By Mike Agbedor Abu Ozekhome
On Monday, 9th March, 2020, Nigerians, who are already used to and have become accustomed to weird and strange news on a daily basis, woke up to the yet ugly piece of news of the dethronement and banishment to Abuja, Nassawara, then Loko, and finally Awe, a small suburb town in Nassawara state, of the flambouyant, celebral, bold, courageous and straight-talking former Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria, and erstwhile Emir of Kano, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi. I totally condemn these crude, barbaric, primitive, unconscionable, wrongful, unlawful, illegal and unconstitutional acts exhibited by Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje of Kano state. Governor Ganduje’s actions constitute a blatant and violent rape and violation of the fundamental constitutional rights of Emir Sanusi to freedom of movement, right to liberty, rights to fair hearing, freedom of expression and association and right to dignity of the human person, to be free from inhuman and degrading treatment. The way and manner the Emir was forcefully evicted, viet armis, from his palace, with a multitude of armed security agents of the state, amidst commotion and teargas canisters fired into his private quarters and bedroom; and his forceful separation from his wives, children, family, aides, library etc., are only scenes expected from the Stone Age of the Early Man and Australopithecus, who lived 4.2 to 1.9 million years ago.
I am not one of those Nigerians who appear surprised at this development. I saw it coming and I had said so in an earlier write-up, where I had condemned the bulkanisation of the centuries-long revered Kano Emirate into four segmented Emirates out of sheer political exigency and crass opportunism by a rampaging Governor. Afterall, a fruit does not fall far away from the mother-tree. Governor Ganduje was merely following the footsteps and examples in acts of impunity and lawlessness he learnt from the federal government at the center. The reasons the Emir came under the hammer are, to me, quite simple and very well known. Emir Sanusi has continuously preached modernity as against the archaic and antediluvian style of governance of the Northern elites who have continued their obnoxious and primordial policies of repression, retrogression, subjugation, oppression and marginalisation of the vast majority of their people. He has spoken vehemently against the Almajari system that churns out children and the youths unto the streets in their thousands as able-bodied beggars, to “ranka dede” the elites. He has unrepentantly frowned at the girl-child marriage and labour. He has, now and again, lampooned the Northern elites for inflicting untold hardship on the people of the North. He has courageously preached the dire necessity for education as a sure tool of development and liberator of his people from the doldrums of ignorance and wretchedness. The elites, no doubt, gaped, with awe and shock, at this fire-eating, no-nonsense intellectual Emir, whom they believed was hiding under his royal turban and robes to de-robe the Northern elites of their mystical, but firm, grip on power and its intoxicating effect as an aphrodisiac. They believed Emir Sanusi was opening up their smelly flanks to the outside world, to be laughed at, to be scorned, to be derided, and to be opened to vitriolic attack by the hoi-polloi whose eyes may be opened to begin to question their years of enslavement and impoverishment. This is the “mortar” and “original” sin committed by Emir Sanusi. And lo and behold, they resolved, through the instrumentality of Governor Ganduje, that Emir Sanusi must be stopped dead on the tracks before he committed more havoc. I want to be convinced by anyone (with contrary facts and figures) that the presidency did not support, or have a hand in this humiliation of Emir Sanusi, and by extension, the Kano Emirate.
Let us, however, look at the atrocious acts meted out to Emir Sanusi from legal and constitutional perspectives, devoid of political undertones or analysis.
THE DOCTRINE OF LIS PENDENS
It is clear to all that before the hurried dethronement and harried banishment of the Emir to Nassawara state, he had instituted many suits against the Governor and Kano state government, challenging the degrading of his office through the creation of four Emirates from the Kano Emirate, the investigation instituted against him by some anti-corruption agencies and the state government and the then palpable threats to dethrone him. These cases were still extant and existing and live when the governor resorted to self help, removed the mat from the feet of the judicial process and hurriedly dethroned and banished the Emir. These acts are against the hallowed doctrine of lis pendens, which theorises that once parties have put their case before a competent court of law, no party shall take the laws into his hands, or resort to self help or do anything capable of undermining the judicial process and integrity of the arbitral court or tribunal, in accordance with section 6(6) of the 1999 Constitution. The Supreme Court of Nigeria employed this doctrine to lampoon the government of Lagos state in the causa celebre, MILITARY GOVERNOR, LAGOS STATE V OJUKWU (1986) 1 NWLR (PT. 18) 621, as having committed acts of executive lawlessness, when it forcibly evicted, viet armis, Chief Ojukwu, from his Vilaska Lodge in Ikoyi, Lagos, when his case concerning possession of the property was already pending before the court. The entire dethronement and banishment of the Emir can therefore be upturned by the courts on this score alone, without more.
THE LOSS AND ABUSE OF EMIR SANUSI’S DIGNITY TO THE HUMAN PERSON
The action of the Kano state government has cost the Emir of his dignity, not necessarily as the Emir of Kano, but as a citizen of Nigeria. The Blacks Law dictionary defines “dignity” as: “(1). The state of being noble; the state of being dignified. (2). An elevated title or position. (3). A person holding an elevated title; a dignitary. (4). A right to hold a title or nobility, which may be hereditary or for life.” By dethroning the Emir without due process of law since the Emir still had his cases pending in court, the action of the State government has robbed the Emir of the dignity of his person, as provided for in section 34 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999.
By virtue of the said section 34 of the Constitution, every individual is entitled to respect for the dignity of his person. By dethroning the Emir, relocating and banishing him from the Kano Emirate against his will, surely, the respect of Emir Sanusi as constitutionally provided for has been brazenly violated. The Emir deserves to be accorded his constitutional rights to dignity if the human person even if he was dethroned and such dethronement was legal (which is denied). “Respect”, depending on its usage, means polite behaviour exhibited towards somebody or something that you think is important. It is clear that the Emir of Kano was not considered important enough to be accorded the modicum of respect that he deserves, not necessarily as the Emir, but at least as a citizen of Nigeria. An Emir who was overawed, harassed and humiliated in his palace, forcibly separated from his family and loved ones, banished to the remote village of Awe in Nassawara state, with over 7 hours drive by road from Abuja, has been inhumanly treated.
INHUMAN AND DEGRADING TREATMENT METED TO EMIR SANUSI
The learned authors of Black’s Law Dictionary, 9th edition, page 854, define “Inhuman treatment” as “physical or mental cruelty so severe that it endangers life or health.” A degrading treatment is to do unpleasant things to someone and to make him lose self respect. Thus “degradation” is “(1). A reduction in rank, degree, or dignity. (2). A lessening of a person’s or thing’s character or quality. (3). A wearing down of something, as by erosion.” Without any shadow of doubt, Emir Sanusi, by being literally driven out of his palace with a multitude of Police and other security agents, and being hurriedly banished to a solitary confinement in a strange land where he is put under house arrest, without access to visitors, is being subjected to inhuman and degrading treatment by the Kano state government.
The sum total of it is that the Governor was not only satisfied in dethroning the Emir of Kano, but showed no respect to his dignity as an individual by meting out on him inhuman and degrading treatment, where he has now been held like a slave, contrary to Section 34(1)(a)-(b) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999. What the Governor’s agents did, on the instructions and at the behest of the Governor, constitutes slavery and servitude. Slavery is a situation in which one person has absolute power over the life, fortune, and liberty of another. It is the practice of keeping individuals in such a state of bondage or servitude, outlawed by the 13th Amendment to the United States Constitution since 1865. The case of FRN V IFEGWU (2003) 15 NWLR (Part 842)113, 216-217, is very apposite here.
THE RIGHT TO PERSONAL LIBERTY OF THE EMIR
Section 35 (1) of the said Constitution provides that every citizen of Nigeria is “entitled to his personal liberty and no person shall be deprived of such liberty” except in the circumstances set out in subsections (a) to (f) thereof. Section 40 of the same Constitution provides that “every person is entitled to assemble freely and associate with other persons”. On the issue at hand, Section 41(1) of the Constitution is germane and it provides thus: “41 – (1) Every citizen of Nigeria is entitled to move freely throughout Nigeria and to reside in any part thereof, and no citizen of Nigeria shall be expelled from Nigeria or refused entry thereto or exit therefrom. (2) Nothing in subsection (1) of this section shall invalidate any law that is reasonably justifiable in a democratic society – (a) imposing restrictions on the residence or movement of any person who has committed or is reasonable suspected to have committed a criminal offence in order to prevent him from leaving Nigeria; or (b) providing for the removal of any person from Nigeria to any other country to – (i) be tried outside Nigeria for any criminal offence, or (i ) undergo imprisonment outside Nigeria in execution of the sentence of a court of law in respect of a criminal offence of which he has been found guilty: Provided that there is reciprocal agreement between Nigerian and such other country in relation to such matter. See the case of INUSA SAIDU V STATE (1982) LPELR-2977 (SC), where A.O. Obaseki, J.S.C. held:
“…It does not give the court any joy to see offenders escape the oenalty they richly deserve but until they are proved guilty under the appropriate law in our law courts, they are entitled to walk about in our streets and tread the Nigerian soil and breathe the Nigerian air as free and innocent men and women…”
See also MINISTER OF INTERNAL AFFAIRS V SHUGABA DARMAN (1982) 3 NCLR 915, 953.
In the instant case, the Kano State government has to show that the dethronement and banishment of the Emir of Kano to Nasarawa State are in accordance with the clear provisions of Section 41 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999.
BREACH OF THE EMIR’S RIGHT TO FAIR HEARING
It is incontestable that the Emir’s right to fair hearing has been wantonly violated. He was not accused of any criminal offence. He was not afforded any fair hearing before deportation. His cases against the Government and Governor were still pending in court. There was no valid court order for his removal or deportation. Even Almighty God gave Adam and Eve a fair hearing in the Garden of Eden. See R V CHANCELLOR UNIVERSITY OF CAMBRIDGE (1723) 1 Str 557.
The actions of the government are also contrary to Articles 4, 5, 6 and 12 of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights, Cap A9 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.
The current Sanusi case is on all fours with the case of Attorney General & Commissioner of Justice, KEBBI STATE V HRH, ALHAJI AL-MUSTAPHA JOKOLO & ORs (2013) LPELR – 22349 (CA), decided on Friday, the 13th of December, 2013. In that case, both the Federal High court in Kebbi state and the Court of Appeal, Sokoto Division, upturned the dethronement and banishment of Emir Jokolo on the 3rd of June, 2005 as the 19th Emir and traditional ruler of Gwandu Emirate Council. The Court of Appeal relied, inter alia, on sections 35 and 41 of the Constitution and Articles 4,5 and 6 of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights. The Court of Appeal held that the Kebbi state government did not have the power to banish the Appellant, or put him under house arrest, or prevent the Appellant from going abroad for medical treatment and that the trial Judge was right to have granted him the reliefs sought concerning his liberty, rights to freedom of movement, association and dignity of the human person.
We also find succor in the Supreme Court case of THE DIRECTOR, STATE SECURITY SERVICE V OLISA AGBAKOGBA (1993) 3 NWLR (Part 595) 314, 373; Onagoruwa v IGP (1991) 5 NWLR (Part 843) 113, 180; EJIOFOR V OKEKE (2007) 7 NWLR (Part 665) 373; and the unreported case of REV. POLICARP A.K.A. ODIONG MATTHEW V AIG ZONE 6, CALABAR – Appeal No. CA/C/149/2010, decided on 22nd May, 2013.
As held in the above case of ATTORNEY-GENERAL and COMMISSIONER OF JUSTICE, KEBBI STATE v. HRH, ALHAJI AL-MUSTAPHA JOKOLO & ORS (supra), the Court of Appeal was vehement that:
“If those entrusted with the power to govern or rule Nigeria have personalities be respected abroad That will not be possible. Charity must begin at home. In Rev. [There must be respect] to the traditional institution or the citizens. The banishment and deportation from Kebbi State by the Governor of Kebbi State, on or about the 3rd of June, 2005 of the 1st respondent to Lafia in Nasarawa State and later to Obi, also in Nasarawa State, is most unconstitutional, and illegal. By the said banishment and deportation, the 1st respondent has been, unduly and wrongfully denied his constitutional rights “to respect for the dignity of his person ”
The dethronement and banishment of Sanusi Lamido Sanusi as the Emir of Kano State by the Kano state government amounts to a clear violation of the fundamental rights of the erstwhile Emir of Kano, as provided for in our Constitution, the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights and Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948. Same are subject to being upturned by courts of law. The Emir should immediately seek for the enforcement of his fundamental human rights. Enough of this government of impunity and lawlessness. He is also entitled to damages and public apology. See the case of EFCC V ABIODUN AGEBELE (2018) ELR-44677 (CA), which I personally handled. See also AG, LAGOS STATE V KEITA (2016) LPELR-40163 (CA).
Suffering and impoverished Nigerians, who are always at the receiving end of governmental acts of lawlessness and crass impunity, deserve much better than what these governments, from the centre, to the states and local governments, have so far offered them.
Mike Agbedor Abu Ozekhome is a lawyer and human rights activist, holding the rank of a Senior Advocate of Nigeria.