Jun 7, 2017

Northern Groups October 1 Deadline to Igbos; A Constitutional Breach | Adedunmade Onibokun

According to news reports, on Tuesday, the 6th of June, 2017, 16, Northern groups including the Arewa Citizens Action for Change, Arewa Youth Consultative Forum, Arewa Youth Development Foundation, Arewa Students Forum and Northern Emancipation Network on the Igbo Persistence for Secession, among others directed all Igbos residing in their States to vacate the northern region before the 1st of October, 2017.

This comes closely behind the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and the Movement for the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB)’s May 30 shut down of commercial and social activities in major towns in the East over Biafra agitations. The deadline which is worrisome and could lead to a volcanic rise in ethnic tensions or probably another civil war is condemnable in the highest words and not in the spirit of national unity or have we as a country crossed the rubicon  and now heading towards self- implosion?  

The Constitutional and fundamental rights of every Nigerian with an Igbo descent is now on the line and the a subsequent breach of same will likely result to violence, senseless loss of lives and regional tensions as seen during the Nigerian civil war.   According to Nigerian Constitution, Section 41 guarantees the right of every Nigerian to freedom of movement. It provides in subsection 1 that-
“Every Citizen of Nigeria is entitled to move freely throughout Nigeria and to reside in any part thereof, and no citizen of Nigeria shall be expelled from Nigeria or refused entry thereto or exit there from.”  
Section 43, further provides for the right to acquire and own immovable property anywhere in Nigeria. For ease of reference, it provides that;
“Subject to the provisions of this Constitution, every citizen of Nigeria shall have the right to acquire and own immovable property anywhere in Nigeria”.
The above provisions of the Nigerian Constitution clearly shows that the deadline given to Igbos is a clear breach of our constitutional provisions and thus should be met the full force of the law and expertise of national security agencies to prevent the grave mishap that looms in our front yard. The only legal exceptions provided for the above constitutional provisions is also clearly outlined in Section 45 of the said Constitution which provides that only laws passed in a democratic society and in the interest of defence, public safely, public order public morality or public health; or for the purpose of protecting the rights and freedom of other persons. Can the deadline be described as a law in line with the provisions of Section 45, the answer is No.

Moreover, the said deadline is seditious in itself and a breach of Section 51 of the Criminal Code Act. Sedition has been defined by the Criminal Code in Section 50(2) to mean; any act that excites the citizens or other inhabitants of Nigeria to attempt to procure the alteration, otherwise than by lawful means, of any other matter in Nigeria as by law established; or  to raise discontent or disaffection amongst the citizens or other inhabitants of Nigeria; or to promote feelings of ill-will and hostility between different classes of the population of Nigeria. Could the deadline given by these Northern groups be said to fall in line with the definition of a seditious act under the criminal code, the answer is Yes. What the n is the penalty?

Section 51 of the Criminal Code provides that;
“any person who-
(a) does or attempts to do, or makes any preparation to do, or conspires with any person to do, any act with a seditious intention;
(b) utters any seditious words;
(c) prints, publishes, sells, offers for sale, distributes or reproduces any seditious publication;  
(d) imports any seditious publication, unless he has no reason to believe that it is seditious;
 shall be guilty of an offence and liable on conviction for a first offence to imprisonment for two years”.
The Penal Code also recognizes the offence of sedition where it provides in Section 417 that “Whoever, seeks to excite hatred or contempt against any class of persons in such a way as to endanger the public peace, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years or with fine or with both”.

Clearly the deadline given by the Northern groups to Igbo-Nigerians is a clear seditious, constitutional and fundamental breach of Nigerian laws which clearly should attract prosecution.

Dunmade Onibokun Esq.
Adedunmade Onibokun & Co.