By Ralph Madugu
The Christian Lawyers Fellowship of Nigeria (CLASFON) has expressed worry over the current state of the nation, describing recent acts of criminality in the country as an indication that security agencies have been overwhelmed and incapacitated.
According to the group, the divisionsamongst regions and tribes was an indication of the general failure of governance in the country and decried the appointments into the judicial and executive arms of government which favoured a particular region of the country.
In a communique issued at the end of its physical and virtual President-in-Council meeting signed by Arome Okwori, National President, and Olatunji Omole, National Secretary, CLASFON noted that the kidnapping and abduction of students in Kankara in Katsina State, Kagara in Niger State, Jangebe in Zamfara State and students of the Federal College of Forestry, Mando, Kaduna State, were “worrisome.”
While expressing displeasure with the state of insecurity in the northern part of the country, the Christian lawyers lamented the frightening increase in banditry, kidnapping and communal clashes which have led to unquantifiable human and material losses and displacement of indigenous communities.
It observed that the security apparatus of the nation appears to be either overwhelmed or incapacitated to deal with these criminal activities which have emboldened criminals, thus making crime attractive to the youth.
While calling on the security agencies, especially the newly appointed service chiefs, to immediately halt the continuous upsurge in crime and criminalities in the country and protect the lives and the livelihood of Nigerians, the group said it viewed the agitations for secession, formation of regional security outfits, issuing of eviction orders to non-indigenes by some non-state actors and blockade of food supplies, among others, as the results of the general failure of governance in the country.
The lawyers enjoined the federal government to to ensure justice and fair play by quelling the various agitations and ensure that genuine concerns raised by the agitators are looked into and addressed and urged agitators to sheathe their swords and embrace dialogue.
CLASFON noted that although the Nigerian constitution categorically states that no government should adopt any state religion, it lamented that the realities on ground do not reflect this cardinal principle.
“The policies and appointments by the Federal Government have continued to favour a particular religion to the detriment of others. State Governments have formulated policies that directly promote one religion over and above others. The Hijab controversy currently going on in Kwara State is one clear instance of the arbitrary use of state policy to promote a particular religion,” the lawyers observed.
The group also observed with dismay what it called the “bastardisation of due process and violations of the laws of the country by the Federal Government,” in the unlawful elongation of the tenure of offices of the Accountant General of the Federation, the Inspector General of Police and the Corps Marshall of the Federal Road Safety Corp, whose respective tenures had since elapsed.
While commending the courage of Nigerians, especially who had gone to court to challenge “affront on the rule of law,” CLASFON urged the Federal Government to allow these retired officers vacate their respective offices immediately.
The lawyers expressed worry that the independence of the judiciary was likely to be compromised if the process of judicial appointments becomes a subject matter of public outcry and political interference, calling on the appointing authority to ensure that merit, justice, and fairness is not compromised and the provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 is strictly adhered to.
CLASFON added that it observed with dismay, the controversy generated by the recent shortlisting of judicial officers for consideration for appointment as Justices of the Court of Appeal submitted to the National Judicial Council (NJC).
“Of particular interest is the concern expressed that of all the candidates shortlisted from the 19 Northern States of the Federation, no Judge of the Christian faith is included in the Priority List contrary to the spirit of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as Amended).”
It however, applauded the Cross River State Governor Prof. Ben Ayade, and the Cross River State House of Assembly for the resolution of the impasse in the State Judiciary which had hitherto and unnecessarily stalled the smooth running of the Cross Rivers State Judiciary due to the refusal of the State House of Assembly to confirm Hon. Justice Akon Ekpeme, the most senior judge as the substantive Chief Judge of the State.
It further decried the situation in Gombe State where the Gombe State Governor and the State Judicial Service Commission have persistently refused to send the name of the most senior judge, Hon. Justice Beatrice Iliya to the National Judicial Council (NJC) for consideration of her appointment as the substantive Chief Judge of the state.