A GROUNDWELL of opposition on Tuesday greeted the banishment of deposed Emir of Kano Muhammad Sanusi II.
Senior lawyers were unanimous in their condemnation of the action.
They urged him to challenge what they called an “anachronistic” practice that has no legal basis.
Failure to challenge his banishment, the legal experts said, will set a bad precedent.
Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SANs), including a former Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) President Joseph Daudu, Mike Ozekhome (SAN) and Femi Falana (SAN), constitutional lawyer Sebastine Hon (SAN), as well as Abiodun Owonikoko (SAN) and Norrison Quakers (SAN), said the banishment was illegal.
Ahmed Raji (SAN), former NBA Second Vice President Monday Ubani, activist-lawyer Jiti Ogunye, and constitutional lawyer Ike Ofuokwu also weighed in.
Also on Tuesday, Stanbic IBTC Bank Plc founder Atedo Peterside turned down an invitation to be a panellist at a consultative roundtable organised by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). The event is slated for today.
In a letter to CBN governor Godwin Emefiele, Peterside said: “By coincidence, the ex-Emir of Kano is your predecessor at the CBN. Ordinarily, he qualifies to be invited for tomorrow’s (today’s) event. Did you invite him?
“I have decided to stay away from your consultative roundtable and to instead use the opportunity of this letter to draw the attention of a wider audience to my displeasure with the events of yesterday (Monday).
“Please forgive me because I am in no mood to immediately pretend as if all is well by proceeding with business as usual,” he wrote in a letter to CBN Governor Godwin Emefiele, yesterday
Peterside also tweeted: “In 1888, King Jaja of Opobo was exiled by the British to St. Vincent in the West Indies. This act of injustice still hurts us in Opobo Town until this day. The Nigerian Constitution makes such acts illegal. How can Kano Governor exile Emir Sanusi in 2020?
“The Nigerian Constitution makes it clear that a person accused of wrongdoing must be afforded a fair hearing. Emir Lamido Sanusi’s accusers cannot be the ones to pronounce him guilty. This is unacceptable in 21st Century Nigeria.”
The SANs, in separate interviews shared similar views.
Daudu said: “Clearly, banishment is an anachronistic follow-up or consequence of the deposition. We are yet to see the instrument of deposition and cannot, therefore, speculate on its terms or contents.
“Notwithstanding, Emir Sanusi has left with his head held high. He has occupied the stool of his forefathers. He has lost nothing.
“Nigeria needs him for future services; he is still both mentally and physically young and should prepare himself for a prime leadership position in future.
“As for his legal rights as to his inter-state banishment, two things arise. Firstly, it has the support and concurrence of the Federal Government, without which such inter-state transfer is not possible.
“Secondly, Emir Sanusi is quite learned. He will advise himself as to any necessary legal steps he may wish to take in the light of his cross-border banishment.”
Falana said Sanusi’s right to a fair hearing was violated as he was not given adequate time to defend himself.
“As if the reckless violations of the Emir’s right to a fair hearing were not sufficient, Governor Ganduje proceeded to order the indefinite restriction of the deposed Emir’s movement and indefinite detention in Nasarawa State.
“Thus, the fundamental rights of Sanusi Lamido Sanusi to personal liberty and freedom of locomotion guaranteed by sections 35 and 41 of the Constitution as amended and article 6 and 12 of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights (Ratification and Enforcement Act Cap A9, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004) have also been violated.
“Since the Kano State government lacks the power to abrogate the fundamental rights of Sanusi without following a procedure permitted by law, his banishment and detention in Nasarawa State are illegal in every material particular,” Falana said.
The SAN cited the case of the Kebbi State Attorney-General vs. HRH Al- Mustapha Jokolo (2013) (LPELR-22349).
The Court of Appeal held: “Section 41(1) of the Constitution is germane and it provides thus: ’41 – (1) Every citizen of Nigeria is entitled to move freely throughout Nigeria and to reside in any part thereof, and no citizen of Nigeria shall be expelled from Nigeria or refused entry thereto or exit therefrom…
“The appellant has not been able to show that the banishment of the 1st respondent from Gwandu Emirate in Kebbi State and his deportation to Obi in Nasarawa State were in accordance with the clear provisions of Section 41 of the Constitution.
“The banishment and deportation from Kebbi State by the Governor of Kebbi State, on or about the 3rd of June, 2005 of the 1st respondent to Lafia in Nasarawa State and later to Obi, also in Nasarawa State, is most unconstitutional, and illegal.
“By the said banishment and deportation, the 1st respondent has been, unduly and wrongfully denied his constitutional rights ‘to respect for the dignity of his person’; ‘to assemble freely and associate other persons’ – including the people of Gwandu Emirate of Kebbi State; and to ‘move freely throughout Nigeria and to reside in any part thereof’ as respectively provided in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999.”
Falana said Kano State government should release Sanusi forthwith and allow him to enjoy his fundamental rights to personal liberty and “freedom of locomotion” as well as the right to contest his removal from the Kano throne if he so desires.
For Quakers, Sanusi’s banishment offends the provisions of sections 35(1), 40 and 41 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).
“I believe the deposed Emir is a very enlightened and urbane Nigerian. He should seek redress by approaching the court to enforce his constitutional right just as Mustapha Jokolo did in challenging the Government of Kebbi State for the constitutionality of his banishment which infracted his constitutional right.
“Sanusi should challenge the unconstitutionality of his banishment following the Mustapha Jokolo’s case. If he does not do anything about it, he will be setting a dangerous precedent, thereby projecting the law as docile and ineffective.
“Acts of brigandage and disregard to the constitution by the executive arm of government must be subjected to judicially scrutiny for the sake of posterity,” Quaker said.
Hon agrees, saying the banishment is not only unconstitutional but null and void.
“The Constitution has guaranteed citizens of Nigeria, including the ex-Emir, right to live where he wants to live and to associate with anyone he wants to associate with.
“He is also entitled to a right to personal liberty, freedom of speech and a cacophony of other fundamental rights.
“Even though Section 45(1) of the Constitution permits derogation from some of the guaranteed rights, the government must come clean on the issue. What do I mean?
“Derogation must not precede the reasons for such derogation, which must be communicated to the victim, and in the case of a public figure like the dethroned Emir, made public, to enable public scrutiny.
“The banishment must not precede the reasons, which could, in most cases, be made up. I always say that Nigerians in government enact policies that haunt and hunt them when they leave office, and it’s only then that they start feeling the consequences thereof. It is Emir Sanusi today; it could be another person tomorrow.
“In any case, why have the temerity to banish someone and take him out of his state of origin and quarantine him? Are we operating a military dictatorship?
“Why not secure a court order to put him under house arrest, especially as he is such a public personality? Emir Sanusi, for sure, has a good cause of action in a court of competent jurisdiction,” Hon said.
Ozekhome described the banishment as illegal and advised Sanusi to seek legal redress.
He said: “Governor Ganduje’s actions constitute a blatant and violent rape and violation of the constitutional rights of Emir Sanusi to freedom of movement, right to liberty, right to a fair hearing, freedom of expression and association and right to dignity of the human person, to be free from inhuman and degrading treatment.
“Before the hurried dethronement and harried banishment of the Emir to Nassawara State, he had instituted many suits against the Governor and Kano State government, challenging the degrading of his office through the creation of four Emirates from the Kano Emirate, the investigation instituted against him by some anti-corruption agencies and the state government and the then palpable threats to dethrone him.
“These cases were still extant and existing and alive when the governor resorted to self-help, removed the mat from the feet of the judicial process and hurriedly dethroned and banished the Emir.
“These acts are against the hallowed doctrine of lis pendens, which theorises that once parties have put their case before a competent court of law, no party shall take the laws into his hands, or resort to self-help or do anything capable of undermining the judicial process and integrity of the arbitral court or tribunal, in accordance with section 6(6) of the 1999 Constitution
“By dethroning the Emir without due process of law since the Emir still had his cases pending in court, the action of the State government has robbed the Emir of the dignity of his person, as provided for in section 34 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”
Ozekhome said the Kano State government violated Section 41 of the Constitution and Articles 4, 5 and 6 of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights.
For Owonikoko, the practice of banishment is a colonial relic. He questioned the government’s action.
He said: “Where does the power of a governor to banish a dethroned traditional ruler to another state derived from?
“This is an abjectly anachronistic practice used in the colonial era and under a monolithic Northern Nigeria. I have no doubt that after being dethroned, an erstwhile emir cannot be deprived of his fundamental right as a citizen – these include freedoms of movement and association.
“An order of banishment cannot, in my humble view, withstand challenge on the basis of these two entrenched constitutional provisions.”
Ofuokwu said Kano State has no right to act outside the clear and unambiguous provisions of the 1999 Constitution, which provides that every citizen of Nigeria is “entitled to his personal liberty and no person shall be deprived of such liberty”.
“Furthermore, the deposed Emir is constitutionally entitled to move freely throughout Nigeria and to reside in any part thereof.
“He is further entitled ‘to respect for the dignity of his person’ and ‘to assemble freely and associate with other persons’.
“These rights are inalienable and his case here does not fall within any of the exceptions because he was not found guilty by any court of competent jurisdiction whatsoever,” Ofuokwu said.
Ubani offered to sue on Sanusi’s behalf, saying: “If Sanusi does not challenge his banishment to Nasarawa, I will do that on his behalf. He had better brief his lawyers quickly.”
Ogunye, in a Facebook post, also harped on the colonial nature of banishment.
He said: “In many ways, we still have a colonial government. After dethronement of a traditional ruler, arrest, restriction of movement and banishment usually follow.
“Even in this age, when dethronement per se is not a criminal offence that warrants abridgement of the constitutionally entrenched rights of the dethroned.”
But, Raji was more philosophical. He said: “God gives and He takes. Nothing happens to anyone without the knowledge of Allah who knows best.
“There is no need for the revered Emir to take any legal action. The confinement may be for his good as it is a rare opportunity to get closer to Allah. Worship of Allah is the primary purpose of our being in the world. May God be with all of us.”