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Still On Tambuwal’s Ordeal

Speaker, Nigeria's House of Representatives Aminu Tambuwal

By Adewale Kupoluyi

The withdrawal of security details attached to Rt. Hon. Aminu Tambuwal, Speaker of the House of Representatives over his decamping from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the All Progressives Congress (APC) will continue to raise dust in the polity. What has just played out is nothing but an abuse of power, disrespect for the legislature, embarrassment to the exalted office of the speaker, misinterpretation of the constitution and inability to exercise discretion by confusing pure state matters with partisan politics. The Nigeria Police Force had claimed that it withdrew the speaker’s security details for allegedly violating section 68 (1) (g) of the 1999 constitution and so, was no longer entitled to police security. On this, the police authorities were dead wrong.

Speaker, Nigeria's House of Representatives Aminu Tambuwal

Speaker, Nigeria’s House of Representatives Aminu Tambuwal

Before now, the speaker has been accused of fraternising with the opposition and for openly criticising major policies of the PDP and President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration. While many top shots in government believe that Tambuwal was a disloyal politician, who had the audacity to challenge the actions and inactions of his party, the speaker’s comments, utterances and body language had suggested that he was not comfortable with the PDP having stopped attending party meetings and official functions. In addition to Tambuwal’s attack on Federal Government’s policies, he had accused President Jonathan for what he called the alarming rate of corruption in the country, among others. While I will not like to dabble into party matters, it is however, not out of place to review the events that eventually culminated into the withdrawal of security details of the speaker.

To begin with, it should be appreciated that Tambuwal is the Speaker of the House of Representatives and he’s more of a public servant than a mere politician. He also has the right to his opinion and association. The right way to go would have been to maintain the status quo because irrespective of the party platform that the speaker might have emerged, he’s no longer responsible to such parties but to the national assembly and the country, as the number four citizens of the nation, who can only be removed from that post by two-thirds majority votes of the house. Tambuwal still remains the bonafide occupant of the position and is entitled to a round-the-clock security protection by the usual Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, the Department of State Security and the police. As long as he remains the Speaker of the House, the PDP, the President or even the Acting Inspector-General of Police cannot order the withdrawal of Tambuwal’s security personnel just by fiat.

As reported, present the meeting where the decision was taken that Tambuwal should be punished, the National Security Adviser, Secretary to the Government of the Federation as well as the nation’s Attorney-General and Minister of Justice were said to have reviewed the legal and security implications before giving the ill-advised recommendation. I strongly believe that the President was wrongly advised. The Acting Inspector-General of Police, who is also a lawyer, should share a larger percentage of the castigation for enforcing such directive. Afterall, it is on record that Tambuwal was not the first elected officer to defect to another party, but he now seems to be the first to suffer its consequence. The government should not be seen as using the withdrawal of security aides to intimidate public officers. It would be recalled too that at a point at the wake of the PDP/New PDP crisis of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum, the same police became a political weapon in the hands of the executive when it similarly withdrew the security aides of Governor Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State, who is a member of the New PDP, now dissolved into APC.

This ugly episode reminds us of the urgent need to separate the office of the Attorney-General of the Federation from the Ministry of Justice, to instill sanity into the country’s justice system and prevent a situation where the AGF continues to carry out the agenda of the ruling party even if such is not in the best interest of the country. The minister of justice would then serve the government and its institutions while the AGF will serve the people as ombudsman and a watchdog against injustice meaning that the AGF will concentrate on directing the prosecution of the government cases while the minister of justice would serve as an adviser on legal matters by facilitating an enabling environment for judges and judicial workers. The office of the Attorney-General is derived from Section 150 (1) of the 1999 Constitution as amended. Pursuant to this provision, the AGF is usually appointed by the President while the governor on the other hand appoints the Attorney-General of the State. Sections 174 and 211 respectively provide for the powers of the AGF and Attorneys-General of the states by empowering the AG to, among other things, initiate or discontinue any legal proceedings before any court of law in Nigeria. The scope and latitude of these powers has over the years been a subject of numerous judicial pronouncements. In the case of Tambuwal, both Adoke and Abba had insisted that the speaker was no longer entitled to security details and argued that he had ceased to be a member of the House as its Speaker and forfeiting the privileges attached to the office.

Nevertheless, it is heartwarming that Tambuwal took the right step by approaching a Federal High Court in Abuja, to seek redress. The court’s judgment in upturning the inaction of the Federal Government is timely and commendable. With all sense of respect and compliance, the parties should honour this judgment by restoring Tambuwal’s security detail without further delay. Any responsible government should avoid being lawless. It is hoped that with the court judgment, our law enforcement agencies would know their limits within the law of the land. This controversial action by the Acting IGP – now confirmed as the substantive IGP – has reinforced the long-held convictions that there is no true separation of powers in Nigeria. It is as if security agents are only bent on protecting the executive arm. That is why the call for state police continues to be louder by the day and as long as the central police that presently obtains is subject to the whims and caprices of the presidency.

Hopefully, the proposal of the National Conference Standing Committee on Law, Judiciary and Human Rights, recommending for the separation of the office of Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation, would be implemented. Reasoning in this line, the AGF and Minister of Justice, Mohammed Adoke, in a paper he delivered at the 13th convocation of the Benue State University, Makurdi, had called for the amendment of Section 150, by splitting the two offices such that the Minister of Justice could be a politician while the AGF should be someone appointed to strictly discharge purely professional duties of proffering legal advice to government by prosecuting cases on behalf of the state and defending actions brought against the state. Adoke’s lecture further canvassed that the AGF so appointed should even outlive the administration that appointed him into office in order to provide the requisite advice for the incoming government, advising that whoever will be appointed should be for a fixed tenure of six years to avoid unnecessarily becoming partisan. This is a reform that should bring sanity into our judicial system. Tambuwal’s case should certainly catalyse this change.

Kupoluyi writes from the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, vide, adewalekupoluyi@yahoo.co.uk, Twitter, @AdewaleKupoluyi


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