By Tonnie Iredia

In this era of global insecurity, not a few have developed the tendency to perceive a security dimension to any event be it local or foreign. In Nigeria, two recent events in two states, Kano and Cross River have underscored the ubiquitous nature of security and its capacity to serve as good theoretical cover for happenings and actions. The removal of Sanusi II as Emir of Kano by the Kano state government was one of such actions while the second was the refusal of the Cross-River State House of Assembly to confirm a judge who had acted without blemish as Chief Judge of the state. Whereas the two events are unrelated, a common string that ties them is that they both show how inexplicable things are casually explained away in Nigeria when rationality fails the principal actors.

Let us begin with the earlier of the events which concerns the vacancy in the position of Chief Judge of Cross-River State.  The standing arrangement is that the most senior judge in the state judiciary is ordinarily elevated to the position subject to the recommendation of the National Judicial Council NJC and confirmation of the State House of Assembly.  Governor Ben Ayade followed the arrangement by sending to the NJC, the name of a female judge, Justice Akon Ikpeme who happens to be the most senior judge in the state which the NJC endorsed. But for reasons no one is quite sure of, the House of Assembly declined to confirm the lady leading to the swearing-in of the next in line, Justice Maurice Eneji thereby creating supersession in the judicial service.

Many versions of the story of why Ikpeme was not confirmed exist. The first which identified indigeneship as the problem suggests that Ikpeme was not confirmed because although she lays claim to Cross River by marriage, she is Akwa Ibom by birth. It is believed that the legislators wanted an indigene in the position hence they declined to confirm Ikpeme. The second version simply says the House of Assembly was not impressed with the performance of the lady during the clearance session. Unfortunately for the pro-indigene group, some of their fellow legislators who didn’t buy the parochial disposition revealed that there was nothing Ikpeme did wrong or failed to do which provoked strong public disapproval of the plot. For want of what to say, the legislators reportedly declared the lady a security risk insisting that it was for security reasons which cannot be made public that the judge was not confirmed.

In Kano, the situation was not quite different. When it became clear that the removal of the Emir particularly his forced relocation to Nasarawa didn’t receive public approval, different versions of what transpired emerged. First, the media aide to the governor argued that that there was nothing new about the removal and banishment of the Emir because it was done in the past. Following public comments on the fine difference between colonial/military dictatorship and constitutional democracy, the Attorney General of the state then explained that banishment was not part of the decision of the state government challenging anyone to read the official statement again. It was when the Secretary to the State Government (SSG) who was initially on the same page with his colleagues was asked to explain the difference between the term ‘to banish’ which was not in the letter and the term ‘to relocate to Nasarawa’ which his letter stated that the security theory came to light. On national television, the SSG unconvincingly sought to attribute to the security agencies the decision to take out the ex-Emir. He imagined that it was the security operatives who observed a likely security breach if the movement of the deposed Emir was not curtailed in the public interest.

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Painfully, the media did not obtain the side of the security agencies to the story. How for instance, did they arrive at forcing the Emir out? Was the letter on the subject to them same as the one the SSG read to the public? Was the movement of the ex-Emir out of kano their own initiative? Otherwise, who determined the exact location to which they restricted the former Emir? Does the venue of the relocation belong to any of the security agencies? If not, who owns the house and how was he contacted to give it up in the public interest?  Answers to these questions might help government to appropriately evaluate the capacity of each of her officials for future events. Our suspicion is that what went wrong in Kano or even Calabar was not the plan; rather it was as usual the bungling of its implementation.

It is therefore simplistic to blame only Governor Ganduje for removing the Emir; more so as we know every Nigerian politician in his situation who would have acted like him. However, his officials should have subjected to rigorous scrutiny, the procedures and processes to be followed. For example, while assuring the governor of his powers to remove an Emir, the expedience of following due process in exercising the highlighted power should have been correspondingly emphasized. The alleged wrongs of the accused should have been clearly conveyed to him and his documented responses obtained. The argument by some government officials that the removal was merely administrative suggests that sufficient effort was not made to ensure that the envisaged administrative handling did not breach the principles of natural justice. While it is true that an administrative action does not have to follow a purely technical procedure as is done in the courts, the accused must be given a chance to state his own case just as his accusers must be fair and just by not doubling as the judge. Attention should also have been drawn to the not too distant case of Emir Jokolo which established that the curtailment of anyone’s movement in our current dispensation requires judicial sanction.

At the time of preparing this piece, ex-Emir Sanusi’s lawyers had said they were going to court which now precludes us from further comments. What remains now is to return to the Calabar issue with a few suggestions on the futility of using security to explain off unfathomable posers. Bearing in mind that Nigerian state legislators generally do whatever their state governors desire, Governor Ayade should get members of the Cross-River State House of Assembly out of their hiding under the cover of security and forthwith confirm Justice Akon Ikpeme as Chief Judge of the state. If not, the NJC, should in line with prevailing practice discipline any judge of the state who accepts to be sworn-in as Chief Judge without NJC’s consent. We recall other areas such as elections where officials often credit their inept actions to logistic problems. We are also familiar with airline officials who repeatedly, like robots, describe their lacklustre performance, as ‘due operational reasons’ but we do not expect our security agencies to condone the trend whereby state actors use their precious term, ‘security’ as a cover for inexplicable actions.



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