In the build-up to the 2015 Presidential elections, a recurrent issue about the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Muhammadu Buhari was his ability to conform to the dictates of democracy. There was a general fear by all stakeholders as Buhari’s public record negates all that democracy represents. During his time as military Head of State, he sent many individuals to prison terms for 50 to 100 years.
Another mantra of his brief tenure as military dictator was his belief that accused persons were guilty until proven innocent. During the campaign, this issue was on the front burner but his handlers presented him as a “reformed” democrat. In a meeting Buhari had with members of the Newspaper Proprietors Association of Nigeria (NPAN), when asked by the association’s president, Nduka Obaigbena, if he was ready to apologise for the harsh treatment meted out to journalists during his military era, he was not allowed to reply as his campaign director, Rotimi Amaechi grabbed the microphone and said, “Buhari has said he can’t turn away the hands of time”. And that was how he failed to tender an apology for the human right abuses of his military era.
Three years into his second coming, it is evident Buhari is far from being a democrat and definitely not a reformed one. The President’s administration style has been fashioned into a reincarnation of his military era in order for him to run the presidency wholeheartedly. Putting aside his poor relationship with the National Assembly, this administration has little or no regard for the judiciary. This should be scary to everyone as the judiciary remains the hope of the common man but this hope is being dimmed. As a close watcher of this administration, its culture of disrespect for the judiciary began in 2016 when operatives of the Department of State Services (DSS) raided the home of some judges at midnight. These men of the bench were harassed, abused and treated like common criminals.
It would have been honourable to invite these judges for questioning but the presidency resorted to physical intimidation of these law officers. Despite all the condemnations, the Buhari administration has refused to change its stance.
The case of the continuous detention of the former National Security Adviser (NSA), Colonel Sambo Dasuki and the leader of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN), Sheikh Ibrahim El-Zakzaky are a few examples that abound in its continuous disrespect for court orders.
This administration in its bid to undermine the judiciary has employed the use of executive orders to bypass the judiciary in its bid to intimidate more Nigerians. While these executive orders are still being challenged in court, it announced that it was banning 50 Nigerians from travelling outside the country. These are individuals that have not been convicted of any crime.
The President is not alone in this act of impunity as he has received the continuous support of his Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, a Professor of Law and a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) and the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami (SAN) and other self-styled legal advisers who have continuously misadvised the federal government to disrespect the judiciary. This presidency is simply destroying an important arm of government.
The president is not alone in this charade; law enforcement agencies have continued to choose which court order to obey based on preference. The Nigeria Police Force and the DSS are fond of acts of impunity while appointees of these administrations at different times have refused to appear before the courts when summoned. This has rendered the judiciary powerless and ineffective while Nigerians continue to lose hope in the courts.
In a recent letter by Dasuki to the registrar of the Federal High Court, the former NSA narrated his travails under the Buhari administration, refusing to honour further court proceedings until the federal obeys previous court orders garnting him bail.
At this moment, the judiciary remains helpless but there’s a need for continuous documentation and for the sake of posterity to enlighten young Nigerians and the future generation how the Buhari administration waged a war against the judiciary through flagrant disrespect of court orders and gross abuse of power.