The Southeast Based Coalition of Human Rights Organizations (SBCHROs) comprising: International Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law (Intersociety), Anambra State Branch of the Civil Liberties Organization (CLO), Center for Human Rights & Peace Advocacy (CHRPA), Human Rights Club (a project of LRRDC)(HRC), Forum for Justice, Equity & Defense of Human Rights (FJEDHR), Society Advocacy Watch Project (SPAW), Anambra Human Rights Forum (AHRF), Southeast Good Governance Forum (SGGF), International Solidarity for Peace & Human Rights Initiative (ITERSOLIDARITY) and Igbo Ekunie Initiative (pan Igbo rights advocacy group) wish to tell all Nigerians and members of the international community to hold Senior Advocates of Anarchy in the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) as well as the government of Gen Muhammadu Buhari responsible in the event of total collapse of the country’s pluralistic democracy and constitutionalism including the rule of law and respect for and protection of constitutional liberties .
The present Senior Advocates of Anarchy, also referred to as Democratic or Constitutional Anarchists are dominated by the recipients of Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN)-a supposed eminent title created by the Legal Practitioners Privileges Committee (LPPC) headed by the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) for outstanding and distinguished legal practitioners and law lecturers in Nigeria. The number of SANs in Nigeria has risen to over 400 from its 344 as at 7th of July 2011.
By the anarchical activities of these legal anarchists, Nigeria’s democracy and its constitutionalism have been grossly battered. The principles of rule of law including civil liberties, equality before the law, fair hearing and fair trial have also been battered and bastardized. Through the coupist and anarchical activities of these latter day constitutional and democratic enemies, pocketful of advancements made in these areas in the last dispensation including observance of rule of law and protection of constitutional liberties have been dangerously reversed.
The most worrying part of it all is that these are the same characters that were respected locally and internationally as the beacons of democratic freedoms and advocates of the voiceless particularly in two last democratic governance dispensations. Economically and socially, most of these anarchists have made it and ought to be conscientiously contented. How they turned themselves into agents of darkness and profiteers of democratic anarchy still baffles and shocks us till date. Shockingly too, most of the governance and constitutional blunders and regime atrocities committed by the Buhari administration today are solely on account of the anarchical advice and clandestine roles of the Senior Advocates of Anarchy and their conspirators under reference.
They are now run to for escapist advice and escapist legal technicalities whenever an appointee or an apologist of the Buhari’s violent democratic administration is caught in a web of corruption or state terrorism. They go underground and say nothing whenever the Buhari administration orders its security forces to massacre unarmed, defenceless and nonviolent citizens and does massacre them. Instead, they aid and abet the perpetrators of these State butcheries, launder their images and look for accidental opportunities to rise in their inglorious defence. Whenever the Buhari administration breaches the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 or bastardizes same; they shamelessly rise in defence of his unconstitutional actions and turn the Constitution upside down to suit and sustain their egoistic whims and caprices and inglorious pact with the Buhari administration.
Their present activities, actions, conducts and opinions are totally in contrary with the sacred provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999. They have riotously settled for Decrees No 2 and 4 of 1984 and disastrously impeached the 1999 Constitution. They are now the opposites of the rule of law and constitutionalism, contrary to their advocacy positions of recent past years. For instance, when late Chief Gani Fawehinmi, SAN, took Governor Ahmed Tinubu (as he then was) to court (High Court, Court of Appeal and Supreme Court) over an allegation of certificate forgery, some of the anarchists under reference, rose in strong defence of Governor Ahmed Tinubu’s constitutional immunity from criminal arrest, trial and prosecution while in office and the Supreme Court rose in their support as per shielding a sitting governor and president and their deputies from criminal arrest, prosecution and trial while in office. But when the same immunity question aroused in the case of sitting Governor Peter Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti State and others, they turned around and turned the 1999 Constitution upside down.
As if these were not enough, they recently threw their professional and silk opinions behind the desperation of the Buhari administration in its coupist efforts to unseat the Executive Governor of Abia State, Mr. Okezie Ikpeazu, PhD as against clear provisions of the 1999 Constitution and age-long judicial precedents of fair hearing and right of appeal. Even when it is elementarily clear to them that Governor Ikpeazu has a right of appeal and that the Federal High Court decision is never final until upheld by the Apex Court, they shamelessly referred to the Governor as “former Governor of Abia State” and ordered him to vacate his office. It is recalled that Governor Ikpeazu was ordered to vacate office immediately by an Abuja Federal High Court on account of controversies trailing the authenticity of his tax certificate and information contained in his INEC Form CF100 during last gubernatorial primaries. An order was also made for the second runners up in his Party primaries (Mr. Uche Ogah) to be sworn in.
By legal and judicial conventions and clear-cut provisions of the laws of the land including the Electoral Act of 2010 and the 1999 Constitution, the enforcement of judgment of the Federal High Court remains on hold until it is sustained or upturned by the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court; exception being where the losing party decides not to exercise his or her right of appeal or where he or she exercises his or her right of appeal after the expiration of time lawfully allowed.
Specifically, in the plain language of the laws of the land including the Electoral Act of 2010 and the 1999 Constitution, election disputes are judicially resolvable through pre-election judicial resolution and election judicial resolution and in the case of governorship election matter, both are finally terminable at the Supreme Court. But there are two fundamental exceptions to these: where the losing party in the suit chooses not to exercise his or her right of appeal and where the time allowed by law for appeal (21 days for election matter and up to 90 days for pre-election matter) elapses with the losing or appellate party failing to exercise his or her right of appeal before the expiration of time lawfully allowed. In other words, once a party exercises his or her right of appeal within the time allowed, the enforcement of the lower judgment is instantly arrested or put on hold no matter the weight of its pronouncement as well as to avoid making his or her appeal nugatory or subjecting same to judicial rascality.
Once a law is written in black and white, it automatically defies contrary arguments. Also once a constitutional provision is written in plain and straight language; it becomes suicidal and anarchical for courts to rule otherwise. Judicial interpretations only hold sway where a constitutional provision is written in confused or technical language. The Supreme Court interpretation in Peter Obi vs INEC per Section 180 (2) of the 1999 Constitution, is a clear case in point.
It is therefore extremely important and imperative to inform all Nigerians and members of the international community that no amount of legal arguments or opinions of the private legal practitioners can hold water under the laws of the land except where they are in tandem in writing and context with the provisions of the 1999 Constitution and its auxiliaries as well as judicial precedents and decided cases strictly laid down for the protection and preservation of the mother-law or the 1999 Constitution.
Also courts of superior records (i.e. High Courts, Court of Appeal and Supreme Court) are only invited from time to time, not to oust or castrate the provisions of the 1999 Constitution but to protect and preserve them. The Provisions of the Constitution can only be altered or amended or changed by the National Assembly and the peoples of Nigeria through legislations, referenda or constitutional conferences.
We hereby hold that what is going on in Abia State must be regarded and treated as “attempted coup” or attempt to change the Government of Abia State by unconstitutional means; contrary to Section 1 (2) of the 1999 Constitution which holds that “the Federal Republic of Nigeria shall not be governed, nor shall person or group of persons take control of the government of Nigeria or any part thereof, except in accordance with the provisions of this Constitution”.
The latest brigandage and riotous conducts of the Buhari administration in Abia State are just a tip of iceberg of regime atrocities and gross misconducts lined up against the People of Nigeria. The hurried issuance of Certificate of Return by INEC to Mr. Uche Ogah, without waiting for the elapsing of Governor Okezie Ikpeazu’s lawfully allowed time for appeal, is a further attestation of the fact that the governance toxemia of the Buhari administration has reached a hyper crisis stage. INEC’s excuse for such impeachable conduct is democratically disastrous. Tragically, Nigeria has, in a twinkle of an eye, been catapulted back to the leprous eras of Dagogo Jack’s NECON and Mauris Iwu’s INEC. Nigerian electoral industry is doomed when INEC is now a victim of Aso Rock telephone controls and orders.
The Attorney General of the Federation’s grossly belated pronouncement (parties should wait for court decisions) is nothing but a stampeded voice or medicine after death reaction of a failed missioner, licking the wounds of his or her failed mission. If the AGF is truly neutral and rule of law compliant, he should not have waited until the Buhari’s coupist attempts to oust the Government of Abia State temporarily failed on account of sustained public outcries.
Assuming, but not conceding that the AGF is a quota system SAN, it is too elementary in law for his office to know that Governor Okezie Ikpeazu is an institution and enjoys immunity by virtue of his position as the Executive Governor of Abia State. He holds in trust collective destiny, welfare and security of the People of Abia State and therefore deserves to be accorded such respect and protection until the Supreme Court says otherwise.
The coupist roles of the security agencies controlled by the Buhari administration in the attempted coup are not surprising too. But for courageous and conscientious roles of the Chief Judge of Abia State, the Federal coupists would have succeeded in ousting the Governor violently with clear consequences of forcing Abia State going up in flames, which would have further led to Presidential State of Emergency and imposition of a lame duck federal sole administrator.
We therefore warn the Buhari administration to steer clear of the Abia State Government House and allow the rule of law and judicial processes to be exhausted fully; likewise Mr. Uche Ogah, who may most likely have struck a decampment deal with the ruling party of the Federal coupists.
Governor Okezie Ikpeazu, on his part, is called upon to learn a lot of lessons from his present ordeal in the hands of the same violent coupists he had conspired with in the 9th of February 2016 massacre of 22 innocent, unarmed, nonviolent and defenseless IPOB activists at the National High School in Aba . He further participated vicariously in burning to ashes the corpses of 13 bodies of murdered IPOB activists dumped in an Aba burrow. The remains of the 13 murdered IPOB activists were seen burning to ashes on 2nd of March 2016 by an Amnesty International research attaché, who went to the site in continuation of his investigation.
Therefore, our decision to rise in defence against Governor Okezie Ikpeazu’s ordeal in the hands of the Buhari administration purely stems from objectivity and defence of our hard-won democracy and constitutionalism.
For: Southeast Based Coalition of Human Rights Organizations (SBCHROs)
Emeka Umeagbalasi, Leader SBCHROs & Board Chair, Intersociety
Mobile Line: +2348174090052
Comrade Aloysius Attah, Chair, Anambra CLO & Head, Publicity, SBCHROs
Mobile Line: +2348035090548
Jerry Chukwuokoro, PhD, Head, Research & Strategy, SBCHROs
Mobile Line: +2348035372962