Sunday, 2 April 2017
News Release: How Personal Legal Opinions And Biases Fuel Presidential Recklessness And Blunders In Nigeria
It is the firm position of International Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law that there must be immediate end to institutionalization and cementation of personal legal opinions and biases in Nigeria or any part thereof; particularly in matters of presidential and gubernatorial conducts and policy directions affecting the entire population of over 174million people.
Nigeria as a Federal Republic or a Federation is clearly, fundamentally and elementarily governed by a set of laws parented by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999, as amended in February 2011. In a society thoroughly designed to be governed by a set of laws parented by the Constitution, such as Nigeria, personal legal opinions and biases must be controlled and quarantined to public discourse, awareness, academic debates and court-room proceedings. They must not be allowed to impeach the Constitution or usurp the powers and functions of the Attorney General of the Federation and courts of superior records in Nigeria or any part thereof.
In Nigeria, how these laws parented by the 1999 Constitution are obeyed and enforced by all authorities and persons including those holding judicial, executive and legislative powers are clearly spelt out in the same 1999 Constitution, likewise their orders of precedence and seniority. For the avoidance of doubt, legislative powers (including creation, amendment and repealing) of the Federation or Federal Republic of Nigeria are vested in the National Assembly of the Federation. This is by virtue of Section 4 of Nigeria’s 1999 Constitution, while its subsection 7 vested in the House of Assembly of a State power to make laws for order, peace and good governance of its legislative territory.
By Section 5 of the 1999 Constitution, the executive powers of the Federation are vested in the hands of the President and his or her cabinet or executive council members; and those of the State are vested in the hands of the Governor and members of his or her executive council. This is by virtue of subsection 2 of Section 5. The judicial powers of the Federation are vested in the judicial courts led by the Supreme Court of Nigeria, while the judicial powers of a State are vested in the State High Courts headed by the Chief Judge of a State. This is by virtue of Section 6 and its subsection 2 of Nigeria’s 1999 Constitution.
Further, by orders of precedence and seniority, all other laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria are governed by and subject to the 1999 Constitution. This is by virtue of Sections 1 (1), (3) and 315 of Nigeria’s 1999 Constitution. By Section 315 of the same Constitution, existing laws of the Federation and of the States/LGAs must be brought in conformity or in line with the provisions of the 1999 Constitution by way of amendments or modifications. By Section 9 of the 1999 Constitution, the National Assembly of Nigeria is solely empowered to alter any provision of the 1999 Constitution, but under strict procedures and processes.
By the provisions of Nigeria’s 1999 Constitution, no other law(s) in Nigeria can rise at par or above the provisions of the Constitution. This is in accordance with Sections 1(1) & (3) and 315 of the 1999 Constitution; and by Section 4 (5) of the same Constitution, the law of a State can never rise at par or above the existing Act of the National Assembly.
The judicial interpretational powers of all laws in Nigeria including its Constitution of 1999 are vested in the courts of superior records (i.e. High Courts, Appeal Court and Supreme Court) with clearly prescribed orders of seniority, supremacy and procedures.
The power of the Chief Law Officer of the Federal Republic of Nigeria or the Federation; particularly in matters of unbiased, sound and public oriented legal opinions as well as respect and enforcement of the rule of law and governance policies and procedures and chief crime prosecutor; are clearly vested in the hands of the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice/Government of the Federation. This is by virtue of Sections 150 and 174 of Nigeria’s 1999 Constitution.
By convention and Nigeria’s 1999 Constitution, laws of the Federation and of a State parented by Nigeria’s 1999 Constitution are never written or designed for lawyers alone particularly the Silk and the Bench. All laws meant to be operational and enforceable in Nigeria or any part thereof; are written in clearest and simplest language and wording with accompanied understandable meanings and modes of interpretation that are of international standards. In other words, our laws are written in black and white for common understanding of every citizen of the country or through his or her legal or social guardian.
Also, by convention, where laws are written in clearest language and wording, legal technicalities, jargons, gimmickry, manipulations and strenuous and uncouth legal arguments and opinions are permanently nailed in the coffin. Modern words of law are traditionalized in the concept of law as it is and law as it ought to be. These are commonly referred to as spirit and letters of the law or the constitution. While the letter of the law is the literal meaning or interpretation of the law, the spirit of letter is the understanding of intention of the maker of the law or what it intended to achieve specifically, generally and socio-legally. To serve the real purpose of its creation, there must be community reading, understanding and enforcement of the spirit and letters of the law.
Law is nothing but codified sanction code and written rules and regulations governing a democratic society for the purpose of preventing anarchy and dictatorship and ensuring steady growth and development of the society including greatest happiness for greatest number of citizens of such society at all times. Conventions and precedents are literally invoked to fill any loophole created by absence of law in black and white. Part of this is commonly called “Doctrine of Necessity”.
We at Intersociety are, therefore, deeply concerned and worried over mindless and rapacious institutionalization and cementation of personal legal opinions and biases in the art of public governance in Nigeria particularly since June 2015. Apart from clear takeover of the constitutional powers and functions of the Attorney General of the Federation by some lawyers particularly those holding the non academic title of “Senior Advocates of Nigeria”, such personal legal opinions and biases have gravely emboldened the Presidency of Nigeria and forced same to partly or wholly abandon the Constitution and laid down conventions in its marathon race of executive recklessness and blunders particularly in matters of temporary and substantive appointment of certain persons as “public office holders” in the Presidency or Executive Arm of Government.
A clear case in point is the ongoing self-inflicted and self-invited travails of the “Acting” Chairman of the EFCC, COMPOL Ibrahim Magu and the “Controller General” of Custom, Retired Col Hameed Ali. While the so called EFCC Boss has remained in acting capacity since 2015, a period of almost two years, the so called Custom Boss, had his appointment mired in grave error; conventionally and constitutionally; likewise the current “boss” of SSS. Their appointment was nothing short of militarist, unconventional and unconstitutional executive action till date.
It is unheard of in a sane democratic Nigeria that a public office holder appointed in acting capacity, would remain so endlessly since 2015. What then is “acting capacity”? The current Chairman of INEC was also a product of endless acting capacity appointment for several months, likewise the said “acting Chairman” of EFCC, who has so remained till date. The appointment of the current heads of Custom and SSS was gravely erroneous in that despite the fact that they have served and retired from Service; President Muhammadu Buhari and his cabinet goofed unpardonably by recalling them unconventionally and unconstitutionally and placed them in their present respective positions in the named highly professional and career government coercive establishments. Today, chickens have returned home to roost and blunders of the immediate past have revenged and reared their ugly heads.
Retired Director (of SSS) Musa Daura was recalled from his legitimate retirement in 2013 and named “DG-SSS”, in deviance of convention and law guiding the SSS and despite the fact that there are serving Assistant and Deputy Directors General in the Service. Retired Col Hameed Ali of the Nigerian Army was never part of the Nigerian Custom as a career Custom officer, yet he was militarily and magisterially appointed CG-Custom even when there are serving Assistant and Deputy Controllers General of Custom. Today, they want him to “customize himself” with a uniform he never knew its origin and intents.
The current Chief of Army Staff, Lt Gen Tukur Yusuf Buratai, ought to have retired statutorily since 31st January 2016 having attained 35 mandatory years of service in the Army as at 31st January 2016. He belongs to the Class 29 Regular Combatant Course (29 RC) of the Nigerian Defense Academy of the Nigerian Army. He was enlisted into the NDA on 31st January 1981 where he obtained a National Certificate in Education (NCE) which disqualified him from benefiting from the Harmonized Terms and Conditions of Service Officers (HTACOS: 2012) (Revised); designed to affect and benefit officers of Class of 36 (C36) and above, who were the first set to start degree programs at the NDA. Till date, COAS Tukur Buratai is still defiantly retained by President Muhammadu Buhari and his Presidency.
The list of Presidential recklessness and blunders in the appointment of its public office holders, etc is endless. We are deeply concerned and worried that among members of the Silk who have condemnably backed and defended the named Presidential recklessness and blunders since 2015 till date are Barristers Itse Sagay (SAN) and Femi Falana (SAN), to mention but a few. They are former members of the hitherto respected Lagos School of Social Sainthood. Such socially and constitutionally unfriendly personal legal opinions and biases have also been extended to the legitimate legislative proceedings and internal affairs of the National Assembly (i.e. recent suspension of Senator Ali Ndume by Senate).
While we hold nothing against them for expressing their personal legal opinions, but we are deeply worried because such personal legal opinions have risen to an apogee and begun to impeach the sacred provisions of the 1999 Constitution and laid down legislative, executive and judicial conventions and the spirit and letters of the Constitution. Their personal legal opinions are also considered biased and undemocratic on account of their undue influence and emboldening of the Presidency in its clear acts of executive recklessness and blunders. Such personal legal opinions and biases also appear as if there is no longer office and person of the Attorney General of the Federation and powers and functions so attached.
We, therefore, make bold to say that the bold steps taken by the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in nipping in the bud the referenced presidential recklessness and blunders are totally commendable and should be supported by all and sundry. Though the Senate also deserves strong condemnation too for keeping quiet all this while, but it has our total support in its ongoing moves to checkmate the Presidential recklessness and blunders above mentioned; provided they are not designed for illicit enrichment or attraction of presidential cakes.
We respectfully appeal to the likes of Barristers Itse Sagay (SAN) and Femi Falana (SAN), among others to restrict their personal legal opinions and appropriately channel them towards educating Nigerians on general issues of law, Constitution and public enlightenment; and allow the 1999 Constitution, its subsidiaries and laid down conventions to operate and be operated. They must remember that all hands must be on deck to save and develop our hard won democracy and must stand bold at all times with the generality of Nigerians and condemn at all times all forms of executive recklessness, blunders and brigandage or militancy.
They must be reminded very importantly that Government as we have them today is not anybody’s property and even if one sympathizes, supports or is a member of such government with specified period of time and tenure of office; someday, such person will leave same and fall back on the society to render the account of his or her stewardship or support to such government which tenure has expired.
For: International Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law (Intersociety)
Emeka Umeagbalasi (Criminologist & Graduate of Security Studies)
Florence C. Akubilo, Esq., LLB, BL
Head, Campaign & Publicity Department
Obianuju Joy Igboeli, Esq., LLB, BL
Head, Civil Liberties & Rule of Law Program
Ndidiamaka C. Bernard, Esq., LLB, BL
Head, Int’l Justice & Human Rights Program
Chinwe Umeche, Esq., LLB, BL
Head, Democracy & Good Governance Program
Phone Lines: +2348182411462, +2349063500218
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