Human rights lawyer, Femi Falana (SAN), has said that when President Muhammadu Buhari ruled the country in the 80s as a military dictator, court orders were never disobeyed.
The senior lawyer said he is planning to write to the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami (SAN), to demand answers on why the Buhari-led Federal Government has been disobeying court orders.
Falana said this in Lagos on Thursday during the public lecture marking the 30th anniversary of the Committee for the Defence of Human Rights (CDHR).
The lecture, with the theme, “Chronicling the struggle, identifying the way forward,” was delivered by renowned professor of International Law and Jurisprudence, Akin Oyeboye, while Prof. Julius Honvhere, of the Ford Foundation, was the keynote speaker.
Speaking in his capacity as the Chairman of the CDHR Board of Trustees, Falana said the struggle for the respect of human rights in the country had made a lot of gains in the last 30 years.
He recalled that CDHR started in 1989 in the living room of the late Dr Beko Ransome-Kuti, where activists gathered to strategise for the release of Femi Aborishade, who was then detained by the military junta.
“Thirty years ago, it would have been impossible to assemble to discuss human rights in our country. Notwithstanding that we are currently having what you might call rickety democracy, there are gains, all the struggles of over 30 years, that we must celebrate today,” Falana said.
He however expressed concern over the rate at which court orders were being disobeyed by the Federal Government.
“I just remember this morning trying to write a letter to the Attorney General of the Federation and I find, very painfully, that whereas the Buhari/Idiagbon regime complied with all court orders for the release of those who were held illegally under the state security detention of persons Decree No 2 of 1984, we cannot say the same today under a democratic government,” he said.
“If you get a copy of Gani Fawehinmi’s book on Nigerian law on habeas corpus, all the judgments of our courts during the military dictatorship of Gowon up to the Buhari/Idiagbon regime, all the cases are documented in that book; not on a single occasion did the military regimes detain anybody who had been ordered to be released by the court. They could manipulate; they could filibuster, but ultimately they got everybody released.”
Oyebode, in his lecture, criticised the 1999 Constitution, which he said lacked legitimacy because the Gen Abdulsalami Abubakar regime did not call for the input of the citizens.
“The general contempt held by the dictators everywhere for the people informed the attitude of the junta towards the right of the Nigerian people to partake in the making of the most important law governing their lives,” he said.
Oyebode said for Nigeria to become a liberal democratic society, the people must be ready to put the government on its toes “so that an end is speedily brought to impunity.”