The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has asked President Muhammadu Buhari to immediately and urgently end his government’s alleged disobedience to the rule of law.
The group said this in a statement issued by Kolawole Oluwadare, SERAP Deputy Director, on Sunday while providing its remarks on the sixth anniversary of the Buhari administration.
President Buhari was first sworn into office on May 29, 2015, and was inaugurated for a second time on May 29, 2019, having been re-elected.
He had swept to victory on three cardinal promises – tackling insecurity, fixing the economy, and fight corruption.
But SERAP expressed serious concern over what it describes as the continuous attacks on the rule of law.
According to the civil rights organisation, the Federal Government under Buhari’s leadership has continued to consistently breach the law by failing to implement court judgements, adding that such a stance has impeded the development of the country.
The group insisted that the government should make more concerted efforts to obey existing laws and legal judgments instead of using its sixth anniversary to focus on other matters.
The statement read: “We are gravely concerned about persistent attacks on the rule of law. Millions of people are falling into preventable poverty and live in a state of insecurity,” SERAP said.
This government’s effort to use anniversary celebrations to deflect attention from its record of assault on the rule of law isn’t going to work. Instead, it should use the occasion to create a rule of law-friendly environment that would make Nigerians safer.
“Systematically breaching the rule of law is not a sign of strength. Your administration should urgently comply with Nigeria’s constitutional and international obligations to respect the rule of law, if it is not to leave behind a legacy of impunity and attacks on the rule of law, and ultimately, on the system of protection of human rights after your tenure in 2023.
“Attacks on the rule of law have made it harder for your administration to fulfil your oft-repeated promises to combat corruption, and to protect Nigerians’ right to life and security.”
“SERAP is seriously concerned that a culture of attacks on the rule of law has adversely affected the functioning of the country’s judiciary, undermined the integrity and authority of our courts, and reduced their ability to function effectively as the fundamental safeguard of rule of law in the country.”
“SERAP believes that respect for the rule of law and human rights is vital if your administration is to be able to effectively and satisfactorily address the growing poverty, inequality, and insecurity across the country.”
“SERAP hopes that the next two years will show your administration’s commitment to consistently uphold democracy, the rule of law, human rights, including the right to a corruption-free society, and the right to life and security.”
“The rule of law crisis in the past six years is illustrated by your government’s persistent failure to obey decisions of Nigerian courts; failure to consistently combat corruption and push for transparency in asset declarations by high-ranking government officials, and the failure to protect Nigerians’ right to life and security.”
“Persistent disobedience of court judgments by your administration represents a systemic threat to the rule of law, as this has infringed upon judicial independence and undermined legal certainty, as well as exacerbated the “chilling effect” on victims’ access to justice and effective remedies.”
“Nigeria’s rule of law breakdown, the systematic breaching of the Nigerian Constitution of 1999 [as amended] and the country’s international obligations have also seriously undermined Nigeria’s leadership role within the ECOWAS, the African Union, and generally in the comity of nations.”
“Ensuring full and effective respect for the rule of law and human rights would send a strong signal of your commitment to uphold the country’s constitutional guarantees and international obligations, and that you are ready to do what is needed to halt the backsliding from these guarantees and obligations.”
SERAP stated that the Federal Government is yet to enforce seven judgements it obtained for Nigerian citizens, noting that “treating the decisions of Nigerian courts as not binding is antithetical to any contemporary notion of the rule of law and democracy, and clearly counter-productive to the fight against corruption”.
“Use the sixth anniversary of his government in power as an opportunity to halt Nigeria’s backsliding from constitutional and international obligations, reverse a steady deterioration of the rule of law and persistent breach of human rights, including the rights to a corruption-free society, and to life and security of Nigerians,” the organization noted.
The group urged President Buhari to “immediately instruct the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice Mr Abubakar Malami, SAN to enforce all outstanding court judgments against your government since May 2015”.
It insisted that its request is in the public interest of the country, noting that should the Federal Government fail to implement the recommended measures, it “would approach the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the African Union to invoke their charters and treaties to restore the rule of law and human rights in Nigeria”