Lagos lawyer and prominent human rights activist, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN), has asked President Goodluck Jonathan to ignore a call by former federal commissioner for information and Ijaw national leader, Chief Edwin Clark, to suspend democratic structures in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states, preparatory to a full declaration of emergency rule in the affected states.
Falana said in a statement on Tuesday described the call by Clark as diversionary and the act of removing elected governors or suspending democratic institutions during emergency rule in a state as illegal.
According to the lawyer, such a call should not be dismissed with a wave of the hand as it was coming from a personality like the Ijaw leader, who he said “wields enormous influence around the presidency”.
He, therefore, urged the president to shun such advice by “people with vested political agenda to resort to undemocratic tactics associated with military dictators”.
Falana said, “As Nigeria has successfully replaced autocracy with democracy all actions of the government have to be conducted in strict compliance with the tenets of the rule of law.
“In view of the clear provision of the Constitution on the vexed issue of a state of emergency I am compelled to urge the President to ignore the illegal and unconstitutional call for the removal of the governors of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states”.
Clark had been widely quoted in the media to have said that, “There is nothing like partial declaration of a state of emergency in the 1999 Constitution; what section 305 (c) of the Constitution contemplates is the recourse to ‘extraordinary measures to restore peace’ and security where there is a breakdown of public order and public safety.
“This in effect means that all democratic institution should be suspended to permit the military exercise full control until peace and order returns”.
But in a counter-argument, Falana said that nothing in section 305 of the constitution referred to by Clark empowered the president to suspend democratic institutions in a state under emergency rule.
His words: “With profound respect to the elder statesman, Section 305 of the Constitution which empowers the President to declare a state of emergency in any part of the country does not make any provision, expressly or impliedly, for the removal of elected democratic structures.
“In other words, the power of the President, to take ‘extraordinary measures to restore peace and security’ under a state of emergency does not include the removal of elected public officers or the dissolution of democratic structures.
“In any case, state governors cannot be held vicariously liable for the inability of the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces to stem the rising wave of insurgency in the country”.
He noted that Clark was unable to point to any law or decided court case to justify his stand in enjoining President Jonathan to follow what he termed the ‘bad example’ set by former President Olusegun Obasanjo.
Falana said the suspension of the then Governor of Plateau State and the Acting Governor of Ekiti State for six months by Mr. Obasanjo during his tenure as president was “in utter violation of the Constitution”.
He added, “That was an era of executive recklessness, which has been consigned to the dustbin of history.
“Assuming without conceding that President Obasanjo was right is Chief Clark suggesting, by any stretch of imagination, that if the Federation is waging a war against another country leading to the imposition of emergency rule in the entire land the President should vacate office for a retired General to take over and run the country like a Sole Administrator?”