Who Will Save The Butchered Rights Of Nigerians? By Suleiman Babawo
The expression ”wetin lawyers they do sef’ may sound ridiculous and funny but when you embark on trying to critically analyze the statement it begins to make sense most especially when we look at the way innocent helpless Nigerians continue to encounter unnecessary oppression,intimidation,harassment,brutality and disrespectful treatment in the hands of security personnels. The intent of this piece is not to point accusing fingers at anyone but try to strike a balance between matters arising.
Security officials in Nigeria today rather than being a safe haven to Nigerian citizens have become a terror unleashing machinery. Any Dick And Harry who finds himself wearing a uniform tends to use it in intimidating innocent citizens. The most annoying is even the baby paramilitary that call themselves Civil defence today also intimidate people.The personnel I wonder if in their training were designed just to intimidate the same people they were employed to protect.
Initially it was the Army that were notorious for mercilessly violating the rights of citizens but these days it cuts across all corners,the person just needs to wear khaki. Very soon if care is not taken youth corps members might start using their NYSC khaki to unleash terror to the timid.
Even as a lawyer I have had my own share of this terror, only that unlike the ordinary Nigerian who will say I leave everything to God, I took recourse to the court room for justice to be done to me. My friend Abubakar Al-amin said Suleiman ‘walahi baza mu bar su ba’ meaning we are not going to allow this just to pass’, which we didn’t . The point am trying to make is as Nigerians we have inalienable rights protected for us by the constitution (lying lifeless in sections 33-45 of our constitution because Nigerians don’t care to utilise them). If anyone tramples on any of these rights,we shouldn’t hesitate to enforce it. The doors of the courts and the judges are ever ready to give you justice: section 46. (1) Any person who alleges that any of the provisions of this Chapter has been, is being or likely to be contravened in any State in relation to him may apply to a High Court in that State for redress.
(2) Subject to the provisions of this Constitution, a High Court shall have original jurisdiction to hear and determine any application made to it in pursuance of this section and may make such orders, issue such writs and give such directions as it may consider appropriate for the purpose of enforcement or securing the enforcing within that State of any right to which the person who makes the application may be entitled under this Chapter.
The security personnel have taken the rights of Nigerians for granted. Talking with some of my friends who were lamenting on the terror squad they said are the most feared now in town and are called ‘SARS’ special anti- robbery squad, only in Nigeria will you find such a squad which will deviate from the main reason of their existence and Nigerians will not do anything about it but just lament. God cannot come down and fight for you, I keep giving people this example ‘ Let’s say you find yourself in a jungle and you see a very hungry lion,will you just stand and pray to God without making any effort to run for your life? walahi na for ovation we go hear the rest of your story or Omojuwa will tweet if for us.
My earlier question ‘wetin lawyers they do sef’ you will agree makes sense here, my fellow colleagues we all took an oath to defend and represent the oppressed. Another ugly disheartening incident I witnessed at zone 1 NNPC Mega-station here in Abuja is a perfect example and many more which if am to narrate will enable me write a book on this issue. As I was standing, waiting to be served, I saw a police officer inhumanly beating a helpless old woman, the woman was running for safety but he went after her and kept wiping her, it was unbearable for me. I walked up to him and held the cane he was using to flog her, then he turned in surprise and I simply introduce myself. This is not right I explained, Instead of showing remorse he roared like a lion.
I said to him that’s the worst you can do but if you doubt it touch me. He clamoured he was sent here by the IG to do his duty and I said to him ‘ehen so you are telling me the IG gave you strict instruction to violate the right of Nigerians who are only here to buy kerosene? IG Abubakar if you get to read this I will want to know if you gave these instructions, I threatened to take the issue up since I had the whole incident video taped but a superior officer appealed,using the usual naija mentality on me (oga please if you take the matter up the man will lose his job and him get family), other people begged too and I had to let go the issue. All am trying to say here is as lawyers we can try and change things in the little way we can.
Another issue is the indiscriminate and unscrupulous abuse of the sirens by elected and government officials. Today even a local government councilor moves with a siren, breaking all sorts of traffic rules, intimidating and harassing people in hold ups . This are individuals we stood in the sun,fought for and even some of us died in the process of voting them into office to be our representatives as servants answerable to us at anytime. Why then should we allow our servants intimidate or oppress us in any form, we are their masters and a master never bulges for his servant. We have same right on the highway, if they harass you in any way you are not comfortable with the courts are there for you. We need to let them know that we can strip them off the power they feel they possess because ultimate sovereignty belongs to the people as enshrined in Section 14 (2) of the 1999 Constitution: It is hereby, accordingly, declared that:
(a) sovereignty belongs to the people of Nigeria from whom government through this Constitution derives all its powers and authority;) and they are there because we want them to be there.
Nigerians will have to wake up from their slumber and learn to enforce their rights and begin to question the actions and inaction of their servants. Whoever assaults , molests, intimidates or make you go through undignified treatment for unjust and frivolous reasons, do not think twice to approach any lawyer of your choice immediately, our doors are always open for you. I know many will say they cannot bear the prolonged nature of litigation in Nigeria. it may however, interest you to know that human right enforcement is the most easiest case you can prosecute within a blink of an eye. Lawyers please do not scare people away with outrageous legal fees when they eventually come, we need to encourage them.
May God continue to bless Nigeria and may He give Nigerians the courage to start questioning and challenging their servants who the way am seeing it have now becoming the Masters.
Written by: babawo