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NEWS ANALYSIS: Why el-Rufai may not return as scheduled

A few weeks ago, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai made his intention to return to his fatherland, Nigeria, known to public.

His resolve to return remains unchanged given his conviction that in serving this great country as a public officer he committed no offence known to our laws or at all, and that all the charges contrived against him and that are being assembled against him remain hopeless attempts to discredit him and his contributions to civilized governance.

These charges, standing on no legs as they are, are bound to collapse in the face of even the most cursory forensic consideration.

However, in the light of developments since the announcement, a review of that decision is unavoidable. An overwhelming number of family members and friends that had earlier backed his decision to return in December have urged a deferral as a result of the current leadership vacuum in Nigeria .

This is also the view of his political associates in the G53 and the Good Governance Group (3G). In addition, he has also received counsel to delay his return from leading traditional rulers and other political leaders whose views he respects.

The President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, President Umaru Yar’ Adua is ill and undergoing treatment in a Saudi Arabia hospital.

Before he left Nigeria , the President did not transmit the mandatory declaration that he was going on vacation and that he would be unable to temporarily discharge the functions of his office as required by Section 145 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999.

Without compliance with that section, the Vice President cannot act for the President in regard of any matter expressly needing the action or intervention of the President.

Now safety is one of such.

Section 215 (3) of the Constitution puts it beyond any peradventure that the President (not the Vice President) has the duty of giving to the Inspector General of Police lawful directions with respect to the maintenance and securing of  public safety. The President has not delegated this important function of his to the Vice President or to any Minister.

In the light of the uncertainty surrounding the exercise of public power in Nigeria in general, and security matters in particular, it would be decidedly unguarded for Mallam El-Rufai to return to Nigeria on 27 December 2009 as he had earlier scheduled. This is more so as there is a widespread belief that a cabal seizing on the President’s infirmity has hijacked the levers of government for purposes other than noble.

It is also the judgment of Mallam El-Rufai’s international and Nigerian legal teams that a deferral of his return is advisable at this point so as not to adversely impact ongoing and planned litigations in Nigeria and abroad.

Also crucial is the fact that there is a proven plan to try him for treason. A warrant to this end is freely circulating in the country. Now we all know that the offence of treason is a decidedly political offence and the decision to try anyone for treason is political. Some of the people tried for this offence in our recent history did not live to tell the story. Mallam El-Rufai would need to take a political position in relation to the manifestly unwarranted accusation aimed at providing further pretext to menace his life and liberty.

Despite his desire to be back in Nigeria, Mallam El-Rufai now considers that it would be selfish, and insensitive to the views expressed by many people who have shown care and concern for him over this difficult period, if he chose to ignore their sincere entreaties.

In the circumstances, Mallam El Rufai has suspended his decision to arrive Nigeria on the 27th of December, 2009. A new date will be communicated to the public based on the outcome of the legal steps we are initiating at his instance. He regrets whatever inconvenience this decision may cause his supporters and also the security forces who are already salivating at arresting him.

They may yet have that opportunity, but first thing first. He is not afraid of arrest and detention. He has never been and he will never be.


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