HURIWA Express Concern Over Disregard Of Rules Of Law By Nigerian Enforcement Agencies

Prominent Civil Rights Advocacy Group- HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) has expressed consternation and profound concern on the incessant cases of flagrant Disregard for the Rule of law by supposed law enforcement agencies including the armed forces of the Federation.

HURIWA is of the position that the brazen disrespect to the sanctity of the constitutional rights of Nigerian citizens by the Police and other supposed law enforcement agencies is responsible for the heightened state of violence in the South East of Nigeria and other parts of the Country.

The Rights group says the hierarchies of the armed forces of the Federation and the Police operate in such arbitrary ways and manners that it would seem they are licensed by the President who has the final command and control over the security services to adopt impunity and lawlessness as the modus operandi since the past 6 years just as HURIWA CONDEMNS the minister of information and Culture Alhaji Lai Mohammed for blaming members of the now prescribed Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB) for the gruesome mass killings of some policemen operatives recently even without the minutest verifiable body of evidence.

HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) said the persistent violations of binding court orders concerning cases by members of the now prescribed Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB) by the Nigeria Police Force and the illegal renditions of suspected members of the same self acclaimed unarmed group IPOB are the direct causes of the unprecedented anarchy in the South East of Nigeria just as the Rights group wondered why the Police that ought to enforce the laws is the major culprit in lawlessness and arbitrariness by refusing to comply with binding orders of the Competent courts of law especially concerning the Imo State girl allegedly kidnapped by the police in Owerri but found by a human rights group after seven months after she was converted to a maid/cook by the police-  Miss Glory Okolie.

HURIWA  through the National Coordinator Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko and Miss Zainab Yusuf the Media Affairs National Director stated thus: ” Miss. Okolie was arrested on June 17 by IRT officers in order to use her as bait to arrest her boyfriend who is suspected to be a member of the indigenous people of Biafra.

The Nigerian Constitution and other International Human Rights provisions frowns seriously on illegal arrest and detention of citizens without sufficient evidence upon which a charge can be preferred against him. see the case of Alade VS the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

In the constitutional context, section 35 of the 1999 Constitution  states that the police cannot detain any suspect for longer than 48 hours without a court order .Also in SECTION 34 which gives her right to respect to her human dignity, ,36 a person shall be entitled to a fair hearing within a reasonable time. Personal liberty connotes right to freedom from wrongful or false imprisonment, arrest, or any physical restraint whether in any common prison, or even in the open street without legal justification.

In The Administration of Criminal Justice Act in Section 6 has eradicated Arbitrary Arrests of Suspects by the Police, and they now are mandated to notify a Suspect of their Right to a Legal Representation, and can no longer take Statements without a Lawyer present or any other Person of the Suspect’s choice. The Act also provides for the Right of the Suspect to Free Legal Consultation by the Legal Aid Council of Nigeria where the Suspect cannot afford one. Gone are the days when the Police will arrest a Suspect without notifying their Relation, because the Act has made it mandatory for the notifications of Suspect’s Next of Kin at no Cost. The Administration of Criminal Justice Law (Rivers-State) specifically provides for Interpretation in the Language the Suspect understands, and also extended further the Notification of Arrest to the Suspect’s Friend, in Section 6(3) (v) ACJL (Rivers-State).

Most importantly on Miss Glory Okolie case the law frowns at arrest by proxy. No Arrest by Proxy In Section 7 of the ACJA, the Police can no longer arrest any Person in place of a Suspect, and it applies to every other Agency or Apparatus with the authority to arrest. In the past where a Suspect is not found, the Police usually arrest Relations or Friends of the Suspect to lure the Suspect out of hiding, it is no longer the case with this provision.

Prohibition of Inhumane Treatment The ACJA in Section 8 and 9 of ACJA prohibits Torture, Cruel, Inhumane or Degrading Treatment of Suspects.

THE NECESSITY OF GOVERNMENT OR THE EXECUTIVE ARMS OF GOVERNMENT OF NIGERIA TO  COMPLY ABSOLUTELY  ON THE RULE OF LAW.

The rule of law is the pillar of constitutional democracy and according to section 1 (1)  of  the 1999 constitution 1. (1) This Constitution is supreme and its provisions shall have binding force on the authorities and persons

Throughout the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

(2) The Federal Republic of Nigeria shall not be governed, nor shall any persons or group of persons

Take control of the Government of Nigeria or any part thereof, except in accordance with the

Provisions of this Constitution.

(3) If any other law is inconsistent with the provisions of this Constitution, this Constitution shall

Prevail, and that other law shall, to the extent of the inconsistency, be void.

President Abraham Lincoln (1809 – 1865), a Republican and the 16th President of the United States of America, in his address at the dedication of the military cementary at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania on 19th November, 1863 defines democracy as: “The government of the people, by the people and for the people.” In the words of Hon. Justice S. O. Uwaifo, democracy is the popular control of the government by the will of the majority.

It requires, as well, measures to ensure adherence to the principles of supremacy of law, equality before the law, accountability to the law, fairness in the application of the law, separation of powers, participation in decision-making, legal certainty, avoidance of arbitrariness and procedural and legal transparency.

Factors that Can Ensure The Operation of the Rule Of Law are as follows-:

The judiciary must be free from the control of the ruling government. …

The remuneration of judges should be free from executive control. …

Provisions should be made for the right of appeal. …

The citizens must understand their right and be prepared to defend them.

In a constitutional democracy like ours, it is of utmost importance that the judiciary should fully play its role in upholding the rule of law. For the judiciary to achieve this, independence, impartiality and easy accessibility to court, must be guaranteed. The jurisdiction of the Courts should also be protected and guarded jealously for the protection of rights of citizens. This proposition was expounded by Aniagolu JSC in Safekun v. Akinyemi & Ors. thus; It is essential in constitutional democracy such as we have in this country, that for the protection of rights of citizens, for the guarantee of the rule of law, which include according to fair trial to the citizen under procedural irregularity, and for checking arbitrary use of power by the executive or its agencies, the power and jurisdiction of courts under the Constitution must not only be kept intact

And unfetted but also must not be nibbled at … Indeed, so important is that preservation of and non interference with, the jurisdiction of the Courts that our present Constitution has specifically provided in S. 4(8) that neither the National Assembly or House of Assembly shall enact any law that ousts or purports to oust the jurisdiction of a Court of law or a judicial tribunal established by law. The Constitution of Nigeria preserves the jurisdiction of the Courts precluding ouster of court’s jurisdiction in legislations; this is very commendable of a constitutional democracy. Hence, there are checks and balances and arbitrariness is reduced.

In Governor of Lagos State v. Ojukwu, the Supreme Court dealt passionately and extensively on the need to obey court orders and thus held inter alia, that “it is a very serious matter for anyone to flout a positive order of a court and proceed to insult the court further by seeking a remedy in a higher court while still in contempt.

Also, the 1999 Constitution preserves the jurisdiction of the Courts; this is very commendable of a constitutional democracy. Hence, there are checks and balances and arbitrariness is reduced. Therefore, disputes as to the legality of acts of government must be decided by Courts and by judges who are wholly independent of the executive. This is illustrated in All Nigerian Peoples Party & Ors. V. Benue State Independent Electoral Commission & Ors. Here, the appellants sponsored candidates for election into the Office of the Chairman and Vice Chairman of the Kwande Local Government Council of Benue State. After the elections, the results were collated and the officials of the respondents on 28/04/2004 declared the results of the poll and gave the copies of the certificate of return to agents of the appellants, the police and other agents present at the collation centre. To the appellants’ greatest surprise instead of the 1st respondent publishing the result and declaring same in the Gazette as required by law,  they announced the following day over the State radio that the election had been postponed indefinitely. Aggrieved by this action, the appellants filed a suit in the State High Court. The State High Court said it has no jurisdiction. Dissatisfied, the appellants appealed to the Court of Appeal. The Court of Appeal, Jos Division unanimously allowing the appeal stated that the Nigeria Constitution is founded on the rule of law, the primary meaning of which is that everything should be done according to law. Disputes as to the legality of acts of government are to be decided by judges who are wholly independent of the executive. According to him, judiciary cannot shirk its sacred responsibility to the nation to maintain the rule of law, for this is both in the interest of the government and all persons in Nigeria. It is worthy of note that the rule of law and the rule of force are mutually exclusive. Law rules by reason and morality, force rules by violence and immorality. Thus, where the rule of law operates, the rule of self-help by force is abandoned. Therefore, once the Court is seized of a matter no party has a right to take the matter into his own hands. This is the ratio in Nwadiajuebowe v. Nwawo & Ors. where the Court of Appeal Benin Division per Augie, J.C.A. observed that there is no dispute to the fact that the Delta State Government published the said Delta State Legal Notice No. 6 of 1996. This was done on August 16, 1996, during the pendency of the suit, which had been filed by the plaintiff/respondents on the 7th day of December, 1995, wherein they claimed that the rulership of Onicha-Olona was rotational. For the Delta State Government to go ahead and promulgate a legal notice, which favours one of the parties, is clearly to undermine the proceedings before the Court, and amounts to treating the Court with levity and contempt. The Court went further to state that the law is trite that once the court is seized of a matter, no party has the right to take the matter unto his own hands.

There is no gainsaying that the application of the rule of law principle is predominant in democratic system of government as can be seen in a plethora of cases discussed above. Moreover, it has gained tremendous credence with the new democratic dispensation in Nigeria because Presidentt upholds the rule of law. This is evident in a number of recently decided cases and issues in the polity. In Peter Obi v. INEC48, the appellant aggrieved with the declaration of Dr. Chris Ngige, as the Governor of Anambra State by INEC, filed a petition at the Governorship and Legislative Houses Election Tribunal, challenging the declaration and return of Dr. Chris Ngige, as the candidate who won. The tribunal upheld the appellant’s petition stating that he was the candidate who was validly and duly elected. Dr. Ngige dissatisfied appealed to the Court of Appeal. The Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal and affirmed the decision of the tribunal. Consequently, Peter Obi took the oath of office as the Governor of Anambra State on the 17th day of March, 2006. In 2007, INEC announced that the election to the Office of the Governor of Anambra State would be conducted on the 14th day of April, 2007. The appellant, that is, Peter Obi aggrieved, commenced an action at the Federal High Court against INEC asking the Court to declare that his tenure of office as Governor of Anambra State began to run from the date he took the oath of allegiance and office on the 17th day of March, 2006. That he, the incumbent Governor has not served his four-year tenure of office. The trial court held that it lacks jurisdiction, since the suit is related to election matters. Appeal, the Court of Appeal upheld the decision of the trial court that it indeed lacked jurisdiction and dismissed the appeal. The appellant then appealed to the Supreme Court and the Supreme Court unanimously allowed the appeal, stating that jurisdiction should be examined not when it is invoked, but when the cause of action arose. It is the claim of the plaintiff that determines the jurisdiction of a court entertaining same. For this, the four-year term of the office of Peter Obi, as Governor of Anambra State starts to run from the day he took his oath of allegiance and office, from the 17th day of March, 2006 to 16th day of March 2010, as is provided by Section 180(2)(a).  The Federal High Court has unfettered jurisdiction to entertain and determine the suit. The most striking issue was that this decision was welcomed by the President, who even ordered, the immediate reinstatement of Peter Obi as Governor of Anambra State, as directed by the Court. This decision by the Supreme Court is actually rule of law in-action.”

COMRADE EMMANUEL ONWUBIKO:

NATIONAL COORDINATOR:

HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA).

DECEMBER 1ST 2021. 

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