Since Muhammadu Buhari became Nigeria’s President in 2015, he has repeatedly used “fight against corruption” as a tool to side-step the judiciary, disregard court orders, illegally lock away and intimidate his critics, opponents and adversaries.
On January 25, 2019, few weeks before the presidential election, in which Buhari was seeking re-election, Buhari suspended the country’s top judge, Walter Onnoghen, on charges of undisclosed bank account, he replaced him with an acting chief justice merely weeks before a presidential election in which judiciary had always played an important role.
Onnoghen, as the head of Nigeria’s independent judiciary, had helped resolve electoral disputes in past elections, some of which have been marred by violence and vote-rigging. He was similarly expected to preside over any dispute that may arise in the February 23, 2019 election.
However, it needs to be noted that the suspension of the chief justice was hardly the first time the Buhari administration infringed the principle of separation of powers and put the future of Nigerian democracy at risk.
On December 2015, few months after Buhari became president, he arrested Sambo DASUKI on allegations of frauds, but it is more of a revenge of disloyalty.
Sambo Dasuki (as a major) participated in the 1983 Nigerian coup d’état that installed Muhammadu Buhari as Nigeria’s Head of State. Muhammadu Buhari led the coup d’état which overthrew a democratic President, Shehu Shagari, on December 31, 1983.
Following the coup, Dasuki was made Aide-de-camp (ADC) to Ibrahim Babangida.
Buhari has refused to release the former National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki, even though he has been granted bail by several Nigerian high court judges and the ECOWAS court of justice. He remains behind bars to this day. The charges levelled against him could look enormous and real but his arrest is a pay back of his disloyalty to Buhari.
Another is Nigeria’s growing authoritarian treatment of journalists; arrest of Jones Abiri is another example. Jones Abiri, a journalist, the publisher of the Weekly Source tabloid newspaper, was re-arrested on 30 March, 2019 on charges of terrorism and economic sabotage. This reminds Nigerians of the arrest of Dele Giwa on spurious charges and later his assassination.
The charges came nine months after Abiri was freed from the custody of the State Security Service on the same charges. Meanwhile, Abiri spent two years in custody without trial, today Abiri, a journalist, is back to jail without trial.
With the long history of Buhari’s administration of going after anyone who is critical of his administration and drawing up phony allegations to back up their motives, this is another critic being locked for getting under his flesh.
Before the presidential election, Buhari locked up prominent political activists in the country, Deji Adeyanju was one, a prominent critic of the administration. He was locked up and later released after the election even prominent opposition party members that were very critical of his administration were arrested on cooked-up allegations, one of the many ways in which Buhari perfected his victory in the 2019 presidential election.
Indefinite Detention of Citizens
The Department of State Service operates under Nigeria’s coordinator of national security, which reports directly to Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, according to Nigeria’s 1986 National Security Agencies Act, a decree made by military regimes.
Why would a democratic country adapt the military regimes’ playbook?
Although the allowable period of detention without charge was reduced from six months to six weeks in January 1990. The Federal government still allows the indefinite, incommunicado detention of Nigerian citizens, though international communities has called for its repeal.
Abuse of Human Rights
Abuse of human right continues in Nigeria, if you live in Nigeria and you are critical of President Buhari, the Department of State Services are coming for you. The present administration in Nigeria can not be liken to be democratic.
Buhari has always argue that rule of law should be overlooked if it is for greater good. In an interview Buhari granted to Daily Telegraph, he said
“The legal process in this country is slow, sometimes a little too slow for my liking…But we still respect the system because we know it is thorough and fair.”
He has only lived up to the former.
Nigeria can not be a democracy if the rule of law do not prevail, if the people’s votes do not count, if the only free people are the ruling elites, if it’s president is a champion on human rights abuse. Nigeria can not be a democracy when it has a dictator as a president.