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Buhari urged to uphold rule of law in his last four years in office

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Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has sent an open letter to President Muhammadu Buhari ahead of his inauguration for second term in office, urging him to “publicly commit to making every day of your stay in Aso Rock a ‘Rule of Law’ Day, including by ensuring that every segment of your government’s daily operations is lawful and rule-of-law compliant, for the sake of fairness, justice, your legacy, and the success of your anti-corruption agenda, which has remained stuck in limbo.”

The organization expressed: “serious concerns that the results of the ‘rule of law MOT’ in the past four years are uniquely damaging to your government’s fight against corruption and to the country.”

In a letter dated 29 May 2019 and signed by SERAP deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare, the organization said: “Making a public commitment to dedicate every day of your second term as a ‘Rule of Law’ day will help to ensure that decisions of our courts are fully obeyed, refocus, improve and reinforce the anti-corruption agenda. It will also serve as a reminder that no one has immunity from the law, not even the government.”

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The organization said: “The deficits in the rule of law have been particularly notable in three areas: failure to obey decisions of Nigerian courts, failure to push for transparency in asset declarations by high-ranking public officials and failure to push for unexplained wealth orders against former presidents and former governors and other senior public officials suspected of living on proceeds of corruption and ‘dirty money’.”

The letter read in part: “We urge you to use the opportunity of your second term to begin to implement your oft-expressed commitment to the rule of law by immediately obeying decisions of Nigerian courts, promoting transparency in asset declarations by publishing widely details of your assets declaration, encouraging Vice-President Professor Yemi Osinbajo to do the same, and instructing all your ministers to publish their asset declarations.”

“We also urge you to immediately instruct your next Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice to pursue unexplained wealth court orders against all former presidents (and their estates), former governors, former presidents of the Senate and former speakers of the House of Representatives aimed at forcing those of them suspected of living on proceeds of corruption and ‘dirty money’ to reveal sources of their fortune or risk forfeiting it.”

“Nigeria’s democracy ought to have as its foundation respect for human rights and the rule of law. Treating the decisions of Nigerian courts as not binding is antithetical to any contemporary notion of the rule of law and democracy, and clearly counter-productive to the fight against corruption.”

“Ignoring or refusing to obey decisions of our courts is implicitly rendering the judiciary powerless to enforce constitutional and legal rights, violating separation of powers, undermining the rule of law, and ultimately, raising serious question marks on the government’s commitment to fight grand corruption.”

“Democracy is an inherent element of the rule of law, and obeying decisions of the courts, pushing for transparency of high-ranking government officials and going after former senior officials suspected of living on proceeds of corruption and ‘dirty money’ are closely connected with the existence and consolidation of democracy, good governance and development.”

“Persistent disobedience of decisions of our courts by the government has opened the way for many state governors to do the same within their states including by using anti-media laws to suppress the civic space, target journalists and human rights defenders, grant to themselves pensions for life and commit grand corruption and other appalling atrocities.”

“High-profile judgments your government is refusing to obey include at least two judgments obtained by SERAP. The first is the judgment by Justice Hadiza Rabiu Shagari ordering the government to tell Nigerians about the stolen asset it allegedly recovered, with details of the amounts recovered. The second judgment, by Justice Mohammed Idris, ordered the government to publish details on the spending of stolen funds recovered by successive governments since the return of democracy in 1999.”

“Another court order that is yet to be complied with is the order for the release of Islamic Movement of Nigeria leader, Sheikh Ibrahim El-Zakzaky and his wife, Zeenah, from unlawful detention, obtained by human rights lawyer and Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Femi Falana.

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