I am heartbroken. I read a lawyer, today, justify the abrogation of the Rule of Law in Nigeria on the basis of political expediency. I wept. My heart bled. Lawyers, being ministers in the temple of justice, ought to be at the forefront of the campaign against impunity, injustice and lawlessness rather than excuse them.
The burning issue is whether or not President Muhammadu Buhari was right when he said on National Television that neither Sambo Dasuki or Nnamdi Kanu deserved bail in spite of court orders for their release. No lawyer needs to rationalize the issue. It is crystal clear. It is a case of the RULE OF LAW, to which all citizens including the courts and the President are bound by.
The vital point is not whether Dasuki and Kanu have questions to answer or that the government has cases to prove against them but that in the eyes of our laws and on the strength of our very Constitution, until such cases are proved, the accused are presumed innocent and their rights remain inalienable and most importantly, FUNDAMENTAL.
Fundamental rights as have been canvassed by jurists such as Nimi Walson-Jack, are UNCONDITIONAL; meaning at the farthest extreme, they ought not to be limited and restricted by a Court order without a conviction. Such is the weight and import of fundamental rights. When something is inalienable, it is not subject to being taken away from or given away by the possessor. It is thus, fundamental.
Consequently, in the strict sense, only a court of law by a conviction, can validly restrict the fundamental rights of citizens rather than the opinion or order of any ruler; liberal or autocratic, irrespective.
It becomes worrying, however, that after a court of law had ordered the release of suspects, not convicts, they are kept in custody on the orders of a ruler in whose opinion, they are already guilty as charged regardless of the order of the Court. So, then, why come to court? Is the plan to use the court to implement draconian rule; to invest a semblance of justification on illegalities and Lawyers would truly justify this? No! Can’t be!
As legal practitioners, we owe a duty to society to uphold the rule of law and to promote justice. These are cardinal imports of our being Lawyers. We cannot afford to excuse the dictator because we profit from his treachery even when the temple of justice is desecrated as a result. No! Tides do change. The enemy of the dictator can become one as well and make enemies of the friends of the former. Retributive justice would then have set in but of what profit to society and the rule of law? This is the danger with excusing dictatorship. It corrupts our values, destroys our society and makes us less than we ought to be. Most of all, it consumes all of us eventually.
There is no benefit with excusing dictatorship. Lawyers ought not to be part of such despicable conduct.
Oraye St. Franklyn is a barrister-at-law. He is senior special assistant to Governor Nyesom Wike on Social Media. He is a strategic communicator and good governance advocate, writes from Port Harcourt, Rivers State. He tweets from @RealOraye. He is also on Facebook.
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.