When I read the news of the recent removal of VP Osibanjo from his statutory role as the head of our National Economic council what flickered through my mind was the statement credited to late Dele Giwa which states thus : No evil committed by man can go unpunished ,if not now then later ,if not by God then certainly by men ,for the victory of evil over good is only but temporary.
Concerning the composition and functions of the National Economic Council, Sections 18 and 19 of part 1 of the 3rd schedule of Nigeria’s constitution (as amended) clearly state thus:
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The National Economic Council shall comprise lof the following members –
(a) the Vice-President who shall be the Chairman;
(b) the Governor of each State of the Federation; and
(c) the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria established under the Central Bank of Nigeria Decree 1991 or any enactment replacing that Decree. 19.
The National Economic Council shall have power to advise the President concerning the economic affairs of the Federation, and in particular on measures necessary for the co-ordination of the economic planning efforts or economic programmes of the various Governments of the Federation.
One thing I love about this administration is how it ensures that everybody no matter how highly placed benefits from its military system of governance. Were we not in this country when the Chief Justice of the Federation was unceremoniously and unconstitutionally removed from office against section 292(1)(a & b) which states, inter alia :
A judicial officer shall not be removed from his office or appointment before his age of retirement except in the following circumstances –
(a) in the case of –
Chief Justice of Nigeria, President of the Court of Appeal, Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Chief Judge of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, Grand Kadi of the Sharia Court of Appeal of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja and President, Customary Court of Appeal of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, by the President acting on an address supported by two-thirds majority of the Senate.
Praying that he be so removed for his inability to discharge the functions of his office or appointment (whether arising from infirmity of mind or of body) or for misconduct or contravention of the Code of Conduct;
(b) in any case, other than those to which paragraph (a) of this subsection applies, by the President acting on the recommendation of the National Judicial Council that the judicial officer be so removed for his inability to discharge the functions of his office or appointment (whether arising from infirmity of mind or of body) or for misconduct or contravention of the Code of Conduct.
It was clear that neither the National Judicial Council nor the Senate was consulted before removal of Sylvester Onnoghen as the Chief Justice of the federation. This happened in a regime where a professor of law is the number two citizen of the country. Possibly, the VP did not speak out because there was nothing wrong with such unconstitutional removal of the head of another arm of the government as Sylvester Onnoghen was not from the same state or geopolitical zone as VP Osibanjo.
When DSS invaded the houses of our judges late in the night on the guise of their so-called sting operation, where was our professor of law? Did you hear him speak in favour of his ‘’learned ‘’ colleagues whose temple of justice was being desecrated? He remained silent because 2023 presidential election was his main target hence anything that could cause any frosty relationship between him and his boss should be avoided like a person with contagious disease.
Where was our professor of law, who recently told us that he believed in the freedom of the press and that as a law lecturer he co-authored a book to that effect, when many journalists who dared to report against the government of the day were arrested and some media houses were arbitrarily shut down, acts reminiscent of decree 4 of 1984? Did anybody hear his voice on that ?
Does it matter to our professor of law that there are Nigerians like Dasuki Sambo and Ibrahim Yaqoub El Zakzaky who are still in detention despite several court orders to their release? At least to him what is paramount is 2023 presidential election. Why should I now cry for him when he is unconstitutionally removed as the chairman of the National Economic Council? Did he grief with me when Sylvester Onnoghen was removed as the Chief Justice of the federation?
The one that gladdens my mind is the underground impeachment move against him. He needs to test what Sylvester Onnoghen tested because such military system of governance is better experienced than imagined. Are they not from the same Southern part of the country and Christians for that matter? What was sauce for Sylvester Onnoghen should also be sauce for our law professor so says S.42 of our constitution. Why should some monarchs of southwestern extraction be planning to meet Mr. President over the travails of our law professor ?
These monarchs should learn from their south-south counterparts who remained silent when Sylvester Onnoghen was passing through executive baptism of fire. The popular maxim; ‘’physician heal thyself’’ must be applied here after all VP Osibanjo is a lawyer just like Onnoghen ( whether one belongs to the bar or bench is immaterial here ) ,both of them are lawyers hence they should be allowed to defend themselves when there is any criminal charge against them . It is annoying for some monarchs to even think of meeting Mr president on Osibanjo’s travails, are they trying to prevent the execution of justice against our law professor if he had actually approved contracts without due process?
It is still fresh in our memory how our VP condescended so low few days before the general elections to superintend the distribution of the ‘’ Trader Moni’’ which the international community and some citizens raised an alarm that the timing of the Trader moni was same as vote buying. Did that public outcry discourage our law professor from meeting market women for the Trader moni? Tell me why I should grief with him when he was there when IPOB was declared a terrorist organization during a regime he is number two citizen while the killer herdsmen are euphemistically called bandits? Is it not a shame to his government that same IPOB they went to the court to declare as a terrorist organization is still answering and operating with same name in Europe, American and other continents and no government outside Nigeria has ever labeled them as a terrorist organization? Does that not make us a laughingstock in the comity of nations? Taliban, ISIS, Boko Haram just to mention but a few are known internationally as terrorist organizations ,how come it is only Nigeria that recognizes IPOB as a terrorist organization ?
Where was our law professor when unarmed protesters against the government in the country were treated with live bullets against S.40 of the constitution that gives every citizen the inalienable right to freedom of Peaceful assembly and association? How many times has our VP asked our security agents what happened to our tear gas canisters and rubber bullets meant to disperse any gathering as against the use of live bullets? Has he cared to ask why any pro-Buhari or Pro-APC protesters are not treated with same live bullets?
Have you heard our VP said anything about the December 12th 2015 Zaria massacre which Wikipedia reported that about 348 civilians were killed? Will Osibanjo tell me that in saner countries such encounter would not have been avoided or professionally handled to avert the death of their citizens ? We have witnessed where a CNN journalist challenged President Donald Trump in the White House during Trump’s speech or where UK citizens confronted Prime Minister Boris Johnson ,can Osibanjo tell me that is possible in a government he is number two citizen with such journalist or citizens not be treated with live bullets or permanently incarcerated in underground cell because terrorism or threat to national security ,as defined by the present administration, is any opposition to the federal government .
Where was VP Osibanjo when Mr President clearly told the gathering of Nigerian lawyers under the aegis of the Nigerian Bar Association during their 2018 AGM in Abuja that national security takes preeminence over Rule of law as against S.(1) of our constitution which clearly states thus :
1—– (1) This Constitution is supreme and its provisions shall have binding force on the authorities and persons throughout the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
(2) The Federal Republic of Nigeria shall not be governed, nor shall any persons or group of persons take control of the Government of Nigeria or any part thereof, except in accordance with the provisions of this Constitution.
(3) If any other law is inconsistent with the provisions of this Constitution, this Constitution shall prevail, and that other law shall, to the extent of the inconsistency, be void.
Mr President did not mince any word to inform our ‘’ learned ‘’ professionals that under his administration, Rule of law will play a second fiddle to the issue of national security. Surprisingly ,Mr President cited some cases to buttress his point and our ‘’learned’’ professionals clapped for him at the end of such addess.
Let me cite a paragraph from Mr Presidents ‘s address at the opening of the 2018 AGM organized by NBA thus :
Rule of Law must be subject to the supremacy of the nation’s security and national interest. Our apex court has had cause to adopt a position on this issue in this regard and it is now a matter of judicial recognition that, where national security and public interest are threatened or there is a likelihood of their being threatened, the individual rights of those allegedly responsible must take second place, in favour of the greater good of society.
What was VP Osibanjo’s response to this address against the supremacy of our constitution credited to his boss? He ,of course, remained silent because 2023 presidential election was paramount ,the same way some of our human rights lawyers kept silent over many atrocities in the country because they were interested in one political post or appointment and countering Mr president on any of his statements or actions amounts to immediate disqualification from such post or appointment .
Since our VP is a (Christian) pastor, I will end this piece by citing what Mordecai told queen Esther when queen Esther, while enjoying the palace , seemed not to care about the travails of the Jews and the possibility of the execution of the decree made by King Ahasuerus at Shushan ,which Haman,the son of Hammedatha the agagite, spearheaded ,and which had gotten the assent of the King (Book of Esther 4:13):Think not with thyself that thou shall escape in the king’s house ,more than all the Jews..
Verse 14 of that chapter clearly states what will befall the house of a person God placed near those in authority, who sees injustices being meted out against his/her people and chooses to remain silent because of politics or their present enjoyment .
Dr Paul John ,[email protected], 08083658038
Port Harcourt .