Senate probes alleged DSS invasion of court, re-arrest of Sowore
NBA: Court is a sanctuary that must not be desecrated
Pro-DSS protesters storm NASS, say election losers destabilizing Nigeria
Court invasion: Body of SANs asks Buhari to set up commission of inquiry
By Soni Daniel, Northern Region Editor, Anayo Okoli, Dapo Akinrefon, Henry Umoru, Omeiza Ajayi, Henry Ojelu & Luminous Jannamike
ABUJA — Stakeholders in the polity rose in unison, yesterday, against the Presidency’s entreaties to the United States, United Kingdom and European Union not to dictate to Nigeria on human rights issues.
Special Adviser to the President, Femi Adesina, had in an interview on Channels Television ‘s ‘’Politics Today’’ programme on Wednesday night, asked the trio to mind their business, saying ‘’we are not answerable to the US, the UK or EU; we are Nigeria, a sovereign country.
“Those countries and entities have issues of their own. Let them deal with their issues, let Nigeria deal with her internal issues; we are not answerable to them.”
The reports of the US, UK and EU on the human rights situation in Nigeria came against the backdrop of continued detention of former National Security Adviser, Col. Sambo Dasuki (retd), Shi’ites leader, Ibrahim El-Zakzaky; and convener of #RevolutionNowProtest, Omoyele Sowore, against court orders.
Reacting to the development, yesterday, the Arewa Youths Consultative Forum, AYCF; the pan-Yoruba socio-political organisation, Afenifere, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, and Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, among others, flayed the Federal Government for its antagonism to what they described as honest reports of the Western countries.
AYCF to FG: Respect rule of law
Reacting, the AYCF, which spoke through its National President, Alhaji Yerima Shettima, said: “Although Nigeria is not answerable to the United Kingdom, the United States or the European Union, it must learn to conduct is affairs within the ambit of rule of law.”
Shettima pointed out that although the three entities’ opinions were merely advisory and not binding, Nigeria must conduct itself as a sovereign country and obey court orders at all times.
“You cannot claim to be a sovereign country and embark on repressive actions that defy what should define you as a sovereign state. The government must note that once there are evidences of disobedience to court orders and abuse of human rights, there will also be consequences.
“Of course, the Federal Government of Nigeria does not ordinarily need the caution or advice of the UK, US and the EU if it conducts its activities within the confines of rule of law, equity and justice.
“But when it goes against the the laws of the land, these countries won’t just keep quiet and close their eyes to repression,” the ACF chief added.
Buhari’s govt behaving like Abacha’s—Afenifere
In its reaction, the pan-Yoruba socio-political organization, Afenifere, said the Buhari administration was sounding like that of the late Sani Abacha regime, urging the Presidency to be decent in its conduct.
Afenifere’s National Publicity Secretary, Yinka Odumakin, said: “The regime is now sounding like that of Gen. Sani Abacha in which Maj-Gen. Buhari served as chairman of Petroleum Trust Fund, PTF.
“The rights of Nigerians were trampled upon with impunity by a regime that turned its back against the world. Even when the Pope came to Nigeria in his holiness, Abacha received him in all black, like the replica of the devil. Where is Abacha today? Has Nigeria ceased to be after him? Let these people calm down and know that all they are doing will become history. They should embrace decency in their conduct.”
We agree with US, UK, EU — Ohanaeze
Also reacting, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, which spoke through its Publicity Secretary, Prince Uche Achi-Okpaga, in Enugu, said: “It is a pity that the President has allowed his overzealous lieutenants to smear the name of the Federal Government of Nigeria in the international mud.
“There is no gainsaying that PMB is the President to all intent and purposes. He takes the glory for every success and blame as well as all deficiencies.
“Nigeria is a member of the United Nations Organisation and as well, signatory to many international charters and treaties that border on the Rule of Law and Human Rights. How could Nigeria say that she is not answerable to other nations?
“Gambia is a sovereign nation but this very government under PMB had readied Nigerian troops to flush out Yahyah Jamme, the former Gambian President, when he refused to step down. Nigeria had sent troops, under ECOWAS, AU, UNO or whatever, to other sovereign nations, including our West African neighbour, Liberia. Only a pedestrian in international politics, can posit ignorantly that Nigeria is not answerable to any other nations.
“The usual thing in Nigeria is that, most of the time, government programmes and policies are done with good intentions but marred by poor execution. I am not surprised that Nigerians are raising such concern. The government would always have the template on ground for any given policy, project or programme. So, funding would still be part of the skeletal patches.
“That is what we have been singing like a song here. We must restructure the system in all ramifications. Without that, we will continue to run a marathon race round the same field.”
Similarly, the Nigerian bar Association, NBA, which reacted through its National Publicity Secretary, Kunle Edun, said: “The human rights index of every country is critical in assessing a country’s developmental trajectory; to know whether it is a banana republic or a civilized country.
“Democracy is all about the good of the people and the respect for the rule of law. In a country where there is no rule of law and the independence of the judiciary is constantly threatened, foreign investors and tourists would give such a country a wide berth. It is, therefore, unfortunate that the special adviser on media to the President would say that the administration is not bothered how it is perceived by the international community on its human rights records.
“Nigeria is the largest black nation on earth and every black man in the world looks up to Nigeria to change the negative perception the Western nations have about the black man. If Nigerian leaders are ruling well, Nigerians would not be sleeping at the UK and U.S. embassies just to get visas to leave this country.
“Nigerians are being subjected to extreme indignities by immigration officials at foreign airports. Nigeria that should be the hub of international business in Africa is now taking the back seat.
“Foreign investors prefer London, Dubai or New York as jurisdictions for dispute resolution, not Nigeria. When a government does not obey orders of court, it practically tells foreign investors that they should not trust it to keep their investment safe. It is that bad.”
It’s shameful, unfortunate —CAN
In its reaction, the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, described Adesina’s comments as shameful and unfortunate, stressing that pressure was mounting among citizens over perceived repression of human rights in the country.
It asked the government to either see reasons with the growing local and foreign concerns over human rights abuses in Nigeria and set things right or show proof that citizens’ rights and freedoms were guaranteed under its watch.
CAN’s National Director, Legal and Public Affairs, Evang. Samuel Kwamkur, said: “It is not just the US, the UK, and the EU that are raising concerns over human rights abuses in Nigeria, citizens themselves have been crying out.
“Looking at the number of people held without trial, the number of those granted bail but not released, the level of harassment of citizens by security agents, and the attempt to introduce social media and hate speech laws, one will agree that rights abuses in Nigeria have assumed a critical and serious dimension.
“It is shameful that our leaders would wait for foreigners to draw their attention to such a worrisome situation. It is even more shameful that our leaders appear not to come to terms with the reality yet.
“We believe the US, the UK, the EU have a right to speak up when human rights and freedom are not guaranteed any where in the world. Nigeria also has the right to give it our opinion on happenings in other countries. In fact, the federal government does so when the need arises.
“The government should be sincere with itself and sit up, because the pressure is mounting among the people. Religious leaders have been appealing to their followers to be calm, loyal and support the government. But, how far can such appeals go, if they don’t see positive change on the part of government”?
CAN urged the US, the UK, and the EU to impose sanctions on Nigeria “if it is what it will take to set things right and guarantee true freedom for the people.”
Senate probes DSS invasion of court over Sowore
Meanwhile, the Senate has begun a probe into the invasion of the Federal High Court by operatives of the Department of State Services, DSS, in Abuja and rearrest of pro-democracy campaigner, Omoyele Sowore.
Consequently, the Senate yesterday mandated its Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters, chaired by Senator Opeyemi Bamidele (APC, Ekiti Central), to carry out a holistic investigation into the matter and report back in one week. The Senate resolution was sequel to a point of Order raised by Senator Opeyemi Bamidele on the invasion.
It will be recalled that some operatives of the DSS last Friday broke into the court in session to rearrest the convener of #RevolutionNow protest, Omoyele Sowore, barely 24 hours after his release from their detention facility the previous day.
Bamidele came under Order 43 of the Senate Standing Orders as amended that do not allow for contributions from other senators.
In his presentation, Senator Bamidele, who noted that the invasion and subsequent re-arrest of Sowore has raised a lot of concern in different quarters in Nigeria, stressed that the Senate could not pretend that as an institution, it was not aware of the issue, hence it brought it up at plenary.
According to him, both the leadership of the Senate and members of the judiciary are particularly concerned about the development which led to the desecration of the courtroom, considered a sanctuary.
Senator Bamidele said: “I rise to draw the attention of this Senate, especially as chairman of the Committee on Judiciary, human Rights and Legal Matters, the reported alleged invasion of the courtroom again by alleged officials of the Department of State Services, which has been in public domain. It is one issue that has raised a lot of concern in different quarters in Nigeria.
“The leadership and members of the judiciary are particularly concerned about this development because they believe, like the rest of us do, that the courtroom is meant to be a sanctuary but for us as a Senate, we cannot begin to take a position or analyze the issues based on conclusion without facts that we consider incontrovertible.
“Yet, much as we cannot just jump into conclusions, it is also a fact that we cannot pretend not to know that Nigerians are concerned about this development. The reason I have chosen to come under Order 43 is so that I will not generate any controversy or even make the Senate to begin to debate or engage in a debate over an issue in respect of which, like I said earlier, we still need to have incontrovertible facts and evidence.
“In view of this, I just want to say that as elected representatives of the people in whom Nigerians, including the judiciary must find their voice, that we mandate our Committee on National Security and Intelligence to interface with the relevant security agencies, look into this matter, investigate what happened and report back to the Senate on this matter.”
In his remarks, President of the Senate, Senator Ahmad Lawan, who referred the matter to the Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters to investigate, rather than the Committee on National Security and Intelligence as suggested by Bamidele, said: “Distinguished colleagues, you know Order 43 does not allow for any debate and since this is a matter that affects the Judiciary, we rather mandate your committee to find out what happened.
“So, I would suggest that our committee on judiciary investigates, finds out what actually happened and then report back to us in one week.”
Pro-DSS protesters storm NASS
In a related development, a coalition of civil society organizations yesterday besieged the National Assembly, accusing politicians who lost out in the 2019 general elections of plotting to destabilise the country in the guise of fighting for human rights and the rule of law.
The protest came barely two days after the House of Representatives resolved to investigate the invasion and disruption of court proceedings, allegedly by operatives of the Department of State Services, DSS, in the bid to re-arrest Sowore.
The coalition, acting under the aegis of Civil Society Groups for Peace, Sustainable Security and National Development, declared there was nothing repressive about the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari.
“Rather, it is a new era of transparency, respect for rule of law and security,” the coalition contended.
Reading from a petition addressed to Speaker of the House of Representatives, Convener of the Coalition, Comrade Adamu Matazu, said Nigerians are worried by the activities of individuals and groups who offered themselves as stooges to the machination of terrorist organizations from within and outside the shores of the country in order to cause civil unrest and force overthrow of a democratically elected government.
The coalition said: “All over the world, national interest takes precedence over individual human rights and no sovereign nation will sit aloof while its national security is being threatened, under the shadow of free speech, human rights and democracy.
“Individuals or groups that amplify call for change in government through violence, rather than through the ballot which is the only known constitutionally guaranteed process, are state enemies and must be treated as such.
“It is an incontrovertible fact that those who lost out in the last general election (2019) are hell-bent on promoting destablization of the government in place through a well-orchestrated campaign that promotes hate along ethnic and religious fault lines to torpedo a democratically elected government via unconstitutional means.’’
The coalition recalled what it described as a landmark judgement of the Supreme Court in the case of Asari Dokubo (Appellant) Vs Federal Republic of Nigeria (Respondents) S. C. 208/2006 in which the apex court ruled that “…where National Security is threatened or there is the real likelihood of it being threatened, human rights or individuals rights of those responsible take second place.
“Human rights or individual rights must be suspended until national security can be protected or well taken care of.
“Against this backdrop, we, as the conscience of democracy, human right and indisputable champion of human rights, wish to state the following position: That where national security is threatened, we must join hands with our security agencies to neutralise imminent threats to our collective well being, safety and security.
“That we are satisfied with the present leadership of the Department of State Services, DSS, led by a seasoned intelligent officer Mr. Yusuf Magaji Bichi.
“We admonish the National Human Rights Commission to stop meddling in national security issues in the name of protecting human rights’ defenders. We salute the DSS and other security organizations for containing all national threats, safeguarding our democracy and for their tolerance to genuine and objective criticism.
“We wish to sound a note of warning to Amnesty International Nigeria to stop its needless meddlesomeness in our national security affairs or risk being declared persona-non-grata by the Nigerian civil society community.”