Monday, November 12, 2007

Not too long ago, Nigerian papers were awash with the arrest of Mrs. Asuni and some others who at the time were accused of espionage and terrorism. They apparently recorded footage of various oil installations and other allegedly sensitive locations in the Niger Delta region.

When I initially heard the story, I ignored it. After all, every nation has spies. It is commonly understood that foreign spies are in Nigeria just as Nigeria has agents in foreign countries. The possibility of there being spies in the Delta, though troublesome, is not shocking considering the energy agendas of most oil-hungry nations.

Unfortunately, I can no longer ignore this story because I find it incredibly worrisome that the 'spies' have been released and all charges against them have been dropped by Nigeria's Attorney General, Michael Aondoakaa. Aondoakaa failed to give a reason for his action, but apparently, his decision was 'based' on Section 174 of Nigeria's Constitution. Section 174 (1)(c) basically allows the Attorney general to drop a suit as long as no judgment has been reached. As the case was yet to truly begin, Aondoakaa was free to discontinue the case against Asuni and the other 'spies'.

And therein lies my issue. For all the talk of "Rule of Law", Nigerian laws make no sense! Under the Constitution, Aondoakaa is allowed to drop charges in practically any situation and no basis is required. The Constitution does not provide clear parameters within which the Attorney General can function. This problem is quite significant because a successful democracy requires defined rules by which it must operate with an eye for equity regardless of circumstance. How can the "Rule of Law" be applied when officials, by law, have no obligation to explain their decisions to the public they serve? Or, are we just supposed to trust officials? Considering Nigeria's track record, it would be absolutely foolish to assume that any official has the interest of the general public in mind when they act. My opinion might not be very popular, but I believe that it is much better to be pessimistic and allow Nigerian officials to surprise you and prove you wrong, than otherwise.

So, back to the pressing question, why did Aondoakaa suddenly and immediately drop all charges against these 'spies' considering the fanfare with which they were initially paraded before the nation and the world as potential agents working against Nigerian stability? I knew the situation was fishy when within days of finding 'spies' in the Niger Delta, it was revealed that Mrs. Asuni was actually a naturalized Nigerian of American origin. I knew then that like all things Nigeria, this story had many twists and turns that no ordinary human would ever fully discover!

Anyway, the laws that govern the land must be specific and detailed so as to limit the unilateral actions and ambiguous decisions by officials. This goes for Aondoakaa and his arch-nemesis, Nuhu Ribadu. The only way that Nigeria can properly function is if we review the various laws that empower the many offices and institutions upon which the nation depends. Too often do these laws conflict and undermine each other, making calls by Yar'Adua for the "Rule of Law" a toothless term of little to no consequence within the Nigerian situation.

12 Curiosities. Add Yours.:

Bro. Tee said...

I fully agree with you that:

1. The present constitution of Nigeria is about the greatest enemy of our democracy. It is full of confusions and contradictions. It contains too many loopholes that can easily be exploited by crooks.

2. There is more to the story of SPIES than we are being told. I read somewhere that the men in power were offended by the revelations made by Mrs. Asuni when she investigated the events taking place in the Niger Delta. According to the article, she discovered that some of the men in the corridors of power were the same people fueling the crisis in the Niger Delta.

May God save Nigeria!!!

pinocchio's lil' sis said...

hey tanks for stopping by.
by the way the attorney general said the charges was dropped 'in the interest of the public'.
go figure.
your govt loves u after all, no?


@ Bro Tee: Well, I think you summarized the point better than I did! I find Nigerian politics amazing and incredible - Yardy mentions "rule of law" with every breath but has not applied himself to the shoring up of the very law by which all things/people must abide! I know that things are not easy to change and I can only hope that his administration will lay the groundwork for necessary change. But, when Aondoakaa drops charges without providing a reason, writes letters on behalf of Ibori and 'fights' with his 'friend', Ribadu, it gives me cause for alarm.

@ Pinochio's lil sis: Thanks so much for stopping by! You are right, the government LOVES me and thus takes steps in MY interest. lol! Hopefully, that will be the case some day. We are not quite there yet but we'll get there.

Misan said...

It seems your VP is on a similar page(not the exact page, but maybe just a few behind) as you. From today's Guardian:

Thus, on return of democracy in 1999, the Vice President said, civil society led the Federal Government and the National Assembly to launch a review of the 1999 Constitution "as the present one on whose shoulders our federation lies is inadequate and must be amended if it is to accommodate developments in our national life."

He said the lopsidedness in the Constitution " suggest that the present arrangements flow from the militarist tradition that is undemocratic in all its ramifications. They demand constitutional changes. And as the government at the centre, our focus is to deliver on the promise of our founding fathers that "though tribe and tongue may differ, in brotherhood we stand."

The Vice President commended the resilience of the Nigerian nation, saying its federalism has been witness to seven Constitutions, eight military coups, two secession attempts, one civil war and three transitions to civil rule. "And through it all, Nigeria 's federalism has shown an admirable capacity to take on challenges and fashion out new ways, ideas and strategies to reposition the system for the good of the people," he said.

Question is, what is he (and baba Rule of Law (ROL from now on) going to do about it?

LurLar said...

i love the way u analyze current situation in naija...nd yup i agree with bro.tee.

fantasy queen said...

now, this isnt really surprising for nigeria, is it?, but we all just shake our heads and mutter 'government' and life is back to normal.


@ Fantasy Queen: And therein lies the problem! Until enough Nigerians, at home and abroad, DEMAND accountability and a functioning government, this "siddon look" attitude that we all have will not go anywhere, shebi?

At some point, more of us need to put the spotlight on our leaders. At least, us having this conversation about the issues and educating each other is a step in the right direction. But, we need to find a way to speed up change. Nigerians don't have all day....

Thanks for the insight though.

@ Misan: Thank you for providing the additional info. You and everyone at The Afro Beat keep educating me! Well, what will Baba Rule of Law (great name!) do about the deficient Constitution? Honestly, I do not know. I think that as Nigerians, we need to contact the Nigerian Bar Association. A united organization of 'concerned' Nigerians, might be able, over time, to put pressure on the Association to work towards strengthening the Constitution. There is also the Nigerian Lawyers in America association which might have some considerable 'pull' in such a situation as well. I believe there are also international orgs that work on such matters and could be of help. Frankly, I don't think we need to bring any foreigners into the situation. Considering how many Nigerian lawyers there are in Nigeria and around the world, we can solve this problem. In fact, I think this needs to be a campaign for Nigerian Lighthouse to take on. And just like that, Misan, you have started something. My brain is buzzing...

Thanks for the inspiration!

@ Lurlar: Thanks for coming by again and for the kind words. I'm just trying to wrap my brain around Nigeria and its issues in hopes of figuring out solutions via conversation. Thanks for your help!

Jinta said...

If there's one reason I dont trust this president of ours, it's because of the selection of this Aondoakaa chap. There's a whiff of the old school 'we're above the law' and 'we can do what we like' about him - truth be told, it's more than a whiff. He reeks.

anonymous gal said...

i dont trust that benue state Att Gen

Omodudu said...

A focus on institutions and not money bags will do the trick...

Nokaro said...

It is useful your drawing attention to this ridiculous case but you must have realised that the arrest and charges were motivated by ignorance on the part of the SSS which the AGF has had to 'cover up'. The military with their Obasanjo-era allies in the PDP do not want any real change in the Delta and will never support genuine development or reform. The case file brought to the AGF must have looked silly because all the officials stealing in the Niger Delta are in the PDP and in the government, and they do not need foreign journalists coming to further highlight the misery of life in that region. The AGF has the same problem with Nuhu Ribadu who before the election was telling us about all the corrupt governors he was going to prosecute, only to go quiet after the elections. Arresting do not constitute justice, a prosecution and determination of guilt or innocence is the basis of justice for Nigerians. Is Tafa Balogun getting 6 months for stealing over 8bn naira justice? Was the now AGF responsible for that? Ribadu was only arresting people so that the PDP-Obasanjo could squeeze them for something. On the AGF i reserve judgement and pray that he is indeed different from the corrupt likes of Ribadu and Obasanjo who like to play to the gallery. If you want to know the size of Ribadu's ego, look at the EFCC website. Only the Chairman is listed of all the personnel with his silly picture. The EFCC is more than his toy and we must all support the building of strong institutions in Nigeria, and not strong personalities with Hitlerite traits.




@ Nokaro: Amen to the creation of strong, well balanced institutions in Nigeria. We must discourage the creation of heralded personalities. Thanks so much for stopping by.

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