Gentlemen of the media, the esteemed fourth restate of the realm, we welcome you to this special media conference on the state of the nation.
The board of Trustees of the foremost human rights and pro-democracy organization – HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) which rose from an emergency meeting which reviewed the disturbing state of the nation has condemned the serial and persistent illegal use of armed security forces to harass, intimidate and molest the persons of the principal officers of the senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
We have also resolved to write to the International and/or foreign embassies and high commissions in Nigeria to urge World leaders not to behave like mere spectators and allow politicians destroy Nigeria or instigate social upheavals. We realize that if Nigeria collapses today, the quantity of refugees to come out from Nigeria will constitute serious global humanitarian catastrophe.
In a statement to the media, HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) expressed consternation at the rate the executive arm of government has continued to manipulate the armed security forces such as the police, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Directorate of State Services (DSS) to service partisan objectives and to harass primarily the leading political opposition leaders such as the Deputy Senate President Professor Ike Ekweremadu and the Senate President Dr. Bukola Saraki over suspected trumped up charges.
HURIWA notes that no Nigerian is above the law but the illegal use of armed security forces to settle political scores will in a very far reaching way damage the institutional integrity of the law enforcement agencies. The erosion of public trust and faith in the security forces will hugely damage democracy.
HURIWA is worried that despite the terrible international image that these security forces have attracted for Nigeria in the area of lack of respect for the fundamental freedoms of the citizens, it is regrettable to note that the presidency has continued to manipulate the hand-picked hierarchies of these armed security forces.
Condemning as unconstitutional and an attempt to force regime change in the National Assembly, the leading pro-democracy group – Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) – also cautioned President Muhammadu Buhari to desist from illegal deployment of armed security forces to scuttle legislative independence.
Reacting against the backdrop of the reported invasions of the private residences of Senate President Dr. Bukola Saraki by armed police operatives and the deputy senate president Professor Ike Ekweremadu by combined teams of DSS, police and Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), HURIWA urged the President to endeavor to act as a statesman so generations yet unborn will not know him for evil.
Reminding the President that he is obliged by his oath of office to bear true allegiance to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, HURIWA affirmed that it was illegal to deploy armed security forces to physically restrain principal officers of an arm of government from accessing their offices with a sinister plot to instigate internal rebellion leading to possible regime change in the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
It cited copiously from the Constitution to affirm that it was unconstitutional to use the force of arm and coercion to stop Senate leaders from enjoying their constitutional freedoms as enshrined in the relevant sections as follows: Section 35 (1), 36 (1)and 40 stated thus:
35 (1) “Every person shall be entitled to his personal liberty and no person shall be deprived of such liberty save in the following cases and in accordance with a procedure permitted by law – in execution of the sentence or order of a court in respect of a criminal offence of which he has been found guilty; by reason of his failure to comply with the order of a court or in order to secure the fulfillment of any obligation imposed upon him by law; for the purpose of bringing him before a court in execution of the order of a court or upon reasonable suspicion of his having committed a criminal offence, or to such extent as may be reasonably necessary to prevent his committing a criminal offence.”
36 (1) “In the determination of his civil rights and obligations, including any question or determination by or against any government or authority, a person shall be entitled to a fair hearing within a reasonable time by a court or other tribunal established by law and constituted in such manner as to secure its independence and impartiality. 40 “Every person shall be entitled to assemble freely and associate with other persons, and in particular he may form or belong to any political party, trade union or any other association for the protection of this interests.”
“We view the illegal manipulations of all arms of the security forces including the anti-graft body by the presidency against the current hierarchy of the National Assembly to achieve pre-determined political objective of change of leadership by unconstitutional means as a major and indeed a fundamental threat to constitutional democracy.”
“The ignominious role of the current Inspector General of police Alhaji Ibrahim Kpodum Idriss to slavishly use his armed operatives to harass, intimidate and attempt to rope in the person of the Senate President into the Offa Bank robbery as very disingenuous, despicable and reprehensible. We call on the international community and world leaders to call President Muhammadu Buhari to order in other that he will not let his over ambition to return for a second term make him to manipulate security forces to crumble the democracy that we all fought very hard to institutionalize.”
HURIWA in the media briefing addressed jointly by the National Coordinator Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko and the National Media Affairs Director Miss Zainab Yusuf urged the senators and Nigerians to defend democracy and prevent the executive arm of government from destabilizing the National Assembly.
“May we inform the Senators and Nigerians that the constitutionally guaranteed principle of separation of powers as unambiguously provided for in sections 4, 5 and 6 of the Nigerian constitution is the beauty of democracy and the moment this independence of both the legislature and judiciary is emasculated and muzzled by the executive arm of government, that illegality will signal the demise of democracy.”
HURIWA cited the oath of office of the president to remind the president that he is constitutionally obliged not to deploy armed security forces to carry out illegal assignments of a politically tainted nature such as the arbitrary arrest of principal leaders of the legislature without adherence to the Principle of rule of law just as it stated that even with the plot to rope in National Assembly officers into some phantom crimes will not stand the test of time.
HURIWA asked President to recall that he swore an oath binding on him to “Be faithful and bear true allegiance to the Federal Republic of Nigeria; that as President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, I will discharge my duties to the best of my ability, faithfully and in accordance with the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the law, and always in the interest of the sovereignty, integrity, solidarity, wellbeing and prosperity of the Federal Republic of Nigeria; that I will strive to preserve the fundamental objectives and directive principles of state policy contained in the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria; that I will not allow my personal interest to influence my official conduct or my official decisions; that I will to the best of my ability preserve, protect and defend the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”
We have unanimously agreed to declare the deputy Senate President Professor One Ekweremadu and the Senate President Dr Bukola Saraki as politically endangered species. We are urging the World leaders to stop the executive arm of government from crippling constitutional democracy.
*Text of a press briefing by HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) dated Thursday July 26th 2018.
Below are excerpts of the letter to World leaders:
Grave threats to Nigeria’s democracy: A call for global intervention
We write you this letter with trepidation and profound worry about the raging grave threats to the survival of democracy in Nigeria created by the diminishing state of respect for the fundamental freedoms of the citizenry.
Sir, this letter is specifically written by us to highlight the dangers posed not only to the constitutional principle of separation of powers, but to urge your good offices to put pressure on the Nigerian presidency to respect the fundamental obligations to the principle of rule of law and to stop forthwith the illegal use of the security forces and the anti-graft institutions to chase after perceived political rivals of the current holder of the office of the president of Nigeria.
May we let you know that the renewed clamp down on the persons of the principal officers of the senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria instigated at the instance of the President is armed at crippling virile political contest preparatory to the 2019 general elections.
Sir, we can no longer stand by and watch as the presidency unleashes the tyranny of one party rule and the use of armed security forces funded by taxpayers to cripple multiparty democracy.
The siege by over hundred of armed police operatives to residences of the President of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki, and the Deputy Senate President of the Senate, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, on Tuesday, July 24, 2018 was a rape of Nigeria’s democracy. Recall that the mace, Senate’s symbol of authority was carted away by armed hoodlums in a fortified environment like the National Assembly on April 18, 2018. The aim was to prevent both of them from presiding over plenary and install executive stooges as leaders of the Senate.
Although the attempt to force change of leadership through executive meddlesomeness and abuse of power was scuttled by the Senate President’s escape to the National Assembly, his Deputy was held under house arrest for over six hours by hundreds of policemen and operatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.
You would recall that the letter of invitation to the Deputy President of the Senate requesting him to report at the EFCC headquarters at10am of July 24, 2018 was also dated the same July 24 2018 that they laid siege to his house. This shows that the so-called invitation was an afterthought aimed at perfection the truncation of the Senate leadership.
We also have it on good authority that even though he was willing to answer the invitation even without prior notice, they security personnel and the EFCC would not let him go. Under the Nigerian laws, letter of invitation by an agency of government is not the same as a warrant of arrest, search warrant, or warrant of house of arrest. This is a grave threat to the principle of separation of powers with the ulterior aim of forcing a regime change in the leadership cadre of the senate.
You would recall that the presidency has since marked Professor Ike Ekweremadu, the Deputy Senate President as a persona non grata simply because he belongs to the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, but got elected by a bipartisan and an increasingly independent parliament relying on Section 50 of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria.
Recall again that the President of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki was made to pass through a tortuous three-year trial over alleged false declaration of assets, which the lager population of Nigerian saw as politically motivated. He was recently acquitted by the Supreme Court of Nigeria. Recall that the presidency arraigned the Senate President and his Deputy, Prof. Ekweremadu, in 2016 over false charges of forgery of Senate Standing Rule only to withdraw it when it was clear they could not establish anything against them in court. Men of the Nigeria Police Force from the Inspector-General of Police’s office also invaded the official guest house of Prof. Ekweremadu in May 2017. Nothing was found after thorough search.
The misuse of the anti-corruption agencies is a present threat to the nation’s democracy. The continuous deployment on illegal duties of the armed security forces targeting certain principal officers of the national assembly is a clear violations of section 34 (1) (a); section 35 (1) and section 36 (1) of the constitution of Nigeria.
Section 34 (1) (a): “Every individual is entitled to respect for the dignity of his person, and accordingly – no person shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment”; 35(1) “Every person shall be entitled to his personal liberty and no person shall be deprived of such liberty save in the following cases and in accordance with a procedure permitted by law – in execution of the sentence or order of a court in respect of a criminal offence of which he has been found guilty; by reason of his failure to comply with the order of a court or in order to secure the fulfillment of any obligation imposed upon him by law; for the purpose of bringing him before a court in execution of the order of a court or upon reasonable suspicion of his having committed a criminal offence, or to such extent as may be reasonably necessary to prevent his committing a criminal offence”; 36 (1) “In the determination of his civil rights and obligations, including any question or determination by or against any government or authority, a person shall be entitled to a fair hearing within a reasonable time by a court or other tribunal established by law and constituted in such manner as to secure its independence and impartiality.”
“The police shall be employed for the prevention and detection of crime, the apprehension of offenders, preservation of law and order, the protection of life and property and the due enforcement of all law and regulations with which they are directly charged and shall perform such military duties within or without Nigeria as may be required of them by, or under the authority of, this or any other act.”
Therefore, we pray you to call the Nigerian government to order as our hard-won democracy is clearly on the road to destruction. There will be no democracy left if the judiciary and the legislature are pocketed, demeaned, intimidated, and caged as this government is presently doing.
We call on you and the international community to stand up against the reigning impunity and abuse of power before it is too late, especially considering your great contributions to the institution of the current democratic dispensation.
Our objectives are;
· To deploy the members’ creative talents as writers to promote, protect and project the human rights of all Nigerians and other law abiding citizens resident within Nigeria;
· To organize periodic seminars and training workshops locally for human capital development specifically on the tenets and ideals of Human Rights and the rule of Law;
· To attend International Workshops and Seminars targeted at the promotion and protection of human rights;
· To conduct periodic studies on ways, means and strategies for promoting and protecting human rights of law abiding citizens;
· To highlight human rights challenges confronting the persons in conflict with the law and seek for constructive modalities for redressing such violations; and
· To recognize excellence and good governance standards in the polity through yearly award ceremonies for exceptionally good, tested and trusted leaders in both the corporate and public sectors. The process of selection would be by transparent mass participation strategies.
Be assured of our highest esteem and consideration.
Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko;
Miss Zainab Yusuf;
National Director of Media