By Victor Ahiuma-Young, Simon Ebegbulem, Gabriel Enogholase & Johnbosco Agbakwuru
NIGERIA Bar Association, NBA and Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, weekend berated the Federal Government and the Police over Thursday’s removal of security aides of the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Alhaji Aminu Tambuwal, for defecting to All Progressives Congress, APC, describing the removal as unconstitutional and shameful.
This came as human rights activist and Lagos lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana, petitioned the Acting Inspector-General of Police, Suleiman Abba, accusing him of bias in withdrawing security aides to Tambuwal, and cited other instances of police bias in the country.
NBA and NLC demanded immediate restoration of Tambuwal’s security aides and all the rights and privileges accruing to the Office of the Speaker, insisting that it was not about Tambuwal, but the office.
NLC demands restoration of security aides
NLC in a statement by its General Secretary, Dr. Peter Ozo-Eson, titled “Nothing should happen to Tambuwal”, wondered why the security aides of Governor Segun Mimiko of Ondo State and Ali Modu-Sheriff, former governor of Borno State respectively, were not removed when they defected to the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, arguing that it was nothing short of double standard.
According to the statement; “We at the Nigeria Labour Congress are appalled by the withdrawal of security details of the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Alhaji Aminu Tambuwal ostensibly because he had defected to the All Progressives Congress, APC. The act is shameful, distasteful, unconstitutional and demonstrates our parochial sense of power and very little knowledge of history.
No part of the Nigerian constitution says the Speaker of the House of Representatives should come from the majority party. Section 50(1)(b) only says, “There shall be a Speaker and a Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, who shall be elected by the members of that House from among themselves.
“In the Second Republic, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Chief Edwin Ume-Ezeoke was elected from the ranks of NPP, not just an opposition party, but the third strong, after UPN and NPN. We have other precedents across the world.
We find it appropriate to cite the examples of Mimiko and Ali Modu-Sheriff, governor of Ondo State and former governor of Borno State, respectively. Their security details were not withdrawn when they defected to the PDP.
”In the light of the foregoing, we demand immediate restoration of Tambuwal’s security detail and all the rights and privileges that accrue to the Office of the Speaker.
It is not about Tambuwal, it is about the office which he holds. And in any case, only few, arguably, will contest that he has not discharged and acquitted himself as speaker. We would like to be on record that we will not fold our hands while little minds threaten our hard-earned democracy. Nothing should happen to Tambuwal.”
NBA berates Police
Similarly, speaking in Benin yesterday after a meeting of the Midwest Bar Forum, President of NBA, Augustine Alegeh, SAN, argued that the police were wrong by removing security aides attached to the speaker because the police lacked jurisdictional competence to determine whether or not there had been a breach of the constitution in the defection of the speaker to the APC.
According to him, “Section 68 of the constitution enumerates the procedure to be adopted by the National Assembly when a member defects from one party to another.
Unless and until that procedure is followed and adopted, Aminu Tambuwal remains speaker of the House of Representatives. We have stated clearly that the police lacks jurisdictional competence to determine whether or not there has been a breach of the constitution.
That duty is a function of the court. There is no provision in our constitution that says if you are in PDP or APC and you defect to another party you automatically lose your position of leadership of the House.
“There is nothing in our constitution that says the speaker of the House or president of the Senate must come from the ruling party, all that must happen is that majority of members of the House must vote for him.
Falana accuses police of partiality
Falana, in a petition titled “Illegal policing of the republic”, accused the IGP of engaging in partisan politics to the detriment of law and order in the country, giving three instances, among others.
According to the petition, first; “The Osun State governorship election, which took place on August 9, 2014 was almost marred by the Police and other security forces which arrested and detained over 700 leaders of the APC. Indeed, some electoral officers who were assumed to be members of the APC were also railroaded to police custody.
But for the personal intervention of Professor Attahiru Jega, the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, the said electoral officers would not have been released. Thus, the election would have been disrupted by the police and other security forces whose duty it was to maintain law and order during the democratic exercise.
However, the detained APC leaders who were released after the election have not been charged to court for breaching the provisions of the Electoral Act or any other law whatsoever.
“Second, Mr. Joseph Mbu, the controversial Assistant Inspector-General of Police in charge of Zone 7 of the Nigeria Police Force announced a ban any rally demanding for #bringbackourgirls within the federal capital territory.
The ban was designed to assuage the feelings of some officials of the Federal Government who are embarrassed by being reminded of their constitutional duty of rescuing the over 200 Chibok girls who were abducted 6 months ago by the nihilist Boko Haram sect.
In a judgment delivered last week, the Federal Capital Territory High Court declared the ban illegal, null and void on the ground that it constituted an infringement of the fundamental rights of the patriotic campaigners to freedom of assembly and expression guaranteed by the Constitution. In spite of the judicial indictment you have not deemed it fit to call Mr. Mbu to order for the reckless abuse of police powers.
“Third, you caused the security details of Aminu Tambuwal, the Speaker of the House of Representatives to be withdrawn last week on the ground that he had decamped from the PDP to the APC.
As if that was enough, you decided to usurp the judicial powers of the federation which are exclusively vested in the courts by section 6 of the Constitution when you claimed that the Speaker had lost his office and seat as a federal legislator having contravened section 68 (1) (g) of the Constitution.
By your illegal pronouncement you disregarded section 50 (2) (c) thereof which stipulates that the Speaker of the House of Representatives can only be removed by a resolution passed by votes on not less than two thirds majority of the members of the House.”
Subjecting Tambuwal to selective persecution
Continuing, Mr. Falana noted that “no doubt, your actions and utterances in the circumstance have exposed the Police to unwarranted ridicule as Nigerians are not unaware of the fact that when the Ondo State legislators elected on the platform of the Labour Party, LP, decamped to the PDP last month your office did not declare their seats vacant.
In particular, you did not withdraw the security details of Jumoke Akindele, the Speaker who led her colleagues to dump the LP for the PDP. In the same vein, Ahmadu Fintiri, the Speaker of the Adamawa State House of Assembly and his colleagues who decamped from the PDP to the APC and have since returned to PDP. You did not have cause to declare their seats vacant. Neither have you withdrawn the security details of the Fintiri.
“Thus, by subjecting Aminu Tambuwal to selective persecution on ground that he decamped from the ruling party you violated his fundamental right to freedom from discrimination. As you are no doubt aware, it is a breach of section 42 (1) of the Constitution and Article 2 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights to subject any citizen of Nigeria of a political opinion to disabilities, deprivation and restrictions to which other citizens who hold alternative views or opinions are not made subject.
Since the security details of other Speakers who decamped from the APC and LP to the PDP have not been withdrawn those of Tambuwal were illegally withdrawn. They ought to be restored without any further delay.
“From the information at my disposal your harassment of the Speaker was instigated by the Presidency. But having regard to section 215 (3) of the Constitution which enjoins you to carry out the “lawful directions” of the President of the Republic with respect to the maintenance and securing of public safety and public order the actions taken on the Speaker are illegal and unconstitutional in every material particular.
”Therefore, you should withdraw your pronouncement on the office and seat of Tambuwal and advise the ruling party to seek redress in the Federal High Court on the constitutional implications of the defection.”