Is Buhari circumscribing the Judiciary?

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One pronouncement of President Muhammadu Buhari during last Wednesday’s Presidential Media chat that has unsettled Nigerians, especially lovers of democracy and rule of law, is his statement that former National Security Adviser, Col. Sambo Dasuki (rtd) and leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu, will not be released on bail as directed by the court.

The reason for their continued incarceration, according to President Buhari, is due to the enormity of ‘atrocities’ committed by the duo and the likelihood that they may jump bail.

The former NSA is being tried for allegedly diverting and sharing over $2.2 billion dollars meant for arms procurement to prosecute the Boko Haram war. He has been granted bail by three different courts, yet the Department of State Services (DSS) on each occasion refused to allow him enjoy the bail.

On his part, Kanu, who is leading agitation for an independent state of Biafra, under the aegis of IPOB, has been granted bail by two courts in Abuja. He too was also re-arrested by the DSS, which has since slammed fresh charges against him.

While President Buhari’s reasons for not allowing Dasuki and Kanu enjoy the bail granted them by the courts is noted, fact is that his position is contrary to the 1999 Constitution (as amended) particularly the provision that says accused persons remain innocent until otherwise proven by the court.

Buhari’s pronouncement is also an affront to the rule of law and against the spirit of separation of power as enshrined in the 1999 constitution (as amended).

Clearly, the President by his statement during the media chat, not only pronounced Dasuki and Kanu guilty but convicted them. By the pronouncement, Buhari has inadvertently tied the hands of the judiciary, particularly the courts handling Dasuki and Kanu’s cases. The Judiciary must therefore not rule otherwise.

But should this be allowed to hold? Should we with our eyes open allow Mr. President to usurp the duty of the Judiciary? Should we bid goodbye to independence of the judiciary? Only those who do not wish Nigeria well will support Mr. President on this.

Pronouncing people guilty and convicting them certainly is not among the duties assigned to President Buhari by the 1999 Constitution (as amended). It is the duty of the judiciary.

It is the duty of the Judiciary to adjudicate on cases brought before it by the state as well as individuals. Once parties submit to the courts, they must be ready to obey its judgments. Where a litigant disagrees with a court order, the only option open to it is to approach a superior court to set such order aside. Until then, parties must obey the subsisting court order.

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