Editorial: Nigeria under the grip of democratic tyrants

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When on the 25th of January, President Buhari suspended the then Chief Justice of Nigeria, Walter Onnoghen, based on an ex-parte order from the Code of Conduct Bureau, informed Nigerians worried that dangerous precedent was being set.

But before then, the former National Security Adviser to Buhari’s predecessor, Sambo Dansuki, was detained by the DSS. All orders of the court for his release were staunchly ignored. Then came the leader of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria whose followers the army killed in their hundreds, after which he was detained with his wife despite all orders of the court to have him released, not until recently.

Nigeria is fast sliding into a full tyrannical state where those who dared talk about the misery the present government is visiting on the people disappear; those fortunate enough to be presented to the court are only for ceremonial purposes as the orders of the court are disobeyed with reckless abandon.

When during the 2018 Annual General Conference of the Nigerian Bar Association, Buhari, who was a special guest of honour said he would do away with the constitution on the issues of National Security, lawyers clapped and gave him a resounding ovation. Little did they know that they were clapping for the desecration of a vocation they spent five years in the university studying. The president was saying that “I am the nation and anyone who disagrees with me is a national security threat”.

But what is the Buhari’s administration afraid of? Why are they scared of dissenters? Nigeria claims to practice democracy but is it true? What is democracy without the four pillars of democracy:
Freedom: This one is fairly obvious. In most cases, the law puts limits on freedom, but these limits are often to prevent the freedom of others from being infringed.

Representation: Since no modern democracy is “real” democracy – and the vast majority of nation-states are too large for “real” democracy to feasibly work anyway – representation is vital in ensuring every citizen has a voice. These representatives stand for their respective regions, representing the people within and bringing their concerns to the government.

Equity: Meaning everyone is equal under the law. No one gets special treatment. Everyone has certain inalienable rights, which each nation-state typically lays out in its constitution.

Justice: This ensures that, if a citizen is wronged, there will be compensation to the victim and/or consequences for the wrongdoer. Justice is the vehicle of the law; without justice, the law would have no meaning, and equity and freedom would crumble.

We have seen how Omoyele Sowore’s case is being handled. As argued by the cerebral lawyer, Abdul Mahmud, “the DSS sought for an ex-parte order which would grant it the power to detain a Sowore for 45 days. The order was granted by a judge who also shut out the Sowore’s lawyers on the ground that they couldn’t be heard on an ex-parte application.

“The DSS had 45 days and time within the 45 days to bring a motion for extension of time to further detain the citizen, but it failed. The order to hold elapsed, then it brought a motion for an order to detain him for further 20 days, while it awaited legal advice from the AGF. Hearing for a motion for bail of the citizen came up precisely 48 days, it applied and withdrew is a motion for an order to further detain the citizen for an additional 20 days.

“At that moment, there was no order in force directing that it to detain the citizen, the citizen’s lawyers withdrew their motion for bail and applied for the citizen to be released as his detention had become illegal and unconstitutional. The judge, having reviewed arguments, held that the citizen is released until the AGF makes a formal criminal arraignment, so why are you not obeying the orders?”

The DSS applied for an order detaining Sowore for 45 days on the 8th of August 2019, with all material facts that were deposed to in the affidavit verified in the motion ex-parte that it was related only to terrorism. However, when the AGF filed charges against Sowore on the 20th of September 2019, the information on the charge sheet related to treasonable felony and money laundering.

While the DSS was waiting for legal advice from the AGF on terrorism, the AGF went ahead and filed treasonable felony and money laundering charges against Sowore.

This circus only shows the lack of direction of this government. More disheartening was the failed attempt by the AGF, Abubakar Malami to defend their attack on the rule of law in an interview with BBC Africa Focus. Malami lacks the intellectual capacity to do the work of AGF.

At a time that Nigerians should be worried over Buhari’s government assault on citizens’ liberty; they seem to be distracted by reality tv shows. But Buhari’s dragnet is widening. Those who have been detained by the government illegally include Agba Jalingo; Stephen Kefas; Dadiyyata; Sowore and now activist and author, Chido Onumah who joined the list of citizens being held by this government.

It was Fredrick Williams Robertson who said that “There are three things in the world that deserve no mercy and they are Hypocrisy, Fraud and Tyranny.

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