Charting way forward in Rivers, Kano amid call for Tinubu’s intervention

Calls Immature, Injurious To Reputation Of Democratic Institutions – Adio
Intervention Must Be Carefully Balanced To Respect Federal Principles, Independence Of Judiciary– Adiukwu

The call by concerned Nigerians for President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s intervention in the ongoing crises in Kano and Rivers states has elicited debate on the limits of presidential power in a Federal structure under the rule of law.

While some pundits see the intervention as necessary to resolve the crises, others argue that it will be an overreach of power and a violation of the principles of Federalism and the rule of law.

The crisis in Rivers State is a political dispute between the current governor, Siminalayi Fubara, and his predecessor, Nyesom Wike, who is now the Federal Capital Territory minister, while the power tussle in Kano is a subtle contest between Governor Abba Yusuf and forces in support of the deposed Emir of Kano, Aminu Ado-Bayero.

The crisis in Kano began when Muhammadu Sanusi II, deposed as the Emir of Kano four years ago, was reinstated to the throne by Governor Yusuf. Yusuf announced the decision on Thursday after signing the Kano State Emirate Council (Repeal) Bill 2024 into law, which proscribed the five emirate districts created in 2020 by the former Governor, Abdullahi Umar Ganduje.

“With the full support of the kingmakers, I have approved the reappointment of Malam Sanusi Lamido,” he said.

Ado-Bayero challenged his deposition in court and secured a ruling that restrained Sanusi from parading himself as the Emir of Kano. However, Sanusi also secured a court ruling ordering Bayero to vacate the Nasarawa mini-palace where he was staying.

Already, there is divided loyalty to the two emirs. Currently, the deposed emir, Aminu Ado-Bayero, holds sway as emir at the Nasarawa mini palace in the state capital

The contest for power in Kano began shortly after the 2019 general elections, and this culminated in with the removal of Sanusi by Ganduje in March 2020 over allegations of insubordination, and “questionable expenditures and financial misappropriation,” which he denied.

Ganduje later signed a Kano State Emirate Council bill into law, which balkanised the emirate into five – Kano, Gaya, Karaye, Rano and Bichi. Thereafter, new emirs were appointed for the five emirates.

The state and federal high courts sitting in Kano have not helped matter, as they have continued to issue conflicting judgments concerning the rightful ruler of the emirates. The tensions continue to heighten with the Kano State Police Command enforcing the governor’s ban against protests.

The crisis in Rivers escalated in October when Fubara began to assert his authority as the governor of the state, which led to a confrontation with Wike, who had allegedly imposed commissioners, advisers, and other key aides on Fubara without his input.

Incidentally, just as Nigerians, in recent months, have been witnesses to the past cascade of untoward acts and schemes in the Rivers State crisis, a recent intervention by the two time Governor of Abia State and now Senator Orji Uzor Kalu has introduced a new dimension to the affair. In a widely publicised visit to Siminalayi Fubara, Kalu offered to take the matter of Rivers State crisis to President Tinubu. This is despite the President’s unfruitful intervention in the past. Also, worried by the situation, Elder statesman, Edwin Clark, in a letter, urged the President to act decisively and uphold his democratic principles to restore peace in Rivers.

Siminalayi Fubara

Amid the ongoing brouhaha in Rivers and Kano states, political commentators and many who spoke to The Guardian, pointed to the fact it was high time normalcy returned. They subsequently called on President Tinubu to intervene before the crises degenerated into the crisis that led to the crisis in Western Region in the First Republic.

Speaking with The Guardian, Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Chukwudi Adiukwu, noted that while the calls for President Tinubu to intervene in the ongoing crisis in the two states reflect serious concerns, any intervention must be carefully balanced to respect federal principles and the independence of the judiciary.

According to him, promoting dialogue, supporting institutional capacity and making public statements in favour of the rule of law are ways in which the President could contribute positively to resolving the crisis in the two states.

He said: “In the context of federalism and the rule of law, the calls for President Tinubu to intervene in the crises highlight genuine concerns about the stability and integrity of democracy in these regions. However, direct intervention by the President must be carefully considered to avoid undermining the independence of the judiciary and the principles of Federalism.

“The necessity of these calls hinges on the severity of the crises and whether they threaten national stability. In a federal system, it is crucial to balance the need for intervention with respect for the autonomy of state governments and the judicial process.”

Adiukwu maintained that encouraging dialogue between the conflicting parties could help de-escalate tensions, while adding that neutral mediators or respected community leaders can play a key role in facilitating these discussions.

He stressed the need to enhance the capacity of state institutions to manage and resolve conflicts independently, saying this includes support for the judiciary and law enforcement agencies to ensure they can operate effectively and fairly.

“If intervention is necessary, President Tinubu should act within the limits of his constitutional powers and in ways that support the rule of law and federal principles. The President can issue public statements emphasising the importance of respecting judicial decisions and the rule of law. This can help promote a culture of legality and respect for institutional processes.

“The President can facilitate dialogue among the key stakeholders in the crises. This could involve convening meetings with state leaders, community representatives, and other relevant parties to discuss and resolve issues.

“Providing support to strengthen state institutions can help them better manage and resolve conflicts. This could include capacity-building initiatives for the judiciary and law enforcement agencies to ensure they are equipped to handle disputes fairly and efficiently.”

Another legal practitioner and former National President of the Committee for the Defence of Human Rights (CDHR), Malachy Ugwummadu, described the calls for the President’s intervention in the two states as understandable, noting that it poses potential threats to democracy and the rule of law in those states.

Ugwummadu, however noted that given that the power of the president in a Federal system like Nigeria is limited, any form of such intervention from the presidency must be done cautiously within his constitutional powers.

He said: “There is also the need to respect the rule of law by observing court orders. The president is the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and anything that would throw any part of the country into crisis is by implication his concern.”

He noted that Section 305 of the Constitution gives the president the right to declare and manage a State of Emergency in any part of the country subject to the ratification of the National Assembly.

The legal luminary lamented that in the two cases and scenarios, the judiciary has unfortunately been dragged into the impasse.

“As lawyers we won’t differ from the ultimate decision of the court in both Kano and River states. However, leaders and stakeholders in the respective states are encouraged to rise to the occasion and focus on the socio-political survival of those states beyond their selfish gratifications.

“It remains curious and intriguing that the two states in question are both opposition states with huge voting powers which could feed into the present narrative, in the current liberal democracy that we practice in Nigeria.”

On his part, National Publicity Secretary of the Youth Party, Ayodele Adio, expressed concerns over the calls for President Tinubu to intervene in the ongoing crises.

Adio stated that such demands undermine democratic institutions and perpetuate the notion that certain individuals are above the law.

Regarding the Kano State crisis, Adio emphasised that chieftaincy matters fall under state jurisdictions and are subject to state high courts and the State’s House of Assembly’s constitutional powers.

He questioned the meddling in Kano’s affairs, highlighting the importance of respecting traditional institutions’ constitutional roles.

Abba Yusuf

Adio said the Rivers State situation is more political, acknowledging that presidential intervention to broker peace might be beneficial.

However, he stressed the need for Rivers State institutions to operate based on the rule of law and moral conscience, without relying on presidential intervention to uphold democratic ideals.

Adio urged both parties in Rivers State to prioritise the people’s interests over personal egos, emphasising the need for democratic institutions to be strengthened in both states.

He noted that the Youth Party cannot support a democracy where individuals matter more than institutions, emphasising the importance of upholding democratic principles and the rule of law.

“We cannot continue to encourage a democracy where individuals matter more than institutions. More importantly, we must do away with the Orwellian thinking that certain individuals, however, highly placed, are above the law.

“That’s why I find the calls for the President to intervene in Kano immature and injurious to the reputation of democratic institutions that should hold steadfast in such turbulent times.

“The Kano issue is a straightforward matter: Chieftaincy matters are under state jurisdictions and are litigated at state high courts. The State’s House of Assembly is vested with the constitutional powers to make laws on chieftaincy affairs and emirs (including kings) are subject to those laws. Hence, I find the meddling in Kano strange. You may disagree, as I do, with how important traditional institutions have been politicised by governors in recent times but you cannot deny their constitutional roles in superintending over the affairs of such institutions.

“The Rivers State situation is a bit more different and political. If the call for the president’s intervention is to engage his minister and broker peace, then it is something to cheer about in the overall interest of peace and stability. However, we must evolve to a point where the institutions of Rivers State are guided by the rule of law and a moral conscience and require no presidential intervention to preserve democratic ideals. Both parties in Rivers State haven’t covered themselves in glory and must move past their personal egos by prioritizing the interest of the people of Rivers state.”

A Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Femi Falana, similarly described the judicial orders in Kano State as an embarrassment to the judiciary.

He said there is need for higher courts to address the political and judicial confusion in both Kano and Rivers states.

Falana further described the court’s stance as confusing with regard to the broader issue of the Supreme Court’s judgments on the limitations of Federal High Court powers over traditional institutions, explaining that “To be a chief is not a fundamental right; it is a privilege, the reason NJC has to investigate the roles of the judges and come down heavily on any of them found wanting,” he added.

The post Charting way forward in Rivers, Kano amid call for Tinubu’s intervention appeared first on Guardian Nigeria News.

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