As proscription of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB)by the governor’s of five south Eastern States and the categorization of the group as terrorist by the miltary continue to elicit reactions, AHURAKA YUSUF ISAH writes that only court of competent jurisdiction can declare these pronouncements illegal
At the height of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) exploit in the south-east of Nigeria for its mobilization for secession of that part of the country, the Nigeria Armed Forces like locust invasion on farmlands swarm over entire region without firing a shot.
In attempt to differentiate the IPOB from peaceful agitators for secession in other climes, the military declare this group as terrorist, just as the five governors administering the region came together to proscribe IPOB activities, at least to save their jobs. Of course, President Muhammadu Buhari who has vowed to do anything to preserve the sanctity of Nigeria’s sovereignty and unity can wake up and declare state of emergency or dissolve administrative structure of any of the state and thereto appoint a former military administrator to take over reign of power in that state. They all know that, and none would dare him.
The categorization of IPOB as a terrorist group like the Boko Haram by the military; and the proscription of its activities by eastern states governors has dare consequences and therefore have been trailed by reactions of various shades.
Reactions from the south east could be understood. But when major stakeholders in the Nigeria state and democracy like Saraki comments, it generates curiousity at least in any way he puts it. It became even worse when he speaks as a politician in this auspicious time.
As Oscar Arias would say, a typical politician is that person who tells people what people want to hear, while the statesman tells people what people need to know. Just as an American advocate of Human Right, James Freeman Clarke had also observed that, ‘’he difference between a politician and a statesman is that a politician thinks about the next election while the statesman think about the next generation.”
Hence, Saraki declared as unconstitutional and illegal the proscription of the IPOB by Governors of the South-east states and the categorization of the group as a ‘terrorist organisation’ by the Nigerian military; simply because these pronouncements did not follow due process.
In a statement he signed by himself on Monday September 18, 2017 , Saraki stated that the nation’s laws make clear provisions for taking such actions and without the due process being followed, such declaration cannot have effect.
‘’I am sure the President will do the needful by initiating the right process. This will go a long way in demonstrating to the world at large that we are a country that operate by laid down process under every circumstance. So, those who have been hammering on this point should maintain their cool.
But at the same day and separately, the Body of Senior Advocates of Nigeria called on the Federal Government to bring the full weight of the force devoid of nicety to bare on the IPOB, charging the government of the day to consider the activities of IPOB as an extra ordinary challenge that equally requires an extra ordinary response.
The former Nigeria Bar Association President and Chairman of the Body of Benchers, Chief Thompson Onomigbo Okpoko (SAN) stated this in an address he delivered on September 18, 2017 on behalf of the Body of Senior Advocate of Nigeria at the special session of the Supreme Court to mark the opening of the 2017/2018 Legal Year and Induction of new members of the Inner Bar (SAN).
While giving tacit support and at the same time saying they are not enough, such as the categorization of the IPOB as terrorist group by the military and the proscription of the group’s activities by the south east governors, Okpoko said the Federal Government must not just wait to react after the commission of criminal acts but must begin to put in place some preventive measures.
The senior lawyers who know the constitution better insisted that the freedom of citizens must go to the second place when it collides with the security of the Nation and the freedom of its citizens to go about their daily lives without the fear or threat of kidnapping, abduction or terrorist attacks. Detaining or restricting the movement of a potential terrorist may prevent him from carrying out all his dastardly plans and save or protect a potential victim.
Okpoko who said he was speaking the minds of the majority of the voiceless people of the country on issues of insecurity affecting them, noted that the media are replete with reports of kidnapping of citizens, abduction of citizens for no reason other than to demand and receive ransom for the release of victims of kidnap or abduction who are fortunate to have survived their ordeal. ‘’Pedophiles are on prowl, ritual murders have greatly increased. Added to this, is the emergence of highly armed groups from various parts of country threatening and demanding actions and things from the Nigerian state.
‘’The result and consequences of this, is that, on daily basis, groups of violent and armed citizens are attracting followership and are beginning to wear the appearance of role models to our young children and the unfortunate members of our country who appear to be incapable of discerning the danger involved in that enterprise.
‘’Fueled by violence and total disregard for human life, they go in convoys of cars; they amass unearned wealth and exhibit openly, the influence of such wealth. They make provocative pronouncements and encourage hate speeches which all go to heat up the body polity.
‘’The Nigerian state is reminded on a daily basis, that it has the duty to provide security and protect life and property of its citizens. The country deploys policemen and sometimes members of the military in addition, to the most troubled parts of the country.
‘’Yet, our fellow citizens who are bent on criminalities are not relenting. They have their sponsors in high places and in most cases, their followers in their war against the peace and security of the Nigerian nation, do not even know the object of their enterprise. These groups recruit young and innocent Nigerians who they train in the use of arms for their criminal missions. When confronted by the nation’s securities and enforcement agencies, they quickly complain loudly of violation of the right of freedom.
‘’No one disputes the rights to freedom but what happens when these values collide. In the case of ALHAJI MUJAHID DOKUBO-ASARI V. FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA (2007) LPELR -958 (SC) the Supreme Court considered individual rights of citizens as against the security of the Nigerian nation and said:
“The pronouncement by the court below is that where National Security is threatened or there is the real likelihood of it being threatened human rights or the individual rights of those responsible take second place. Human rights or individual rights must be suspended until the National Security can be protected or well taken care of.
‘’This is not anything new. The corporate existence of Nigeria as a united, harmonious, indivisible and indissoluble sovereign nation is certainly greater than any citizen’s liberty or right. Once the security of this nation is in jeopardy and it survives in pieces rather than in peace, the individual’s liberty or right may not even exist.”
According to Okpoko, Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad JSC who delivered the lead judgment stated that a charge of treasonable felony is a very serious offence and is prejudicial to national security.
Justice Tanko he held that ‘’neither the appellant nor his counsel would sit down to fold up his arms, if on the seat of power, to allow any citizen to put his reign into terror and utter hopelessness or despondency while dancing to the music of a citizen who plots a coup detat against him. He will certainly fight it to the end.”
Okpoko further noted that citizens have the right to personal freedom but the citizens also expect from the Nigerian state, the duty to protect life and property of the Citizen. The nation, he said has to look for solutions and may also go back the historical and memory lanes; arguing that the world is today a global village; what happens in other countries may point to a solution.
‘’ We all see and we all hear what actions and steps the government of this Nation is taking to check the incidence of terrorism, kidnapping and other types of violent crimes. From what we have seen and what we heard of these steps, one may justifiably say that as commendable as they are, these steps alone cannot be expected to be the only mode of responding to these National challenges.
‘’Government must look for additional means of responding to these societal menaces. Current governmental actions so far are designed to apprehend criminals after the criminal event. Government has to consider preventive measures to combat these acts of criminality in the country.
‘’It is logical to say that an extra ordinary challenge equally requires an extra ordinary response. During the Second World War, Nazi sympathizers lived as ordinary citizens in every country in Europe including the United Kingdom. Regulation 18B was then introduced in the UK conferring on the Home Secretary the power to arrest and detain without trial, any person against whom the Home Secretary has satisfactory evidence that he is a spy or an enemy agent. That was the Regulation which gave rise to the famous case of Liversidge vs Anderson (1942) AC 206.
‘’In the 19605, a body of Irish people in Northern Ireland formed themselves into a group which became known as the Irish Republican Army (IRA). They seem to have declared war against the United Kingdom. ‘’They ambushed those suspected to be their enemies and killed and maimed innocent citizens. They went beyond Northern Ireland into other parts of the United Kingdom and disrupted public gatherings, including Political parties’ conferences. They set up booby traps and innocent citizens were eliminated. ‘’The British Police and the Army did their best as security agencies of Nigeria are currently doing, yet legislation was then brought in to curtail movement of suspected persons. Under the Prevention of Terrorism, (Temporary Provisions) Act 1976 any residents of Northern Ireland can be excluded from entry into England and residents in England can be equally excluded from going to Northern Ireland. A person so restricted, can legitimately complain that his freedom of movement has been violated but the United Kingdom had to make a choice.
‘’Whoever was detained or excluded from movement of sort should be entitled to complain of wrongful detention or exclusion. Such legislation may not be popular and may even be objectionable but there is a very strong school of thought which holds the view that the freedom of citizens must go to the second place when it collides with the security of the Nation and the freedom of its citizens to go about their daily lives without the fear or threat of kidnapping, abduction or terrorist attacks. Detaining or restricting the movement of a potential terrorist may prevent him from carrying out all his dastardly plans and save or protect a potential victim.
‘’It may be worth it therefore for our legislature to look into that kind of mechanism or something similar to it so that those citizens who are bent on disturbing the peace and security of our community, could be denied their right to walk about in freedom once their involvement in such crimes are established to the satisfaction of the designated authority.
‘’For those citizens bent on depriving their fellow citizens of their liberties, a law to deny them of the opportunity of carrying out their criminal enterprise may not be out of place.
‘’Those who do not want others to live in peace do not have a right to live in peace in country whose citizens they are terrorizing. It must be noted that many prosecutions for these offences fail because of the apprehension of witnesses of the danger of appearing openly in court to testify as their safety thereafter may not be guaranteed by the State.
Reacting to Saraki’s statement, speaking during the second and third quarter Chief of Army Staff Conference in Abuja, on September 18, 2017, the Chief of Army Staff, Lt Gen Tukur Buratai declared that its ongoing operation in the South East is in line with what the constitution has empowered it to do and as such, it is not in any way under any pressure from politicians or any political party.
Buratai, said now that IPOB has been proscribed, the federal government will take appropriate steps to declare leader of the group, Nnamdi Kanu, wanted.
According to the Army chief, while the military is part of the Nigerian political process and a product of democratic governance, the constitution gives the force responsibilities and task to be carried out.
He said, “The Nigerian Army is poised to confront evolving internal and external threats in order to guarantee the sovereignty of our dear country. I therefore reiterate that the Nigerian Army must firmly remain apolitical to defend our constitution by providing the needed security environment as guaranteed for survival of our democracy. Consequently, I remain committed to building a highly sustainable and functional Nigerian Army that will be the most decisive land force in Africa”.
Justice Binta Nyako of the Federal High Court, Abuja formally released Kanu from detention after Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe; a Jewish High Chief Priest, Immanuu-El Shalom and a Chartered Accountant residing in Abuja, Mr. Tochukwu Uchendu, signed his bail bond on April 28, 2017. Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu who mobilized these sureties for Kanu was at the court to receive him from custody that day.
In addition to undertakings of the three the sureties, Kanu also sign an undertaking that he would be available to answer to the five-count charge the Federal Government filed against him, as he was granted bail on health ground. Ordinarily, he ought not to have gone back to campaign for the secession of the south east which formed the reason for the federal government’s recent application to the court for the revoke his bail.
Meanwhile some lawyers are of the view that even if due process was skipped by proscribing IPOB and categorizing it as terrorist organization, Saraki is not proper and fit to declare such pronouncements as illegal and unconstitutional.
According to a legal practitioner based in Minna, Niger state, Abanika Muktar Isah, ‘’only the court can pronounce an action or the exercise duly performed by groups, government or persons as illegal, unconstitutional, null and void. Saraki cannot arrogate this power to himself simply because is the senate president. He can’t be a lawmaker and at the same time a judge. He, in the first instance has crossed the red line, just like the IPOB he is holding forth for. It begs all imaginations that he is in the APC, the ruling party.’’
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As proscription of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB)by the governor’s of five south Eastern States and the categorization of the group as terrorist by the miltary continue to elicit reactions, AHURAKA YUSUF ISAH writes that only court of competent jurisdiction can declare these pronouncements illegal At the height of the Indigenous People of Biafra […]
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