Enugu State Government refused to pay workers Minimum Wage in 2011. The then Executive Governor, Sullivan Chime had in response to workers agitations, warned or bought over some labour leaders in the state and intimidated the then Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, Chairman, Chumaife Nze who refused to sell out.
The NLC national leadership decided to relocate to Enugu and lead the workers strike. I was then the NLC Acting General Secretary. On the morning of the strike, we woke up to find our hotel sealed off by armed soldiers and policemen who prevented any exit or entry. Governor Chime thought the best response to a planned protest, was to put the leadership under house arrest! It was an invitation to anarchy. I put a call to then Secretary of the Government of the Federation, Senator Anyim Pius Anyim. He laughed, and said “Owei, are you serious?” I replied that from my hotel window, I could see the armed soldiers and wondered how a State Governor could unconstitutionally, deploy soldiers. Anyim laughed almost uncontrollably, and when he caught his breath, he muttered “Chime! Chime!!” He asked that I gave him time to cross check. Shortly afterwards, our unwelcome guests could be seen rushing into their vehicles and disappearing. I called Anyim who merely laughed.
Not one to accept defeat, Governor Chime, the supposed Chief Security Officer of the State, brought armed thugs to replace the police and soldiers. But workers easily put the Chime thugs to flight, arresting a number of them.
Admittedly, things were far better five years ago than now. It is therefore not surprising that with the state of the economy, unpaid salaries and hyper-inflation, there are various Chime-like elements who prefer to promote anarchism in the country. One of them is the handsome Governor of Kogi Sate, Yahaya Bello whom the House of Representatives, has in an unprecedented move, summoned to appear before it. It is interesting that a man who has recently been confirmed governor by the Electoral Tribunal, would be endangering rule of law and promoting anarchism.
The issue runs from a Kafkaesque story; five of the 20-member Kogi State House of Assembly ‘impeached‘ the Speaker, Hon Momoh Jimoh Lawal and the House leadership. Later, the five legislators ‘sacked ’ ten of their colleagues. Don’t ask me how in a democracy, five is a majority over fifteen. But Africans say if a dog has human backing, it can kill a monkey. The five have the backing of the State Government, which is employing their services to illegally pass laws.
The National Assembly exercising its constitutional powers on March 16, took over the functions of the State Assembly, but the five fingers of anarchy and their backers remained recalcitrant; they even went ahead to pass the Appropriation Bill. Rather than engage in duels, the fifteen majority members went to court, and Justice Nnamdi Dimgba sitting in the Federal High Court on May 19, delivered judgment in their favour restoring Speaker Lawal and his leadership to power. When the victorious legislators returned to the House, the police declared that ‘thugs’ had taken over the Assembly.
At about 2am on May 31, armed men reportedly invaded the legislative quarters of the majority group and shot into the air for half an hour. The latest in the drama is the report to the House of Representatives by Honourable Chukwuemeka Ujam alleging that on that same day, armed soldiers invaded the Kogi State Assembly and stopped the legislators from meeting. House Leader, Femi Gbajabiamila fumed “The governor has no right to deploy the military to the State Assembly, so the question arises as to who deployed the military?’’ While the House of Representatives is investigating, anarchism is gaining the upper hand.
It is not only those carrying illegal weapons and explosives, sowing death and destruction that are spreading anarchism, elites with a stake in the system are also involved. The latest call for lawlessness came last Tuesday, from the Bench when the Chairman of the Code of Conduct Tribunal, Danladi Umar, regretted that the hands of dictatorship are tied in the country. Claiming to be reacting to false media reports that the trial of Senate President Bukola Saraki had been postponed indefinitely, Umar regretted “If not that we are under a democratic setting, I would have advocated for the return of Decree 2” of 1984.
The abolished decree Umar is craving for is the State Security (Detention of Persons) Decree Number 2 of 1984 which suspended human rights and constitutional freedom, and empowered the Vice President to detain indefinitely, anyone suspected of “acts prejudicial to state security…or the economic adversity of the nation.” Under that dreadful law, leaders were empowered to throw people whose faces they do not like, into dungeons and throw away the key. Detainees under it, lost their right to be human beings as they are presumed guilty of unstated crimes and have no right to trial.
I was a journalist when that decree was enacted and implemented, and I know many innocent souls who were locked up and forgotten in detention centres like the Inter Centre, a dungeon under the Ikoyi Cemetery.
Justice Umar, being a 13-year old when that decree was enacted, might have been too young to know its implications, but I would have expected him as a lawyer and former Chief Magistrate to err on the side of constitutionalism and justice.
The ancient Greek philosopher, Socrates said “Four things belong to a magistrate/judge – (1) To hear courteously (2) To answer wisely (3) To consider soberly and (4) To decide impartially.”
The famous British Judge, Alfred Thomson ‘Tom’ Denning, better known as Lord Denning said “When a _judge sits_ to try a case _He_ himself is on _trial_ before his fellow” citizens. A JUDGE WHO ADVOCATES THE VIOLENT RAPE OF A NATION’S CONSTITUTION INCLUDING THE ABOLITION OF CITIZENS FUNDAMENTAL HUMAN RIGHTS AND THE RULE OF LAW, NO LONGER DESERVES A SEAT ON THE BENCH.
I have heard that Justice Umar claimed he did not mean what he said on the Bench; he should know that words are like eggs, once broken, they cannot be retrieved.
. Lakemfa wrote from Abuja