A few days after he said the rule of law must be subjected to national interest and security, President Muhammadu Buhari says his administration will always uphold the sanctity of the rule of law in governing the country.
Mr Buhari said this while assuring German Chancellor, Angel Merkel, who visited the country on Friday, that all agreements between the two nations will be fully respected, according to a statement by Garba Shehu, Mr Buhari’s spokesperson.
“In his remarks during a bilateral meeting, the president said unity and harmony in every society can only be preserved by observing the rule of law, and ensuring that agreements reached in good faith are followed through to the mutual benefit of countries.
“President Buhari told Chancellor Merkel and members of her delegation that the rule of law embodies all the rightful mechanisms for conflict resolution, both within the country, and in dealing with all foreign partners, assuring that his administration remains focused on delivering a peaceful, economically viable and politically stable polity to all Nigerians,” Mr Shehu said.
While speaking at the opening ceremony of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) conference last Sunday, Mr Buhari claimed it was a settled law that national security should always trump the rule of law.
“Rule of Law must be subject to the supremacy of the nation’s security and national interest,” the president told the gathering of lawyers.
His statement came weeks after his attorney-general gave a similar reason for the government’s decision to ignore court orders for the release of Sambo Dasuki, a former National Security Adviser, who has been detained since 2015 for alleged arms possession and misappropriation of funds.
President Buhari’s comment was condemned by a Nobel laureate, Wole Soyinka, as well as several lawyers including activist Femi Falana.
In a statement Thursday, Mr Soyinka mocked the president by saying Mr Buhari had obviously given a deep thought to his travails under a military dictatorship and concluded that his incarceration at that time was also in the “national interest.”
Mr Buhari was imprisoned for years by the Ibrahim Babangida regime after his military dictatorship was overthrown in 1985.
“At his first coming, it was ‘I intend to tamper with Freedom of the Press,’ and Buhari did proceed to suit action to the words, sending two journalists – Irabor and Thompson – to prison as a reward for their professional integrity.
“Now, a vague, vaporous, but commodious concept dubbed “national interest” is being trotted out as an alibi for flouting the decisions of the Nigerian judiciary. President Buhari has obviously given deep thought to his travails under a military dictatorship, and concluded that his incarceration was also in the ‘national interest.’”
Mr Buhari’s comments also sparked outrage amongst other Nigerians.
However, Mr Shehu, the president’s Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, in a statement on Friday, said Mr Buhari said he would respect the rule of law. The spokesperson said the president made this pledge during a bilateral meeting with the German Chancellor, at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
The president maintained that unity and harmony in every society could only be preserved by observing the rule of law, and ensuring that agreements reached in good faith were followed through to the mutual benefit of countries.
Mr Buhari told Ms Merkel, who was accompanied by top government officials and a business delegation, that the rule of law embodied all the rightful mechanisms for conflict resolution, both within the country and in dealing with all foreign partners.
He assured that his administration would remain focused on delivering a peaceful, economically viable and politically stable polity to all Nigerians.
He said Nigeria remained grateful to the German government for the fair treatment of migrants.
According to him, Nigeria looks forward to improving its trade figures with Germany, which had taken a strong interest in investing in the country.
The president also lauded Germany for supporting Nigeria in providing effective services in security, education and creation of jobs.
In her remarks at the meeting, Mrs Merkel said: “Germany is prepared to further strengthen bilateral and business relations with Nigeria’’ which, according to her, controlled 60 per cent of ECOWAS economy.
The German Chancellor said the population growth and opportunities in the economy could always be explored to improve employment situation in the country.
Mrs Merkel said the three Memoranda of Understanding signed during the visit represented a starting point for a healthier and deeper partnership with Nigeria in areas of security, trade, immigration and education.
The federal government signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Volkswagen of South Africa for the manufacturing of Volkswagen vehicles in Nigeria.
The Nigeria Incentive-based Risk Sharing System for Agricultural Lending (NIRSAL Plc) also signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Petkus Technologies GMBH for the supply of seed and grain processing machines.
The Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture also signed a Memorandum of Understanding with German African Business Association on fostering trade and investment.