2023 General Elections In Nigeria And The Strains On The Rule Of Law317 views
By Joe-Kyari Gadzama, OFR, MFR, SAN
The implications of continued disobedience of court judgments and orders are that Nigeria is on the precipice of anarchy. This is an urgent cry to salvage our dear nation. It is unacceptable to ride roughshod over the court, which is the guardian of justice in this country. A democratic state founded on the rule of law cannot exist or function if the government routinely disregards and/or fails to comply with court orders.
With the forthcoming elections in February and March 2023, I cannot but reflect on the poem: “The Second Coming” by William Butler Yeats. This Poem holds great significance because its first four lines are a source of premonition, which I consider poignant. It says:
Turning and turning in the widening gyre,
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
And so, as the years have turned and turned, we are back to the circle of the General Elections. We now hear the high-pitched squeak of the falcons. A lot now runs through our minds: will the falconer hear the falcon; will the falcon no longer hear the falconer and glide to its natural abode? Will things fall apart? Will the centre hold? Or will mere anarchy be loosed upon us? These are the burning questions running through my mind.
I can only deduce from the daily reportage of politics and ancillary issues
, that same questions run through the minds of many Nigerians. Hence, while W.B Yeats intended his poem to communicate a different message which has not eluded me, and maybe others, our political culture and shenanigans have made it imperative for me to see his instant poem and appreciate same from the prism of our realities.
The Cracks in the Centre and the Replete Tales of Disregard for Rule of Law
The Prof Mahmood Yakubu Example
For perspective, on Wednesday 4th January 2023, it was reported by Daily Trust Newspaper that Justice M. A. Hassan of the FCT High Court refused to grant an application seeking to remove the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof Mahmood Yakubu from office over alleged false declaration of assets. The judge held that Prof Yakubu’s assets declaration was lawful, valid and in compliance with the law, and barred the Department of State Services (DSS), the Nigeria Police, and the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) from arresting the INEC Chairman. The DSS has denied any claim that it intends to arrest the INEC chairman. See the link: https://dailytrust.com/breaking-court-stops-dss-from-arresting-inec-chairman/
The Mr. Godwin Emefiele Example
For further perspective on the issue at hand, it was also reported recently that in Suit No FCT/HC/CV/GAR/41/2022, Justice M. A. Hassan of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) barred the DSS, amongst others, from arresting or detaining the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr. Godwin Emefiele, on trumped-up terrorism financing charges. According to the Judex, the DSS “acted wrongfully and illegally in instigating President Muhammadu Buhari against Mr. Godwin Emefiele in respect of his statutory duty relating to the issuance of monetary policies and directives in the interest of national security and economy.”
It was even further reported that the Judex declared that in view of the ruling of the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice John Tsoho, in State Security Service (SSS) vs Mr. Godwin Emefiele in suit no FHC/ ABJ/CS/ 2255/2022 delivered on December 15, 2022, “any continuous harassment, intimidation, threats, restriction and free movement, abuse of right of office, surreptitious moves to arrest, and humiliation of Mr. Godwin Emefiele over trumped up allegations of terrorism financing and fraudulent practices, etc., by the 2nd, 3rd and 4th respondents and their offices is vindictive, unwarranted, abrasive, oppressive and same constitute a flagrant breach of his rights to personal liberty, dignity and human person and illegal and unconstitutional.”
See the link: https://www.thisdaylive.com/index.php/2022/12/29/court-restrains-dss-others-from-arresting-emefiele-over-alleged-terrorism-financing/
The foregoing notwithstanding, there are presently claims that the DSS still plans to proceed, sidetrack, and disobey these court decisions and unduly and unlawfully interfere with Mr. Emefiele’s fundamental rights. As if to confirm this claims, on Monday, the 16th of January 2023, the media was agog with reports that the CBN Governor was arrested. Though a the DSS has since denied these allegations, these matrixes of events are quite worrisome given that they have grave implications for the rule of law in the Country.
Disobedience of Court Order
In 2022, there were many instances of contempt proceeding against top government agencies and parastatals. On 28th October 2022, the Chairman of the EFCC was initially found in contempt of the Order of Court dating as far back as 21st November 2018 and was ordered to be committed to Kuje Prison before the order of conviction and committal was vacated.
In the same vein, the Inspector General of Police was also found in contempt of an order of court dating as far back as 21 October 2011 and was ordered by Justice Mobolaji Olajuwon of the Federal High Court, Abuja, to be committed to prison for three months. Again, the Court thereafter vacated the order.
The Chief of Army Staff was also said to be in contempt of the order of court made on October 12, 2022, and was in a ruling delivered on November 30 ordered to be remanded in prison by the Chief Judge of Niger State, Hon. Justice Halima Ibrahim Abdulmalik. Whether or not the order should have been granted and who will enforce same after it has been granted, are posers that must be answered. It is also not immediately and publicly verifiable that the said order is validly subsisting and whether the same had been vacated.
The Police Disregard for Due Process and the Recent Killings, Omobolanle as a Reference Point
The Police have been immersed in controversies and unlawful killings in recent times. The most recent of these killings is the report that on December 25, 2022, an Assistant Superintendent of Police, Drambi Vandi, allegedly cre a 41-year-old pregnant female lawyer, Omobolanle Raheem, in the Ajah area of Lagos. Under Police Force Order 237, a police officer is only authorized to ‘shoot’ suspects and detainees who attempt to flee or avoid arrest. It is thus illegal to kill anyone unless the “killing” is authorized, justified, or excused by law.
The reason why this calls for alarm is that the police are statutorily empowered chiefly to protect lives and property and maintain public peace and order. These are crucial elements ahead of and beyond the 2023 General Election. We cannot afford to have a police force with utter disdain for due process and the rule of law, whose actions are antithetical to the mandates for its creation.
HOW THE CENTRE CAN HOLD; THE NEED TO REINFORCE RULE OF LAW
The instances of disobedience of court orders have become one too many. It is a ticking time-bomb waiting to explode the reigns of anarchy if not checked soon
The Virtues of Rule of Law
Of all legal sins unpardonable, a rape of the sacred principle of rule of law is the most unpardonable. For what is rule of law when it holds sway at a man’s whims and caprices? That would spell doom. That would be walking the very precipice of destruction. For rule of law must reign and rule supreme, never selective, never bending, it must apply to all as it should apply; and must be complied with by all, lest “anarchy is loosed upon the world”
As I stated at the 2022 Maiden Armed Forces and Other Security Agencies Law Conference, “the rule of law, at all times, must prevail. We must have good laws, institutions and processes in place to ensure equality, accountability, stability, and access to justice for all. We cannot be selective as to when, where, how and against whom the rule of law must prevail against. The rule of law must be organic. It must have a life of its own, thriving on good laws and institutions. We must not only ensure that the rule of law prevails, but that it is manifestly seen to prevail. Indeed, it is only when the rule of law prevails that there can ultimately be respect for human rights.”
It, therefore, behoves that the government’s ultimate duty is upholding rule of law. In ridding society of menace, the government and its law enforcement agencies must wear a moral and legal compass to guide against constituting the very menace they seek to cure.
I must admit that no society can exist without a framework of social organization. Social control is necessary to protect a person against himself as well as to save society from chaos. If we are not to slide into anarchy, then the Rule of Law must be both the process through which a social order can be established and sustained, and the wheels on which the framework for social organization and justice must roll.