A frontline pro-democracy and Non-Governmental Organization, the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria, has raised the alarm that some mushroom but politically motivated group of individuals have since last Monday commenced frantic search for credible platforms in the nation’s capital, Abuja, to hire to tarnish the public standing of ex-Delta State Governor, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan.
This was disclosed at a media briefing by the National Coordinator of HURIWA, Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko; the Nigerian Human Rights Queen (2017), Miss Chioma Okoli; and other officials.
Onwubiko confirmed to journalists that his organization has been inundated by pressure from some known political blackmailers to be enlisted in a sinister plot to stage street protests to the premises of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission to attempt to hoodwink the hierarchy of the anti-graft panel to begin systematic witch-hunt of the immediate past administration of Delta State.
The Rights group wondered why unscrupulous persons sometimes with powerful political sponsorship will seek to continuously attempt to recruit registered groups that have the credibility to do some sinister campaign when legally such organisations can be sued by those politically exposed persons whose well-earned good reputation as statesmen/women are being tarnished on the alter of sensational media stories.
The Rights group said the ongoing mass demonisation and character assassination of some members of the political class whose political tenures in various offices have remained untainted have created the erroneous impression that all political office holders in Nigeria are corrupt.Onwubiko said: “This is a fallacy with far reaching negative implication for the standing in the international community of civilised nations of the Nigerian Nation State.”
HURIWA noted that it has become imperative for it to go public with this information so Nigerians would be made aware of the existence of many phantom groups, whose major preoccupation is to stoke the embers of hatred against targeted high profile Nigerians just because such persons may not have agreed to be blackmailed into paying huge pay outs to such professional and career blackmailers.
Onwubiko said: “These evil intentioned Nigerians are exploiting the notorious fact that corruption as a major factor that contributed to the underdevelopment of Nigeria has understandably forced the current government to focus extensively on waging anti-graft war.”
HURIWA, however, warned against the deployment of crude and illegal process of mass hysteria and choreographed media trial to engage in the ongoing crusade to eradicate corruption and economic crimes.
Onwubiko said: “We urge officials of EFCC to strive to maintain high professional decorum even as they relentlessly chase after corrupt politicians.
“EFCC as an agency set up by law must operate within the ambit of the principle of rule of law and abide by all constitutional provisions.
“We were approached by some professional political blackmailers from Delta State to make our organization available to be used as a weapon of mass politically motivated battle against the person and character of the former governor of Delta State but we declined on the ground that the allegations against Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan are not only false but are well-orchestrated campaign of calumny meant to prepare the ground for the media trial of the immediate past governor.
“We also declined to participate because we know with available records that as the governor of Delta State, Dr. Uduaghan carried out landmark programmes and projects that significantly improved greater respect to the Human Rights of Delta State residents.
“The then administration transparently handed over to the current administration.
“As a credible Civil Society platform that has been on the ground for 10 years now, HURIWA meticulously monitored the immediate past administration of Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan and we can without any fear of contradiction assert that with the evidence at our disposal, those allegations being bandied about are frivolous, unsubstantiated, malicious and lacks credibility.
“How on Earth could the former governor have pocketed a whooping N800 billion and was able to consistently pay salaries for eight years and implemented far-reaching impactful projects for the people of Delta State?
“Our fundamental reason for not making our platform available for media trial of politically exposed persons who we know had discharged their constitutional duties creditably is because the abundance of provisions in the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria of 1999 that frowns against media trial of all persons.
“Specifically, Section 36 (1) provides thus: ‘In the determination of his civil rights and obligations, including any question or determination by or against any government or authority, a person shall be entitled to a fair hearing within a reasonable time by a court or other tribunal established by law and constituted in such manner as to secure its independence and impartiality.’
“Importantly Section 36 (5) has it that even when any person has been charged in the competent court of law, the person is presumed innocent until proven guilty.
“We use this medium to appeal to reputable groups in the organized civil society community not to allow the current economic recession to push them into making their organizations available for the political witch-hunt.”
HURIWA reasoned that those championing these campaigns of calumny have ulterior motives to railroad the judiciary into passing thoughtful verdicts against their perceived political opponents whenever the anti-graft agency is arm twisted to head to court.
It added: “It is our conviction that EFCC will not allow blackmailers to push them into embarking on wild goose chase which will cost taxpayers billions of cash that could have been deployed to provide social services and other democracy dividends.
“Judicial independence is essentially composed of two foundations (i.e individual and institutional) that cumulatively ensure the independence of the judiciary.
“Independence of the judiciary means that every judge is free to decide matters before him in accordance with his assessment of the facts and his understanding of the law, without any improper influences, inducement, or pressures, direct or indirect, in any quarter or for any reason; and that the judiciary is independent of the executive and legislature, and has jurisdiction directly, or indirectly, or by way of review, over all issues of a judicial nature 15.
“See ‘Judicial Independence: the contemporary debate’, Shimon Shetreet and Jules Deschenes eds: 1985.
“Justice Musdapher also reminds us that: ‘Impartiality is essential to the proper discharge of the judicial office. It applies not only to the decision itself but also to the process by which decisions are made. Judges must perform their judicial duties without favour, bias or prejudice and ensure that their conduct both in and out of court maintains and enhances the confidences of the public, the legal profession and the litigants in the impartiality of the judicial system.’
“As a Civil Society group active in the media, we are aware of the existence of verifiable documentary evidence to show that the last administration in Delta State achieved many landmark projects that improved human development such as the following: “100 bed Mother & Child Unit at Central Hospital in Warri; Upgrade renal unit (including installation of chemotherapy machine) at Central Hospital in Warri; Construction of 18km Trans Ode Itsekiri road project, including 24 bridges; Construction of Internal roads in Ode Itsekiri; Dualization of Okumagba Avenue and Deco Roads in Warri; Commissioning of 300 kilometers of streetlights in Warri, Asaba, Ughelli and Sapele; Uplifting and improvement work at Jakpa and Enerhen Junctions; Construction of flyover at Effurun Roundabout; Construction of 169 kilometres Federal Government owned Ughelli -Asaba highway including completion of section B of the Road; Payment for West African Examination Council Exam for SS3 students for seven years; Free education for primary and secondary pupils and students; Payment of bursary and scholarship for Delta State students in higher institutions; Payment of N5 million to first class graduates from any institution of higher learning to pursue postgraduate studies anywhere in the world; Free maternal care from conception till delivery, including caesarian section (surgery); Free health care for children from zero to five years and elderly above 65 years; Free Mobile clinic to boost rural health care; provision of more than 1000 Buses and Taxis as intervention into the transportation sector, including the construction of modern bus stops and parks; Subsidising of transport fares of mass transit buses by 50 per cent and free buses for children in public schools; Dualization of Refinery Road in Warri; Completion of Jakpa Road Dualization; Completion of the Odion Road/Cemetery Road; amongst others.
“Whilst not holding a brief for ex-Governor Uduaghan, we make haste to denounce the current blackmail in a section of the media and advice the relevant agencies to play by the Rule of Law.”