In recent times, the Nigerian nation-state has been inundated with protests from youths with regard to executive lawlessness and abysmal governance.
The festering police brutality especially by the unit called Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), was the last straw that broke the camel’s back.
The lack of respect for human life, the dignity of human person and torture were brazenly demonstrated by SARS.
SARS lived above the law and had gained a level of notoriety for extra-judicial killings and were never brought to book for their unlawful acts.
Youths were the targets of the police unit, virtually all youths were suspects. They were harassed, intimidated, tortured, extorted and killed, yet the government feigned ignorance of their actions.
Suspects arrested by the SARS operatives paid huge sums of money to regain their freedom even when they hadn’t committed any crime yet you find inscription in police stations that “bail is free.”
In spite of the Anti-Torture Act of 2017, SARS went about their operation as usual, killing and maiming people without hindrance.
There is no doubt that the world wide protest over the extra-judicial killing of a black American suspect, George Floyd by white policemen, has inspired the need for propriety and adherence to the rule of law.
Hitherto, the police had their way in doing evil, while public complacency made it go unnoticed and simmer.
Interestingly, the ongoing youth protest has paid off handsomely as SARS has been proscribed.
But the youths are not done with protest yet, they say SARS has become synonymous with all the wrong doings in the country that must be corrected.
The Nigerian Youths despite ethnic cleavages unanimously demand the reduction of salaries and allowances of senators and representatives. Hard facts bear out that while the masses wallow in misery and abject poverty, the senators roll in luxury.Most politicians loot the nation’s treasury without compunction. In a country named among the world’s poorest, the senators are the highest paid. Such is the height of corruption and deliberate impoverishment of the masses.
In the light of weird happenings, the protesters also want a more transparent war against corruption.
The youths aver that the bane of the Nigerian nation is a failed leadership, abysmal electoral system and insipid economy. They have given ultimatum to the Federal Government to make reforms or face a more momentous demonstrations in a wider spectrum.
However, the government is fingering the opposition and pockets of disgruntled elements in the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) for the protests.
The APC believes that the youth protest is politically motivated. FG wants to find out who is bankrolling the protest. Allegations have been levelled against notable politicians.
The Federal Government intends to deploy soldiers to quell the protest in view of its escalating propensity and the inability of the police to manage it.
Besides, if the demonstration is not well managed, there is a likelihood that it will turn to a revolution. That is why many are beginning to ask whether protest is legitimate.
Protest is a human right that finds expression in the right to freedom of assembly, and association and the right to freedom of speech.
The right to the freedom of assembly and association as well as the right to the freedom of expression and press respectively are found in sections 40 and 39 of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 as amended.
These rights are entrenched in the nation’s grundnorm, the constitution. Therefore, any law that is inconsistent with the spirit and letters of the constitution to the extent of that inconsistency is null and void.
However, the fundamental rights contained in chapter IV of the aforesaid constitution are not without limitations. The limitations are contained in the constitution as well.Also the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which Nigeria is a signatory contains prohibition on propaganda of war and advocacy of national, racial and religious hatred.
Interestingly, the right to protest is limited by threat to the interest of national security, public safety, the protection of public health or morals or protection of the rights and freedom of others.
Under the aforementioned situations the fundamental rights can be derogated.
However, not all protests are violent or become a threat to the national security. Where the protests are largely peaceful, what the police ought to do is monitor the protesters so that they neither derogate the right of others nor take the laws into their hands.
The right to the freedom of expression enables protesters to express themselves in a responsible manner without trampling on the right of others.
Only recently the protest over the killing of George Floyd shocked the American government as the protesters spent hours in front of the White House. The protest was also replicated in many American states and different parts of the world.
There wasn’t any attempt by government to kill protesters.
In spite of the destructions, looting of shops and other mischievous acts by the protesters, the American government was able to contain the demonstrations that spanned over two weeks.
In the celebrated case of All Nigeria Peoples Party vs. Inspector General of Police (2008) WRN 65 decided by the court of Appeals, it was held that Nigerians have the fundamental right to stage rallies and protests without permit.
Pathetically, asking for permit to demonstrate is a derogation of the right to free speech and free association. Constitutional rights of citizen cannot be derogated unless on suspicion of having committed a crime. To ask for a permit to exercise your fundamental right goes against the grain.
Again, in certain states of the Federation, governors are trying to ban the right to protest and muzzle free speech through their legislature. The laws made by such state Houses of Assembly banning protests are null and void because they are inconsistent with the spirit and letters of the 1999 constitution.
More so, the case of ANPP Vs IGP Supra has given backing to the citizen’s right to protest without permit. But where one’s right stops, that where another person’s right begins.
The reason why governors do not like public protests is because it can be hijacked.
Sometimes, a planned peaceful protest is hijacked by hoodlums and it goes violent. At other times, it occasions looting, arson and wanton destruction of properties. No government will tolerate violent or misguided protests.In such circumstances government is likely to weld its coercive power to make miscreant conform to civilised standard of behaviour. To do the least is to allow a revolution take place.
In Edo State, the protesters caused a jailbreak and freed all prison inmates. Those standing trial for various crimes were freed thereby jeopardising the justice system.
In Apo District of Abuja, more than 200 cars in a car stand were set ablaze causing a monumental loss to ordinary citizens who are not in government but trying to eke out a living in the harsh economy. These businessmen are also victims of executive recklessness.
Individual and corporate accounts were hacked by a notorious criminal simply known as ‘anonymous’, who happens to be one of the youths craving for a better Nigeria. Evil cannot cast out evil.
The siege in Lagos State especially at the toll gate has led to loss in revenue of more than two hundred million naira.
The protesters public façade of reforms masks their heinous criminal intent. There is no doubt, however, that the protesters are being sponsored to wreak havoc and unleash mayhem. Those whose property have been destroyed by the rampaging youth will find it difficult to recover. Sometimes, the mercantile interest of a region or an ethnic nationality may be targeted.
What happened in the Apo District of Abuja was a blatant victimisation of the Ibos for no just cause.
Consequently, enemies of the present administration may cash in on the already chaotic situation to sink the nation. Separatist agitators are likely to seize the moment. That is why the present administration must do something urgently to pacify the rampaging youths or compel them to leave the streets. “Not to do something is to be crippled fast.”
While Nigerians commend the youths for their timely intervention to stop or cure some of maladies of the nation, it is important to note that reformation is piecemeal and revolution immediate. A call for reformation is germane but revolution an unnecessary evil.
By: Chidi Enyie
Judiciary As Last Hope Of The Common Man
The judiciary is said to be the last hope of the common man. If there is no judiciary or where the judiciary is shut, the hope of the common man is dashed. If the saying is anything to go by, one is shocked that for nearly two months, the last bastion of hope of the masses was shut by striking workers, yet it has been business as usual. Both the government and the workers union are not bothered about the ugly situation.
Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN) is on indefinite strike nationwide to protest the inability of both the federal and some state governments to grant financial autonomy to the judiciary. The independence of the judiciary is contained in Nigeria’s grundnorm, the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 as amended. Just as the positions of President and Governors of states are creations of the constitution, so also is the independence of the judiciary.
The truth of the matter is that JUSUN does not need to go on strike before the two tiers of government can implement the financial autonomy of the judiciary. It is a constitutional provision and political office holders swore to implement the spirit and letters of the Constitution.
Indeed, the judiciary and legislature are supposed to be independent as provided in the Constitution. When the three arms of government are independent, separation of powers is assured. This is because it will prevent fusion of powers which leads to tyranny. Fusion of powers smacks of dictatorship. In many states of the federation, governors have become absolute rulers.
It is becoming common that some state governors find it easy to shut the judiciary in order to have their way when unfavourable conditions tend to persist in their states.
For eight months, Rt. Hon. ChibuikeAmaechi shut the judiciary following an indefinite strike embarked upon by JUSUN. The closure of the courts caused a lot of hardship for both practising lawyers and litigants. Some lawyers who could not make ends meet died as a result. Litigants suffered lack of access to justice.
The indefinite strike embarked upon by JUSUN to demand financial autonomy is commendable because of its insistence on propriety obviously intended to prevent state chief executives from ruling on their whims and caprices.
But pathetically, many governors are unwilling to allow an independent judiciary that they will no longer hoodwink or coerce to do their biddings. The delay in implementing the autonomy is predicated on the fact that most of our leaders are bigger than the country’s institutions.
Hence, we have strong leaders and weak institutions. At the federal and state levels, the suppression of the country’s main institution has aided tyranny.
Consequently, the governors and even the president can afford to do anything unconstitutional and go scot-free with it.
The national and some state Houses of Assembly have become rubber stamps ready for the masters’ use anytime. Therefore, one hardly finds meaningful debates in the legislature except in states that have strong opposition. In the states, where all the members of the legislature come from the ruling party, meaningful debate is moonshine.
The fashionable term is “Carry go”. The term “Carry go” literally means treat as requested. There is obviously no alteration or modification. The application of “Carry go” has continued to worsen the state of our democracy. The governors or the president can afford to do anything he likes without any compunction. Consequently, the masses and indeed the electorate do not have a voice anymore. The voices of the electorate are lost in the legislators’ inefficiency and cowardice.
The country is worse for it. What we have in most states of the skewed Nigerian federation are monarchs, who brook no challenges. They rule howsoever they like, for themselves and their various families. They have goons all over their states whose duty it is to defend them. If not for the state of our nation where rust is ripeness, do the President and Governors have no choice in implementing the constitution?
Many state chief executives implement and execute projects that would facilitate corruption yet any project that would better the lot of the people is either treated with levity or left undone. The question that readily comes to the mind is: whose interest are the leaders working for? Is it for themselves or the populace?
By: Chidi Enyie
Elele OSPAC Seeks Govt’s Assistance
Elele Security Planning and Advisory Committee has appealed to the state government to come to their aid.
The local vigilante often called ESPAC said the call became imperative following its key role in sustaining peace in the communities.
In a chat with newsmen in his office yesterday, the commander, Daniel Wosa disclosed the unbearable situation his men faced on daily basis without anything to take home.
Wosa said some of his men had threatened to quit the voluntary job since nobody appreciated them.
The commander expressed regret that ESPAC members had volunteered to sacrifice their lives for the society yet nobody appreciated them.
“Some struggle to feed their families. It is unfair …”
“We appeal to governor Nyesom Wike to consider us because of the key role we have been playing in Rivers state.
“Today communities,road users and business men can attest to our untiring effort since we came on board.”
“No more kidnapping, killing and other vices which threatened the peace of the land,” he noted.
“Boys under me who volunteered to sacrifice for the wellbeing of others need recognition,” he stated.
Wosa said there was no security challenge the group could not contend if only government could give them support.
He specifically commended the executive Chairman, Ikwerre Local Government Area, Hon Samuel Nwanosike for his assistance and said if not Ikwerre Council boss the situation would have degenerated.
Wosa said some time now he had been using his hard-earned money to appease his men.
Wosa said it was on record Elele OSPAC had never been found wanting in the cause of its duty and explained that the group worked in collaboration with the conventional police to achieve desired objective
Meanwhile,a youth leader in Ikwerre Local Government, Comrade Eleonu Chukwuka says Hon Samuel Nwanosike’ s achievement in security has given him the second term ticket.
Comrd Chukwuka said Ikwerre Council Boss had written his name in gold by surmounting the security situation in Ikwerre.
The youth leader while chatting with newsmen said the introduction of OSPAC by Nwanosike led to other infrastructural and human capital development and pointed out that peace was key to development.
It is a thing of joy that farmers can return to farm. Normal life has returned.
It is the greatest achievement which snowballed to what we are seeing today in Ikwerre.
Ikwerre people are proud of him and will back till eternity.
Legal Departments In LGAs And Justice Dispensation
Lawyers at the Local Government (LG) Legal Department would supervise and undertake prosecu-torial activities in magistrate courts, and represent their respective local governments in area courts, Magistrates Courts, High Courts, among others.
They would be on hand to render necessary legal advisory services to their local governments.
They could be in charge of advising their LG Chairmen on legal issues relating to issuance of the Customary Right of Occupancy at the LG level, thereby playing roles similar to those being played by the ministries of Justice and Lands at the State level in the Statutory Right of Occupancy. Section 6 of the Land Use Act, 1978 provides: “It shall be lawful for a Local Government in respect of land not in an urban area. (a) to grant customary rights of occupancy to any person or organi-sation for the use of land in the Local Government areas for agricultural, residential and other purposes. (b) to grant customary right of occupancy to any person or organisation for the use of land for grazing purposes and such other purposes ancillary to agricultural purposes as may be customary in the local government area concerned”.
They could take steps to set up (citizens) ADR/Mediation centres at the LG level, as well as render other legal aid/advisory services aimed at helping the local community or to make justice more affordable and easily accessible by local inhabitants.
Establishing a legal department at the LG level will tremendously reduce the pressure of having all lawyers striving to settle down only in major cities, such as Lagos, Port Harcourt, Kano, Onitsha, Aba, Ibadan, Jos, Abuja, Enugu City, Uyo, Warri, Calabar, Kaduna City, etc; lawyers employed by the various local governments would have to relocate to the local council headquarters where they’d live and operate from, with their families.
Establishing a legal department at the LG Level would bring lawyers and legal services closer to the people at the grass-root; residents of local communities will no longer need/have to travel to the major cities in order to get the services of lawyers to draft their various agreements, contracts, or to render other legal services.
Lawyers in the LG Legal Departments will, apart from attending to the legal needs of the local government councils, assist in prosecution of some cases, especially in courts located within the local council areas. This will minimise involvement of law prosecutors in criminal prosecution. Lay police officers‘ and non-lawyers’ continued involvement in criminal prosecution in Nigeria, is partly responsible for the worsening cases of awaiting trial cases and prison congestion in the country.
This is because of their professional limitations in this area, so many of the so-called police prosecutors are not able to match or withstand the legal firework of professionally qualified lawyers who act as defence counsel in courts during criminal prosecutions; these lay police officers and non-lawyers hardly understand the intricacies of formal courtroom proceedings and trial procedure, and more often than not, have very little or no preparation prior to their court appearances.
It may therefore be seen that the clamour for extrication of lay policemen from criminal prosecution is primarily not targeted at creating more jobs for lawyers, but rather at leaving criminal prosecution in the hands of qualified personnel (lawyers) who alone understand the law and are well able to match the expertise of defence counsel in court, in order to ensure that justice was dispensed in good time and more effectively.
Gradually, from among these lawyers, who are LG legal officers, some magistrates or even judges are appointed, just as it is done at the state level.
Establishing a legal department at the LG level would provide huge job/employment opportunities for lawyers in Nigeria.
Imagine, if all the 774 local government areas in Nigeria could create and have legal departments, and each local government (depending on capacity) employs an average of 10-20 lawyers in its legal department, we’d have at least 7,740 to 15,480 lawyers or much more immediately gainfully employed at the local government level.
Establishing a legal department at the LG level would redress the existing inequity and unfairness at the local government level. The following departments already exist in all the LGAs in Nigeria: Education, Health, Agriculture, Finance, Information, and Works. It’s gross marginalisation against the legal profession that there’s not yet a legal department in all LGAs in Nigeria. This obvious anomaly, which has wreaked huge havoc, considering the undeniable importance of law and lawyers in society, needs to be be urgently corrected to provide the needed balance that would make lawyers more relevant to society and move society forward.
B) Stakeholders To Make This All-Important Project A Reality:
The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) at both the National and Branch levels: NBA has responsibility to set the ball rolling. Indeed, if the NBA does nothing, nothing happens.
The Attorney-General of the Federation of Nigeria, considering that he is the Chief Law officer of the Federation.
Attorneys-General of the various states in Nigeria.
The Chief Justice of Nigeria.
The President of the Court of Appeal.
The Chief Judge of the Federal High Court and the President of the National Industrial Court of Nigeria.
The Chief Judge of the Federal capital High Court and the High Courts of the various States in Nigeria.
The House of Assembly of the various States in Nigeria.
The Nigerian Governors‘ Forum and the Governors of the various States in Nigeria.
The Body of Senior Advocates of Nigeria (BOSAN), the Egbe Amofin Lawyers, the Body of Benchers (BOB), the Eastern Bar Forum (EBF), the Muslim Lawyers’ Association of Nigeria (MULAN), the Mid-West Bar Forum (MBF), the Christian Lawyers’Association of Nigeria (CLASFON), the National Association of Catholic Lawyers (NACL), etc.
C) Conclusion: What Does This Take As A First Step?
It starts with an amendment to the Local Government Law of each State, to create a legal department in the LGAs in the state.
This is long overdue. Provision of necessary logistics and support infrastructure would then follow.
This writer believes that there would be business enough for lawyers in Nigeria, only if the lawyers could, by themselves and working hand in hand with their Bar Associations, put their acts together and stand up to do something concrete and constructive for themselves and their profession.
Time for action is now; there is no time to wait or waste, because time will never be right. Barack Obama said, “the change we desire will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek. A stitch in time saves nine.”
It would be recalled that lawyers under the employment of Local Government Authorities in Rivers state, penultimate week, demonstrated for full recognition and salary increment to match that of their counterparts in the employment of the State Government, while the Authorities are against such on the ground that they (lawyers), are first and foremost, not employed as lawyers by the authorities, thus, may be making an unlawful request.
Udemezue is of the Civil Litigation Department with the Nigeria Law School.
By: Sylvester Udemezue with reports from King Onunwor
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