The attention of the International Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law (Intersociety) is again drawn to a recent presidential request for legitimization of emergency powers which it magisterially and tyrannically arrogated to itself since September 2015. President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration has since September 2015 castrated the 1999 Constitution and illegally arrogated sweeping extra constitutional powers to itself in the governance of the country; upon which it now seeks for legislative legitimization through retroactive legislation or legislative cementation by way of executive sponsored bill. Our advocacy attention to latest executive lawlessness was drawn by the authorities of the Trent Online News. Since the inception of Gen Muhammadu Buhari’s administration on 29th May 2015, time-bombs abound and the instant case is one of them.
We wish to remind all Nigerians and members of the international community that Major General Muhammadu Buhari (as he then was) had on 31st day of December 1983 violently unseated or overthrew the democratically elected government of Alhaji Aliyu Shehu Shagari and swiftly suspended the 1979 Constitution through enactment of emergency decrees, leading to arrogation to himself of motley of emergency powers and other extra constitutional responsibilities. To ensure this, the 1979 Constitution particularly its hallowed principles of Fundamental Human Rights and Rule of Law were wickedly suspended. Some of the emergency and extra constitutional powers so wickedly arrogated were Decree 2 of 1984 (indiscriminate long detention of persons without trial) and Decree 4 of 1984 (castration of media freedom and right to freedom of expression). Following this, what was left as “the 1979 Constitution of the Military Regime” was nothing but a tissue paper.
As if that was not enough, barely three months into the Buhari’s civilian Presidency in August 2015, one of Gen Muhammadu Buhari’s staunchest allies, Dr. Yakubu Lame; a former Minister of Police Affair, went public and called for emergency powers and other extra constitutional measures for President Muhammadu Buhari for “speedy fight against corruption”. Despite wide condemnations trailing Dr. Yakubu Lame including strong suspicions and accusations that his call was “a voice of Jacob and a hand of Esau” (i.e. influenced by the Presidency); the Buhari administration went on rampage and executively abandoned and suppressed fundamental provisions of the 1999 Constitution particularly the Chapter Four and constitutional liberties; the rule of law principles and key provisions of the Chapter Two (i.e. Federal Character Principle). He also governed the country for 150 days without a cabinet or Federal Executive Council. The advocacy position taken then by Intersociety is contained in the following link (http://www.newsexpressngr.com/news/13901-Follow-the-1999-Constitution-or-resign-Buhari-told-Intersociety-dismisses-call-for-emergency-powers).
Since then, it has been one form of gross violation of the fundamental provision of the constitution or the other till date. Under current Buhari’s Presidency, citizens are arrested with reckless abandon and thrown into long detention without trial or even charge, with many of them detained for over 90 days, which is unknown to the 1999 Constitution. Conducts clearly unknown to the Constitution are presidentially carried out for long before resorting to retroactive legislation for the purpose of their legitimization. For instance, not minding that there is no Act of National Assembly is place backing the so called “compulsory National Grazing and Grazing Reserves for Fulani Nomads in Nigeria”, yet the Presidency has since gone ahead in compelling States to cede lands among others.
Further, despite the clear provisions of Sections 1 (supremacy of the Constitution), 10 (secularity of Nigeria and non-State religion), 9 (legislative process of amending the 1999 Constitution), 14(3) (geopolitical balance in federal appointments and allocation of federal resources) and Chapter Four (constitutional liberties) of the 1999 Constitution, the Buhari administration has violated them with reckless abandon and rabid impunity. That is to say that it has also for so long subjected the sacred provisions of the 1999 Constitution to irreparable mockery and damnation. The Administration has dangerously and riotously become an extra constitutional administrator of Nigeria since September 2015. What it therefore seeks in the name of “executive emergency powers bill”, is to legitimize what it has already started. That is to say that it does not matter to the Buhari Presidency whether its wicked and unpopular bill sails through legislatively because it only seeks for its legitimization through retroactive legislation.
For the purpose of putting the records straight, we have critically and clinically studied all reasons and arguments made by the Presidency upon which it is seeking for “emergency presidential powers” whether for economic reasons or otherwise and have come to empirical conclusion that the reasons and arguments are dictatorial, tyrannical, undemocratic and grossly unconstitutional. Whatever that bedevils Nigeria governance wise under the Buhari administration, is self invited and does not require the so called “emergency presidential powers” as a solution.
That is to say that even if a four-year state of emergency is declared in Nigeria today under Buhari administration, no iota of the unfolding teething problems affecting the country can be solved. In all these, what shocks us is that Vice President, Yomi Osibanjo who is a professor of law, Senior Advocate of Nigeria and pastor of a Pentecostal Church, is being fingered as the arrow head of the referenced presidential infamy. Dry quest for political power has not only unmade great minds, but also made professors of professionalism to become professors of tyranny and divided societies.
We hereby wish to state for the records that any form of “presidential emergency powers” under the 1999 Constitution and Nigeria’s multi-cultured and party democracy is expressly unconstitutional and another invitation to anarchy. By Section 1 of the 1999 Constitution as well the laid down precedents and conventions (i.e. decided cases), the 1999 Constitution is supreme and the primus inter pares of any other law in Nigeria; followed by the African Charter on Human & People’s Rights (ACHPR) (in matters of human rights and citizens liberties). The third in rank are the Acts of the National Assembly of Nigeria and other administrative enactments (federal administrative laws). The fourth in rank are the Laws of the State and their administrative enactments, while the fifth in rank are the Local Government Edits/Bylaws. These (except ACHPR) are clearly provided under Section 4 of the 1999 Constitution. In the case of ACHPR, the Supreme Court verdict in Chief Gani Fawehimni versus Abacha (2000) is a leading case in point.
Further, by Section 9 of the 1999 Constitution, the National Assembly of Nigeria, comprising 109 members of the Senate and 360 members of the House of Reps; is empowered to amend any provision of the 1999 Constitution including Chapter Four (Fundamental Human Rights) which requires four-fifths majority of all members of the National Assembly and two-thirds majority of the 36 State Houses of Assembly. Also by Section 315 of the 1999 Constitution, “an existing law (an Act of the National Assembly or a Law of the State including Decree or Edit) shall have effect with such modifications as may be necessary to bring it into conformity with the provisions of this Constitution”.
Going by the foregoing therefore, it is obvious that the Buhari Administration is steadily and dangerously promoting presidential parochialism, primordialism, anarchy and lawlessness by seeking sweeping and teething emergency powers using economy as a disguise. By the foregoing analysis, we make bold to say that (1) President Muhammadu Buhari does not need any emergency power to wriggle himself and his administration of the mess it has put the entire country into, (2) emergency powers are traditionally dictatorial and tyrannical and must not be allowed legislatively to rear its ugly head on the polity, (3) there are a lot of laws on public economic management in Nigeria begging for executive attention, (4) Section 305 of the 1999 Constitution is enough to take care of emergencies in Nigeria, (4) any emergency power so granted Mr. President, be it for “emergency economic intervention” or under any other guise will expressly conflict with the 1999 Constitution, which amounts to anarchy and lawlessness (5) if for any reason, Mr. President finds the country’s economic policy’s laws inadequate, the specific laws can be amended; and not by seeking suspicious and spurious emergency powers; and (6) the major option or solution left for the Buhari Administration in the country’s current social, political, security and economic doldrums is for the Administration to reverse and demilitarize itself. That is to say that Nigeria can never develop and progress under current socio-political turbulence and well coordinated and orchestrated regime atrocities.
For: International Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law (Intersociety)
Emeka Umeagbalasi(Criminologist & Graduate of Security Studies)
Mobile Line: +2348174090052
Obianuju Igboeli, Esq., (LLB, BL)
Head, Civil Liberties & Rule of Law Program
Mobile Line: +2348034186332