Shiites, Buhari and the Law

Jul 29, 2019

The Deputy Commissioner of Police in charge of Operations at the FCT Police Command, Usman Umar, and a Youth Corps member serving with Channels Television, Precious Owolabi, last Monday lost their lives after being hit by stray bullets during a violent protest by members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria, popularly known as Shiites. The protest took place at the Central Area and National Assembly Complex in Abuja.

The Shiites were demanding for the release of their leader, Ibraheem El-Zakzaky; and his wife, Zeenat, who have been in the custody of officers of the Directorate of State Security, DSS, since December 2015.

It will be recalled that on December 3, 2016, the Federal High Court in Abuja had ordered the release of the Islamic cleric and his wife while giving judgement. In his judgement, Justice Kolawole agreed with El-Zakzaky's lawyer, Femi Falana, that the detention of the couple for nearly one year without trial amounted to a violation of their fundamental rights, and therefore ordered their release, 45 after judgement.

He also ruled that the Islamic Cleric and his wife be paid N25m each by the Federal Government as damages for the violation of their rights. Till date, the release has not been granted and the N50m yet to be paid by the Buhari Government.

Relatively, former National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki, who is presently facing multiple charges bordering on illegal firearms possession and diversion of N2.1bn earmarked during the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan, for the purchase of firearms for the Nigerian Armed Forces to fight Boko Haram, was also granted bail after perfecting his bail conditions.

However, upon stepping out of prison, he was re-arrested by men of the DSS and taken into the custody of the DSS, despite subsequent court orders, including that of the Court of Justice of the ECOWAS in Abuja, which approved N15m damages fee to be paid to him by the Federal Government. It is 4 years now but Dasuki has still not been released.

Interestingly, President Buhari was ECOWAS Chairman when the judicial arm, which is the ECOWAS Court sitting in Abuja, handed down the rulings in respect of El-Zakzaky.

One thus wonders why Buhari still remains adamant, refusing, as a leader, to lead by example. His blatant refusal to obey those court orders tells a lot about the quality of legal advice he gets from his advisers. It also tells a lot about the kind of leader he is; not just to Nigerians, but to the sub-regional groups and member states.

Presently, Nigerians have recorded countless numbers of her citizens who are killed on a regular basis by herdsmen. It is therefore painful that more lives were lost yet again last Monday because of the refusal of President Buhari to obey simple court orders.

While not excusing the Shiites on their use of violence, the fact remains that they protested because they wanted justice to prevail. Their protest led to the killing of innocent Nigerians who were carrying out their duties. The recent deaths would perhaps have been averted were El-Zackzaky a free man as the courts ruled.

Nigeria's democracy is now 20 years old and the disposition of President Buhari to court orders does not in any way uphold the tenets of democracy. It is the supremacy of the law that sustains democracy. Nobody should be above the law.

It would not be far from the truth to say that Buhari is a military ruler who finds it difficult to embrace democratic ideals. Either way, he needs to tidy up the mess his disobedience has cost the families of the slain security officer, journalist and all Nigerians who have been thrown into a deep fear of what tomorrow holds.



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