The Civil Liberties Organization, CLO, Friday blasted the President Muhammadu Buhari-led government for chasing shadows while the country slides deeper into economic mess.
The group’s stand is a fallout of the Attorney-General of the Federation’s failure to open its prosecution on the case of alleged forgery of Senate Standing Rules, which it instituted against the Senate President Bukola Saraki and his Deputy, Ike Ekweremadu.
The CLO, in a statement titled “SENATE STANDING RULE SAGA: FG IS FIDDLING WHILE THE COUNTRY BURNS”, came hard on Buhari for misplacing priorities, leading to the worsening hardship in the country and the increasing spate of death by suicide among Nigerians.
CLO’s Executive Director, Comrade Ibuchukwu Ohabuenyi Ezike, declared that “the reopening of investigation by the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and the Inspector General of Police (IGP) into the alleged forgery of the Senate Standing Rule, which is pending before the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, comes to us as a rude shock.”
He said the latest development in the case beats imagination, especially the declaration of the investigation as “inconclusive” by the Office of the AGF, even after it had earlier claimed to have concluded and preferred criminal charges against the Senate’s Presiding Officers.
“This is so given the fact that the AGF had earlier tendered an Affidavit of Conclusion of Investigation deposed to, on oath, by Mr. Okara Neji Jonah, Litigation Officer of the Federal Ministry of Justice avowing that the Police Force Criminal Investigation and Intelligence Department had ‘concluded investigation of the case and has forwarded the file to the Honourable Attorney General of the Federation for Prosecution’.
“Only today, at the resumed hearing of the case at the Federal High Court, Abuja, the AGF and his team could not prepare their reply to the written Summons over 90 days they were served with the document.
“As a result, the court could not sit on the matter nor the Senate whose members were in court in solidarity with their two presiding officers. While the leaders of the country are supposed to sit down to plan how to proffer solutions on how to revamp the ailing economy that is causing monumental hardship to the citizens, the principal actors of the state are in engrossed in legal duel that consume their legitimate time of national service.
“This is worrisome as the whole exercise smacks of a desperation by the Presidency to cripple and pocket the federal legislature, the nation’s hallowed institution of democracy, by every means possible,” he stated.
The CLO raised concerns that the reopening of investigation by the AGF and IGP appeared to corroborate the position of the Senate “that the names of the accused persons were politically generated as names of the Senate President, Senator Dr. Olusola Saraki, and his Deputy, Senator Ike Ekweremadu could not in any way be related to the Proof of Evidence, including petition by members of the Senate Unity Forum, statements by persons interrogated by the Police, and the police report itself, as their names appeared nowhere in the documents nor any wrongdoing linked to them.”
Following the trend of events, Ezike declared, “CLO can assume that the Office of the AGF and Ministry of Justice have committed perjury, having earlier deposed to an Affidavit on Oath, to the effect that investigation had been concluded on the allegation and water-tight case established against the accused men, only to turn round to reopen investigation on the same matter that investigation, hitherto, by their oath, had been concluded.
“Beyond these, is the fact that the Gestapo manner in reopening of investigation on a pending trial without first discontinuing it, is an act of impunity, corruption and abuse of due process. This act, in itself, reminds Nigerians of the ugly days of military rule when due process and the rule of law were incessantly and brazenly violated.
“CLO recalls that His Lordship, Justice Gabriel Kolawole of the Federal High Court, Abuja, ruled on June 28, 2016, that the prosecution of the Presiding Officers and two others by the AGF, who was, until his appointment as a Minister, was a legal counsel to the Respondents in the suit challenging the constitutionality of Executive’s meddlesomeness in the internal affairs of the Senate without allowing the court to determine the legality of the police investigation/report, was “a gross abuse of legal process and an action taken in desperate haste”.
“This obscene manipulation of the machinery of justice to subvert the foundations of democracy, prioritise the will or rule of man over the rule of law, and indeed reduce our hard-won democracy to a civilian junta is very worrisome.
“CLO is disturbed by these anti-democratic practices because we were one of the organisations that led the struggle that wrestled powers from military and restored democracy to Nigeria with huge prices in human and material terms.
“Instead of wearing the thinking caps to cogitate and plan on how to rescue Nigerians from the present economic quagmire and restore happiness and hope to the citizens, the APC government is wasting time on inanities. Meanwhile, the last time we checked, naira had slipped to N445 to a US dollar in the parallel market and N308 on the interbank market, while cost of living has hit the rooftop.
“Police report, earlier this month, showed that 62 Nigerians, so far, have committed suicide in the last six months. Nigerians are no longer suffering and smiling, we are suffering and dying.
“The continued hunting of National Assembly leaders close to two years after they were elected while our country is gradually dieing is a testimony to the fact that this government does not share in the sufferings and hardship of the people as it pretends to.
“It, therefore, worries us more that the Federal Government is busy chasing rats, while the entire house is on fire. Nigeria is the greatest loser because all these power games are coming at a time when all hands are needed to be on deck, with all the arms of government working concertedly and intensively to salvage the nation’s dying economy.
“Besides, it also gives cause for deep concern that a government, which intends to woo and retain foreign investors would hurriedly dock the presiding officers of its highest lawmaking body like common criminals without any credible evidence as it is turning out to be, but only to turn round to shop for evidences to achieve a predetermined mindset. Which wise foreign investors would invest in such a climate where the highest political leaders and the citizens are “criminals” and the judicial system a problem to obtaining justice.
“For the umpteenth time, CLO calls on President Mohammadu Buhari, to get his priorities right. He should separate primordial from national interest. This Senate forgery trial is so fraught with manipulations that may tend to make one think that the “war” is not the national interest. It is a distraction that we can do without in this dire times when Mr. President is supposed to inspire confidence, trust and unity among our people than the dance of “kokoma” that this regime has danced since it came to power.
“What Nigerians need now are food on the table, jobs for their teeming children, respect for the rule of law, due process and human rights and bouncing our economy into a robust one that can give hope to all of us, not fight of acrimony that neither enriches our system nor promote our economy.
“CLO maintains that the choice of the leaders of the National Assembly is an internal matter of the NASS which nobody except the members can query. It had happened severally in the past and heavens didn’t fall. It is important that we allow the doctrine of the Principles of Separation of Powers to succeed as it is one of the credential of constitutional democracy.
“The solidarity which the Senators have shown to their leaders since this senseless trial is a testimony to the fact that the Presidency is chasing a wild goose. The government should reserve its energy to address other serious crises attacking the Federation such the collapsing economy, hunger, poverty and internal insurrections tearing the ruling party and the major opposition party apart rather than this waste of time and scarce resources on an unserious matter,” the rights concluded.