Govt’s inability to curb insecurity suggests state failure – Sam Erugo, SAN

cfc erugo
cfc erugo

The incidents are clear signs that the Nigerian security system is challenged and the government appears to be helpless. Of course, these are not isolated cases but a culmination of the growing insecurity all over the country, which the government had hitherto treated with levity. These cases appear special because we now have the security challenges coming close to the seat of power in the federal capital, with the terrorists having a field day without challenge. These are almost tantamount to challenging the Federal Government to a fight. If the bandits or terrorists have the effrontery to challenge the government to this extent, then we have trouble on our hands. Essentially, the citizens are threatened. To reassure the citizens, one will expect to hear that those involved in both incidents have been arrested and put on trial.

Though the trip to Senegal for the conference will appear insensitive, one cannot disagree with the president since we do not have all the information at his disposal and the trip has to do with an international obligation. Unfortunately, our government is beginning to get used to the crisis and cannot give the impression that it is too bad. However, the defence put up by the president’s special adviser, once again, showed the insensibility of those who manage the president’s media. They could have been more diplomatic; it appears they do not bother about the feelings of Nigerians anymore.

This is another incidence suggesting the terrorists, bandits or gunmen, whatever we call them, are now throwing an open challenge to the government of the federation, as I observed earlier. It is a national security threat and, for me, it is high time the government deployed all instruments of power at its disposal to decimate or annihilate them. One wonders why the Federal Government has been treating the terrorists and bandits with such levity as to give them the boldness and courage to terrorise; now not only the citizens but even the government. Nigerians are beginning to speculate and ask questions. I do know and have canvassed elsewhere that the primary purpose of government in society is to maintain order, security and social stability through law. And the foremost philosopher, John Locke (Two Treatises of Government (1690), London), who theorised on the “notions of people’s rights and the role of civil government” had expressed the purpose in terms of protecting those natural rights that the individual cannot effectively protect in a state of nature.

The Federal Government must as a matter of urgency protect the citizens because its basic constitutional role is to provide security of lives and property.  The central role of security in the Nigerian society is underscored by constitutional provisions.  The preamble to the 1999 Constitution envisages ‘a constitution for the purpose of promoting the good government and welfare of all persons in our country, on the principles of freedom, equality and justice.’ This translates to protection of individuals’ personal safety, and security of lives and property, as well as fundamental rights and freedoms guaranteed under the Constitution. It must include assurance of such security and not living in fear in your own home and country. This is achievable through available legal framework of laws for the maintenance of public order, security and good of government, including operations by security agents.  All these are at the disposal of the Federal Government and, obviously, the Nigerian state is the controller and keeper of instruments of security and protection, as the citizens are not allowed to carry arms to protect themselves. Thus, the 1999 Constitution provides the basis of the general role of security agencies in the maintenance of peace and security in Nigeria. Consequently, in the substantive provisions of the Constitution conferring the powers of the Federal Government of Nigeria, there are several sections regulating maintenance of security in terms of peace, order and good government. Relevant sections include section 4(3) and (7), section 5(1)(b) & (2)(b), section11, section 45, section 215(3)(4)(5); section 216(1) section 217(2) & (d) and section 218(1). Value as a competence appears challenged.

Once a government is unable to discharge the function or powers enshrined in the Constitution to provide security for lives and property, there is suggestion of failure of the state. In such circumstance, there is a return to the state of nature where the bandits and mighty rule. The Federal Government must take steps to restore the Nigerian state.

Voter registration is a civic right and the very basic qualification to participate in government or politics. It is very important because it confers on the registered voter the opportunity or right to participation in government by voting in elections to elect your representative or leader at all levels. Ordinarily, it should be mandatory that the Independent National Electoral Commission register every eligible voter to enable them to participate in politics or government. Unfortunately, many eligible citizens, apparently due to apathy, did not register during the several windows allowed by INEC for registration of voters. Another category of persons that will be eligible to vote by attaining the voting age in the 2023 elections has also been excluded by the INEC timetable, which closed registration on July 31, 2022. Rather than rate voters’ registration, I submit that voters’ registration should be a continuous exercise and that INEC must as a constitutional duty ensure that all eligible voters, who are willing to register, including those that will attain the voting age in February/March 2023, are accorded opportunity to register to vote. The right to vote is constitutional since it provides opportunity for the citizens to participate in politics or government at the minutest level of voting. In this era of ICT, except incompetence or impunity, there is no argument in support of INEC ending registration of voters more than six months before national election and when there are qualified citizens willing and ready to register. Probably, INEC has not adverted its mind to the implicated deprivation of the rights of citizens to participate in their own government. In many decided cases, the Nigerian courts have held that the election process spans a period and comprises a series of actions, from registration of voters to polling on polling day. Section 1(2) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria has been argued as establishing the right to participate and vote. So, to deprive a qualified citizen, including those who will be 18 years of age by February 2023 could raise several constitutional issues, including discrimination on grounds of age. The right to vote is an essential part of right to participate. The right to vote, though not specifically expressed, is traceable to or implicated by the constitutional provisions. As far back as 1964 in Wesberry v Sanders, 376 US 1 (1964), the US Court upheld the fundamental nature of the right to vote when it emphatically stated that ‘no right is more precious in a free country than that of having a choice in the election of those who make the laws under which, as good citizens, they must live. Other rights, even the most basic are illusory if the right to vote is undetermined.’

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It is doubtful if INEC appreciates this much with regards to registration of voters.

I strongly believe that INEC is failing in its statutory role of sensitisation of citizens, in both registrations of voters and collection of PVC. They are not doing enough considering the level of ignorance and illiteracy in the country. It is obvious that many Nigerians do not realise their civic rights to vote and thereby participate in government or politics. Voter education is a statutory duty of INEC which appears honoured more in breach as INEC dictates her timetable to a largely ignorant population. Section 2 of the Electoral Act 2022, as amended, copiously provides that ‘in addition to the functions conferred on it by the Constitution, the  Commission shall have power to: Conduct voter and civic education;  promote knowledge of sound democratic election processes; and…’

The Commission must take into consideration the peculiarities of Nigerians and take extra steps to educate and sensitise them.

Unfortunately, I do not believe that the current electoral process will give Nigerians the opportunity of electing the true leader they earnestly yearn for. The process is already tainted, infected, mismanaged and taken beyond the reach of Nigerians through the party primaries. Money and ostensibly corruption have dictated that the major political parties are presenting questionable candidates and the usual ethnic and religious sentiments and biases are back in contention. Despite the present hunger in the land and the obvious political quagmire, 2023 general election appears too close for Nigerians to realise the source of their unending suffering enough to unite to fight a common political cause.

This is probably because the church as a place of worship and gathering of people is more vulnerable and priests too are exposed by the nature of their work.  Security agencies should provide additional security to the church and priests.

I rate the elections very high. Despite the little challenges of electronic voting, Nigerian Bar Association has shown consistency in credible, largely transparent elections and transition to new executives. No system is perfect, and we learn from experience. INEC should learn from the NBA that electronic voting is possible and will strengthen our democracy.

Well, this is no doubt a professional crisis and the appropriate organs are on top of the matter. This will be resolved in the best interest of the profession and not individuals. The NBA president and outgoing executives have done well and shown uncommon courage in handling the affairs of the association.

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