Muslim Lawyers Association of Nigeria & A Grateful Nation
Written by Paul I. Adujie
Exuberance, elation and unrestrained joy, overflowed upon reading that A Federal High Court in Lagos, Nigeria awarded monetary compensations and damages in favor of some Nigerians who were arrested and detained unlawfully and arbitrarily!
The plaintiffs instituted legal action against the Inspector General of Police and three others, namely, the Attorney General of the Federation, or AGF, and the State Security Service or SSS, the latter were absolved and deemed blameless.
A ten million Naira was awarded as compensation, while litigation costs, which amounted to the sum of thirty thousand, Naira, will be absorbed or borne by the respondents.
The important thing here is not the money. Instead, it rather that a groundbreaking or landmark judgment or verdict was rendered in favor of a group of hapless Nigerian citizens who were singled out for unlawful, and arbitrary arrests and detentions, based primarily on the fact that these Nigerians are Muslims or that they are adherent of Islam or a particular religion.
The measure of human refinement in any society or nation, and the measure and gauge of the extent of human refinements in Nigeria, as a society and as a nation is determined by how we care for our poor, the under privileged.
The Vanguard Newspapers of Nigeria reported that "The trial judge, Justice Okon Abang, in his judgment in a fundamental rights suit against the police by the Nigerians also restrained the Nigeria Police from further arresting, interfering on the fundamental rights to personal liberty and freedom of movement of the applicants" in a featured news article.
It was reported that " in the suit by Sulaimon Alli, Abdul Ganiyu Sadu, Abdul Jelil Sanusi, Alimi Sulaimon, Abdul Hakeem Abdul Raman, AbdulKabir Shofidiya and Sulaimon Adebayo." Which alleged illegal, unlawful and unconstitutional acts which "prayed the court to declare their arrest and detention illegal for more than 30 days by the police without any cogent reason as illegal, a violation of their fundamental human rights as enshrined in the constitution of the the Federal Republic of Nigeria."
"There is unchallenged evidence before me which I believe that the Applicants were in detention for 30 good days and were subjected to untold hardship."
"They were also subjected to degrading and inhuman treatment. They were in solitary confinement and being held hostage for 30 days. They were moved from one police formation to another at will. On record they were moved to three different police stations within Lagos State."
Clearly, what has happened here, in my view, is, the establishment of a principle, to wit, Nigeria is a Nation of Laws... and those whose rights have been violated will find remedies and succor from our judiciary and such citizen(s) do not have to be stupendously wealth and opulent, or must they possess the immense resources nor do they have to be a in position to hire 20 Senior Advocates of Nigeria... before they may find justice and equity from our legal system (judiciary) etc
This sounds like a landmark case and it is a groundbreaking judgment or verdict, as reported, if the finding of facts and the law are consistent with the verdict, it will stand, even on appeal and add to the body decided cases or precedents which will be used as benchmark and guideposts henceforth in determining outcomes in subsequent cases similar to the one under review.
Nigerians and all who wish Nigeria well, have an additional reason to celebrate this legal outcome for the Boko Haram suspects and plaintiffs in this case. Nigeria is firmly establishing herself as a nation of laws, a democracy, where Due Process, The Rule of Law, justice and equity forms the fulcrum of our great nation. Even in war time or during wars, there are rules of engagement. Conflicts cannot be the excuse for disregarding the fundamental human rights, liberty and freedoms of Nigerian citizens.
This is why verdicts or judgments such as the one by Justice Okon Abang is crucially important reinforcement of Due Process and The Rule of Law.
Nigerian society is imbibing a social construct, based on the establishment of a nourishing, and flourishing environment for individual liberties.
It is the case, that this current case and it's outcome, illustrates the fact that, individual rights, liberties and fundamental human rights are being given rightfully due recognition and priority, brick-by-brick, in Nigeria, as Nigeria establishes a groundswell for social-economic development.
In the so-called global war on terrorism outside Nigeria, it has become common practice for many nations and their governments to engage unlawful arrests, detentions and maltreatments of Muslims, employing all sorts of pretexts, including radical Islam and extremism by some Muslims. Islam and Muslims have arguably and justifiably, felt under attack and siege.
It has become the vogue and quite fashionable, for some governments across the world view Islam and Muslims as the real and imagined enemies and whipping boy.
Islam and Muslims have become and endangered group of citizens across the world, as they are subject to reasonable and quite unreasonable scrutinizes globally.
Islam and its adherents have been feeling persecuted, particularly since the event of September 11, 2001 in the United States. Thankfully, through this legal outcome, Nigeria is saying, unequivocally, that Nigeria will not tolerate arbitrary and unlawful arrests and detentions of persons under pretext of fighting Islamic extremist or so-called war on terrorism.
It may be Muslims today, it could be Atheists, or Hare Khishena or African Religion adherents or Agnostics tomorrow
It therefore bears repeating, that it is better to set 10 suspects free than to jail or punish ONE innocent person.
And significantly, as it is relevant to this judgment by Justice Okon Abang, it is eminently better to compensate "Boko-Haram" suspects than to allow-permit unlawful and arbitrary detentions and abuse of citizens' rights by government agencies.
The outcome of this litigation on behalf of Nigerian citizens, who happens to be Muslims or adherents of Islam, makes such a laudatory point.
It is also the case that a socially responsible group of Nigerian Lawyers, the Muslim Lawyers Association, a socially aware and socially conscious group of Nigerians, took it upon themselves, to vigorously pursue this case to its successfully outcome.
This is the essence of democracy and the idea of all of us, taking our civic responsibility seriously! This is the push-and-pull, and call-and-response, which makes democracies successful. When all strata of society play roles and its parts
Well meaning Nigerians and all persons who wish Nigeria success, should offer congratulations to the plaintiffs and to the MULAN for standing up for what is right and using due process and the Rule of Law to accomplish this remarkable outcome
We salute the judge in the case, The trial judge, Justice Okon Abang who spoke for the average Nigerian or the proverbial common man... this is the Nigeria we want. We are at cusps of Nigeria of our aspirations.
The judgment rendered in favor of those who were unlawfully and arbitrarily detained and the vigilant and diligent pursuit of justice on their behalf by the Muslim Lawyers Association of Nigeria, or MULAN is a teachable moment for all Nigerians.
It showcases the courage and integrity of Nigerian judges and by extension, our judiciary. The judgment and the action of MULAN which precipitated the verdict, is also a ringing endorsement of the effectiveness of our Due Process, our Rule of Law and the fact that our Democracy is steadily taking root.
It is also an example for all segments of Nigeria, across the national spectrum that we may not resort to vigilante justice or self-help or taking laws into our hands in reactions to disputes. We may not foist violence and chaos upon our nation; we can rely on our judges, our judiciary and our lawyers to resolve disputes with integrity, impartiality and courage.