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FGN usurping powers, functions of the Nigerian judiciary- ACCESS TO JUSTICE

A declaration was on Thursday made by a radical human rights organisation, Access to Justice, that what the Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN) is currently doing, is to usurp the powers and functions of the judiciary in the country.

The group in a statement issued by its Deputy Director, Adenike Aiyedun also condemned in the strongest terms the blatant disobedience to valid decisions of the judiciary.

It argued that, "Access to Justice gave a press conference and issued a press statement on the illegal detention of Sheik El-Zazaky and Col (rtd) Dasuki Sambo in April and May 2017.

"In those public statements, Access to Justice expressed serious concerns about the willful disregard of court orders by the executive arm of government, and its impact on the state of the rule of law in the country.

"On the 24th May 2017, Mallam Garba Shehu, the Special Assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari on Media and Publicity, seeking to justify the disobedience of the Buhari administration to orders of court said that Sheik El-Zazaky was being kept in protective custody in his own interest and that of the public.

"On Dasuki Sambo, Mallam Shehu claimed the retired Colonel is still being investigated for other criminal offences with respect to which he has not been granted bail, stating that his release may jeopardize ongoing investigations.

"Access to Justice is dismayed by the above claims.

"As a point of departure, the executive branch of government has no power or authority to second-guess the judgments of competent courts or the effect of their orders, in order to disobey the courts or deny the adjudicated rights of Nigerians.

"Where the executive arrogates to itself a general right to sit, as a court of appeal over judgments and orders of constitutionally established courts, it clearly makes courts of law irrelevant in protecting the rights of citizens and indirectly usurps the powers and functions of the judicial branch of government.

"This sabotages the whole idea of a constitutional democracy and the rule of law, as it denies courts their legitimate role, as protectors of the rights of citizens. "Without this protection, citizens remain completely at the mercy of government, and their rights in perpetual jeopardy.

"Hence, we find the defence by the Federal Government of Nigeria, to be completely self-serving, disingenuous and audacious.

"Furthermore, we consider it obnoxious and irresponsible to say, as our government has done, that detaining citizens who have utilized every means available to oppose their incarceration, is in the best interest of those same citizens.

"It is also untenable to say that government plans at some point in the future to charge citizens for crimes, and without judicial authorization, keep crime suspects in custody in disobedience of court orders.

"This grievously offends the rule of law. Finally, it appears that the Buhari administration which promised to uphold the Constitution - has upstaged the Constitution and exhibited, unbridled arrogance to its provisions within the stated context.

"We therefore argue that this recalcitrance by the government will make it difficult for courts to play their constitutional role of being the last hope of the common man and defender of constitutional liberties, both for the strong and weak, and the rich and poor.

"Where people are at any risk and need to be protected, they normally request for such protection, and responsible governments avail their citizens of the assistance of security personnel.

"We would hereby like to remind the government of the day that it may someday be haunted by the precedent that it is now setting, as it is impossible to fight impunity, with a higher level of impunity."





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