In his speech at the opening ceremony of the Annual General Conference of the Nigerian Bar Association, the President urged lawyers to put national security over and above the rule of law. This to me, is a great set back for democracy and national development.
National Security has no definition, it has no limit; it is amorphous and panders to individual discretion. It is the rule of the Executive Arm of Government alone, being the one responsible for policy implementation and the determination of security imperatives.
National Security It is the rule and decision of individuals, such as the Inspector-General of Police or the Commander in Chief. Such rules are always subject to manifest abuses, especially in respect of opposition politics. That has been the experience in Nigeria.
On the other hand, the rule of law is defined, basic, predictable and even subject to review; it helps to predict and govern human conduct. The rule of law limits and interpose upon the rule of self all forms of arbitrariness and is thus preferable to the whims and caprices of individuals.
The point of convergence with the President however is that those who have prima facie cases of any malfeasance should not deploy the rule of law to avoid liability, especially when it concerns plainly intolerable economic crimes. In such a situation, what constitutes National Security and National Interest should still be determined through the due process of law.
The daily narration of tales of mind boggling abuses, under the past administration, should serve as some kind of discouragement, in elevating national security beyond the dictates of law. In Nigeria presently, our collective wealth and resources are being pilfered by our leaders in the name of national security.
To postulate that national security should override rule of law consideration may unwittingly portray one as harboring dictatorial intentions, for preferring national security as priority for governance.
It is a dangerous proposition as we approach 2019. Taken to its proper interpretation, it may be taken to be an advance notice to the people of Nigeria, to brace up for likely threats to their rights and liberties, in the coming days.
Whereas we all support the President in the fight against corruption and terrorism, it is still necessary to allow the rule of law to have the pride of place in all spheres of governance.
It was under national security for instance that I was kept in custody from November 2007 till July 2008, without trial at all.
What we all hear nowadays about security votes and related corruption is enough to tear down the veil of National security.
I therefore humbly appeal to the President to accommodate the supreme law of our land, the Constitution, which already contains enough provisions to integrate national security within the due process of law.
Nigeria itself as a nation, was created by law, the offices of the President and indeed all those saddled with the determination and preservation of national security, were all created by law. Thus, everybody and everything, can find their roots and bearings, under the rule of law.
Let us not go back to the very dark days of the military.
Ebun-olu Adegboruwa, Esq.,
International Conf Centre, Abuja.