Imminent Collapse of Civil Rule in Nigeria, Femi Falana
The dreaded Boko Haram sect has continued to unleash mayhem on defenceless civilians including school children in the north east region . In the last couple of months, the satanic society has annexed part of the territory of the Republic of Nigeria. In the circumstance, the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan has requested both chambers of the National Assembly to ratify his decision to extend emergency rule in the war torn Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states in accordance with section 305 of the Constitution. While the Senate has commenced deliberations on the request the House of Representatives has been violently restrained by the Police from considering such matter of urgent national significance.
Without any justification whatsoever, the Speaker of the House, Honourable Aminu Tambuwal and his colleagues were teargased by the Police and prevented from gaining access to the chambers of the National Assembly last Thursday. In a bid to enter the chambers some of the legislators risked their lives by jumping the fence. In the process, they exposed themselves and the nation to undeserved ridicule. Consequent on the break down of law and order instigated by the Police the National Assemby complex was closed down by the Senate President, General David Mark (rtd). Thus, the House was prevented from carrying out its legislative duties contrary to the order of the Federal High Court that the status quo ante bellum be maintained pending the determination of the suit filed by Honourable Tambuwal over the removal of his security aides.
Although the majority of the members foiled the coup to remove the Speaker the triumph of democracy in the National Assembly may be short lived. Since the ruling party cannot secure the endorsement of the required two thirds majority to remove Speaker Tambuwal the House will be factionalized while the minority will be given official recognition and security protection under a new leadership. In justifying the barbaric invasion of the National Assembly complex by security forces the Insector-General of Police, Mr. Suleiman Abba claimed that the police received intelligence report that hoodlums were going to break law and order in the premises of the National Assembly. To the detriment of democracy the security forces decided to break the law when the hoodlums failed to turn up as arranged!
In a reckless display of partisanship the Police ensured that the Deputy Speaker of the House, Honourable Ihediora and a few other legislators were not subjected to any form of harassment. Meanwhile, the Presidency and the Police have turned round to blame the Speaker and his colleagues for assaulting security operatives who were discharging their “lawful duties” at the National Assembly complex. According to the Police, Tambuwal and a motley crowd of his supporters “broke the cordon, assaulted the Police and evaded due process…” The Police then warned “all political actors to respect constituted authority and due process and desist from the use of thugs to pursue their agenda.”
As security forces were used last week to disrupt the proceedings of the National Assembly President Jonathan was prevented by a former militant , Mr. Government Tompolo from attending the flag-off ceremony of the $16 billion EPZ project in Warri, Delta State. Like the terrorists who have prevented the President from visiting Chibok the militants declared him a persona non grata and forced him to stay away from Warri. As if that was not enough, the journalists who had assembled at the venue to report the event were abducted by a horde of armed goons. Even though the reporters regained their freedom after six hours of horrific physical and mental torture those who committed the grave criminal offences of kidnapping and threatening to overawe the President of the Republic have not been arrested by the Nigeria Police Force!
Thus, through sheer negligence and official impunity on the part of the Federal Government the country has become a failed State where security forces are competing with criminal gangs in the wanton infringements of the civil liberties of law abiding citizens. Like the terrorists who attack communities while ill-equipped soldiers vamoose, armed thugs are allowed to threaten the life of the President of the Republic while the Police without any reaction from the Police. But unlike terrorists who abduct school girls in the night, militants kidnap journalists, lawyers and others during the day. Unlike coup plotters who overthrow legitimate governments at night security forces collude with anti-democratic forces in broad daylight to remove elected leaders of legislative houses. Having been enriched by the State and allowed to acquire weapons without any license some ex-militants have set up armed gangs for the 2015 general election.
It is common knowledge that many politicians have also established illegal violent groups of unemployed youths and cultists. Of recent, there were bloody clashes between armed thugs in several parts of the country. In fact, policemen attached to some politicians have taken part in such clashes which marred some of the congresses of the APC and the PDP. The Sheik Ahmed Lemu Panel set up by President Jonathan to inquire into the post election violence which occurred in Akwa Ibom state and some northern states in April 20
11 had recommended that over 850 armed thugs and hoodlums be prosecuted for culpable homicide, arson and allied offences. Although the recommendation was accepted by the Federal Government the persons indicted in the report have not been prosecuted.
In one of his media chats last year, President Jonathan rightly condemned the military invasion of Odi community in Bayelsa state in November 1999 by the Olusegun Obasanjo Administration. Shortly thereafter, Chief Obasanjo accused President Jonathan of training snipers to attack his political opponents. Although the serious allegation was denied by the Presidency security forces are now joined by hounded militants and other nihilist groups to harrass voters during elections. It is an irony that the President of the Republic is being harassed and intimidated with weapons acquired under the pretext of executing multi-billion oil pipeline monitoring contracts by ex-militants!
In the first and second republics security forces and thugs were used in the manipulation of elections and the violations of the rights of the Nigerian people. Such naked abuse of power by the Federal Government paved away for military interventions and the civil war. In the third republic, the military dictators annulled a credible presidential election. The crisis that ensued terminated the expensive political transition programme and facilitated the return of a full-fledged military dictatorship with dire consequences. However, it is hoped that the ongoing politicization of the security forces, the unprecedented wave of official corruption and the subversion of democratic institutions by the Federal Government will not lead to the eventual collapse of the fragile forth Republic.
In spite of the threat of terrorist and other nihilist groups to balkanize the country I strongly believe that the rickety democratic process can still be salvaged by all the genuine democratic forces who led the Nigerian people to fight against unending military rule and who equally defeated the cabal that attempted to take advantage of President Umaru Yaradua’s ill-health to seize power from the then Acting President, Dr. Jonathan. As time is not on our side the forces of democracy ought to return to the trenches now to halt the imposion of fascism on the nation by the Jonathan Administration.
Mr. Femi Falana, SAN, a noted public affair commentator, is a leading human rights lawyer, and member of the Nigerian legal velvet rank, sent this piece from Lagos.