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The Days of The Shackles – By Arnold A. Alalibo

By Arnold A. Alalibo | NNP | August 22, 2017 –

I have always asked the question whether the President Muhammadu Buhari administration, which pledged compliance with the rule of law, truly has regard for the courts? I do that routinely because of the many reported and substantiated cases of human rights abuses by the administration. They include illegal detentions, disobedience to court orders, indiscriminate arrests without proper investigation, among others.

At a press conference held in Abuja to commemorate the 2017 Democracy Day, the Nigeria Bar Association, NBA, chided the Federal Government for disparaging court orders and the rule of law. Its president, Mr. Abubakar Mahmoud, SAN, said the association was “appalled at the continued detention of certain individuals in blatant disobedience to court orders”.

The legal luminary said it all. Those at the butt of this rascality at the moment include the leader of an Islamic movement in Nigeria, Sheikh Ibrahim El-Zakyzaky and his wife; the former National Security Adviser, Col. Sambo Dasuki; Ifeanyi Uba and some judges. Surprisingly for the regime, one of its own, who is the Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption, Prof. Itse Sagay (SAN), also backed the NBA position and asked the Federal Government to obey court orders particularly in respect of Dasuki and El-Zakyzaky.

One appreciates the gravity of the charges against the detainees, but their continued detention is indefensible and contrary to express court orders. It is very important that the Federal Government obeys court orders at all times to preserve the society and protect the weak.

A situation where judges are kept for about eight months without being prosecuted or charged before any court of law is simply unacceptable and an affront on the constitution. If there are no charges against them, the appropriate thing to do is to discharge them and get them reabsorbed.

Take the case of Dasuki, for instance. He was arrested for allegedly misappropriating $2.1billion meant for procurement of military equipment. Since then, he has been in incarceration for almost two years while his case in court has been going back and forth.

He has been granted bail by three different trial courts which ordered his release. Also, on October 4, 2016, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) court ordered his release but the Federal Government has not complied till date.

El-Zakyzaky’s matter is more pathetic or caustic. Even though the sheikh was absent at the scene of conflict between his Shi’ite sect and the military over allegations that the group prevented the Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant-General Tukur Buratai, and his convoy from taking a route, he has been clamped in detention since then. Justice Gabriel Kolawole of the Federal High Court, Abuja, saw the injustice suffered by the sheikh and his wife and declared their detention illegal and granted their realease. But that order has not been obeyed. Although it was learnt that the Federal Government appealed the ruling, lawyers would usually say that an appeal does not amount to a stay of execution until the court orders it.

The danger in the government’s intransigence, especially in respect of the sheikh and his wife, is better imagined than experienced. The nation risks a repeat of Mohammed Yusuf’s saga. Yusuf was the founder of Boko Haram, whose death in police custody escalated the deadly activities of the terrorist group. Since then, the nation is yet to have reprieve from the unrelenting bloodshed in the North East.
This government should be told that our laws don’t permit the detention of persons beyond a period of time without trial. The continued detention of these persons in defiance of court order casts aspersions on the administration and places huge question marks upon the character of the government.

Some Nigerians are pained by the actions of the administration in this regard and have expressed their displeasure. A legal practitioner, Godwin Udofia, described President Buhari’s refusal to obey the court on the release of the detainees as sitting the constitution on the head. He urged the president to abide by the constitution he swore to uphold. Of course, I agree with Godwin.

Does the President realise that the constitution he despises is the very document that establishes the court and his office? By acting arbitrarily, Buhari must understand that he has suspended the constitution already, an act reminiscent of the military era. It is, indeed, sad to see fellow Nigerians languish in detention in perpetuity at the pleasure of the President, the Attorney General or other persons. It seems we are gradually returning to the days of Decrees 2 and 4; the days of the shackles.


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Posted by on Aug 22 2017. Filed under Arnold Alalibo, Articles, Columnists, NNP Columnists. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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