More than 2,000 persons have signed a petition published on change.org by Nigerian lawyer Carol Ajie on Dec. 31, 2015, asking for the resignation of Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari over his show of ‘lack of respect’ for Court Orders.
“Within President Buhari’s first year in office, too soon after he took the revered Oaths, he and state agents acting under his supervision, now demonstrate total lack of respect for Court Orders and at his maiden media chat on Wednesday 30th Dec., instant, Mr President made puerile attempts to justify these breaches, he said inter alia that some persons his regime locked up in cells dehumanized against court orders, Nnamdi Kanu had travelled without his passports,” wrote Ajie in the petition which has garnered 2,466 signatures as at 9:46 GMT+1.
President Buhari had at the Dec. 30 media chat justified the continued detention of Nnamdi Kanu, Director of Radio Biafra who is also leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, a group calling for self-determination, despite a court ruling ordering his unconditional release. The former National Security Adviser (NSA), retired Colonel Sambo Dasuki has also remained in jail, despite a court order directing the State Security Service and anti-graft agency, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, to release him on bail.
When asked on the alleged flouting of court orders, Nigeria’s president, a former military dictator said: “Technically, if you see the kind of atrocities those people committed, if they jump bail? … The one you called Kanu, do you know he has two passports? One Nigerian, one British and he came to this country without using any passport? Do you know that he brought sophisticated equipment into this country and started broadcasting for Radio Biafra? There is a treasonable charge against him and I hope the court will listen to the case.”
However, having a treasonable charge against a suspect is no excuse for any leader to flout court orders. And that was why Ajie took action.
She noted in her petition that the Immigration Act only allows the President or the Minister to deport anyone who travels without a valid travel document or detain such person for a period not exceeding 7 days. She stressed, therefore, failure to do any of the two things recommended is an infraction on the Immigration Act, the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 and subsisting court orders. Hence, she called on President Buhari to resign from office or face impeachment proceedings.
“Alternatively avoid another Burundi, call him to comply with the Orders of Courts,” Ajie wrote.
Several Nigerian activists and lawyers have also condemned Buhari’s stance on Kanu’s detention. Human rights lawyer, Ebun Adegboruwa told online news platform Premium Times that by his statement, Buhari has shown the world that he remained a dictator at heart. He noted that the President’s comment was capable of undermining the judiciary and, therefore, asked him to apologise.
The presidency had since released a statement on the issue. According to President Buhari’s Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, the president only expressed his personal opinion.
“It is harsh of anyone to deny the President an opinion on these matters when all us are freely commenting upon them. Muhammadu Buhari is first a citizen before becoming a President. He is entitled to hold views as you and I are under the constitution,” Shehu wrote in the president’s defense.
A Buhari supporter, Audu Bulama Bukarti, has also written a petition in support of the president to counter Ajie’s move. The petition published on ipetitions.com had 9295 signatures as at 14:10 Nigerian time.