By Dele Sobowale
“Decency, security and liberty alike demand that government officials shall be subjected to the same rules of conduct that are commands to the citizen. In a government of laws, existence of the government will be imperilled if it fails to observe the law scrupulously. Our government is the potent, the omnipresent teacher. For good or ill, it teaches the whole people by its example. Crime is contagious. If government becomes a lawbreaker, it breeds contempt for law; it invites every man to become a law unto himself. It invites anarchy” – US Supreme Court Justice, Louis D Brandeis, 1856-1941, in the OLMSTEAD case, 1928.
One of the regular readers of this column for many years sent me a text message a few weeks ago. He raised objection to my advice to the Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN, who had announced that Nigeria was approaching a US court to intervene in the case between Nigeria and P&ID. The latter, as we all know, is sitting on a $9.1bn judgment in its favour. The Federal Government of Nigeria, FGN, has appealed the case in Britain; it has started the prosecution of two staff members of P&ID in Nigeria and it still wants the US court to rule in its favour. I am not a lawyer. But, I very much doubt if a court in the US can over-rule a UK court on a matter already decided in London. We wait to see if a precedent will be created just to please Nigeria.
But, the real reason for bringing the private text exchange into the open has to do with my comment that “all the lawyers for P&ID have to do is to point out to the US court that the FGN is a habitual lawbreaker when judgments are not in its favour and no court in the US will entertain the case”. My friend accused me of providing information to the other side. I replied by pointing out to him that the American embassy in any country has a very large section which monitors compliance with the rule of law by all the countries in the world. They follow ALL cases involving fundamental rights of citizens in every country and record infractions. Nigeria is no exception.
Already, the files are bursting at the seams of various instances when the FGN and its security agencies have flouted court orders since 2015. Malami himself actually published an article defending government’s lawlessness. I am sure that my friend knows that Nigerian newspapers are read worldwide. I receive messages from Nigerians in virtually all the nations of the world in response to articles appearing on this page. So, the people in the US already know that the FGN is a habitual and remorseless lawbreaker. They don’t need me to tell them that. P&ID’s lawyers also don’t need anyone to teach them how to get the case in the US thrown out. And, if they did, the continuing detention of Omoyele Sowore by the Department of State Services, DSS, should provide them with all the evidence they need to brand the FGN a lawless government which has scant regard for the rule of law. So, why should a US court entertain the case when it is obvious that all the government is doing amounts to shopping for a favourable verdict? An unfavourable judgment will most likely be ignored given their track record.
Recently, Mr Femi Falana, SAN, said that the FGN only obeys foreign courts. It treats with contempt Nigerian courts – including the Supreme Court of Nigeria. That statement is beyond dispute. One only needs to add that the courts in Nigeria, without exception, deserve the insults – in more ways than one can deal with in one article. Our “My Lords” are among the most pathetic group of people sitting on the benches of any democratic nation on earth.
On recent event confirms this.
Governor Rotimi Akeredolu lined up the “Justices” in Ondo State and handed them keys of new vehicles “donated” (that was the word used for God’s sake) by “government”. The men and women under the wigs bowed in appreciation as each clutched the coveted keys.
Readers should correct me if I am wrong. But, in elementary school we were taught that in a democracy, government consists of the Executive, the Legislative and the Judiciary branches. Each of them is co-equal and independent. Where then was the equality on display when the head of one branch calls the head of another branch and hands him “gifts” when they should have been entitlements. Unfortunately what happened in Ondo is the rule and not the exception and it underlines why government at state and federal levels operates with unbecoming impunity. The judiciary has either willingly surrendered its role as co-equal branch of government or has allowed itself to be bullied into submission by the Executive branch.
If the reader thinks the judiciary is subservient, when it should not be, he will be shocked to the marrows about the “slaves of the Executive” who parade themselves as lawmakers. Almost without exception, they have been slaves of the President or Governor unless very unusual circumstances push them towards asserting their independence. But, that show of courage seldom lasts. It started in 1999 at the federal level.
Newly-elected President Obasanjo had ordered N10 billion to be given to the late Chief Anthony Anenih ( Mr Fix-it) already appointed as Minister of Works for the advertised Poverty Alleviation Programme, PAP, without the approval of the National Assembly, NASS, on the basis of what Obasanjo called “anticipatory approval”. There is no such term in the Constitution of Nigeria and in another democracy an impeachable breach of the Constitution. (See details in my book PDP: CORRUPTION INCORPORATED pages 137-140). The PDP controlled Senate refused to consider a bill by Senator Arthur Nzeribe, then of the All Nigeria Peoples Party, ANPP, to call Obasanjo into account for the brazen lawlessness.
Even the Alliance for Democracy, AD, a largely South-West based party in opposition took sides with the PDP. Governor Bola Tinubu of Lagos State declared Nzeribe “persona non grata” in Lagos State – adding more illegality to the show in Abuja. The mostly Yoruba AD took sides with the PDP on ethnic grounds. “He is our brother; we cannot allow him to be thrown out of office just like that.” Those were the kinds of drivel that our Yoruba leaders uttered while defending presidential lawlessness. Obasanjo paid them back twice with his trade mark ingratitude. First he rigged five of their governors out of office in 2003. Then, despite Supreme Court order, he withheld local government allocations for Lagos until he was almost out of office in 2007. I should not forget that Bola Ige, one of the AD leaders who supported OBJ’s disregard for the rule of law, died in mysterious circumstances after tendering his resignation as the Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation. That was AD’s reward for betraying the people of the South-West. The party expired shortly after 2003. Good riddance, if you ask me – especially since they supported Executive lawlessness – not only at Abuja but in all the states governed by AD from 1999-2003.
The picture in most of the states of Nigeria is as bad if not worse. In theory, the Speaker of the House is supposed to be independent and be responsible only to the legislature. But in practice, he is the puppet of the Governor. In fact, his primary assignment is to whip into line behind the Chief Executive all the members of the state House of Assembly. In that role, he acts as the Governor’s CIA or KGB. He is always on the look out for dissident members who could be suspended if they persist in their rebellion – however justified. Former Ekiti Governor Ayodele Fayose, when about to present his last budget, boasted that “it will be passed because I put them there.” He was not joking as this true story will demonstrate.
I had gone on appointment to meet with a Governor in one of the Middle Belt states about five years ago. While I was seated in the Governor’s office, the Speaker of the state House of Assembly was ushered in after several desperate attempts to see the Chief Executive. He came in, and despite being about eight years older than the Governor, literally prostrated in front of the man whose functions he was elected to oversee. Furthermore, he remained in the position until “His Excellency” asked him to get up. He spoke for five minutes, after glancing anxiously in my direction to be sure it was safe. He had come to tell “Your Excellency that some of our unserious members are opposed to some of his nominees for Commissioner.” He then proceeded to list their names. It was agreed that the ring leader should be suspended. Not for one second was he offered a seat. My heart bled for Nigeria.
The Governor must have noticed the contempt on my face for the Speaker; because after the poor man left, he said: “You know Dr, this is not America. Unless you keep these small-minded people in their places, they will not allow you to achieve anything.” Still, two days after, the “ring leader” was suspended by the majority on a trumped-up charge. I was still in the state and with the Governor when the state Chief Judge came to see him. The episode was worse. It came as no surprise that the Governor was a monster. Nigerians have seen a similar thing happening in Kogi State before the last “elections”. Mark my words, the people have enslaved themselves. And, they have only their gutless lawmakers and judges to thank for it.
Finally, in the last three weeks, we have read three different statements released by the Directorate of State Services, DSS, for not releasing Dasuki, El-Zazaky and Sowore. Each of the victims of Executive lawlessness had refuted the DSS claim through their lawyers. The DSS spokesman holds a doctorate degree – I don’t know in what. One can only hope it is not dissembling. Common sense would suggest that the easiest way of finding out whether or not the three detainees are voluntarily seeking DSS protection is to open the gates and we all will see whether they will walk out or stay put. Granted, that might appear like a simple solution to those educated elsewhere; but at UniJankara when problems arise and solutions sought, we believe in KISSS – keep it short and simple –stupid.
WE ARE MOVING UP IN THE WORLD :TERRORISM UPDATE.
“The tension and attendant risk to travellers, according to the rating, put Nigeria in the same class with Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen, Iraq, Somalia and Libya”- Travel Risk Map, GUARDIAN, November 22, 2019, p 28.
We voted twice in 2015 and again in 2019 for CHANGE. Now we have it. We are certainly experiencing change for the wrong reasons. Look at the list of countries with which we are classified and you can understand why no serious investor will come here. Come to think of it; the roads in Alepo, Syria are not so bad either…
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