By Jude Ndukwe
“Politics is the art of making your selfish desires seem like the national interest” – Thomas Sowell
Recently, during his address to lawyers at the 2018 Annual Conference of the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, in Abuja, President Muhammadu Buhari had alarmed not only Nigerians but the entire world when he was quoted as saying that “Rule of Law must be subject to the supremacy of the nation’s security and national interest”.
The alarm bell this sounded to Nigerians would not have been so troubling if the one who made such a speech was not the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in whose hands lie enormous powers that allow him function almost like the Alpha and Omega of our country, thereby inflicting injurious abuses on citizens and the nation as a whole.
Such a statement would not have caused much chaos in the polity if the president had been known to exercise his powers with restraint and not unleashed them on the people according to his own whimsies and caprices.
What president Buhari does not seem to know, and this is unfortunate considering his position, is that the Rule of Law encompasses every aspect of the society including national interest and security. In fact, it is a monumental failure on the part of the numerous legal luminaries he has access to including the Honourable Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation, Mr Abubakar Malami SAN, for the president to be allowed to goof big time on such a matter of national and international concern.
It is therefore not a surprise that just five days after making that infamous statement subjecting the rule of law to national security, whatever that means, President Buhari immediately capitulated, and as is famous with his administration, somersaulted before the visiting German Chancellor, Angel Merkel, telling her that he would always uphold the rule of law in governing the country.
President Buhari was quoted to have told the German chancellor and her delegation that “…the rule of law embodies all the rightful mechanisms for conflict resolution, both within the country, and in dealing with all foreign partners…”
This kind of self-reversal is shameful, to say the least, given that the president’s speech to the NBA was a deliberate one and reflected the mindset and code of conduct of the Buhari administration. It is the stark reality of the banality of the president’s stance, something he could neither defend nor promote before the civilized world that made him contradict himself before the German Chancellor. The question then is, why propagate it in the country in the first place?
It is certain that Buhari’s statement at the NBA conference was not a statement of intent but that made to justify the many cases of gross abuse of citizens’ rights and flagrant disregard of court orders and persecution of democratic institutions including the legislature from 2015 till date. It was a statement made to justify the administration’s acts of sheer wickedness and brutality against the people. Like Buhari himself told Merkel, without rule of law, there cannot be national security. In fact, it is in national interest to observe the rule of law as doing otherwise leaves the citizens to the rule of might of few power drunk individuals and cabals in government, and such usually lead to the breakdown of law and order.
Our nation is replete with Buhari’s gross abuse of power. As it was with him as a military Head of State, so it is with him now and even worse. Just last week, it was reported that the DSS released seven Nigerians who had been in its custody and were held in the Services’ underground cell under inhuman conditions for over two years without trial or prosecution of any form.
One of them, Clinton Ohaigbofa from Ebedebiri in Ogbia Local Government Area of Bayelsa State, narrated their heartrending ordeal thus: “They treated us badly. We were held in an underground cell. They gave us little bread in the morning, little rice in the afternoon and a morsel of semovita in the evening.
“Each portion of food cannot satisfy a two-year old baby. They deprived us of everything. They didn’t even take us to court. There was no freedom to even see light. They subjected us to severe punishment. They kept us hungry and deprived us of medication”.
If this is not wickedness, what else can one adjudge it to be?
It is befuddling that citizens held under Buhari’s warped definition of national security and interest are eventually released without any trial. The question is, when such hapless citizens are released at the pleasure of the president, does it mean that they have stopped being security threat to the nation or someone somewhere just wanted to test the might of his power on innocent and helpless citizens?
Jones Abiri, a Bayelsa-based journalist was also recently released after public outcry against his whimsical incarceration for about two years in DSS custody without trial. After having been subjected to similar inhuman treatment and stripped of his dignity like an ordinary housefly by Buhari’s men, Abiri regained his freedom with an everlasting psychological scar to himself and his loved ones.
Col Sambo Dasuki, rtd, is another victim of the gross abuse of the rule of law. After having perfected his bail conditions irrespective of their stringent nature, Buhari and his men have blatantly disregarded several orders of courts of competent jurisdiction to allow Dasuki enjoy his bail while his trial continued. The man has been in illegal detention for over two years now.
The case of the leader of Islamic Movement in Nigeria, IMN, otherwise known as the Shiites, Sheikh Ibrahim El-Zakzaky, is even more gruesome. After men and officers of the Nigerian Army killed his children and hundreds of his followers in cold blood in Zaria in 2015, the Buhari administration has continued to hold him and his wife in custody in gross disobedience of multiple court orders.
The worst of government actions based on Buhari’s kind of “national security and interest” was the utterly disgusting and brutish invasion of the national assembly, an institution that symbolizes democracy in nations worldwide, by men of the Department of State Services, DSS, on Tuesday, August 7, 2018. That mindless invasion, perhaps reminds Nigerians that Buhari means business when he acts in ways subjecting a universal principle like the rule of law to his selfish, parochial and jaundiced definition of national interest and security. That invasion proves to the entire world that Nigeria currently parades tyrants as leaders in Nigeria. It was an invasion that rubbished the well established universal principles of separation of power and checks and balances in every civilized democratic dispensation.
The prevention of lawmakers and staff of the national assembly from gaining entrance into the assembly to conduct their legitimate businesses as provided for by our laws, by gun-toting masked law enforcement officers, leaves no one in doubt as to the mindset and workings of the Buhari administration. Although Lawal Daura who was DG of the DSS as at the time the invasion happened was eventually sacked in what a majority of Nigerians describe as desperate efforts by government to save its face after the invasion planned to achieve its purpose, has since been reported to have said that contrary to insinuations in some quarters that he acted alone, the invasion was a “collective decision”.
Similar to such official political brigandage was the illegal invasion of the Benue State House of Assembly this time by policemen who prevented the lawmakers from gaining access to the assembly complex for the purpose of carrying out their legitimate duties. The rampaging policemen had said their actions were based on the usual “oder from above”, a cliché marauding law enforcement officers on illegal duties have always used to cover their atrocities.
While Nigerians and their democratic institutions including the legislature and the judiciary were being rubbished by Buhari’s executive arm in the name of national interest and security, Fulani herdsmen terrorists have been having a field day killing innocent Nigerians in their thousands including women and children, sacking whole communities and destroying people’s sources of livelihood. Rather than arrest the culprits, Buhari and his “national interest and security” government have been making excuses ranging from the ridiculous to the mundane for these unrelenting killers. What an irony! What a tragedy!
Maybe it is also in national interest and security that Babachir Lawal, former SGF is still walking free after being indicted for allegedly defrauding our poorest of the poor, the IDPs. Maybe it is also in national interest and security that Kemi Adeosun, Buhari’s minister of finance is still holding on to her job two months after her reported NYSC certificate forgery scandal was exposed. Maybe it was also in national interest and security that the alleged pension thief, Abdulrashid Maina, was scandalously and surreptitiously recalled and promoted by this administration until the whole thing was blown open. We can go on and on.
Just like the Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Walter Onnoghen, said on Tuesday, July 24, 2018, during the commissioning and official opening of an ultramodern Court of Appeal Complex in Calabar, “without the rule of law, the society is doomed”, Nigeria is heading for doom under this administration.
Let me conclude this piece with the golden words of the Supreme Court in Military Governor of Lagos State vs Odimegwu Ojukwu (2001) FWLR (part 50) 1779, 1802:
“The Nigerian Constitution is founded on the rule of law, the primary meaning of which is that everything must be done according to law. Nigeria, being one of the countries in the world which professes loudly to follow the rule of law, gives no room for the rule of self-help by force to operate”.
I hope Buhari and his handlers heard that?
email@example.com; Twitter: @stjudendukwe
Lawyer raises alarm over N15 billion NDDC payments
A legal practitioner, Mr. Godwin Ojeh, has lamented what he called corruption of self-enrichment in the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), calling on President Muhammadu Buhari, President of the Nigerian Senate , Ahmed Lawan and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt. Hon Femi Gbajabiamila to stop the payment of N15 billion to contractors.
‘’The Interim Management Committee of the Niger Delta Development Commission has thrown caution to the winds. It is about to pay for jobs not done. The committee is processing the payment of a whooping amount of N15billion on spurious contracts in the name of ‘’Desilting of Waterways’’.
He particularly decried the misappropriation in the management of the funds of the commission.
‘Is the 2020 budget of the commission ready? Where are they spending from? ’Recently, the Senate set up an ad hoc committee to probe the Interim Management Committee of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) over alleged mismanagement of N40billion. The Senate also requested for 2019 budgetary performance. The commission doesn’t have power to expend public money. There is no budgetary provision’’.
In a tone suggestive of his hatred for corruption, the Benin based lawyer asked the National Assembly and the executive arm of the government to stop the commission from wasting the country’s resources.
In a statement in Benin, Ojeh described the intention of the NDDC Interim Management Committee as ‘’a move that will endanger development of the region
‘’There is no greater danger to the development of the Niger Delta region than the payments for fictitious contracts’’ the statement said.
He also harped on the need for transparency in government organizations, saying ‘’it is necessary for the National Assembly and the executive arm of government to adopt a collective position on the allegation of corruption in the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC)’’.
Credit: Ebireri Henry Ovie
ABEOKUTA AND ITS PERENNIAL FLOODING: GOV. ABIODUN TO THE RESCUE
By Elijah Udofia
Saturday, July 4, 2020, is a day the people of Abeokuta, particularly those living very close to the city’s waterways, would not forget in a hurry. Like in the days of Noah, the floodgates were opened and the showers came down heavily, causing floods of havoc that ravaged portions of the city. For somebody who was in the capital city of the Gateway State for the first time, the sight of flooded roads, with water subterranean enough to swim, floating household possessions, evacuated trees, washed way bridges and people congregating on high rise buildings, waiting for the water to recede, is something he or she will live to remember for a long time.
On that day, the heavens opened and brought with it sorrows, but thankfully, without blood. The torrential rain which started at about three in the morning did not stop until six in the evening, thereby thrashing hard on the ancient city for 16 good hours, non-stop. It is instructive to note that July of every year, has always been a period when the city experiences great flooding, occasion by torrential rain. Apart from the destruction of critical public infrastructures, mostly roads and bridges, it is always a time when those living close to the canals, have their hearts in their mouths. Hardly a year passes without these areas experiencing flooding which lead to loss of properties and in some cases, life or lives as the case may be.
The recent one affected mostly areas are; Isale-Oja, Kuto, Ago-Ijesha, Ijeun-Titun, Ijeja-Igbore road, Gbangba, Elite-Lantoro road and Oba Adeleye’s recreational park. One is however happy that areas like Ijaye and Isale-Igbein, which used to experience serious flooding had been taken care of, by the construction of Lafenwa, Sapon, Idi-Aba, Ajebo road and Onikolobo, Omida and Sapon road. It should be noted here that the issue of flooding in Abeokuta is not new, as previous governments, including military administrations, had course to contend with this menace. The presence of the Vice President, who came to inspect the extent of damage caused by flooding two years ago, is an indication that the issue is not a child’s play. What is disturbing however is that the damages caused are becoming more devastating, which calls for concern by all and sundry?
Being the head of a government that came to power on the popular mandate, the State Governor, Prince Dapo Abiodun, immediately the rain ceased on Sunday morning, ordered a team of government officials, led by the Environment Commissioner, Hon. Abiodun Abudu-Balogun took a tour of the areas affected by the flood and came up with a report to enable the government to respond accordingly.
As if that was not enough, the Governor, the following day, personally went round the affected areas to see things for himself. Prince Abiodun who was shocked due to the extent of damage caused not only to public assets, but to the property of the people, there and then, promised that his administration would assist them in mitigating the effect of their loss.
“I am here to look at the damage caused by the rain that fell on Saturday. Though I have sent my Commissioners and other government officials to inspect the damages, I decided to also come and see things for myself. I am happy that no life was lost, though you lost properties.
“I want to assure all of you who lost property to the flood that we will support you. In a few days’ time, government officials will come to see you to take down your names and properties affected, so that we can look at how to compensate you”.
On what the government intends to do to settle the matter once and for all, Prince Dapo Abiodun said the dredging of the canal that crisscrosses the State capital was on-going, while clearing of refuse in the gutters, was also carried out. He then informed the people that the government has assessed the damage caused to the roads and bridges with a view to carry out a comprehensive and proper channelization of the waterways.
“I want to assure you that we will repair the damaged roads, expand the gutters and bridges so that when rain falls, the gutters and the bridges would be able to accommodate the large volume of water. With this, the problem of erosion would be a thing of the past”, he promised
Governor Abiodun attributed flooding in the State capital to rapid development, besought the people to desist from dumping refuse or building structures on the waterways as these also contributed to the flooding. Collaborating the position of the Governor on the ways to find permanent solution to the menace of flooding in the State, the Commissioner for Environment, Hon. Abiodun Abudu-Balogun, noted that regular dredging of the waterways, converting some old culverts to bridges as well as delisting drainages to allow free flow of water will be done by the government.
The Commissioner disclosed that dredging is currently going on at Isale-Oja to Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library up to Orange Valley View Estate, adding that the government is not only looking at Abeokuta alone, as dredging is also ongoing in 16 places across the State. Though the government ultimate goal is to find a permanent solution to the problem, in the meantime, a temporary arrangement according to the Commissioner, was going on at the sites, as allowing the affected areas to remain unattended to, will adversely affect the socio-economic well-being of people and adds to their suffering. The Commissioner appealed to residents of the State to properly dispose of their refuse and desist from dumping them on waterways, to minimize the effects of flooding.
For Alhaji Bello Mohammed, Secretary, Isale-Oja, Kuto, Community Development Association, his community has been experiencing flooding on a yearly basis in the last 10 years. He opined that proper channelization of the canal with an adequate drainage system, would bring an end to the flooding. Also, Mrs. Abike Awosanya and Abideen Musibau, residents of Ago-Ijesha, in Abeokuta South Local Government, said that they want the government to urgently find lasting solution to the flood problem, as it has affected their means of livelihood and make life unbearable for them.
Also bearing his mind, Mr. Raphael Anthony, a motorcyclist, who plied Ijaye-Kuto route, appealed to the State government to regularly dredge the waterways and expand the drainages system as the existing ones can no longer accommodate large volumes of water, during heavy rain. More so, Mrs. Florence Adegbite, an apprentice hairstylist at Ijeun Titun, opined that, “from what I am seeing, I think the State government would need help, particularly from the Federal government to permanently address this problem, a huge amount of money will be involved.
Though Government has a big role to play in bringing an end to the flooding issue, l observed with pain that the actions and inactions of the people are not helping in this regard. A walk through the State capital, one will see the non-challant attitude of the people as they dump refuse even at places where they are not supposed to.
Some simple questions I would like to ask are, what is refuse doing on road medians? Why do people turn gutters, drainages which are supposed to carry water to the canal, to refuse dumpsites? Why do people find it difficult to clear gutters, even those in front of their houses? And most importantly, why do people build structures on waterways that were invented/constructed to serve as drains to the river. All these questions need urgent answers, if the problem of flooding in Abeokuta, is to be addressed.
Now that Governor Dapo Abiodun’s government is showing commitment by putting in place measures that will permanently solve the problem of perennial flooding in the capital city, it is imperative for citizens to also play their parts, because as the African saying goes, “one cannot clap with one hand”.
Udofia, Head of the Governor’s Press Crew, Oke-Mosan, Abeokuta, Ogun State.
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