YOUTHS IN NIGERIA ARE URGED TO STAND UP FOR THEIR RIGHTS IN NIGERIA.
My commendation goes to the Key Note Speaker Prof. Chidi ODINKALU. Having read his paper sent to me two days ago, I adopt same as mine but I have few words which I have put down in writing to add to the discourse.
The truth of the matter is that Nigerian youths have sat down for too long and need to get up, stand up for their rights. The Nigerian youths under the new dispensation are endangered species, they are buffeted right, left and centre. It is either they are arrested and flung into long detention by both States and Federal government authorities or that the government of the day are enacting laws through the legislative assemblies to permanently shut their mouths up in the name of regulating the social media space. If you are in doubt about how serious the onslaught has become, the event of last Friday where a youth in the name of Yele Sowore was wrestled to the ground in the court room in the full glare of the world as shown in the social media should get you convinced that a full blown war has been declared against the youths of this country.
Every new government in Nigeria comes with mouth watering promises which hardly get fulfilled. The new government in place came with the kind of promises that even the devil would have been convinced except some few angels who kept warning that the leopard cannot change its skin. Having been elected and they fell short of expectations including the display of executive recklessness, criticisms came in torrents. Comrade Yele Sowore called for a revolution which the government of the day equated to plan to overthrow the elected government of President Buhari. He has been arrested since August this year and kept in perpetual detention while they have flagrantly disobeyed the orders of the court to have him out on bail. He was re-arrested in a most reckless manner last Friday, a day after they had grudgingly released him for just 24 hours. They forced their way into the court room in utter contempt, violated and desecrated the hallowed temple of Justice in the most violent and repulsive manner ever in the history of disrespect to the judiciary.
The same way, Abubakar Idris popularly know as Dandiyata, a lecturer at the Federal University, Dutsinma Katsina, a critic of the APC was sent to jail for daring to speak out to challenge the government of anti-Peoples’ policies. Agba Jalingo is spending over 3 months in detention at the pleasure of the governor of Cross River State, Prof Ben Ayade for daring to demand the whereabout of about 500 million Naira the said governor was alleged to have used to birth a micro finance bank that is presently not functional. He was charged among others of the offence of planning to overthrow the State Government of Cross River State. Imagine such a charge? The most absurd is that masked witnesses who will testify behind curtains in the court room have been lined up for the trial. Meanwhile, all attempts to have him on bail have been resisted by his persecutors and the court seem to agree that he does not deserve bail. We must not forget that other youths like Steven Kafeson, Jones Abiri are all in different prisons across the various States in Nigeria for writing or speaking against the government at the various States and at the centre.
No one is spared, no one is free. The human right community is clearly under heavy watch and threat. For some of us we are barely being tolerated. I was the guest of EFCC for 23 days recently. Chief Mike Ozekome SAN, the “Eze Gburugburu of Ndi Nigeria”(the title I gave to him) is my able lawyer who took measures that I will treasure the rest of my life to ensure that my rights that were violated, got redressed in the court of law. Our Femi Falana SAN, I call him my worthy mentor and big uncle decried the criminalization of a matter that was purely civil between me and them. He spoke out openly in the day, in the night I was called out and asked to be released. I turned down the offer, requesting that I would rather come out in the morning rather than coming out of detention by the ungodly hour of 11pm.
My experience in there, I will treasure the rest of my life. When I became downcast, it took the soothing words of Femi Falana SAN when he came visiting, that he could remember when and how he spent 10 months in prison in the North. At that time I was already spending 18 days and feeling as if I have spent years but by the time I heard the testimony of FF SAN of spending 10 months in prison, I knew that I had better brace up for a long haul. I became strengthened when he left because I resolved that if he could spend 10 months and come out alive and he is today one of the leading human rights lawyers in Nigeria, I need his experience both theoretically and practically to appreciate the benefits of freedom and how to intensify my self imposed task of liberating people from the shackles of oppression and illegal detention. It was a big resolution for me, especially when I saw so many young men who are thrown into long detention by the agency on the allegations of cyber crimes. I met some who had been there for the past three or four months without any arraignment or bail.
I saw first hand how the judiciary is being used by the agency and this is applicable to DSS, police etc to violate the rights of the citizens.
These agencies go to the court and obtain ex parte orders to detain citizens beyond 24 and 48 hours, extending them to some 14 days, 20 days or 30 days depending on the number of days that suit their fancy. These orders obtained exparte are usually not communicated to the defendants in question. Perhaps you are only made aware if your lawyers commences action for the enforcement of your rights in court and it is at that point they will file a counter affidavit informing the court that they have earlier on obtained a court order to detain that individual beyond the time constitutionally guaranteed. This is clearly unfair, inhuman and wicked and should be discouraged.
My prescription on this is that the courts should refuse any such ex parte application that seeks to elongate the detention of a citizen beyond the timeline allowed by the constitution which is usually 24 or at maximum 48 hours except the defendant should be put on notice. This should be the minimum standard. However wherever the court is satisfied that the exigencies of a particular case will not permit the luxury of putting the defendant on notice and is minded to grant such ex parte orders, the Court should and must give an ancillary order that the ORDER OF THE COURT MUST BE SERVED ON THE DEFENDANT IMMEDIATELY TO LET HIM OR HER BE AWARE THAT HIS OR HER DETENTION IS BEING EXTENDED BY AN ODER OF COURT AND THIS WILL ENABLE THE DEFENDANT TO TAKE STEP OR STEPS TO HAVE THE ORDER REVIEWED OR SET ASIDE FOR SOME VITIATING FACTORS.
I have dedicated myself to ensure that we change those laws that give the prosecuting agencies the unfettered power to approach the court and obtain ex parte court orders with which they violate the rights of the citizens especially the youths.
Before I conclude, let us ruminate on these historical facts concerning the political rights of the youths.
The youth have not always been on the periphery of Nigeria’s political landscape. In fact, Nigeria’s independence from Britain was won by the likes of Nnamdi Azikiwe, Mbonu Ojike, Obafemi Awolowo and Anthony Enahoro who utilized their youthful exuberance to agitate for Nigeria’s emancipation from colonial exploitation in the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s. Upon this independence, youths were immediately propelled into political leadership positions across the country. Remarkably, Mathew Mbu, Mbazulike Amechi, Maitama Sule and Shehu Shagari became cabinet ministers in their 20s and 30s.
Nigeria’s first democratic experience would be brutally cut short by a military coup d’état in 1966, but even that ushered in 6 (out of a total of 8) military juntas that were led by generals in their 30s and early 40s. However, the marginalization of the youth in Nigeria’s political space can be traced to this era of military rule.
Many of the officers who held sway in that era have refused to pass the baton and leave the scene. They have recycled themselves from soldiers to politicians and from kingmakers to the so-called elder statesmen whose approval and blessings must be sought before one can aspire to occupy any political leadership position in the country. The likes of Olusegun Obasanjo, Ibrahim Babangida, Abba Kyari and the incumbent president, Muhammadu Buhari, are still very relevant decades after their heydays in military fatigues. General Gowon was 31 years when he became the Head of State in 1966, General Murtala Mohammed was 37 years old he overthrew the government of General Gowon in 1975, General Obasanjo was 39 years old when he succeeded the government of Gen Mohammed that was cut short by military coup de’tat. Major General Muhammadu Buhari was 41 years when he sacked Shagari’s regime and took over. He is back and still at the saddle at his 70s. Major General Aguiyi Ironsi was 42 years old when circumstances entrusted leadership on him in 1966.
While nations that understand the times are electing young ones to take over the running of their countries, Nigeria’s leadership architecture is peopled with old men and women all over. I think we have an ambassador who is in his 90s and in a country where our foreign policy is critical for our survival as a nation . If not for time constraint I would have read out the average age and countries where young ones are holding sway, piloting successfully the affairs of their countries. Please permit me to quickly do this with some countries and I will round up, I promise.
Just yesterday Finland elected the youngest Prime Minister in the world presently. She is Sanna Marin who is just 34 years. Ukairian Prime Minister was elected last year at the age of 35 years. North Korean Leader KimJong-Un succeeded his father at the age of 36, El Savador elected their president early this year who is just 38 and New Zealand Prime Minister is only 39 and she is a woman. Just do the mathematics and tell me the average age of these world leaders. This is the new way to go as the world plans leadership succession in such orderly manner over to their YOUTHS to keep the world safe and better. The Nigeria’s and America’s examples are exceptions rather than the rule. You can also see their leadership style which is full of aberrations and apologies.
The Nigerian youth should really stand up to be counted as regards their political and fundamental human rights. They should refuse to be accustomed to the gross violations of their rights, they have intimidating demographic credentials that they can use to their greatest advantage. They should insist on the application of the fundamental objectives and directive principles of state policy and the fundamental human rights provisions in our constitution. Let them resist the passage of the Social Media Regulation and the Hate Speech Bills as that will really curtail their freedom of expression over the governance of the country. They must also insist that the government of the day at the executive level should and must respect other arms of government and must not desecrate our institutions like the judiciary as that will otherwise destroy the very fabric of the country.
Ladies and gentlemen this is my little contribution to this discourse on this auspicious occasion of celebrating the Human Rights of citizens in the world. I thank the organizers for inviting me to share this podium with these great giants and patriots in Nigeria. The pleasure is certainly mine.
Monday O. Ubani (MOU) Esq.
This lecture was delivered today the 10th of Dec 2019 at NBA Lagos Branch Human Right Annual Lecture