. Respect for the Rule of Law Must be an Imperative for Our President
No person is above the law and no one is below it; nor do we ask any person’s permission when we require them to obey it. Obedience to the law is demanded as a right; not asked as a favor.
This week, Nigerians received the bewildering news of President Buhari’s order to the 175 officers of the 17th Army Brigade and Nigerian Air Force 213 Operational Base in Katsina state to identify and ‘eliminate any bandit’. This strongly suggests extra-judicial elimination of suspects. Also contained in the official press statement about the occasion at which the President had made this statement, he was further quoted as telling them “We will give you all the right equipment so that you can deal with them with dispatch. I appreciate all your efforts, but you can do more. I don’t want any bandit spared.”
Unfortunately, this is not the first time President Buhari would order the extrajudicial killing of suspects of crime by security forces. It will be recalled that the he had issued a similar directive at the cusp of the 2019 elections, ordering the summary execution of “ballot box snatchers” and that his comments most unfortunately contributed to the inordinate recourse to violence by some security agents in the discharge of their duties.
We wish to remind Mr. President that he is constitutionally bound to obey, and ensure that the apparatus of the state under his command comply with, and uphold the rule of law. He must be mindful that as the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, incendiary statements made by him will have consequences, and that he will be directly liable for the actions of security forces who in compliance to his directives act outside of the confines of the law.
We therefore call on the President, the entire apparatus of the state, and our security agencies to promote adherence to the rule of law for all forthwith while fulfilling their constitutional obligation of ensuring the security and welfare of all. We assert that it is possible to track down criminal elements and ensure they are brought to justice, while respecting their human rights to equality before the law and the right to a fair hearing before a competent court of law.
We are very conscious of the trend amongst security agencies for extra-judicial killings and violations of the rights of citizens. We recently witnessed the unfortunate attack by one security agency on another in Taraba state in which four persons were murdered. For quite some times, there have been many allegations of rogue security officers working with criminal elements – terrorists, bandits, kidnappers and cult gangs, to perpetuate their reign of terror. This brings into question the recruitment process for security forces, and the need for a more meticulous check of their background and past records to ensure criminals are not recruited into our security agencies.
Finally, we wish to place on record that not all our security agents are rogue elements. We salute the courage and gallantry of the core of our security agents who have continued to uphold our peace and unity in extremely difficult circumstances, and sometimes under extreme provocation. We assure them that their efforts are not in vain and that Nigerians applaud their efforts. Respect for the rules of engagement remains an important element in maintaining the rule of law and we urge our security agencies to imbibe the culture. As we all know, force in itself cannot guarantee peace. What is required is the deepening of inclusive governance so that citizens build respect for governance processes and reinforce State legitimacy. Nigeria’s security infrastructure will serve the people better if it respects their rights and aspirations. As our local adage goes: it takes the wisdom of the elders, and strength of the youth to save a country.
1. Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD)
2. Centre for Democratic Research and Training (CRDDERT)
3. Civil Society Network Against Corruption (CSNAC)
4. Human and Environmental Development Agenda (HEDA Resource Centre)
5. Public Interest Lawyers League (PILL)
6. Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC)
7. Partners for West Africa – Nigeria
8. Centre for Information Technology and Development (CITAD)
9. Socio-Economic Right and Accountability Project (SERAP)
10. Falana Falana Chambers
11. International Refugee Rights Initiative (IRRI)
12. Zero-Corruption Coalition (ZCC)
13. Accountability Maternal New-born and Child Health in Nigeria (AMHiN)
14. Partners on Electoral Reform
15. State of the Union (SOTU)
16. African Centre for Media and Information Literacy (AFRICMIL)
17. National Procurement Watch Platform
18. Say NO Campaign—Nigeria
19. Resource Centre for Human Rights and Civil Education (CHRICED)
20. Social Action
21. International Press Centre
23. Community Action for Popular Participation
24. Borno Coalition for Democracy and Progress (BOCODEP)
25. Global Rights
26. Project Alert
27. Institute of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law
28. Alliance for Credible Elections (ACE)
29. Youth Initiative for Advocacy, Growth & Advancement (YIAGA)
30. Tax Justice Nigeria
31. Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth, Nigeria
32. Women In Nigeria
33. African Centre for Leadership, Strategy & Development (Centre LSD)
34.Centre for Social Justice
38.Protest to Power
39.Network on Police Reform in Nigeria(NOPRIN Foundation)
40.Rule of Law and Accountability Advocacy Centre(RULAAC)
41..Education As a Vaccine Against Women
42.Baobab for Women’s Human Rights
43.Nigerian Feminist Forum
44.Alliances for Africa
45. Space for Change