Falana, Ozekhome and other senior Nigeria lawyers fail to warn Buhari against summons to court after office

Some senior Nigerian lawyers have said President Muhammadu Buhari should be ready to account for his actions when he steps down next year.

Their views came in response to the President’s statement during his interview on Channels Television on Wednesday, where he said anyone who asks him to come and testify in court when he leaves office would be in trouble because he had left office. already ensured that all important issues are recorded.

Asked by his interviewers what comes to his mind about the 2023 election, he replied, “It’s not my problem.

When asked further if he had any interest in knowing who would succeed him, he replied, “No, let anyone come. All the important things that I have made sure of are recorded.

“No one should ask me to come and testify in court, otherwise anyone would be in trouble because all the important things are on the tape.” I made sure of that. Important issues are all recorded.

But in their separate reactions, Nigeria’s top lawyers, including Femi Falana, Ifedayo Adedipe, Mike Ozekhome and Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, said the constitution does not grant immunity to former presidents and therefore Buhari should be prepared to be questioned when he leaves his post.

Falana said he believed Buhari was misquoted in this part of the interview, further noting that orders that could not be executed against him at this time due to his immunity would be executed when he left his office. functions.

He stressed that the president would be called to account locally and internationally.

Referring to a recent report by The Guardian titled “BPP Opposes Awarding of ICTN Contract to Medical Office”, the lawyer said that while he was still in office and benefiting from the immunity from prosecution, Buhari was already indicted by a Nigerian government agency.

Falana also referred to several court rulings obtained by an anti-corruption group, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, against the Buhari regime.

He said: “Right now he (Buhari) is already called to account that should not be talked about after leaving office. These orders will be carried out.

“More liability cases will likely be filed by 2023 and beyond. In view of the avalanche of petitions alleging extrajudicial killings by the security forces, the special prosecutor of the International Criminal Court is likely to open investigations that may involve senior federal government officials.

“While he is still in power, even the BPP is indicting him. People have gone to court to say, ‘You and (Rotimi) Amaechi cannot award this contract.’ Now he enjoys immunity; when he is not in office, he will not benefit from any immunity. He should therefore expect to be called to account. And if the documents are there, he will have to come forward to present the These documents are not in the public domain.

“Most of the time you ask for information under FOI (Freedom of Information Act), they don’t respond. So how can he tell the records are there?

Falana added that if no one got in trouble “even now that he (Buhari) is in power, has immunity and has all the forces, instruments of oppression and intimidation and people will sue, demanding accountability, when he is no longer in power, his immunity would have expired, so he could be called to account (for his actions) locally and internationally ”.

Adegboruwa expressed his displeasure with the president’s comment, describing it as an attempt to blackmail this successor in power even though his immunity, under Article 308 of the constitution, ends when his term expires.

He said: “What the president said is purely emotional blackmail and uses style to threaten his successor, which is unexpected for a president who claims to be fighting corruption. The person who fights against corruption cannot himself or herself flee from an investigation or an investigation as this would be incompatible with the president’s open statement to be ahead in the fight against corruption.

“The immunity granted to him is limited during his term of office, and once his term of office is over, he can be arrested, like any other citizen. No law prevents a former public officer from being summoned by the court to testify or give an account of his mandate. Under Article 6 of our constitution, the courts have the right and the power to exercise jurisdiction over any citizen, and once the president has completed his term in 2023, he should expect that often , he is convened to give an account of his mandate; the railway project, the Chinese loans, the huge sums spent on electricity and all we get is darkness and a lot of things the president has to account for, so he should be ready. In fact, he should be ready.

Adegboruwa noted that in countries from which Nigeria has copied its democracy, some presidents have had to waive their immunity to be questioned.

“I think if the president has nothing to hide, he should be the first person to appear in court if there is an issue that seeks to question his tenure.

“I don’t want to agree that he doesn’t want to be held accountable, of course he may be forced to appear in court after his term ends. He can be summoned, the law on evidence allows it, and the constitution does not extend immunity to post-office, ”he added.

Commenting further on the matter, Ozekhome called the president’s statement a manifestation of impunity and contempt for the rule of law.

He declared: “President Muhammadu Buhari loses his immunity enshrined in article 308 of the 1999 constitution by May 29, 2023. He becomes an ordinary citizen liable to be summoned to” answer any question. ” from any court. He will never be able to run away from it.

“He said all important things are on the record. Everything is fine. But when clarification or proof is needed, he is likely to be invited like any other citizen to come up with answers.

“Indeed, he is more obligated than other citizens because he is the president and commander-in-chief of the armed forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. This kind of statement shows a state of mind of contempt for the rule of law and due process. This is not at all acceptable. I humbly condemn him.

Meanwhile, Nigeria’s senior lawyer Robert Clarke, 83, said the president had the impulse to say so because no former Nigerian president had been questioned after leaving office.

He said, “This is a delicate situation. Normally, if a president resigns or leaves office and does a lot of wrong things, the next government can call him in to come and report on what he did during his tenure, but because it didn’t happen. not produced, maybe that’s why the president feels this way.

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