Last week, we dwelt on the illegal and unconscionable siege laid on the Maitama residence of Hon. Justice Mary-Peter Odili, JSC. The game of musical chairs goes on. No culprits have been punished. Perhaps, the authorities desire to sweep it under the carpet-the usual Nigerian way. But, Odili’s case will not go that way. Let’s keep it burning.
Widespread public condemnation (continues)
The Body of Senior Advocates of Nigeria (BOSAN), the registered umbrella body of revered silks, added its weighty, silky voice thus, after meeting with Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, who flatly denied involvement of his ministry: “When judges’ lives, careers, security and safety, when their independence is threatened, then democracy is also threatened”. BOSAN, through Chief Adegboyega Awomolo, SAN, also met with the CJN, warning that “The body of SANs is very concerned about lives, security and safety of our judicial officers anywhere and everywhere.”
In a rare show of engaging the public after years of lacerating and excruciating humiliation in the hands of the Executive, the apex court of Nigeria crawled out of its self-imposed cocoon, through its Director of Information, Dr Festus Akande. It warned that “the Judiciary should not be misconstrued by anyone or institution of government as the weeping (perhaps, whipping) child among the arms of government”. He went further: “This incident appears to be in isolation but we cannot let it be swept under the carpet. The incident must be investigated and investigated thoroughly. Nigerians are interested in this matter. It should not be politicised; it’s a matter of grave, political and constitutional importance.
There are three arms of government: the executive, the legislature and judiciary. One is not supposed to be in ambush or overriding the other or threaten the other’s existence, otherwise democracy is at risk”.
Other bodies, groups, organizations have risen up to condemn this rape of the Judiciary, some with very caustic words
The siege on Odili- the legal position
To remove a judge, it must be in accordance with the Constitution; not arbitrarily, whimsically and capriciously.
Section 158 and Paragraph 21 Part 1 of the Third Schedule of the 1999 Constitution clearly empowers the National Judicial Council (NJC) with the power to handle all complaints. This position was accorded judicial imprimatur in the case of Nganjiwa Vs. Federal Republic of Nigeria (2018) 4 NWLR(Pt.1609) 301, where the Court of Appeal held that “if any judicial officer commits a professional misconduct within the scope of his duty and is investigated, arrested and subsequently prosecuted by security agents, without a formal complaint report to the NJC, it will be a usurpation of the latter’s constitutionally guaranteed powers under Section 158 and Paragraph 21 Part 1 of the Third Schedule, thereby inhibiting the NJC from carrying out its disciplinary control over erring judicial officers as clearly provided by the Constitution… it is only when the NJC has given a verdict and handed over such judicial officer (removing his toga of judicial powers) to the prosecuting authority that he may be investigated and prosecuted by the appropriate security agencies”. This decision means that the independence of the Judiciary and judicial officers is wholly guaranteed and that no security agency or prosecuting authority in Nigeria, however highly placed, has the power to investigate, arrest, detain, or prosecute a sitting judicial officer, without first referring the matter to the NJC, and await the outcome and directive of the said NJC.
So, who did it?
The question remains: with the AGF, IGP, EFCC, and other security agencies denying complicity, who did it? Who wanted Justice Mary Odili dead, maimed, humiliated or disgraced out of office when she has just till May 12, 2022, to honourably retire from the Bench at 70, after serving her country meritoriously? And why? They must all be fished out promptly, tried and punished in accordance with the laws of the land. In addition, the Federal government through the relevant authorities must render a PUBLIC APOLOGY and make restitution to Justice Mary Ukaego Peter-Odili, who, during the event, was badly shaken and put in great danger of life and security, with her entire household. This case is not such as can be swept under the carpet in the usual Nigerian manner. NO!!!
Nigerian school children: Insecurity and human rights (I)
Let us today educate members of the public on the plight of Nigerian school children and their rights under the law. Tomorrow belongs to today’s children. But, our rulers have since stolen their yesterday and today. They are now insisted on stealing their tomorrow a step that must be legally and democratically resisted by all Nigerians.
What are human rights
Human Rights are those rights that are available to all human beings as a result of their status as humans. These rights are protected by both their countries and international laws and are viewed as sacred rights of all people. For quite sometime, Nigeria appears to be under siege of Banditry and Balkanization. These dreaded armed bandits severally kidnap, maim, and kill their victims. Many a time, most of their targets are the defenseless pupils and student of Secondary Schools, especially in the North. The Eastern part of Nigeria is also seriously facing the threat of Balkanization orchestrated by Indigenous people of Biafra (IPOB).
There have been several unfortunate incidents of Kidnapping in Nigeria. Sometimes this year, over three hundred school girls were abducted by some dreaded group from a secondary school in the North- Eastern part of Nigeria. They spent weeks in captivity before they regained their freedom. This was followed by several other kidnapping cases incident in Kaduna, Niger, Katsina and many parts of Northern Nigeria where the problem of insurgency has been lingering. Boko Haram and Islamic State for West African Province (ISAWP), are known for targeting school children and using them as leverage to negotiate with the Nigerian government for the release of their member prisoners. In 2014, the boko haram insurgent group attacked Chibok, a community in the northern state of Borno, abducting more than 250 school girls. The Chibok incident sparked global outrage and condemnation, though previous attacks had occurred with little or no international attention. Earlier the same year, over fifty school boys from Buni Yadi, a town in Yobe State, were killed by suspected Boko Haram militants. Sometime in September, there was an online report of some men chasing students from Examination centres in Imo state
Education is a human right which should be made available to all citizens of a country. The rights for children to learn and gain knowledge in a school setting cannot be over emphasised, as it is through education that minds are broadened and the protection and development of a society are ensured for growth and progress. Every child has a right to go to school and learn and experience all the norms and values that can only be fully experienced as students. Hence, to show the importance and significance of education, the right to education has been embedded and preserved in both national and international instruments and treaties.
This right is however being abused in Nigeria today as more and more children are denied access to education.
2. The States Parties to the present Covenant recognize that, with a view to achieving the full realization of this right:
(a) Primary education shall be compulsory and available free to all;
(b) Secondary education in its different forms, including technical and vocational secondary education, shall be made generally available and accessible to all by every appropriate means, and in particular by the progressive introduction of free education;
(c) Higher education shall be made equally accessible to all, on the basis of capacity, by every appropriate means, and in particular by the progressive introduction of free education;
(d) Fundamental education shall be encouraged or intensified as far as possible for those persons who have not received or completed the whole period of their primary education;
(e) The development of a system of schools at all levels shall be actively pursued, an adequate fellowship system shall be established, and the material conditions of teaching staff shall be continuously improved.
1. The States Parties to the present Covenant undertake to have respect for the liberty of parents and, when applicable, legal guardians to choose for their children schools, other than those established by the public authorities, which conform to such minimum educational standards as may be laid down or approved by the State and to ensure the religious and moral education of their children in conformity with their own convictions.
2. No part of this article shall be construed so as to interfere with the liberty of individuals and bodies to establish and direct educational institutions, subject always to the observance of the principles set forth in paragraph I of this article and to the requirement that the education given in such institutions shall conform to such minimum standards as may be laid down by the State.
Article 14 of the CESCR provides that:
Each State Party to the present Covenant which, at the time of becoming a Party, has not been able to secure in its metropolitan territory or other territories under its jurisdiction compulsory primary education, free of charge, undertakes, within two years, to work out and adopt a detailed plan of action for the progressive implementation, within a reasonable number of years, to be fixed in the plan, of the principle of compulsory education free of charge for all.
1) Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) of 1989
Article 28 of the CRC provides that:
1. States Parties recognize the right of the child to education, and with a view to achieving this right progressively and on the basis of equal opportunity, they shall, in particular:
(a) Make primary education compulsory and available free to all;
(b) Encourage the development of different forms of secondary education, including general and vocational education, make them available and accessible to every child, and take appropriate measures such as the introduction of free education and offering financial assistance in case of need;
(c) Make higher education accessible to all on the basis of capacity by every appropriate means;
(d) Make educational and vocational information and guidance available and accessible to all children;
(e) Take measures to encourage regular attendance at schools and the reduction of drop-out rates.
1. States Parties shall take all appropriate measures to ensure that school discipline is administered in a manner consistent with the child’s human dignity and in conformity with the present Convention.
2. States Parties shall promote and encourage international cooperation in matters relating to education, in particular with a view to contributing to the elimination of ignorance and illiteracy throughout the world and facilitating access to scientific and technical knowledge and modern teaching methods. In this regard, particular account shall be taken of the needs of developing countries.
Laws that ensure education as human right
Under Nigerian laws, section 18 (1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria enshrines the necessity of education. It provides that:
“Government shall direct its policy towards ensuring that there are equal and adequate educational opportunities at all levels.
(2) Government shall promote science and technology.
(3) Government shall strive to eradicate illiteracy; and to this end Government shall as and when practicable provide
(a) Free, compulsory and universal primary education;
(b) Free secondary education;
(c) Free university education; and
(d) Free adult literacy programme.
A further look at section (2)(a) of the fourth schedule to the Constitution provides that:
Section 2(a) – The functions of a local government council shall include participation of such council in the Government of a State as respects the following matters –
a.The provision and maintenance of primary, adult and vocational education.
In the case of OKOJIE VS LAGOS STATE GOVERNMENT (1981) 2 NCLR, the court held that education is a constitutional right that belongs to everyone. •To be continued
Thought for the week
“A leader who is confused or confusing causes anxiety, and a leader who is too controlling is revealing more insecurity and a lack of leadership.”