Rule of law is one of the cardinal attributes of democratic governance and its sanctity must be respected and upheld at all times for democratic institutions to function effectively. Its successful implementation in a democratic setting is contingent on the three-pronged principle of Equality Before the Law, Nobody is Above the Law and Nobody should be punished or made to suffer unless for a breach of law. The Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN, has recently become the victim of an orchestrated smear campaign, particularly from South East of the country for his role in the Nnamdi Kanu saga.
Expectedly, there have been persistent calls from different groups and individuals from the South East, for unconditional release of Nnamdi Kanu, the self-styled champion of Igbo interests and the founder and leader of the infamous Indegeneous Peoples of Biafra, IPOB, and the immediate de-proscription of his organisation as a prelude to the commencement of a dialogue-based negotiated settlement between the Federal Government and the Igbo nation of the South East. Otherwise, as the undertones of their calls indicate, there will be no going back on their demands and therefore peace in their region and ultimately the entire nation, will continue to be a fleeting illusion. And most of the time they blame the
Attorney-General for instituting a legal action against Kanu and some of his cohorts for the vicious and brutal killings of law enforcement officers and innocent people as well as the wanton destruction of police stations, security establishments, public buildings and institutional structures in the South East, among other related charges. But above all he is being charged for insurrection, which is a far more serious and unpardonable crime, especially considering Kanu‘s penchant for unbridled violence and unparalleled criminality in his monstrous determination to achieve his goals. In addition to these brazen acts of brigandage, IPOB members, clad in military style uniform with the bold initials BNG, standing for Biafra National Guard, have been going on the rampage, displaying unparalleled lawlessness, harassing innocent people and looting shops and supermarkets with undeniable impunity. They also give sit-at-home orders which are being followed to the letter by the innocent people for fear of being killed, thereby strangulating their social and economic activities. And in all these chaos and mayhem, the elected officials from zone, including senators and House of Representatives members, are mysteriously silent, as if nothing is happening. Their inability or unwillingness to condemn Kanu and IPOB speaks volumes about their true feelings.All along however, the Attorney-General, has been pursuing the legal option in order to ensure that the culpability or innocence of Kanu and his co-conspirators is determined by a competent court of law, as the preponderance of evidence at the disposal of the Federal Government indicates that a prima facie case could be established against the defendants. Which is why there has been a strong and concerted series of agitations by some eminent personalities for the release of Kanu. Not only that he is also determined to ensure that the victims of the senseless killings and callous destruction of government and private structures get the justice they deserve. Otherwise the principle of Equality Before the Law and Nobody Above the Law will be a nonsense. As Governors of the South East have recently admitted, cultists, robbers and kidnappers took advantage of the chaos created by IPOB and unleashed additional mayhem on the innocent people, thus further compounding the already unruly situation. The Attorney-General was in fact looking at the whole picture when he filed the suit against Kanu and IPOB, in a manner that would differentiate the actual IPOB members from the cultists and robbers. In this way even if amnesty is granted to Kanu and co the cultists and robbers would not go scot-free. However eminent personalities and leaders of thought in the South East zone are still insisting that Kanu should be freed, and therefore the cultists, robbers and kidnappers as well, who would live to hold them to ransom another day. For Justice to be seen to have been served it is only natural to follow the path taken by the AGF. Their persistent vilification of the Attorney-General is totally unfounded and uncalled for, because the actions he has taken have always been in line with the constitution and relevant extant laws of the country.
On the issue of the raid on the residence of Jlustice Mary Odili of the Supreme Court by security operatives, Abubakar Malami, the AGF, was again vilified for everything that happened, on the strength of a Chief Magistrate‘s unverified statement. The fact that the AGF, through his media aide, Dr Umar Gwandu, vehemently denied any knowledge, let alone, involvement in the raid, did not satisfy the NBA Executives, who threatened to have his professional honour of Senior Advocate of Nigeria removed.
Instead of setting up a committee to verify the Chief Magistrate‘s claims as professional courtesy demands, the NBA Executives automatically jumped to conclusion and headed to the Legal Practitioners Privileges Committee and the Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Committee, to release all their pent-up fury and antipathy against the AGF. As highly trained and experienced legal professionals, who are representives of the entire body of legal practitioners in the country, they should be seen to be objective and fair-minded in their reaction to issues, which have far reaching legal and political implications, instead of succumbing to their inordinate desires and prejudices.
A further testimony to the AGF‘s respect for the Judiciary and stance on the Rule of Law could be cited in the series of letters he wrote to the Nigerian Army High Command where he emphasized the imperative of obeying court orders in respect of the compulsory retirement of 38 Army officers in 2016.
An Abuja High Court had however ordered their reinstatement which prompted the AGF to write the letters to the Army Command after a long delay in the execution of the court order. This is not someone who is contemptuous of the Rule of Law or the sanctity of the Judiciary. So it is grossly preposterous to deliberately misinterprete his actions in the course of performing his statutory obligations in order to malign him. It‘s a typical example of giving a dog a bad name in order to hang it.
–Joseph writes from No 1. Yaounde Crescent, Wuse Zone 6,Abuja.