Civil Rights Lawyer Questions The Quality Of Legal Education Over Support Of Some SANs For Extra-Judicial Killing Of Electoral Offenders

By Kalada Jumbo

A Civil Rights and Constitutional Law Attorney, Mr Abdul Mahmud has berated Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SANs) who openly support President Buhari’s unlawful order to the country’s military to extra-judicially kill suspected electoral offenders, such as, those suspected of snatching ballot boxes.

Mr Mahmud, a former President of the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS), took to Facebook to express this opinion.

In his opinion, something must be fundamentally wrong with the training of lawyers in Nigeria or the process of conferring SANship is fundamentally flawed when we see a learned Senior Advocate of Nigeria openly support the extra-judicial killing of electoral offenders.

The full text of his statement reads:

When a learned SAN openly supports the extra-judicial killing of electoral offenders, know that there’s something fundamentally wrong with the training of lawyers in our country or that the process of conferring SANship is fundamentally flawed. The truer test that the law passes is how it applies the mechanism within itself, not without itself, to punish offenders of the law. The law cannot go outside of itself to mete punishment to criminal offenders, no matter the effusive predilection of political power personages and the pervasiveness of power. 

Ballot snatching is bad; but it is a poor product of the maximalist relationship between power and the personages of power on the one hand, and between power and the non-state minions of power of the other hand. Ballot snatching does not happen if it is not given cover by those who exercise power in a cavalier and undisciplined way. An affirmation of this insidious relationship was established by our court in Abba Babagana v Gumo Moguno in 2011. In this case, which arose from Maiduguri, the court established how armed men of the police and army turned up with thugs at polling stations, drove away voters, while they opened rounds in the sky, thumb-printed ballot papers and proceeded to announce results for the All Nigeria’s Peoples Party, ANPP. In Ekiti, a few months ago, a discredited enforcer of state power in Edo state, Tony Kabaka, was pictured by the media supervising abuses of the electoral process. A few weeks before the Ekiti election, a thug was televised as he scattered the ballot papers that were meant to be used for the APC’s primaries. In the full glare of the world, that thug walked back to the warm embrace of his political power backers unchallenged, amid cheers. If we are truly serious about addressing these electoral malfeasances, we should first return to our electoral law, charge our judicial overlords to constitute mobile electoral offences tribunals/courts to summarily try electoral offenders and have them gaoled. But when the police and the army, mobilized by political power, aid and abet thuggery and ballot snatching, one wonders the usefulness of these mobile courts to the efficient application of the electoral law. 

Drastic measures don’t require drastic arbitrary solutions; what is required are: 1) the methodical application of the law to identifiable electoral ills; 2) the institutionalization of legal mechanisms for addressing problems and, above all, guaranteeing the law its essential character- the certainty of interpretation and application. No more. No less.

There’s a reason why the law makes the polling unit a civil space and why arms-bearing officials of the state are not allowed anywhere near the ballot space. To suggest that arms-bearing state officials can have ingresses and egresses to a space that is at once civil is to constrain that space, militarize it to the extent that it becomes uncivil, constraining of the objective of voter representation and choice. In a country where arms-bearing state officials open rounds with the least provocation, spare a thought for those who may end up victims of state-sanctioned accidental discharges. Again, let us be reminded that the Dawodu brothers – Saka and Sule- who were killed by Mopol Emeka Ibe in 1987 in Lagos had no connection to the traffic infraction which created the melee in which Emeka Ibe opened his rounds. The taxi driver, Clement Alumona, who was arrested for the traffic infraction lives today somewhere in the dank cavern of our country. Remember this: Emeka Ibe was discharged and acquitted by the Supreme Court. The court held that the Dawodu brothers were victims of accidental discharge. 

Nobody supports ballot snatchers. For God’s sake, our law enforcement officials should strip themselves of partisanship and arrest those paid by politicians – including their sponsors- to undermine our electoral process, bring them before regular courts for trial. To shoot citizens to death on the basis of a presidential proclamation doesn’t come within the permissible ground stated in Section 33(2) of the Constitution 1999. In fact shoot-at-sight does not come within “the extent and in such circumstances as are permitted by law” recognized by the selfsame section.

Our learned SAN knows of all of this.

We are in the season of anomie, of citizens soaked in the blood of baboons and monkeys.

Democracy doesn’t grow from the soil of lawlessness and rascality.

Las las we’ll be fine!