Human Rights lawyer Femi Falana (SAN) has advised the Federal Government to comply with Nigerians’ human rights while securing the country and her interests.
Falana said both security and human rights can coexist and are necessary to prevent breakdown of law and order, but that it was problematic to place state security above individuals’ rights.
He said the purpose of national security should be to protect democracy. He urged President Muhammadu Buhari to make advancing human rights a central pillar of Nigeria’s national security policy.
The lawyer warned the government not to allow itself to be used by those seeking to undermine “these fundamental values” as a ploy to “destroy democracy through the use of violence in its most inhuman form.”
Falana spoke on Wednesday in Abuja while delivering a paper ‘Rule of law and security’ at the 2018 Annual General Conference of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA).
Buhari, in an address at the opening ceremony of event on Sunday, suggested that individual rights of alleged offenders would have to take a back seat when national security and public interest were threatened.
“Rule of Law must be subject to the supremacy of the nation’s security and national interest.
“Our apex court has had cause to adopt a position on this issue in this regard and it is now a matter of judicial recognition that where national security and public interest are threatened or there is a likelihood of their being threatened, the individual rights of those allegedly responsible must take second place, in favour of the greater good of society,’’ the President said.
But Falana noted that placing security concerns in direct opposition to human rights “creates a false dichotomy.
He said: “Each is essential for ensuring that a society is both “free” and “secure.” Privileging one over the other can have unintended negative consequences. It is therefore important for Nigeria to strive to nurture the synergies between the two, and to incorporate human rights into national security strategies.
“I recognise that it can be difficult to find a balance between ensuring national security on the one hand, and preserving human rights and the rule of law on the other. Nevertheless, I firmly believe that both security and human rights can fully coexist and are absolutely necessary to prevent breakdown of law and order. I posit that the purpose of national security should be to protect democracy and enhance democratic principles.”
According to him, the government has a legal responsibility to preserve and promote all human rights as well as the rule of law.
“Undermining these fundamental values would go in the direction wished by those whose aim is to destroy democracy through the use of violence in its most inhuman form,” the lawyer added.
He berated the police and security agencies for concentrating on monitoring the activities of human rights activists and opposition figures in the country, while failing “to foil illegal take-over of government, through coup de tat and rigging of elections, kidnapping, hostage taking, religious riots and civil disturbances which have continued to threaten national security.”
He warned the executive against detaining citizens for security reasons and disregarding court orders “for the release of such persons if it is found that the detention has nothing to do with national security.”
Falana berated the Nigerian Bar Association for failing to sanction the activities of Attorneys-General and senior lawyers “who engage in the subversion of the rule and national security.”