Emirs Clash, Judges Brawl, Police in the Crossfire, and the Military Plays Referee – President Tinubu, End This Absurd Drama Now! -By John Egbeazien Oshodi – Opinion Nigeria

The ongoing legal battle in Kano, often described as a “Game of Thrones” by some media outlets, highlights significant tensions within Nigeria’s judicial and political landscape. The conflict centers around the evictions and reinstatements of the Emir of Kano, with the Federal High Court and the State High Court issuing conflicting orders, placing the police in a precarious position between federal and state mandates. Meanwhile, the President, the Chief Justice, and the Attorney General of Nigeria watch the game unfold, seemingly inactive. The Chief Justice of the nation, after allowing the confusion to persist, has finally stepped in to settle the matter. However, the damage, shame, and confusion run deep. As a psychologist, this situation calls for urgent ethical therapy for judicial leadership, judges, magistrates, registrars, lawyers, and others involved in the judicial process, as highlighted in an earlier publication.

A Federal High Court in Kano recently ordered the eviction of Emir Muhammadu Sanusi II from the Kofar Kudu Palace while simultaneously ensuring that Aminu Bayero, recognized as the 15th Emir of Kano, receives all rights and privileges due to him. Justice S. A. Amobeda, presiding over the case, emphasized the necessity of the order to maintain justice and peace in Kano. The court also issued an interim injunction preventing any harassment or infringement on Sanusi II’s rights pending further hearings. Before Justice Amobeda’s ruling, which many believe should not involve himself in a local matter best handled by state courts, there was an earlier controversial ruling by Justice Mohammed Liman. Governor Abba Yusuf alleged that Justice Liman granted an order stopping the reinstatement of Sanusi Lamido as the 16th Emir of Kano from the United States, generating serious controversy among lawyers in the country. The media reports that these federal judges’ involvement is nothing short of using federal might and judge shopping, compared to Kano State which has its own court system. The excuse given for the federal judges’ involvement is to protect the human rights of Bayero, but the state courts have wider jurisdiction that covers human rights, local disputes, and more.

While some argued that if court proceedings are conducted virtually, the judge can sit anywhere due to global jurisdiction, others contended that the Nigerian judicial system follows territorial authority. Judges typically exercise jurisdiction within Nigeria’s borders. The rules of the Federal High Court provide that judges can conduct judicial activities outside the country in certain circumstances, like when participating in international arbitration proceedings held outside Nigeria. However, the Federal High Court has embraced virtual court proceedings, known as remote hearings. A situation where a judge sits over a case virtually from outside the country is controversial. Lagos lawyer Michael Okpu disagreed with his colleague’s opinion, stating that a judge must have access to necessary resources, files, or support staff to handle cases effectively. He said, “The National Judicial Council’s (NJC) Guidelines for Virtual Court Proceedings (2020) only allowed virtual hearings in certain circumstances, such as urgent matters, interlocutory applications, pre-trial conferences, and simple civil cases. However, the guidelines mandate that the judge, parties, and legal representatives be within Nigeria’s territorial boundaries during virtual proceedings. So, a judge of the Federal High Court of Nigeria cannot sit over a case virtually from outside the country; he must be within Nigeria’s borders to participate in virtual court proceedings.”

In contrast, a State High Court has intervened to protect Muhammadu Sanusi II from eviction, directing the police, the Department of State Services (DSS), and the Nigerian military to refrain from any actions that would disrupt his residence or harass him and his associates. Justice Amina Aliyu’s ruling extends protection to the four key kingmakers of Kano, reinforcing Sanusi II’s position and curbing the federal court’s directives.

In a bizarre twist, media across Nigeria has reported that the military is now guarding the residence of the deposed emir. For God’s sake, what is the military doing in deeply local matters? Nigeria has the police and the civil defense; why on earth would the military become security guards for an ex-emir whom the state assembly has removed? This involvement of soldiers in local affairs is another chapter in the book of incoherent practices in Nigeria. The pro-Bayero faction, reportedly backed by the former governor of Kano State, Mr. Ganduje, who is now the chairman of the ruling political party, is flexing military muscle—a shame indeed. The military has its defined functions, and chieftaincy issues are definitely not among them, no matter how much the military spokesman tries to justify their involvement.

The Nigerian Army claims it is not involved in the emirate tussle in Kano and that soldiers are not there to enforce any court order. Yet, soldiers are posted at the deposed emir’s residence, blatantly defying state powers. Onyema Nwachukwu, the army spokesperson, stated that the army’s mission in Kano is to prevent a breakdown of law and order. This statement is a lame excuse, as Nigeria already has the police and civil defense for such tasks. These words are, in fact, a self-admission of getting involved in matters they should stay out of. Nigeria is a civil democracy, not a military regime. The military must stay away from police and civil defense duties, regardless of who sent them. The abuse of military power in domestic matters has gone too far in different situations, and it is time they return to their barracks. Their mere presence psychologically induces fear and is not good for the people.

The involvement of the Department of State Security (DSS) and soldiers in local matters is odd, to say the least. A Kano High Court, presided over by Justice Amina Aliyu, has restrained the police, the DSS, and the Nigerian military from evicting the reinstated Emir of Kano, Muhammadu Sanusi II. This clear rejection of federal bodies meddling in local affairs highlights the absurdity of the situation. The ruling also protects the emir and his four kingmakers from arrest or harassment. The case, filed by Emir Sanusi alongside the four kingmakers of Kano—Madakin Kano Yusuf Nabahani, Makaman Kano Ibrahim Sarki Abdullahi, Sarkin Bai Mansur Adnan, and Sarkin Dawaki Maituta Bello Tuta—sought to prevent the security agencies from interfering with their rights.

Justice Aliyu’s ruling included several key orders: protection from harassment and arrest; protection of symbolic regalia, including the twin spear of authority, the Royal Hat of Dabo, the ostrich-feathered shoes, the knife, and sword of the Emir of Kano; and maintenance of status quo, requiring the respondents to refrain from taking any further steps that could interfere with the emir’s duties and functions pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice scheduled for June 13, 2024.

In a normal environment, the President, his Attorney General, and the nation’s Chief Justice would have stepped in at the very beginning, saying, “This has got to stop.” They would ensure that the matter works its way from the bottom up, meaning state affairs should be handled by state courts first, then move up if necessary. Meanwhile, the Kano government, through its house of assembly, has passed a new law that removed Bayero and reinstated Sanusi after the state governor assented to it. The confusion has only escalated with conflicting court orders, especially from federal judges, and the involvement of federal authorities in what is essentially a local issue. One does not need to be a law student or professor to see the madness in all this.

Onikepo Braithwaite, a respected lawyer and editorial mind, highlighted several key points in her analysis of the situation. The Federal High Court lacks jurisdiction over state traditional chieftaincy matters, which should be handled by state courts. This is a clear case of forum shopping and an abuse of the court process. The Kano State Emirates Council (Repeal) Law 2024 is a retrospective law, allowed under Nigerian law except in criminal cases. This law annulled all appointments made under the previous law, including that of Bayero. State matters should be left to state courts, and federal courts should not interfere in local disputes.

It is essential to emphasize that the involvement of federal judges in this case is inappropriate and undermines the state judiciary’s authority. The military has no business involving itself in local matters. Nigeria is a civil democracy, not a military regime, and the military should stay away from police and civil defense duties.

The Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) should be listened to by President Bola Tinubu to resist any attempts by desperate politicians to disrupt the peace and harmony currently prevailing in Kano State. One must ask where the Chief Justice of the country and the Attorney General of the country are, and why they are allowing the military leadership to take over local issues and federal judges to poke their noses into local issues. The Executive Director of CISLAC, Auwal Musa Rafsanjani, in a statement reacting to the ongoing power tussle between the reinstated Emir of Kano, Muhammadu Sanusi II, and the dethroned Emir, Alhaji Aminu Ado Bayero, warned against any attempt to exploit the situation to declare a state of emergency in Kano State. He said, “The Federal Government must not allow itself to be used as a tool to further political interests that jeopardize the stability of the state and region.” He expressed deep concern over the ongoing power tussle, warning it might destabilize the peace in Kano State and the broader Northern Nigeria region.

CISLAC noted that the court ruling, which security operatives are relying on, facilitated the controversial return of Emir Aminu Bayero. “This situation raises significant concerns about the legitimacy and appropriateness of the court order,” Rafsanjani said. “The reliance on what CISLAC described as a ‘kangaroo court order’ to justify the police and other security operatives’ invasion of Kano State is deeply troubling and exacerbates tensions.” The anti-state powers want a situation where Tinubu will declare a state of emergency to increase federal might. Tinubu must not fall into that; let the state run its affairs. The military and the federal judges are mentally draining the state.

Politicians on both sides are using the military, the police, and the judiciary to play ball, manipulating these institutions to serve their interests. This manipulation is causing confusion and instability in Kano, making the situation even more precarious. Not only that, but they also compromise the media to sell their narratives, further fueling the conflict and misleading the public.

The psychological impact on the Kano populace is significant. The ongoing legal battles, the high-profile figures involved, and now the military’s presence create a sense of instability and uncertainty. The conflicting orders and military involvement can lead to confusion and fear among the residents, affecting their mental well-being. Moreover, the police’s position, caught between conflicting judicial orders, can lead to increased stress and potential moral dilemmas for law enforcement officers tasked with executing these orders.

The legal entanglements in Kano reveal the fragility of Nigeria’s judicial and political frameworks. As a psychologist observing this scenario, it is evident that such conflicts not only disrupt governance but also have profound psychological effects on the community. Restoring coherence and trust in the legal system is essential for promoting mental well-being and upholding the principles of democracy and the rule of law. Braithwaite, in her piece, highlights the importance of addressing the legal entanglements in Kano from a bottom-up approach, respecting the jurisdiction of state courts before involving federal courts, to maintain the integrity of Nigeria’s judicial system and uphold democratic principles.

Ultimately, the local reality is that Kano is now divided over two emirs because of politicians’ fight for power. It will be the people of Kano who decide the outcome. Bayero should think twice and leave the scene honorably, recognizing the need for stability and respect for local governance. The shameful manner by which all sorts of ex parte orders are used to confuse the Nigerian people means that many of these judges need ethical therapy, beginning with the Chief Justice who is quiet or dull to all these confusions. Also, the nation’s Attorney General and the President need to improve, as Nigeria’s democracy is about to be 25 years old. The military must stop doing the local and domestic jobs of the police, civil defense, and private security guards. This abuse has gone too far in different domestic matters, and they must return to the barracks. Their mere presence psychologically induces fear and is not good for the people.

A group of lawyers from Northern Nigeria, identifying themselves as the Northern Lawyers’ Forum, issued a 48-hour ultimatum to Kano State Governor Abba Yusuf to rescind the reinstatement of Emir Muhammad Sanusi II. During a briefing in Abuja, the forum’s Director General, Barr Umar Sadiq Abubakar, argued that Sanusi’s reinstatement was “unconstitutional” and against the traditions of the Kano Emirate. Abubakar accused Governor Yusuf of mocking the judiciary by defying a Federal High Court order that had restrained the reinstatement. He warned that if the governor did not reverse his actions, the forum would take all necessary legal steps to protect the judiciary and the interests of Kano State. The lawyers emphasized that this situation sets a dangerous precedent and undermines the hierarchy of the country’s courts.

This adds to the chaos—lawyers openly threatening a state governor. Lawyers, who are supposed to be professional and impartial, are becoming partisan actors. This behavior underscores the urgent need for ethical therapy. The legal profession must regain its integrity and impartiality, addressing the psychological and ethical lapses that lead to such unprofessional conduct.

As President Bola Tinubu marks his second year in office, it is time for drastic leadership changes across the nation to ensure that the judiciary and military respect the boundaries of their roles and uphold the principles of democracy and the rule of law. As suggested in an earlier piece, the judiciary, along with various lawyers’ associations, should immediately coordinate with the Nigerian Association of Forensic Psychologists (NAFOP) to provide ethical therapy for all judges, magistrates, registrars, and lawyers, especially senior lawyers who need ethical rethinking and integrity.

John Egbeazien Oshodi

John Egbeazien Oshodi

Professor John Egbeazien Oshodi, born in Uromi, Edo State, Nigeria, is an American-based police and prison scientist, forensic psychologist, public policy psychologist, and legal psychologist. He’s a government advisor on forensic-clinical psychological services in the USA and the founder of the Dr. John Egbeazien Oshodi Foundation for Psychological Health. With a significant role in introducing forensic psychology to Nigeria through N.U.C. and Nasarawa State University, he’s also a former Secretary-General of the Nigeria Psychological Association. He’s taught at esteemed institutions like Florida Memorial University, Florida International University, Nova Southeastern University, and more, and is currently an online faculty member at Weldios University, Nexus International University, and Walden University. [email protected]

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