PRESIDENT BUHARI rode to power on the crest of popular support and general goodwill in Nigeria’s 2015 presidential election. When his party, the All Progressive Congress, APC, presented him as its presidential candidate for the election, the pessimism by sections of Nigerian populace was that Buhari’s presidency would be characterised by dictatorship, given his records as military Head of State.
Leaders and promoters of his party, the APC, disagreed that he would be a dictator in a democracy. They averred that Buhari was “a born-again democrat”. That the expediency of a military head of state, was responsible for his actions then, that stood him out as a “dictator”. APC chieftains pledged and promised Nigerians that a “democratically transformed Buhari”, was been presented to Nigerians as president. That was the make-believe. And Nigerians bought into it.
Five years on, in Buhari’s presidency, history is playing back. His government appears, once again, to be at war with everybody – politicians, judiciary, legislatures, journalists, civil society groups, amongst others. Worse, the government is in total contempt for the rule-of-law, the bedrock of democracy. Disregard for judicial pronouncements is flagrant. Elections into public offices, in a democracy, that should be free, fair and credible, are carried out under the barrels of the guns, instead of through the ballot papers and ballot boxes.
Latest government’s infractions on human rights, has been the Department of Security Service, DSS, handling Omoyele Sowore’s trial for convening #RevolutionNow protest. A Nigerian federal high court, in Abuja, granted Sowore bail. All the bail conditions were met by Sowore, and the court ordered his release on bail. The DSS trampled on the court order and refused to release Sowore from its custody. At different times, the DSS, gave arm-twisting excuses for keeping Sowore in its custody, against the federal high court order.
Finally, the DSS released Sowore, after the presiding judge’s further firm order for his release. And warned the DSS on breaches of its orders. As Sowore was being released, again, the DSS, instantly struck, re-arrested him in the courtroom while proceedings were on, and dragged him out. An open scuffle that was publicly televised, and the videos went viral in the social media.
The DSS attempted to change the narrative of what took place at the high courtroom that day. It denied re-arresting Sowore in the courtroom. That he was re-arrested outside the courtroom. Those involved in the open scuffle in the federal high courtroom that stopped court proceedings on that day were not its operatives, the DSS said. The public perception on the DSS narrative is that it is an after-thought and damage repairs.
Outrage and condemnation trailed the DSS action on Sowore at the federal high courtroom. Nigerian legislature, civil society groups, Nigerian Bar Association, opinion leaders, and vast public comments – local and foreign comments, criticised the DSS action. Nigerian senate and house of representatives waded into the DSS’s courtroom invasion to re-arrest Sowore.
Nigeria’s Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, also, promised investigation into the incident. As if keeping his words, the AGF’s office, Friday, said it has taken over the prosecution of Sowore, from the DSS. Umar Gwandu, Special Assistant, Media and Public Relations, to the AGF, confirmed the taking over of the case by the minister, in a statement.
Gwandu’s statement referred to December 11, 2019, letter sent by the Solicitor-General of the Federation, Dayo Apata, on behalf of the AGF, to the Director-General, DSS, Yusuf Bichi, directing the security agency to “promptly forward all the case files” of Sowore to the AGF’s office.
“The Honorable Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice upon a further review of the case has directed the immediate takeover of the prosecution of all charges in respect of Omoyele Sowore by the Federal Ministry of Justice in line with the provisions of Sections 150(1) and 174(1) (a-c) of the 1999 constitution (as amended)”, the letter stated.
The move to take over the case from the DSS, according to the statement, was to ensure speedy completion of the case. Not due to the invasion of Federal High Court, Abuja, by operatives of the DSS.
What would further play out is whether the country’s chief law officer, the Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation, AGF, Abubakar Malami, would release Sowore, as ordered by the federal high court, on ground of meeting his bail conditions.