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Malami, “a true democrat,” denies secret memo on State of Emergency, labels it “fabrications”

Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, has denied authorship of the secret memo urging President Muhammadu Buhari to declare a state of emergency across the Federal Republic of Nigeria as a way of out of unprecedented insecurity in the country.

Dr. Umar Jibrilu Gwandu, Special Assistant on Media and Public Relations to Mr Malami, said in a midnight statement that the report of the secret memo was “false and fictitious,” asking the “general publics” to “disregard the media report as fabrications of anti-constitutional democratic stability in Nigeria.”

Malami, his Spokesperson said, “remains a true democrat who believes in rules of law and tenant of democracy and Constitutional order.”

The full statement titled ‘I am Pro-Constitutional Democracy,’ reads: “The attention of the Office of the Honourable Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami,SAN has been drawn to a false and fictitious report alleging that  there was a secret memo emanating from the Office to the Presidency. General publics are hereby asked to disregard the media report as fabrications of anti-constitutional democratic stability in Nigeria.

“Malami remains a true democrat who believes in rules of law and tenant of democracy and Constitutional order. The Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice is a constitutionally recognised one with its role and responsibilities embedded in the constitution.

“It is antithetical to common sense to think that the holder of such coveted Office as the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice will stoop to what was printed by the media.

“The Government does not operate in secrecy as it is not a clandestine operation. Hence, Malami discharges his constitutionally recognized mandates in compliance with principles of transparency, openness and accountability.”

But the argument by Malami in the secret memo was espoused again by him on Tuesday when he said in a television programme that President Buhari’s respect for human rights was largely responsible for the administration’s seeming incompetence at tackling widespread carnage and lawlessness.   

In the eight-page secret memo dated May 4, 2021, the Attorney-General wrote a lengthy legal advice to the Nigerian President, urging him to move swiftly to suspend the fundamental rights of all Nigerians as guaranteed under Chapter IV of the Constitution.

Malami told Mr Buhari that the level of insecurity across Nigeria has reached an unprecedented  level that could no longer be checked by existing democratic techniques, saying only a state of emergency promulgated by the President can help return the country to tranquillity. 

“The essence of declaration is to allow for suspension of constitutional and legal bureaucratic bottlenecks pertaining to matters of National Security with particular regards to fundamental rights guaranteed under Chapter IV of the 1999 Constitution and processes and procedures relating to procurements, among others,” the attorney-general said. 

Mr Malami said the president should issue instruments of emergency and publish them in the federal gazette. Senate President Ahmed Lawan and Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila will be informed about the decision ahead of implementation, he added.

“To douse probable legal tension, it is important for the proclamation instrument of the statement of emergency to expressly provide for the suspension of Chapter IV of the 1999 Constitution and its attendant enforcement rules,” Mr Malami wrote. “The suspension of rights pertaining to matters of national security will then give legal backing for the proclamation of the statement of emergency to be operational and effective without litigious or judicial distractions.”

In the early pages of the document, Mr Malami cited widespread acts of insecurity and blamed prominent separatist agitators like Sunday Igboho and Nnamdi Kanu for fueling the protracted crisis that has enveloped the country and aggravated the social and economic conditions of Nigerians.

“Clearly, different factions of our government have different positions on this alarming proposal,” a presidency official told The Gazette. “But everyone agrees that the AGF holds powerful sway over the president and it would be a miracle if the Constitution is not suspended as he recommended.” 

President Buhari has been conflicted over widespread chaos that threatens to define his eight-year leadership as a democratically-elected leader. His administration is the fourth since Nigeria returned to democracy in 1999 following years of military dictatorship.

Whereas he touted his military bona fides as a plus for his fitness for a nation beset by insecurity, the country has seen no changes in security challenges under Mr Buhari. Since 2015, thousands of Nigerians have been killed by armed bandits, killer herdsmen, kidnappers and even security agents. Millions of citizens are already racked by economic hardships which analysts blamed on the administration’s rudderless policies. 

In his argument, Mr Malami alerted the President to the dangers of allowing the situation to go on unchecked, saying it would wreak even more devastating chaos compared to the current level of disorder. 

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