• Sunday, July 21, 2024
businessday logo

BusinessDay

Halt the anomie from the rule of man instead of the state of law

Attorney-General and Minister of Justice Abubakar Malami scored a positive for the federal government Wednesday 11 December with the announcement that government was investigating the invasion of the court Friday 6 December 2019 by the Department of State Security. It was a carefully planned statement that should mollify critics bristling at the desecration of the courts by the security forces. It was also timely.

Nigeria earned ignominy globally as the government of President Muhammadu Buhari put into practice its theory of the greater importance of state security over the rule of law at a Federal High Court on 6 December 2019. On that day, officers of the Department of State Security overreached themselves and stepped into a courtroom where they forcibly extracted citizen Omoyele Sowore who the courts had set free 24 hours earlier. It was barbaric and shameful.

More significantly, the outrage over the unfortunate incident demonstrates practically the global opinion on the divide: Nigeria is best served by following the rule of law tradition over any obsession with state security. The evidence points to regime and personal security as the driving force behind this focus. The Department of State Security should have a more wholistic view of its remit.

The state security mantra is a cover for the rule of man. The rule of man hearkens to a discredited tradition. The king is the state and the state is the king’s to do as he pleases. It is anachronistic. Nigeria has joined the world to move away from such practices.

Twenty years into the Fourth Republic, a republic for which citizens fought, it is unacceptable to have Nigeria regress to the rule of man. Under the rule of man, the state formulates laws based on the anger or likes of one man rather than on principles of general applicability. The evidence is in Decree 4 of 1984 and the current attempts to push Hate Speech and Social Media control bills. Members of the first family have confessed their interest in promoting the obnoxious laws because of their personal interests.

Better and nobler motives should actuate legislation as well as executive action in a democracy. Bills and actions should consider the interest of the broader society. They should also reflect the aspirations and desires of the citizenry.

Essential elements of the rule of law are order and process. In the recent matter of the DSS forcefully procuring an arrest in a court, it failed to observe order nor did it follow procedures and processes. It should not be that a player in the law enforcement institutions of Nigeria such as the DSS will wilfully ignore time-honoured and agreed methods for carrying out its actions.

There was no haste. Even urgency is not a sufficient rationale for breaching procedures. Malami’s action in ordering an investigation is an admission that something untoward happened.

Malami stated, “Whatever affects the integrity of the court is a worrisome issue for us. I can never be pre-emptive of an incident over which I was not a live witness to. But one thing I am certain of is that the government has put in place mechanism for investigation of the reported incident. So, I would not like to be pre-emptive in terms of a conclusion, one way or the other, without allowing the consummation and conclusion of the investigation process.”

The Attorney General should counsel the administration to walk the path of the rule of law as best practice upheld all over the world. Nigeria does not deserve regression to atavism and anomie. The Federal Government should find the courage to admit errors and walk back to the right path.