The attention of the Alliance on Surviving Covid 19 and Beyond (ASCAB) has just been drawn to the decision of Governor Nasir El Rufai to declare the President of the Nigeria Labour Congress, Comrade Ayuba Wabba wanted” as contained in his Twitter handle. According to the Governor, Comrade Ayuba and other leaders of the Nigeria Labour Congress have contravened the provisions of the Miscellaneous Offences Act. The statement is laughable as it is common knowledge that Comrade Wabba and his colleagues are on the streets of Kaduna leading the peaceful protests embarked upon by the entire workers in the State since yesterday. The order of the Governor cannot be enforced for the following reasons:
- By the combined effect of the Trade Union Act and the Nigerian Constitution, Comrade Wabba and other labour leaders have the unquestionable rights to participate in the peaceful warning strike and mass protests against further retrenchment of workers in the Kaduna State public service.
- The Miscellaneous Offences Act is not a state statute but a federal enactment. To that extent, if Governor El Rufai has evidence that Comrade Wabba and other labour leaders have contravened any provisions of the Act he is required to lodge a complaint in any of the police stations in Kaduna State. The Governor lacks the power to declare any alleged offender wanted under the Act or any other law whatsoever.
- Furthermore, since Comrade Wabba and other labour leaders are entitled to the fundamental right of fair hearing including presumption of innocence
guaranteed by section 36 of the Constitution the Governor of Kaduna lacks the power to declare them wanted. In Benedict Peters v. Economic and Financial Crimes Commission & Anor. (Suit No: FCT/HC/BW/CV/23/2021) of 22nd March, 2018 even though the EFCC had obtained a warrant for the arrest of the Plaintiff the Court held that â€œBut neither the said warrant nor any of those statutes, including the Police Act and the Administration of Criminal Justice Act provide that the 1st Respondent can declare any person who is suspected to have committed an offence, but is evading warrant of arrest as a wanted person, without an order of court first had and obtained.â€
In view of the foregoing, we call on the authorities of the Nigeria Police Force and other security agencies to ignore the illegal statement credited to Governor El Rufai. In Eperokun v. University of Lagos (1986) 4 NWLR (PT 34) 162 at 172 the Supreme Court held that â€œâ€¦constitutionally entrenched provisions, particularly those safeguarding individual rights, should not, save in a fascist system, be lightly trampled upon.â€
Femi Falana SAN
Alliance on Surviving Covid 19 and Beyond