Thursday, 26 July 2018

News Release: Nigeria's Democracy Is Under Threat

Network on Police Reform in Nigeria (NOPRIN) is a network of 49 civil society organizations spread across Nigeria and committed to promoting law enforcement accountability, respect for human rights, and transparent and responsible policing. It was established in 2000 to provide opportunity for civil society involvement in police reform and the enhancement of safety, security and justice. 

NOPRIN is very concerned that Nigeria’s democracy is under serious threat and stress. It is now in retreat and sliding dangerously back to autocracy. Unless the International community intervenes urgently, Nigeria’s democracy may suffer a serious setback and the hard-earned gains achieved at great price with the return to democracy in 1999 after nearly 17 years of military dictatorship may be eroded. This forebodes grave consequences, not just for Nigerians but also for citizens of neighbouring countries in the sub region.

Nigerians, with the support of the international community fought, invested and continue to invest enormous resources, time and effort to achieve the democratic gains that some desperate, unpatriotic and self-serving elements and forces of reaction are working strenuously hard to now erode. 

When the executive arm of government decides to over reach itself, exploiting its undue control of security agencies and uses them to harass, intimidate and undermine other arms of the government which are co-equal and together with it, make up the government, then it is a serious cause for concern about the survival of democracy.

When security forces are manipulated and used to frame allegations against the heads of other arms of government in a bid to harass, blackmail, and attempt to whip them into line in the political interest of the president, then there is serious cause for concern about the survival of democracy. 

The early hour simultaneous siege on the residences of the Senate President and Deputy Senate President 

The early hour siege on the residences of the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, and the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu on Tuesday, July 24 are clear acts of reckless abuse of power and sheer lawlessness.

There is every indication, from the actions of security agencies, that institutions of State are being used to pursue blatant partisan political objectives in ways that undermine their credibility and neutrality, which will foster long-term damage to these institutions

Why, for instance, will the Police hand a letter to the Senate President on the night of Monday requiring him to appear at the Force Headquarters by 8 am the next day to answer questions on alleged abetting of crime or accessory after the fact of a crime and the same police besiege his house in the very early hours of the next day even before the time he was given to appear before the police?

Could it have been a coincidence that the EFCC, acting in the same Gestapo fashion, also handed a letter dated 24 July, 2016 to the Deputy Senate President requiring him to report at 10 am on the same day over a ‘Case of Conspiracy, Abuse of Office and Money Laundering’ only for the same EFCC and other security agencies to surround his residence and put his house under lock? Exactly what objectives were these security agencies pursuing? Whose interest are they serving? 

We are concerned that the actions of the security agencies including the Police seeking to confine the Senate leadership to their homes to stop their presiding at the sitting of the Senate amounts to interference with the functioning and operations of an important arm of government and threatens our democracy.

Only God knows what ordinary Nigerians go through in the hands of security agencies on daily basis if highly placed and privileged government officials could suffer this level of harassment and intimidation!

It is notable that the Force Public Relations Officer, Jimoh Moshood, has denied that the IGP ordered the police invasion and siege on the Senate President's residence. We also note his assertion that that the IGP has ordered investigation into the incident. It will be interesting to know the outcome of the investigation into this dastardly act of unprovoked aggression and clearly unprofessional, shameful action. 

It is safe to conclude that these unconstitutional and anti-democratic actions of security agencies have the consent and endorsement of President Muhammadu Buhari in whose interest the masterminds purport to act, hence it is needless to ask him to rein in the various arms of the security agencies and restrain their use of State institutions for partisan purposes.

The only option we are left with, since the President appears complicit is to call on the international community to intervene and save our democracy.

On the Senate President’s alleged involvement in crime

We believe that anybody, including the Senate President and the Deputy Senate President, who has a case of alleged crime to answer, should answer to it. We also acknowledge that the police have a duty to prevent and investigate crimes. However, when the police hide under the pretext of carrying out their constitutional duties to become political tools in the hands of politicians to harass and intimidate political opponents, it is dangerous for the rule of law and democracy. 

We have read the report and legal advice of the Director of Public Prosecution of the Federation on the interim police investigation report on the Offa robbery. The DPP made certain observations on the police investigation report and gave advice on a number of issues including the following:
1. That the police investigation report did not reflect the recorded statement of Michael Adikwu, the mastermind of the robbery of 6 commercial banks and the attack on a police station in Offa  where police officers were killed. The mastermind who also supplied the arms with which the robbery and attack were carried out is also in possession of the proceeds of crime carted from the bank and the police station, and the other suspects, in their statements,  said they were yet to receive their own shares of the proceeds; 

2. That the police investigation report was also silent on the whereabouts of the said Adikwu and the proceeds of the crime carted away from the 6 banks; 

3. That he (DPP) could not, from the report of investigation, establish a nexus between the alleged offence and the Senate President and the Kwara State Governor and advised that further and thorough investigation in this regard be carried out to establish a prima facea case of aiding and abetting crime or accessory after the fact. 

We note however, that the police have concentrated their efforts on ‘further investigating the Senate President’ while remaining silent on the whereabouts of the prime suspect and the proceeds of crime, the absence of which, according to the DPP, will frustrate prosecution of the suspects. 

 While we support security agencies to investigate crime, bribery and money laundering in the legislature and the judiciary, President Buhari should not give the impression that these ills reside only in the other arms of government but the executive. Using the pretext of fighting corruption to hound political opponents with security agencies is immoral and cowardly. The president cannot purport to be fighting corruption in the judiciary and legislature while condoning it in the executive and especially, within the Presidency. 
The police should stay out of politics and support democracy.

Okechukwu Nwanguma
National Coordinator

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