry, especially the gallant Nigerians who fought hard to return the country to constitutional democracy. Apart from Sowore, the Federal Government has in its custody other Nigerians who are unlawfully detained, despite the order of courts granting them bail. They include the leader of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria, Ibraheem El-Zakzaky, and his wife, Zeenat, who were granted bail by the court since December 3, 2016.
There is also the overbeaten case of the former National Security Adviser (NSA), Col. Sambo Dasuki (rtd), accused of illegal possession of arms and mismanaging the $2.1 billion earmarked for purchase of arms during the regime of President Goodluck Jonathan. Regardless of the perception of government about the enormity of charges against him, the courts have several times granted him bail, which the DSS refused to obey. In December 2015, the former NSA was granted bail, and shortly after perfecting same, he was again arrested.
Eminent civil rights lawyer Femi Falana, also listed a number of persons in detention without trial, despite an order of court granting them bail. Falana petitioned the National Human Rights Commission that Navy Captain Dada Labinjo and 66 others have been in illegal detention since September 12, 2018, despite a court order. As pointed out, such unlawful action has domino effect on the flow of foreign investment in Nigeria.
Falana noted that he knows of: “not less than five companies that wanted to invest in Nigeria, but decided otherwise because Buhari said publicly last year that national security had to take precedence over the rule of law in the country.” Also in custody is a Port Harcourt-based journalist, Jones Abiri, who has been in detention since July 21, 2016. A report says members of his family and doctors are not allowed access to him, at his detention facility.
We consider it an abuse of power, for a democratically elected government to ignore the clear provisions of the 1999 constitution on fundamental human rights, by detaining its citizens despite the order of courts for their release. We urge the Nigerian Bar Association and the judiciary to rise up and stop this aberration.