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Of Executive Cowboys And Judicial Cowards

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Ruminating typically on what may have served as intellectual but fictional inspirations for one of the world's most brutal tyrants, Adolf Hitler of pre-World War 2 Germany, I came up with the findings that there were specific cowboy novels that played that role.

This brutal dictator Adolf part Hitler apart from creating cross country and cross borders’ disagreements and problems that precipitated the Second World War is held responsible for the genocides of over 6 million Jews.

One of such novels are the adventure stories of Karl May set in the American Southwest have charmed millions of Germans, but especially Hitler, who patterned Nazi policies on their plots.

Alan Gilbert, a JOHN EVANS PROFESSOR at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies, University of Denver, offered clearer elucidation on these adventures.

His words: “The aura of Indian names—Massachusetts, Monangahela, Arapahoe County, Mississippi, Minnesota—hangs over America, even after the indigenous people are often gone. A Founding Amnesia has long erased the stories of Native Americans in history texts and the media. From silent movies until the '60s, “cowboys and Indians”—John Wayne [1] as a hero, “Apache blood” as a sign of “savagery”—were fixtures and fixations of Hollywood films, the last bastion of the ugly, 19th century military watchword Manifest Destiny.”

“Thanks to the resistance of the American Indian Movement, however, the record has been corrected, at least in part [2], to reflect the actual stories of white America's encounters with native people: tales of expropriation, admirable resistance, and genocide from coast to coast. Nonetheless, the Smithsonian still has a collection of 20,000 indigenous skulls, cut off in massacres, the flesh boiled down. Many had initially been sent to Dr. Samuel George Morten to concoct 19th century anthropometry, a pseudo-science of “racial” measurements alleging “Anglo-Saxon” superiority. But in 1990, Congress at last passed NAGPRA, the Native American Grave Protection and Repatriation Act. Slowly, slowly, body parts are being returned to indigenous communities for burial.”

An avid reader may by now be swimming in the imaginative pool of what nexus there is between the above narratives and the existential narratives of our contemporary political existence in Nigeria Vis-à-vis the corelationship between the executive and judicial branches of government.

But you need not wonder any further because the earliest impressions of how bellicose and tumultuous the relationship that exists between these two arms of government currently, manifested with the refusal of President Muhammadu Buhari to respect three separate court orders to release on bail the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and the Director of the United Kingdom based Radio Biafra, MR. NNAMDI KANU.

The current federal administration also showed disobedience and discontent against an order of a high court of Abuja which asked it to release on bail the erstwhile National Security Adviser to the President COLONEL SAMBO DASUKI.

COLONEL DASUKI as he then was is said to be the young military officer who played key role in the palace coup that saw the overthrow of the then military ruler MAJOR GENERAL MUHAMMADU BUHARI who now as a retired Infantry Major  General   succeeded in winning election after four attempts as the democratically elected President.

Buhari as the head of the executive branch of government is by virtue of Section 6 of the Constitution not clothed with the Judicial Powers of the federation but is obliged to respect all orders of competent courts of law which rightly exercise such Constitutional Mandate to adjudicate over all matters.

It is being interpreted that personal vendetta is behind the ordeals of the former National Security Adviser who is facing multiple accusations of alleged diversion of security votes of nearly $2 Billion USD.

PRESIDENT MUHAMMADU BUHARI has denied all these conspiracy theories weaved around the contrived ordeals of COLONEL SAMBO DASUKI.

NNAMDI KANU is also receiving these Illegal treatments because as the inspiration behind the global agitation for the restoration of Biafra in line with international humanitarian laws such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights regarding self-determination clause, he has reportedly angered MUHAMMADU BUHARI for his attacks through the Europe based Radio Biafra of the personality of Buhari.

It would seem the judiciary was cajoled and arm twisted using security apparatuses at the disposal of the Executive arm of government to kowtow to the caprices and whims of the powers that be in Abuja currently.

Aside President Buhari's failure to respect binding court orders in the above cases, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission has since unleashed incredible disrespect for courts of competent jurisdiction and has on many occasions been compelled to cough out huge compensation and legal fines for serially engaging in illegal and arbitrary arrests and detention of suspects.

This writer attended the Abuja Pre-London anti-graft summit which was convoked by the Ministry of Justice and funded by the department of international development (DFID) of the British Council during which an aspect of the position paper drafted by the office of the Federal Attorney General States that there is a strategy being put in place whereby anti-graft watch dogs such as the agencies under the direct purview of the executive arm of government would be mandated to monitor life styles of Judges.

The above position can only be acceptable if Nigeria is part of the adventure stories of Karl May expounded above or if members of the Executive branch of government have self-transmuted into EXECUTIVE COWBOYS.

Some judges especially those handling the aforementioned cases seems to have bowed to the overreaching and insidious powers of the Executive to issue frivolous verdicts denying the duo of SAMBO DASUKI and Daniel Kanu of the bails which other courts of competent jurisdiction had granted earlier. IN this instance we can assume that most judges are now judicial cowards. Put this side by side with the fact that the National Judicial hierarchy are going cap in hand to veg the executive arm of government to increase its budgetary appropriations shows a picture of a judiciary that has been totally subjugated.

If this is the true picture then our democracy is imperiled because the most fundamental ingredients of virile democracy is the constitutional principles of separation of Powers and the independence of the Judiciary.

This plot to institutionally weaken the Independence of the Judicial arm of government by an executive branch whose top officials have set out to arm twist judges to decide cases in the favor of government through subterfuge is a direct affront to the constitution of Nigeria which provided for separation of powers.

The Constitution of Nigeria in Section 158(1) unambiguously states as follows: “In exercising its power to make appointments or to exercise disciplinary control over persons, the Code of Conduct Bureau, the National Judicial Council, the Federal Civil Service Commission, the Federal judicial Service Commission, the Revenue Mobilization and Fiscal Commission, the Federal Character Commission, and the Independent National Electoral Commission, shall not be subject to the direction or control of any other authority or person.”

This shows that the adventures by EFCC and office of minister of Justice and the Presidency to subjugate and cow the judiciary into institutional surrender of its independence to the executive branch of government are absolutely unlawful and illegal.

Few years back, a justice of the supreme court of Nigeria EMMANUEL OLAYINKA AYOOLA had warned of the dire consequences of any attempt by the executive arm of government to usurp the powers of the judicial arm.

Delivering a lecture titled: “THE IMPORTANCE OF THE RULE OF LAW IN SUSTAINING DEMOCRACY AND GOOD GOVERNANCE”, the retired Supreme Court Justice had asserted that: “Although the Constitution says that 'sovereignty belongs to the people of Nigeria', it is clear that sovereignty can only be exercised through the Constitution by adherence to and enforcement of the values which are fundamental to the Constitution. Elected representatives of the people, empowered by a democratic franchise, can abuse the terms of representation with impunity if there is no institution to call them to order”.

He proceeded thus: “This is why the role, which the judiciary should perform as guardian not only of the Constitution but also of its  values, cannot be taken lightly. Where the judiciary abdicates that role either deliberately or because of insufficient awareness of its responsibilities, the Constitution is trampled upon and disrespected. The result is despotism as was witnessed in the period of military rule.”

Despite all the Constitutional safeguards and the moral and ethical challenges that follows the attempt by officials of the executive arm of government to intimidate, harass and coerce the judiciary to do their biddings, THE ECONOMIC AND FINANCIAL CRIMES COMMISSION AND THE DEPARTMENT OF STATE SERVICES have continued in their bad ways thereby portraying themselves as executive cowboys.

For instance, a certain Abuja High Court Judge was so disappointed by the brazen disobedience to his orders by the Department of State Security recently that he openly threatened to throw the case file away unless the suspect is produced in Court on the next adjourned date.

Shortly after, the acting chairman of EFCC MR. IBRAHIM MAJU an assistant commissioner of police was quoted in the media to have threatened to investigate Judges who are in the “habit” of granting bails to suspects facing anti-graft cases brought by the anti-graft panel.

The powers to grant bail to suspects is at the discretion of judges so IBRAHIM MAGU can only be referred to as an executive cowboy if he carries through his threats and intimidation against judges.

As if they were keeping faith to the old saying that “bad habit die hard”, the EFCC have severally threatened to deal with Defence counsels challenging them in courts  even as that agency recently dismissed the NIGERIA BAR ASSOCIATION (NBA) as an organization made up of rogues and vultures.

This extremely vexatious description of the Nigerian Private bar by EFCC resulted from an innocuous position taken by the newly sworn in PRESIDENT OF THE NBA ALHAJI A.B. MOHMOOD (SAN) that the EFCC needs to be divested of prosecutorial powers so it can face investigations.

But the ECONOMIC AND FINANCIAL CRIMES COMMISSION (EFCC) took a swipe at the NIGERIAN BAR ASSOCIATION (NBA) for demanding that its prosecutorial powers be whittled down.

According to EFCC, such call should not be made by a bar peopled with suspected rogues and vultures incapable of being professional and objective in the on-going anti-corruption war.

The Head, Media and Publicity of EFCC, Wilson Uwujaren, who rebuked NBA in a statement, disagreed with the association's proposition, which specifically stated that the role of the commission be limited to investigation alone.

The NBA had at its 56th Annual General Conference in Port Harcourt, Rivers State advocated the reform of EFCC and the Judiciary.

Its President, Abubakar Mahmoud, who delivered his inaugural speech shortly after being sworn in as the 28th President of the NBA at the occasion, called for the review of the broad operations of the EFCC as an investigative and prosecutorial agency, recommending that the commission should be limited to only investigation.

But Uwujaren attacked the character of the messenger by saying that the commission viewed with concern, the call by the NBA president that the EFCC be stripped of its prosecutorial powers and deplored the views.

Hear him: “A bar populated or directed by people perceived to be rogues and vultures cannot play the role of priests in the temple of justice.”

Uwujaren noted that, “More importantly, the commission cannot comprehend how the redefinition of EFCC's mandate in narrow terms, ultimately whittling it down, fits into the clamor by Nigerians and the vision of the PRESIDENT MUHAMMADU BUHARI administration for a vibrant and courageous anti-corruption agency.”

“Instead, Mahmoud's suggestions appears perfectly in sync with a cleverly disguised campaign by powerful forces that are uncomfortable with the reinvigorated anti-graft campaign of the EFCC and are hell-bent on emasculating the agency by stripping it of powers to prosecute with the tame excuse that an agency that investigates cannot also prosecute,” he added.

According to Uwujaren, the question Nigerians must ask the Mahmoud-led NBA is, what is wrong with EFCC prosecution, adding that “Mahmoud is in a position to answer this question”.

The EFCC Spokesman committed further fallacies of argumentum ad hominem  (fallacy of attacking the messenger  rather than the message) when he noted that the NBA President was the Attorney General of the Federation's counsel in the trial of former Delta State governor, JAMES IBORI, at the FEDERAL HIGH COURT, ASABA, a case which EFCC lost in questionable circumstances.

He alleged that “the same ingredients from that case were used to fetch Ibori a 13-year jail term in London”, and that “Mahmoud is also the commission's counsel in the appeal against the infamous perpetual injunction from arrest and prosecution by former Rivers State governor, Peter Odili, which is still pending before the Court of Appeal in Port Harcourt, many years after it was filed”.

Uwujaren considered it too much of a strange coincidence that the suggestion to strip the EFCC of its prosecutorial powers is being floated few months after the commission, in unprecedented fashion arraigned some senior lawyers for corruption.

These different ramifications of subtle, open and brazen attempts to destroy the independence of the Judiciary must be halted now before our hard won democracy is destroyed. The Nigerian people must speak out and if possible pour out on the streets in Defence of democracy. The future and prospects of a better Nigeria depended on not allowing executive cowboys to achieve their diabolical mission of turning judges into judicial cowards. God forbid that this scenario  should be allowed to take firm grip on us.

Written by Emmanuel Onwubiko, head of the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria

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