By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA – Barely 24-hours after President Goodluck Jonathan inaugurated the Committee on Dialogue and Peaceful Resolution of Security Challenges in the North, an Abuja based legal practitioner, Mr. Silas Onu, Thursday, approached the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court, asking it to abort plans by the Federal Government to grant amnesty to the Boko Haram Islamic sect.
Besides, Onu, who maintained that granting amnesty to the sect would entrench a very dangerous precedent in the national polity, also prayed the court to issue a consequential order halting the continuation of amnesty programme across the country.
He urged the high court to go ahead and halt further payments to ex-militants in the oil rich Niger Delta region were President Jonathan hails from.
It will be recalled that the federal government had in June 2009 approved an offer of unconditional amnesty for members of the Niger Delta militants.
The government, on Wednesday, inaugurated a 27-man committee with a mandate to fashion out modalities with a view to getting insurgent groups in the Northern part of the country to embrace amnesty.
Meantime, in an originating summons he filed before the high court yesterday, Onu, contended that the office of the President has no constitutional powers to grant amnesty to “any group of persons or individuals who have not been charged with or convicted of any criminal offence created by an act of the Senate and House of Representatives” by virtue of section 1 and 175 of the 1999 constitution.
Those joined as defendants in the suit include, President Jonathan, the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, House of Representatives, and the Attorney General of the Federation.
The plaintiff, among other things, urged the court to determine whether the President has the powers to set up an amnesty project and expend tax payers’ monies for the running and maintaining of the beneficiaries.
He further wants the court to determine whether the Senate and House of Representatives “who have not enacted any laws in accordance to sections 11 (1) and 3(3) of the 1999 constitution can appropriate funds or accommodate or permit howsoever the use of public funds for the running of any amnesty programme, or maintenance of any group of persons or individuals who have been granted amnesty by the President.”
More so, he is asking for “a declaration that by virtue of the provisions of section 1 and 175 of the 1999 constitution and in the absence of any other law enacted by the 2nd and 3rd defendants, the 1st defendant lacks the constitutional powers and capacity to grant amnesty to unidentified group of persons or individuals who have not been investigated, charged or convicted of any offence by the appropriate bodies charged with carrying out the investigation, prosecution and conviction of these group persons or individuals.
“A declaration that the operation of the amnesty programme of the 1st defendant by setting up offices and maintaining the beneficiaries of the project from public funds without any legal instrument or an act of the National Assembly is ultra vires the powers of the 1st defendant and as such is unconstitutional, illegal, null and void.
“A declaration that the appropriation of public funds for the operation of the amnesty programme by the 2nd and 3rd defendants, acting jointly or severally in the absence of any legal enactment supporting the project is a gross violation of the 1999 constitution.
“An order restraining the 1st defendant acting by itself or through agents, servants and/ or privies whomsoever and howsoever called from continuing with the amnesty, or to use public funds for such project, unless such is in terms with the provisions of section 175 of the 1999 constitution or any other enacted by the National Assembly.