RIGHTSView, By EMMANUEL ONWUBIKO: Why Buhari must rein in the DSS

Posted by News Express | 25 November 2015 | 3,641 times

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Prior to his momentous victory in March 2015, in which he reportedly defeated the incumbent president, Dr Goodluck Jonathan, Maj-Gen Muhammadu Buhari (GCON), as he then was, battled vigorously to dust off a perception by most Nigerians about his antecedence as a military dictator who introduced draconian decrees that emasculated the fundamental freedoms that citizens are entitled to.

Thrice he tried, through the power of the ballots, to become the President of a democratic Nigeria, but thrice he lost. Buhari presided over a 20-month brutal military regime in the mid-1980’s that became notorious for publicly executing drug traffickers who were convicted to death retroactively, against global best practices. With the notoriety that his past experimentation as a military dictator attained, he was therefore packaged as a born-again democrat, willing to right his past wrongs in terms of respect for the fundamental rights of Nigerians. His political party - the All Progressives Congress (APC), which is an amalgam of divergent political affiliates from the South-West bankrolled by former Lagos State governor, Mr Bola Ahmed Tinubu, and a remnant of the fractious All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) which followed Imo State governor into APC – fought so hard to convince Nigerians that Muhammadu Buhari who sought our votes isn’t the same persona as the former brutal dictator with less than salutary human rights credentials. All political parties seeking offices know what it entails to operate constitutional democracy. Respect for the rule of law and the fundamental rights of Nigerians are central to the democratisation process and for adherence to constitutionalism, which Nigeria has since ascribed to in over two decades since the last vestiges of military tyranny were wiped out in a voluntary stepping aside conducted in 1998 by the then military dictator, Gen Abdulsalami Abubakar (GCON) (rtd).

Even under the very obviously imperfect constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, bequeathed to us by the military junta, which arbitrarily chose some wise men that drafted it and consequently amended the Nigerian Constitution – the grund norm – provides for respect to the rule of law. The constitution is supreme and its provisions shall have binding force on all authorities and persons throughout the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

But since May 2015 that President Buhari was inaugurated, a number of illegal acts have been perpetrated by an agency of government created under the law: the Department for State Service (DSS) or State Security Services (SSS). 

Two on-going litigations – involving erstwhile National Security Adviser, Col Sambo Dasuki (rtd) and Mr Nnamdi Kanu, Director of a Europe-based Radio Biafra and leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB)-  have provided ample evidence of gross disrespect by the DSS of the orders of  courts of competent jurisdiction. The Constitution has clearly separated the powers and functions of all organs of government; the reason being that this would serve as effective safeguard to the concentration of imperial power on an arm of government. It is in the light of the above, and indeed the need to preserve and nurture democracy and constitutionalism, that section 6(1) of the constitution provides that: The judicial powers of the Federation shall be vested in the courts to which this section relates, being courts established for the Federation.”

The Department of State Security, as an agency of the executive arm of government must operate within the legal framework that binds all persons and authorities. If any of the security agencies are allowed to disrespect valid decisions of courts or to pick and choose which court order to obey, then we may sooner than later kiss goodbye to civility, rule of law and constitutional democracy and stands the danger of returning to what Thomas Hobbes, the philosopher, identifies as ‘The State of Nature whereby life is short, brutish and miserable, and whereby might is always right.’ Montesquieu, who was born as Charles-Louis de Second near Bordeaux in France, remains the father of political philosophy who developed and expounded the concept of separation of powers, with the fundamental objectives of stable government with minimal risk of decline into despotism. The flagrant breaches of the rule of law by the DSS are grave danger signals that must not be allowed to snowball into full blown dictatorship.

 How can armed security operatives totally disrespect valid court orders from the Federal High Court, Abuja, authorising the immediate past National Security Adviser to travel for a very urgent medical treatment, only for the Federal Government to hurriedly produce interim investigative findings of a committee probing procurement of weapons since 2007 and to use a purported indictment as the basis for violating a valid court order? 

The same DSS has flouted two bail orders granted Nnamdi Kanu of the Indigenous People of Biafra, only for this security agency to go behind the Magistrate Court to fish for a detention order against him for another 90 days, even when they were ordered by the first court they took the defendant to let him go on bail? This illegal ambush and voyage of discovery by DSS or is it SSS, will imperil the rule of law, and stands absolutely condemned. 

Now the DSS has disingenuously prayed the same Magistrate Court in Abuja to discontinue the trial of Mr Kanu, because the agency has suddenly discovered that the defendant is sponsoring terrorism. What kind of practice is this? Why arrest a citizen, detain the person under inhumane conditions for many weeks only to return to the same court with this sort of flimsy reason to discontinue the matter?

For the sake of public interest, President Buhari must call these persons masquerading as agents of Department of State Security to order, to stop them from subjecting Nigeria to international ridicule. This impunity must be extinguished before Mr President enters the Guinness World Book of Records as a civilian in military and tyrannical garb. These tendencies of playing around with the civil liberties of citizens as exhibited by the DSS is a sharp reminder of why saint Augustine of Hippo was compelled to define overreaching officials of government in the following words: “If justice be taken away, what are governments but great bands of robbers.”

Augustine also rightly reminded contemporary Nigerian rulers that: Without justice, an association of men in the bond of law cannot possibly continue.”

Is President Buhari not aware of the meaning and intent of Section 36 (5) of the Nigerian Constitution, which provides as follows: “Every person who is charged with a criminal offence shall be presumed to be innocent until he is proved guilty?”

Why is the National Assembly not calling the DSS to order or is this National Assembly a mere contraption set up only to enrich a few who are privileged to be so elected to occupy the legislative seats for a given term? It is in the self enlightened interest of Nigeria that the National Assembly wakes up from slumber and uses their legislative powers of checks and balances to ensure that DSS operatives respect the law. Prof Anya O. Anya once noted: Democracy presumes the primacy of laws and due process, the independence of the judiciary, the separation of powers as between the legislative and the executive and political accountability.” The National Assembly must seriously wake up now to stop security operatives and their overzealous hierarchies from disrespecting the courts and bringing our democracy into global opprobrium. 

Let the relevant committees of the National Assembly begin the immediate and effective oversight of such bodies like the DSS and the Police, to stop the on-going violations of the fundamental rights of citizens. In his lecture titled “The Challenge of Good Governance in a Democracy: A Nigerian Prospectus,” Anya stated: “By granting legitimacy to the government and encouraging all citizens to participate in decision-making about problems that concern them, contributes to the effectiveness of development policies and strategies… by actually forcing the government to actually carry out its responsibilities and by making government actions more transparent, democratic institutions and practices (as symbolised by the legislature) tend to limit, contain and prevent problems such as arbitrary policy (choices), nepotism, injustice and totalitarianism … democratic institutions confer greater ‘voice ‘to community concerns…”

RIGHTSVIEW appears on Wednesdays, in addition to special appearances. The Columnist, popular activist Emmanuel Onwubiko, is a former Federal Commissioner of Nigeria’s National Human Rights Commission and presently National Coordinator of Human Rights Writers’ Association of Nigeria (HURIWA). He can be reached via 08033327672 (sms only) or via doziebiko@yahoo.com

Source: News Express

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