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Kebbi politics and the rule of law

After they told him this, Dakingari got the House of Assembly to pass a bill into law that reduced the tenure of the council chairmen…

After they told him this, Dakingari got the House of Assembly to pass a bill into law that reduced the tenure of the council chairmen from three to two years. Then he sacked some of them. All the victims went to court and got judgment that reinstated them.

Prior to the recent order on the reinstatement of the Local Government Council Chairman, their were two similar court orders in respect of the removal of two council chairman and a vice chairman. The two chairmen and the vice chairman went to court when they were unlawfully and unconstitutionally removed from their offices by their respective council members allegedly and handsomely sponsored by the Governor.

At the end, the court ruled that they were unconstitutionally removed and therefore be reinstated. The order was not carried out and instead, in an apparent disregard to the rule of law, the Governor dissolved the entire local government councils in the state.

However, in the recent case, the Kebbi state High Court ordered that the council chairmen and the councilors of the dissolved local government councils be reinstated to complete out their tenure of three years from the date they were first sworn in (25th February 2008). According to the court, the order was in view of the fact that section 116 of the Kebbi state Local Law, under which the council’s dissolution was carried out “Is inconsistent with section 7(1) of the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and therefore null and void to the extent of the inconsistency”.

Since the judgment was delivered and the court order served to all the affected person and institutions, there have been conflicting statements from different Kebbi State Government officials, giving different state government positions on the judgment. Shortly after the judgment, the state Commissioner for Information, Alhaji Sani Mohammed Kangiwa, and a special adviser to the Governor, who is also a lawyer by profession, Malam Aminu Usman Tunga, called a press conference to give the state government’s position. At the press conference, the two government officials were reported, precisely in the 6th June, 2010 edition of ThisDay that the State Government “promise to abide and comply with the court judgment  but at the same time will proceed to the court of appeal and probably to the supreme court”.

Again, a few days later, one Ibrahim Musa Argungu who called himself “Senior Special Assistant to His Excellency” but at the same time described himself as “a lay man and incompetent” to comment on the judgment, reportedly came out with another version of the state government’s position on the judgment. According to him “the State Government has not heard of the judgment nor was it served with the court order and will therefore not abide by it,” But went further to state that “the state government had already appealed against the judgment,” which made many to wonder on the basis of what is the government appealing since it has not been served with the court order?.

Obviously, the different Kebbi state government’s positions as presented by different officials, has portrayed it as a government with no focus and purposeful leadership. By virtue of his position, Mr. Argungu, if he is what he claims to be, is supposed to co-ordinate and moderate statements being made by government officials meant for public consumption in order to protect the image of the government. But unfortunately his recent version of the state government position on the judgment has succeeded in subjecting the government and its operatives to public ridicule and disgrace. It has also made the state to be identified as one state in the federation where the administration has no regard for the federal government’s most cherished policy on rule of law, justice and fair play for and among the citizens.

But to the surprise of every one, Dakingari has refused to obey the court, calling the bluff of the court and daring the council chairmen to resume work.  In an apparent gang-up of the executive and legislature against the judiciary and democracy, the Governor, shortly after the judgment instigated the state House of assembly to probe the judiciary and cooked baseless allegations against the five council chairmen that sued the governor over the dissolution of the local government councils. The chairmen have reportedly been invited to the house to defend the allegations against them for seeking justice in the law court The whole state is aghast at this behaviour, wondering what has come over the state. This same governor is a product of court order and a beneficiary of the judicial process. Why he has now turned against the same courts baffles every one. He should just stop this show of power and obey court orders.

Already, the lawyers of the aggrieved council men have written to President Goodluck Jonathan. They are pleading with the President to kindly intervene and restore hope to Kebbi state. Nigeria is still reeling from years of “jack bootism” in the military era. The greatest hope that democracy hands out is the respect for laws and court orders. And the courts are there to protect the powerless from the strong. When people in authority can’t obey court orders, it becomes really sad and portends doom for democracy. However, we live to see whether or not President Goodluck Jonathan would fold his arms and allow some political opportunist sto thwarts his efforts of ensuring sustainable democracy under the principles of rule of law, justice, fair play and good governance for their selfish political interest.    

If the governor insists on disobeying the courts, he should remember that it may be his turn tomorrow. A wise saying has it that: what comes around goes around. The recent political happenings in this country should have taught every one that only God wields power. We are mere instruments in the hand of our maker.

Nasiru Magaji Nasarawa, Equity Forum for Good Governance, Birnin Kebbi

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