By Paul John
IN any stable democracy, there must be full implementation of the principles of separation of power and the rule of law. The principle of separation of powers, as propounded or at least popularised by Baron de Montesquieu in 1748 basically divides the powers that exist in every sovereign state among three arms of government with each arm having separate and independent powers and areas of responsibility such that the powers of one arm do not come in conflict with the powers associated with the other arms. The major aim of this principle was to ensure that each arm of the government checks and balances the others hence tyranny or dictatorship will be prevented. That is why when there is a rift between the executive and the legislative arms of the government, the judiciary comes in to settle the rift.
However, under the watch of this present administration, the executive arm has taken over the statutory roles of both the legislature and the judiciary. This started with the prosecution of the Senate President who is the leader of the legislative arm of our bicameral legislature over an alleged crime believed to have been committed twelve years ago. The trial judge in the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) once said that the trial would be on daily basis and would last from morning to evening. The aim was to a ensure that Senator Bukola Saraki would not have the minimum number of appearances in legislative sessions in order to pave the way for his impeachment. But Saraki’s lawyers, who knew their onions, outsmarted them and the case was later adjourned sine die. Having seen that the initial suit was counterproductive, the same people slammed forgery charges against the two leaders of the Senate especially as it became clear that the Deputy Senate President stood in for Saraki during all his appearances at CCT. In view of this, both senators Saraki and Ekweremmadu were arraigned alongside other accused persons though they were later granted bail while the matter continued until recently when they realised the madness and withdrew the charges.
What was Saraki’s sin except that his emergence as the Senate President was against the so-called APC zoning arrangement? Hence, the APC National Leader issued a statement after the National Assembly elections that ‘traitors’ would be dealt with. I published an article on the matter then where I asked who the ‘traitors’ in the National Assembly election were: those that insisted that their party’s agreement must lord it over the Nigerian Constitution or those that said no, that the supremacy of our Constitution as contained in S.1(3), CFRN 1999 as amended must be obeyed?. Unfortunately, many Nigerian youths were brainwashed to believe that Saraki was corrupt and must be dealt with. Almost everybody hailed the action of the Federal Government invading a matter concerning an independent arm of the government. The senators were never allowed to investigate the alleged corruption charges levelled against their leaders so that if they were indicted, the Senate could commence the process of impeaching them as it is done in saner climes.
As if the onslaught on the legislative arm of the government is not enough, the judiciary is now treated to its own doses of executive brutality and intimidation. In sheer disregard of the rule of law and total invasion of the duties as well as responsibilities of the National Judicial Council (NJC), the men of the Department of State Services (DSS), swooped on the hallowed judges of our temple of justices in their private residences, in the presence of their bewildered wives (who apparently were still in their night gowns during the crackdown) and their children, maids, gatemen and guards.
The DSS came out to tell members of the Nigerian public that it was part of a ‘sting’ operation. Perhaps, they believed that they were addressing children in the kindergarten. One would ask what the major aim of sting operation is, if not to catch the perpetrator of a crime at the scene of the crime. But then, does it follow that DSS or any agency of the government should fight corrupt judges without following due processes? It is only in Nigeria that somebody can break a law in order to enforce another law.
It was the same DSS that once detained the resident electoral commissioners of Rivers and Akwa-Ibom states during the governorship election tribunal sittings and till today, the DSS has not charged any of them to court. It is an affront and total disrespect to the existence of NJC which the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) is the head, for DSS to clamp down on respected members of the bench and still maintain that they are a law-abiding organisation. The national leadership of the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) deserves some commendation for coming out to condemn in clear terms what it considers as unconstitutional and acts of the DSS headed by Mr President’s kinsman.
Similarly, the judges who demonstrated solidarity with their colleagues deserve some positive recognition as injury to one is indeed injury to all. These judges boycotted their courts on Monday, October 10th, 2016 including the valedictory session held on the same day in honour of Justice Suleiman Galadima, who has just bowed out of the Supreme Court. The absence of the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami and the Body of Benchers which is contrary to tradition shows a collective protest against administrative high-handedness.
This is why lawyers say they are learned while others are only educated. If it were in my own profession when a doctor is kidnapped or police or their sister agencies arrest a medical doctor over a matter that should first be handled by a tribunal set up by the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria (MDCN), other doctors will be busy consulting in their clinics, running their ward rounds and operating in their different theatres because to them, the lives of the patients should come first before those of their colleagues.
John writes from Port Harcourt ,[email protected]