•Says ruling govt worse than Buhari’s junta
  • Asks masses to fight for their rights

By Gboyega Akinsanmi and Bayo Akinloye

A human rights lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana at the weekend said President Muhammadu Buhari had turned Nigeria into a banana republic, citing prevailing cases of banditry, insurgency and violence that beclouded the country.

Falana, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), added that Buhari’s civilian administration was apparently worse than the military rule he presided over between December 31, 1983 and August 27, 1985.

He expressed grave concern about the APC government in a paper he delivered at a roundtable discussion the Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism and the British Council organised to the 2019 World Press Freedom Day in Abuja on Friday.

At the public forum attended by a wide range of political leaders, diplomats and professionals, Falana lamented that the country’s senior public officers had substituted the rule of law for “the rule of the rulers,” thereby asking the Nigerian masses “to take their destiny in their own hands.”

Specifically, the human rights lawyer cited Buhari’s records of respecting the rule of law, which according to him, had worsened since his heydays as a military dictator.

In a comprehensive analysis of the two administration, Falana said the irony of such official impunity “is that whereas the Buhari military junta released detainees from custody on the orders of the courts.”

He decried worsening cases of violence, banditry and insurgency, which he said, had become prevalent since the president returned to power in 2015.

He, therefore, concluded that under the the Buhari administration, Nigeria had become a banana republic, saying the president’s human rights record “is worse than when Buhari was a military dictator.”

He, equally, lamented Buhari’s poor record of obeying the rule of law, wondering that president claimed to be a converted democrat, though the claim had been disputed by the refusal of his administration to comply with the orders made by several courts for the release of a number of citizens from unlawful custody.

Apart from treating the orders of the courts with contempt, Falana said Buhari, currently the Chairman of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), had ignored the orders of the Community Court of Justice with respect to the restoration of the civil liberties of Nigerian citizens.

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He faulted Buhari and his Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation, Mr Abubakar Malami, saying the contemptuous act of the administration “has been defended by the president who has insisted that national security should take precedence over the rule of law.

As if that is not enough, the human rights lawyer faulted the decision of the justice minister “to publicly defended the contemptuous acts of the federal government.”

However, the senior advocate said the civilian regime headed by the converted democrat “has refused to release or grant bail to several detained persons in complete defiance of court orders.

“Since the federal government claims to operate under the rule of law, it should be compelled to comply with section 287 of the Constitution which has imposed a duty on all authorities and persons to enforce the decisions of all courts of competent jurisdiction in Nigeria.

“It is so worrisome that provisions of the 1999 Constitution are conveniently sacrificed for political expediency or self aggrandisement of highly placed public officers. In the process, Nigeria is reduced to a banana republic where the rule of law is substituted for the rule of the rulers.”

He equally lamented that those in charge of running the federation are working against the progress of the nation and Nigerians, noting that by deliberately ignoring the rule of law, the Buhari administration was promoting and perpetuating corruption

Falana cited the case of Buhari’s anti-corruption campaign, which he argued, had beenn discredited through the selective prosecution of corrupt elements in the society.

Worse still, he explained that corrupt members of the Federal Executive Council “are currently using the police and anti-graft agencies to settle scores with corrupt opposition figures.

“It thus seems that politicians and associates of those close to the seat of power in Abuja are protected, despite strong evidence of corruption and money laundering against them. Such abuse of the rule of law is subversive of law and order in a democratic society.

“Given these types of examples on the part of the leadership and the poor working conditions of most government workers, it is not surprising that civil servants across the ranks have turned to petty corruption, often simply to survive.

“The net impact of this systemic corruption is a serious erosion of the rule of law, by a government that is supposedly committed to good governance, transparency, accountability and anti-corruption.”

Disturbed by these urgly trends, Falana urged all elected public officers “to proffer solutions to the crisis of underdevelopment. It is high time President Buhari and all state governors who are abroad returned to the country to attend to the urgent crisis of insecurity.

“With the virtual take-over of the country by armed bandits, terrorists and kidnappers the president and all top public officers should be barred by Nigerians from embarking on foreign private or official visits to other countries until further notice.”

Falana did not spare the media for often choosing to focus less on more important problems plaguing the country, urging the media “to stop the irrelevant debate on the educational qualification of any candidate.

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“Because adult illiteracy rate in the country is 60 percent, section 318 of the Constitution has prescribed education up to junior secondary level or primary six and 10 years’ working experience as the minimum qualification for contesting elections in Nigeria.

“Therefore, the media should stop giving undue attention to the educational qualifications of a former military president and a former civilian vice president to contest a presidential election in the country.

“More so, that both politicians had risen to the apogee of their professional carriers in the public service before contesting the last presidential election,” the human rights lawyer said.

He also lamented that the media had left the serious crisis of insecurity in all parts of the country to join the APC in questioning the citizenship of former Vice President Atiku Abubakar.During the presidential election, Falana said the APC celebrated the fact that Buhari defeated Atiku Abubakar in his own ward in Adamawa State.

He argued, “If Atiku is a now Cameroonian doesn’t that suggest that those who voted for President Buhari in his ward for the candidate are Cameroonian citizens too?

“Just a couple of weeks ago, the federal high court declared illegal and unconstitutional the deportation of 56 Cameroonian refugees and asylum seekers from Nigeria. All persons living in Nigeria including citizens by birth or naturalisation, dual citizens, foreigners, refugees and asylum seekers are entitled to adequate security and protection.”

“What the country is currently witnessing in terms of increasing violence, banditry and insurgency is a sign of anarchy. Since the 2019 elections have been concluded the duty imposed on the media is to ensure that political parties and elected officials are held accountable.”

(C) Thisday