A Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mike Ozekhome SAN has faulted President Muhammadu Buhari’s elevation of national interest above the rule of law.
The human rights lawyer who countered Buhari’s position placing national interest above rule of law and rights of individuals insisted it’s a process of moving the country back to the path of dictatorship.
Buhari had in an address presented at the opening ceremony of the 2018 Annual General Conference of the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, in Abuja on Sunday, insisted that individual rights of alleged offenders would not be spared when national security and public interest were threatened.
“Rule of Law must be subject to the supremacy of the nation’s security and national interest.
“Our apex court has had cause to adopt a position on this issue in this regard and it is now a matter of judicial recognition that where national security and public interest are threatened or there is a likelihood of their being threatened, the individual rights of those allegedly responsible must take second place, in favour of the greater good of society,’’ the President had said.
Rejecting this claim, Ozekhome told Vanguard NG: “He (President Buhari) is dead wrong. The rule of law predominates over national interest. Without the rule of law, there can be no nation-state. Without a nation-state, there can be no national interest. The rule of law is the father of national interest.
“As proposed by Professor A.V. Dicey, it means equality before the law by all persons, observance of all laws by persons and authorities and, of course, obedience to court orders made by competent courts of law.
“Once a court of law has made an order for the release of a citizen on bail, the president, government and all authorities must obey the order of the court. It is not for the government to pick and choose which order to obey and which not to obey in the so-called name of ‘national interest’.
“This is because in arriving at a decision to release an individual on bail, the court must have first heard the facts and argument of the case of both the government and the citizen.
“It is tantamount to executive lawlessness and governmental capriciousness and whimsicality to sit on appeal over a court decision to determine what amounts to national interest. Such a stance is a clear descent into anarchy and chaos.”