FLASHBACK: REJECTION OF NATIONAL AWARD By CHIEF GANI FAWEHINMI, LL.D. SAN Monday, December 15, 2008

Press Statement on the published National Honour of Officer of the Order of the Federal Republic (OFR) on me:

My Reaction

At the weekend, notably on Friday, 12th December, 2008, it was published in most of the newspapers in Nigeria that the Federal Government of Nigeria has honoured me with the Officer of the Order of the Federal Republic (OFR).

I have had time after the publication to think deeply whether to accept or reject the honour.

I thank the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Alhaji Umam Musa Yar’Adua. I thank the Federal Government Nigeria and I am very grateful to the Council of State which approved the honour of Officer of the Order of the Federal Republic (OFR) given to me by the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

I wish to express my gratitude to numerous Nigerians who through telephone calls, mobile text messages and some by personal visits, congratulated me on the award of the honour of Officer of the Order of the Federal Republic (OFR).

This is the first government in Nigeria to honour me with the national award. Obviously, this government must have considered my activities in the last fortythree years before deciding to give the national award of Officer of the Order of the Federal Republic (OFR). From my own standpoint and perception, my struggles and crusades include:

1. The abolition of poverty from the face of our country.

2. The unqualified need to preserve, defend and protect the fundamental human rights.

3. The governance of our country through democratic processes.

4. The subjection of everybody and everything to and under the Rule of Law.

5. The right of the people to free and qualitative education at all levels.

6. The right of the people to free and qualitative health services and facilities.

7. The strengthening of our economy through sound development of infrastructures including power generation (electricity), good roads, good and modern rail system across the length and breadth of Nigeria, good water way transportation system.

8. The overall duties of all Nigerians and governments (local, states and federal) to make Nigeria a corruption free country by fighting corruption with all our might and mind.

In the course of my struggles over the decades for the above ideals, I have been subjected by various governments to all traumatic travails and persecutions including:

(a) Series of detentions in several prisons across Nigeria notably Ikoyi Prison (three times), Kaduna Prison, Gombe Prison, Gashua Prison, Kuje Prison (two times), Bauchi Prison, etc, etc.

(b) Twenty three (23) police detentions between 1969 and 1998 at Police Headquarters, Kaduna, Jos Police Station, llorin Police Station, Police Headquarters, Lagos C.I.D., Alagbon, Lagos, InterCentre Detention Outpost, Lagos, Ikoyi Police Station, Panti Police Station, Lagos, Police Station, Wuse, Abuja, Police Station, Ikeja, Police Headquarters, Abuja, etc, etc.

(c) Arrested 32 (thirtytwo) times between 1969 and 1998 which led to the series of detentions and trials.

(d) My Chambers (Gani Fawehinmi Chambers) at Anthony Village, Lagos was attacked by security men under various governments sixteen times, culminating in the attack on Friday, 26lh August, 1994 when security men under General Sani Abacha regime at 4 am turned my Chambers into a pool of blood.

(e) Thousands of copies of my books notably on the murder of Dele Giwa were forcibly removed and seized by security agents under General Ibrahim Babangida regime and despite court orders to return my books, the military government at that time refused to obey the court orders.

(f) My International Passport was seized more than fifteen times between 1966 and 1998.

(g) 1 was charged to court eighteen times for politically motivated criminal offences including treason and I was jailed once and became Prisoner J60 before my imprisonment was terminated by the Court of Appeal.

Today, I am seventy years and eight months old and 1 am struck down by lung cancer for which I have been receiving medical treatment outside my country because my country Nigeria has one of the poorest medical services in the world but one of the richest countries in the world in terms of oil revenue.

My decision to either accept or reject the national honour of the award of Officer of the Order of the Federal Republic (OFR) will depend on how far the Nigerian nation through Nigerian governments tried to achieve any of the eight goals 1 set out below.

1. The Abolition of poverty from the face of our country.

Nobody can contest or dispute the fact that poverty in Nigeria today is more pervasive, humiliating, dehumanizing than fortythree years ago despite our ] mounting and skyrocketing billions upon billions of 1 dollars of revenue from oil and gas exploration. In I this respect, the nation has failed to use the resources j to abolish poverty. This is an indictment against all Governments in Nigeria including the present. government that awarded the honour of Officer of the Order of the Federal Republic (OFR) to me.

2. The unqualified need to preserve, defend and protect the fundamental human rights.

In the last fortythree years, all governments, military and civilian have been guilty of abuses of the fundamental rights of the Nigerian people.

The present government that awarded this honour of Officer of the Order of the Federal Republic (OFR) to me has been guilty of abuses of human rights. For example, the closure of Channels Television Stations in Lagos and Abuja on Tuesday, 16th September, 2008. The man who helped to catapult this regime into office, General Olusegun Obasanjo committed some of the worst abuses of human rights as a civilian leader between 1999 and 2007 namely: he sent troops to murder 2,999 innocent Nigerians in Odi, Bayelsa State of Nigeria in November 1999. He also shutdown African Independent Television (AIT) on Sunday, 23Kl October, 2005 and Bayelsa Radio Station on Wednesday, 30th November, 2005. Some of the most atrocious human rights abuses were also committed by the military regimes.

3. The governance of our country through democratic processes.

Democracy is the best form of governance. However, Nigerians have never been allowed to usher in a truly democratic government with their ballots. Rigging has been the order of the day in every election in this country. We have never had a truly elected leader with the ballots of the people. Several thousands have died at every election. Only recently in Jos, Plateau State, more than 500 Nigerians were killed including three (3) National Youths Service Corps graduates, one of whom was a lawyer. In this country most election results have ended up in the law courts. The 2007 General Elections of which the present government that awarded me Officer of the Order of the Federal Republic (OFR) emerged were characterized by blood letting, rigging and all forms of malpractices at all levels including the elections of some of the Governors who are members of the National Council of State that approved my Officer of the Order of the Federal Republic (OFR) were not known or elected by the electorate as they were imposed by the court. For example, Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State.

4. The subjection of everybody and everything to and under the Rule of Law.

The most fundamental Rule of Law can be found in the Constitutions of Nigeria, the current one being that of 1999. All the relevant sections of the Constitution that will promote the wellbeing and welfare of the people of Nigeria have been ignored and dispensed with since the making of that Constitution in 1999 and they are still being ignored by the present regime. I refer to one of them i.e. section 16, which provides in subsections 1 (a), (b) and 2(d) as follows:

“16(1) The Stale shall, within the context of the ideals and objectives for which provisions are made in this Constitution

(a) Harness the resources of the nation and promote national prosperity and an efficient, a dynamic and selfreliant economy;

(b) Control the national economy in such manner as to secure the maximum welfare, freedom and happiness of every citizen on the basis of social justice and equality of status and opportunity;

(2) The State shall direct its policy towards ensuring

(d) that suitable and adequate shelter, suitable and adequate food, reasonable national minimum living wage, old age care and pensions, and unemployment, sick benefits and welfare of the disabled are provided for all citizens. ”

Take for example, the National Minimum Wage in Nigeria today is N5,500.00 (Five thousand, Five hundred Naira) monthly which is N183 per day. This cannot buy a bottle of palm oil and no national minimum wage in “Nigeria today can buy one tuber of yam.

The leaders of the country in the Executive and the Legislature are swimming in splendor of wealth while the masses are wallowing in and agonizing in abject poverty. Today, the judicial workers in the country are on strike because of poor wages which are not living wages as enjoined by section 16 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999.

5. The right of the people to free and qualitative education at all levels.

The standard of education in our country is at its lowest ebb. The infrastructures for the promotion of education are the worst ever. Teachers, lecturers, professors many at times use ‘okada’ as a form of transport. Today, of the first 500 educational universities in the world, Nigeria is not included. In most educational institutions, text books are not available; students depend on handouts.

6. The right of people to free and qualitative health services and facilities.

All universities teaching hospitals in Nigeria lack modern health facilities. All General Hospitals across the country lack modern health facilities. Modern diagnostic equipment cannot be found in most parts of Nigeria. It’s difficult to treat a patient without knowing what is wrong with him or her. Hardly a month passes without a Nigerian going abroad for proper medical treatment not because we do not have qualified medical personnel but because those that chose to remain in Nigeria among them work virtually with their bare hands. I am a living victim of the failure of medical services in Nigeria and yet I am an awardee of Officer of the Order of the Federal Republic (OFR).

7. The strengthening of our economy through sound development of infrastructures.

Without doubt, all our infrastructures are decadent and: no effort has been made by this regime to improve on the infrastructures. Under this regime, power generation is next to zero and everyday the country is thrown into darkness. The manufacturers and domestic users of power are at the mercy of generating sets. Waterway transportation has not been harnessed. Our railway system has not appreciably improved from what the British left behind on 1st October, 1960.

8. Corruption

Corruption is one single, fundamental factor that has retarded the progress of the nation and its socioeconomic development.

The issue of corruption is fundamental in the governance of any nation. It affects the economy in its entirety. No country can effectively and properly develop if corruption holds sway as all aspects of human existence will be negatively affected where government encourages corruption.

It is generally agreed, nationally and internationally, that Mallam Nuhu Ribadu did a lot to retard the inhibitive progress of corruption. 419 crimes were on the decline. Gross misuse of public funds by public officers was on the downward trend. Looting at the top became minimized. As Nigerians were breathing a sigh of relief, the government of Alhaji Umaru Yar’Adua threw Mallam Nuhu Ribadu out of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). The removal of Nuhu Ribadu as Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) Chairman happened at a time Nigerians were saying ‘the fear of EFCC is the beginning of wisdom’ as far as corruption was concerned.

I went to court to challenge Nuhu Ribadu’s illegal removal from the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). I thought Yar’Adua’s government would allow the court to do its work. But alas, Nuhu Ribadu was sent to National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies, Kuru for a oneyear course. While undergoing the oneyear course in Kuru, on 5th August, 2008, the Federal Government of Nigeria presided over President Umaru Yar’Adua demoted Nuhu Ribadu from the rank of Assistant InspectorGeneral of Police to Deputy Commissioner of Police.

Mallam Nuhu Ribadu rightly approached a court of law by instituting an action to challenge the obnoxious demotion. Whilst the suit was pending, security agents physically removed him from the ceremony on 22ndd November 2008 where he was to be awarded his certificate for success at the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies, Kuru.

Today, the architect of the unprecedented anticorruption war, unprecedented in the annals of Nigeria since 1914, is now literally roaming the streets of Nigeria without official car, without official status, without any form of security, and yet he is still being subjected to hounding, haunting and all forms of dehumanizing vilification by the Federal Government.

His only ‘offence” is that he used the instrumentality of a public institution, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to investigate, arrest, charge, and in some cases, to convict through the law courts some public officers in various corridors of power throughout the length and breadth of Nigeria people who were otherwise called the untouchables.

By the performance of his duties, Nigeria and Nigerians gained integrity, honour and recovery of their looted wealth. But Nuhu Ribadu did not make any personal gain. He only waged a war against corruption, graft, stealing, money laundering, etc, etc, in the corridors of power. In return, the regime of President Umar Yar’ Adua decided to wage unrelenting war against antigraft war.

Instead of the Federal Government to publicly acknowledge the unprecedented good Ribadu has done to the psyche of “Nigerians by awarding him the greatest National Honour, the Government has decided to continuously prosecute this young man. It was therefore the greatest embarrassment for me, when at the weekend, it was announced that I was one of those 275 Nigerians honoured with National Honours and in my case the Officer of the Order of the Federal Republic (OFR).

Yes, 1 have done my best for this country in various fields and 1 still want to continue to do my best. But we live in a situation where the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 provides in section 15(5) that: “The State shall abolish all corrupt practices and abuse of power” and a young man emerged to do what the Constitution enjoins and he is being persecuted for carrying out the provisions of the Constitution. Yet, the President swore to observe, preserve and defend the same Constitution. I find it extremely difficult to accept that President Yar’ Adua’s government has the honour to dispense honour.

In the light of the above, I cannot accept the “honour’ of Officer of the Order of the Federal Republic (OFR). Whether now or in the life beyond, how can I wake up in the morning and look at the insignia of honour bestowed on me under a government that persecutes anticorruption efforts, particularly those of Nuhu Ribadu?

At the time the Nigerian Bar Association wrote the letter 10 my office that my name would be forwarded for national honour while I was in London receiving medical treatment for lung cancer, the Government of President Yar’Adua had not begun in earnest the war against anticorruption war and the harrowing persecution of Nuhu Ribadu had not reached its crescendo. I do not blame the Nigeria Bar Association for sending my name at the time it did for national honour.

However, events from August 2008 to this day are so bizarre, unbelievably barbaric in their intensity, in terms of persecuting those fighting against corruption and the singling out of Nuhu Ribadu for persecution, all for giving honour and dignity to this country and for recovering for our treasury, billions of Naira and other forms of wealth looted by public officers.

A government that covertly and overtly encourages corruption has no honour in its arsenal of power to dispense honour. Consequently, I reject the dishonour of officer of the Order of the Federal Republic (OFR) termed ‘honour’ given to me by the Federal Government.

The Plight of the masses of our people

Nobody can dispute the fact that since this regime came to power the plight of the masses has worsened as I have shown in items 1 7 above. But I wish to reiterate that in all ramifications of human existence, the masses have found themselves in the doldrum of pain occasioned by gross misgovemance of the country.

Furthermore, since the President came to power on 29th May, 2007, the masses of our country have been groaning in unprecedented poverty as a result of lack of direction.

The directionlessness of the Federal Government has been characterized by the following, amongst others: collapsed infrastructure, total paralysis of the health

sector at all levels, constant nationwide power failure and the attendant negative effects on all sectors of the economy; pervasive unemployment, thereby generating increased armed robbery cutting across all ages of our people; debilitating homelessness; retrogressive educational programmes and policies, which have made no Nigerian university to be ranked within the first 500 universities in the world, and no effort is being made by the regime to improve on the humiliating situation.

Put simply, the Federal Government is a total failure, worsened by lack of direction and leadership. Is this the atmosphere for the award of national honours? Certainly Not!

Clarion call to the suffering masses

Unite and fight for your legitimate Right to the abolition of poverty. Why should you continue to suffer while your leaders and their families continue to enjoy the best at your expense?

In addition to my rejection of the honour of Officer of the Order of the Federal Republic (OFR) on the grounds of Federal Government’s conscious war against anticorruption war, the decadent socioeconomic situation does not engender the well being of ordinary people and there is no hope in sight. In view of the foregoing, I reject the award of Officer of the Order of the Federal Republic (OFR).

CHIEF GANI FAWEHINMI, LL.D. SAN

Monday, December 15, 2008

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