Right groups say Wike-s action in Rivers State lawless
By Samuel Ogunsona
A coalition of civil society organisations have condemned Rivers State Governor, Nyeson Wike for his recent actions ranging from demolition of private homes to the auction of vehicles said to have violates lockdown directives.
The Civil Society Organisations, spread across Nigeria, said they noted with utter embarrassment and outrage, the reckless abuse of power and the Governor’s consistent drift towards a full blown dictatorship.
“As lovers of democracy and believers in the rule of law, we are seriously concerned that Wike, who is a lawyer, could engage in such series of activities that blatantly subvert due process, undermine the rule of law and negate the norms of civilised and democratic practices” the groups numbering some 50 civil society groups stated.
The statement was signed on their behalf by Okey Nwaguma, one or Nigeria’s leading human rights defender.
He described Wike as a rampaging bull that has been engaging in one act of illegality after another in recent time ranging from the arbitrary arrest of Caverton pilots and oil workers, to the closure of State boundaries, to the signing of an executive order authorizing the auction of all vehicles alleged to have violated his lockdown order and now, his most recent reckless act of illegal demolition of two hotels in Rivers State on Saturday, which he personally supervised.
The groups said “Wike has been rightly described as ‘a colossal embarrassment to the Body of Benchers’ which we understand he belongs to, and we endorse the call on the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA to sanction him.
“We acknowledge that citizens must comply with orders meant to contain the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic and protect citizens and residents of Rivers State. We also condemn the violation of such orders by any citizen whatsoever. But we equally assert that two wrongs cannot make a right.”
It said that a democratically elected governor should rise above arbitrariness and lawlessness adding that the Constitution guarantees citizens the right to own property and this right cannot be circumscribed without following the due process of law. Nwaguma sair Wike has no legal right in law to confiscate or demolish the property of citizens by executive fiat.
“Wike should not be allowed to continue to violate the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. We call on citizens of Rivers State to resist Wike’s dictatorship. They should challenge him through civic and legal means.
“We also call on the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), being the opposition political political party to which Wike is an influential member, to speak up and condemn his excesses or else lose any moral ground to criticise or oppose any act of malfeasance by the ruling All People’s Congress (APC).”
It added that no law permits the Governor or the President to mete out any punishment to any citizen without recourse to the constitution. You cannot go outside the law to enforce the law
The Executive Order relied upon by Governor Wike, the groups said is an administrative instrument with guidelines and not a law.
“The Constitution supersedes the Governor’s order.The guidelines and regulations in the Executive Order are subject to the Constitution. So, if there is a conflict in the guidelines, the directives of the Governor and the Constitution, his directives will bow to the Constitution
“Any offender regardless of the crime committed should be charged before a Court and tried in line with the law, ” said the groups
The Constitution, the supreme law, guarantees every citizen fair hearing, including an armed robber caught in the act
Anybody who breaches or is accused of breaching any law can only be taken to court, tried and convicted before any sentence can be pronounced against such offender.
The demolition of the two hotels in Port Harcourt on the orders and supervision of Governor Wike, for purportedly operating against his Covid Executive Orders, is the height of abuse of power. No Constitution allows a Governor to become the maker of a law, accuser, witness, enforcer of the law, the prosecutor and the Judge at the same time. It is primitive.
No matter any offence the owner of the hotel may have committed, the only option available to the Governor was to seal up the premises, pending the trial of the manager of the hotel. By whimsically and capriciously supervising the demolition without recourse to due process, the Governor has acted outside the law and beyond his legal authority and has rendered the workers in the hotel jobless, with its effects on their dependants. If the sprawling arrays of buildings on a large stretch of land along Ada George road are demolished after 2023, how would Wike feel?
We do not insist on due process because we want to validate any supposed infraction but that people in authority should exercise power and conduct government affairs like people living in a decent and civilised society. If the EFCC had acted in such capricious manner, by convicting Wike without trial, would he have become a Governor today?
We call on Governor Wike to reverse his lawless and despicable actions, publicly apologise and restore the properties of those that have been destroyed. Everyone will have to go through a judicial process. That is what the rule of law is all about.
The right to property, fair hearing and liberty are constitutional rights. No Governor has the power to dismiss these rights under the pretext of enforcing the COVID-19 regulations.
If Wike fails to reverse himself, we encourage the victims of his actions to take legal actions because the Executive Order of the Governor contains no provision permitting the demolition of properties. Only a court of law can do that and that is after being found guilty. What is done in civilised places is for the Governor to obtain an order of interim forfeiture and then go through a trial.
1. LEDAP- Legal Defence & Assistance Project
2. Civil Society Network Against Corruption (CSNAC)
3. Rule of Law and Accountability Advocacy Centre (RULAAC)
4. Carmelite Prisoners’ Interest Organization (CAPIO)
5. The African Centre for Media & Information Literacy (AFRICMIL) FCT, Abuja
6. HUMAN RIGHTS,LIBERTY ACCESS AND PEACE DEFENDERS FOUNDATION(HURIDE)
7. Vision Spring Initiatives
8. Echoes of women in Africa initiative
9. Conscience for Human Rights and conflict resolution, Lokoja
10. Independent Advocacy Project IAP Lagos
11. Democracy and Human Rights Network
12. Journalists for Democratic Rights (JODER)
13. COMPPART Foundation, Akwa Ibom
14. Peoples Advancement Centre Port Harcourt
15. 14. Youths and Environmental Advocacy Centre (YEAC), PortHarcourt
16. Legal Defence Against Injustice Initiative
17. International Peace and Civic Responsibility Center (IPCRC), Anambra State
18.Centre for Information Technology and Development (CITAD)
19. Community Outreach for Development and Welfare Advocacy ( CODWA), Kwara State
20. People Against Corruption and Injustice
21.Socio-economic Rights Action Project (SERAP)