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Why we cannot ignore the persistent disregard for the rule of law by current administration – JRP

The Nigerian Constitution is said to be the supreme law of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the foundation of its government. To this end, its provisions are believed to be sacred and binding on all authorities and persons throughout the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

Further more, one of the cardinal tenets enshrined by the constitution is the principle of separation of powers where each arm of government; Legislative, Judiciary and Executive, is an equal partner in the running of a successful government.

It is for this reason that the recent executive subversion of the principle of separation of powers, as in the case of Omoyele Sowore, has attracted the fury of eminent senior lawyers, who consider the act a betrayal of the same constitution that the President of Nigeria has sworn to uphold and defend.

Amongst those who have spoken vehemently against the continuous disregard of the rule of law, are members of the Justice Reform Project (JRP) who believe that the persistent abuse of power by public officials in Nigeria is an aberration which has attained notoriety as part of the fabric of our society. They maintain that equality before the law is the only true protection against the spectre of oppression and undue influence that those in positions of authority would otherwise dangle over the heads of ordinary Nigerians.

Read also: Sowore’s Release: Malami replies Falana

In a recent statement titled ‘Assault on the Rule of Law in Nigeria by Its Own Government, the group condemned amongst other things, the abominable invasion of a Nigerian courtroom by the Department of State Services (DSS), describing the action as a crude, vicious and unlawful bid to effect the unconstitutional re-arrest of human rights activist and journalist, Omoyele Sowore.

The statement read in part, “It is now impossible to ignore the persistent disregard by the current administration for the rule of law. This is particularly exemplified by its frequent disobedience of Court orders relating to bail of Nigerians in criminal proceedings initiated by the Federal Government. A government outside the law, is no government at all.”

It continued, “Both at home and abroad, this badge of shame stains our collective national consciousness and makes a daily mockery of our selective adherence to the rule of law. Nevertheless, the recent egregious display of executive lawlessness by the DSS in a Nigerian courtroom must give us all pause as we contemplate both how we have come to this and what steps next to take both as individuals and as those who sit in positions of moral and legal authority in this country.”

Providing a a global perspective,

JRP stated that the magnitude of this betrayal, as it plays out before an international audience is not to be trivialized and will have dire consequences on the legitimacy of the Buhari-led administration moving forward.

It would be recalled that on December 6, 2019 during a court session presided over by Hon. Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu of the Federal High Court Abuja, officers of the DSS mounted a gestapo style raid on the Nigerian judiciary, causing members of the public, lawyers and a sitting judge to flee for safety.

In the ensuing mayhem, Omoyele Sowore was physically dragged out of court by officers of the DSS and rearrested under the guise of a failure to meet bail conditions. Thus, began a new dark and dangerous chapter in the decline of our nation-state and the recent series of affronts against the rule of law by the current administration.

At the time of his purported rearrest, Sowore was said to have satisfied the stringent bail conditions imposed by the Abuja Division of Federal High Court where he is standing trial.

In the days that followed the grant of his bail a succession of contrived rationalizations were supplied by the DSS for its failure to release him. Only when the Court affirmed its order with a 24-hour ultimatum did the DSS simulate compliance with the lawful order of bail. This was shortly followed by the now infamous events of December 6.

Members of the JRP believe that apart from the President who seems to have abdicated his responsibility to ensure good governance in accordance with the law, it is a matter for regret that the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, SAN has also continued to turn a blind eye to the persistent disobedience of Court orders by this President and his DSS.

“As the chief law officer of our country, it is the AG’S sworn duty to ensure the maintenance of law and constitutional order. Although the AG’S recent gesture in taking over from the DSS the prosecution of all charges against Mr. Sowore is a positive step, it comes as only very little very late,” they said.

In closing, the group urged the AGF to pay more than eye service attention to Nigerians and the growing global audience to prove that the rule of law is alive and well in Nigeria.

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