A human rights activist and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Femi Falana, on Saturday called on the federal government to dialogue with secessionists and agitators across the country.
He opposed the shoot-on-sight order by the federal government, especially in the South-East, saying the government cannot declare a war on any part of the country without going through the National Assembly in line with Section 304 of the 1999 constitution.
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Falana stated this while delivering a keynote address at the 25th Anti-Corruption Situation Room (ACSR) organised by the Human and Environmental Development Agenda (HEDA Resource Centre) with the theme, “Assessing the Fight against Corruption in Nigeria (2015-2020).”
The programme, which was to mark the country’s Democracy Day, was supported by the MacArthur Foundation and Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA), among others.
The legal luminary said while no reasonable Nigerian would support the insurrection in the South-East, it was also wrong for President Muhammadu Buhari to have declared war on the people of the region.
According to him, illegal possession of firearms doesn’t attract a death penalty. Therefore, he said the show of force in the South-East region cannot be justified.
“So the war going on in the southeast cannot be justified in the constitution. We therefore cry on the government to enter into dialogue with all separatists and all people demanding for their own nations…
“If you do not want people to break away from Nigeria, you must try and convince them, tell the young people who are advocating for their own Republics these are the advantages for you to remain in Nigeria, they want jobs, employment opportunities, majority of Nigerians want to educate their children, they want to go to the hospital,” he added.
Falana said Nigeria might have declared June 12 as Democracy Day but the country doesn’t operate a democracy yet.
He said what the country has is civil rule operated essentially by those he called, “enemies of democracy.” “Our country is losing it with respect to Democracy,” he said.
To support the fight against corruption, the activist said there must be an end to opacity in governance and challenged the government to resume the publication of monthly revenue accrued to each of the 36 states and the 774 local governments.
He said this would also address the “criminal diversion of funds” at the local government level.
Chairman, HEDA Resource Centre, Mr. Olanrewaju Suraju stated that while efforts have been made in the fight against corruption by the present government, it must do more in weeding out those he called “saboteurs” within the government.
He tasked the government to see to the full realization of June 12 by prioritizing the welfare of the people, providing free education, healthcare, and other social amenities.
He said the FG, states and the local governments must see to the attainment of the ideals of good governance which June 12 stands for.
On his part, Executive Secretary of the Presidential Advisory Committee on Anti-Corruption (PACAC), Prof. Sadiq Raddah who chaired the session said the present government has demonstrated the right political will and determination to fight corruption.
“We might not be where we ought to be at the moment but we are certainly not where we were in 2015. From 2015 till date, a lot has been done but whether we are satisfied or not with what has been achieved is a subject for another debate,” he added.