The news of the dethronement and banishment of the former Emir of Kano on the 9th of March, 2020 by the Governor of the State which appeared in both print and electronic media is no longer a rumor as a new Emir of Kano has been appointed by the latter in the person of Aminu Ado Bayero the same day.
This perdurable development has generated hues and cries from political pundits, legal minds and concerned citizens in different quarters and divided.
While some have condemned in totality the action of the Governor some others have hailed the Governor for standing his ground against the dethroned Emir of the Kano Emirate.
It is however apposite to consider the constitutionality and legality of the act of the Kano state Governor in the spotlight of the 1999 Constitution and other relevant authorities.
Whether the Governor of a State has the Power to Dethrone and Banish a Traditional Ruler
The Governor of a State is the chief executive of the State and his powers is derived from a combined reading of section 4(7) and 5(2) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended).
Section 4(7) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 provides that:
(7) The House of Assembly of a State shall have power to make laws for the peace, order and good government of the State or any part thereof with respect to the following matters, that is to say:- (a) any matter not included in the Exclusive Legislative List set out in Part 1 of the Second Schedule to this Constitution; (b) any matter included in the Concurrent Legislative List set out in the first column of Part II of the Second Schedule to this Constitution to the extent prescribed in the second column opposite thereto; and (c) any other matter with respect to which it is empowered to make laws in accordance with the provisions of this constitution.
The executive powers of a Governor of a State shall come into operation, namely, to execute, or maintain laws enacted by a State House of Assembly within that State. The executive powers of the Governor are derived from Section 5(2) of the Constitution which reads as follows:
(2) Subject to the provisions of this Constitution, the executive powers of a State:- (a) shall be vested in the Governor of that State and may, subject as aforesaid and to the provisions of any law made by a House of Assembly, be exercised by him either directly or through the Deputy Governor or Commissioners of the Government of that State or officers in the State; and (b) shallextend to the execution and maintenance of this constitution, al laws made by the House of Assembly of that State and to all matters with respect to which the House of Assembly has for the time being power to make laws. (3) The executive powers vested in a State under subsection (2) of this section, shall be exercised as not to:- (a) Impede or prejudice the exercise of the executive powers of the Federation; (b) Endanger any assets or investment of the Government of the Federation in a State; or (c) Endanger the continuation of a Federal Government in Nigeria.
Flowing from the above, it presupposes therefore that the Governor of a State has the powers to execute, or maintain laws enacted by a State House of Assembly within that State.
In 2019, the Kano State House of Assembly passed into law, the Emirate Law 2019 which empowers the Governor of the State to reprimand, remove and banish an erring traditional ruler in the state.
It is therefore succinct to state that the Governor of Kano State has the Constitutional power to remove/dethrone the Emir of Kano State. However, such removal must be within the circumference of the law and due process must be followed.
In the Supreme Court decision of Akuneziri v. Okenwa & Ors (2000) LPELR-393(SC), the Apex Court held that the power to appoint and remove a traditional ruler is vested in the Governor of a state pursuant to the enabling laws of the House of Assembly of the State.
The Apex Court held inter alia that :
I also agree with learned counsel for the 1strespondent that under Imo State Chieftaincy Law No. 22 of 1978, the authority to remove a traditional ruler is the Governor. He does so by withdrawal of the certificate of recognition issued to the traditional ruler which signified his appointment.
In the instant case, the question to ask is whether due process of law was followed by the Kano State Executive Council?
In the instance, the argument of the Kano State Government is that Alhaji Muhammad Sanusi II is in total disrespect to lawful instructions from the office of the Governor and other lawful authorities and that the latter has violated part 3 of section 13 (a) – (e) of the Kano State Emirate Law 2019.
It is pertinent to recall that Alhaji AMuhammad Sanusi II was not given the opportunity to defend himself neither was he given fair hearing which is against the twin pillar of justice: Similarly, Alhaji Muhammad Sanusi II has challenged the actions of the Kano State Executive Council in Court and the courts have severally quashed the decisions of the latter.
It is also pertinent to recall that sometimes in 1963, the Emir of Kano Muhammadu Sanusi I was removed/dethroned by the Sardauna of Sokoto and in 2005, and the Governor of Kebbi State dethroned the Emir of Gwandu, HRH Alhaji Al-Mustapha Jokolo and banished him to Nasarawa State.
HRH Alhaji Al-Mustapha Jokolo approached the Court to challenge his banishment vide fundamental action. The Court of Appeal in Attorney General & Commissioner of Justice, Kebbi State v. HRH Alhaji Al-Mustapha Jokolo & Ors. (2013) LPELR_22349(CA) upholding the judgment of the trial Court held inter alia that:
The sum total of it is that the Governor was not only satisfied in dethroning the 1strespondent as the 19th Emir of Gwandu, but showed no respect to his dignity as an individual by inhuman and degrading treatment, where he was held like a slave, contrary to Section 34(1)(a)-(b) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999. What the Governor’s agents did constituted slavery. Slavery is a situation in which one person has absolute power over the life, fortune, and liberty of another. Furthermore, the forceful removal and handcuffing of the 1st respondent from the National Hospital Abuja was to ensure that he did not travel to the United States of America for further medical attention. But Section 41(1) of the Constitution does not confer such powers on the Governor. I think his conduct was calculated to endanger the life of the 1st respondent contrary to the provisions of section 33(1) of the Constitution which provides that “Every person has a right to life and no one shal be deprived intentional y of his life, save in execution of the sentence of a court in respect of a criminal offence of which he has been found guilty.” Furthermore, Section 34(1) of the Constitution provides that, “Every individual is entitled to respect for the dignity of his person, and accordingly (a) no person shal be subjected to torture or to inhuman degrading treatment; (b) no person shal be held in slavery or servitude; and (c) no person shal be required to perform forced or compulsory labour.” Per TUR, J.C.A. (Pp. 66-67, paras. F-C)
What could be gleaned from the decision of the Court of Appeal above is that the Governor of a state has no right to act outside the clear and unambiguous provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 to deprive a dethroned traditional ruler his fundamental rights.
Section 35 (1) of the said Constitution provides that:
Every citizen of Nigeria is “entitled to his personal liberty and no person shall be deprived of such liberty” except in the circumstances set out in subsections (a) to (f) thereof.
Section 40 of the same Constitution provides that:
Every person is entitled to assemble freely and associate with other persons”. On the issue at hand.
Section 41(1) of the Constitution is germane and it provides thus:
Every citizen of Nigeria is entitled to move freely throughout Nigeria and to reside in any part thereof, and no citizen of Nigeria shall be expelled from Nigeria or refused entry thereto or exit therefrom. (2) Nothing in subsection (1) of this section shall invalidate any law that is reasonably justifiable in a democratic society – (a) imposing restrictions on the residence or movement of any person who has committed or is reasonable suspected to have committed a criminal offence in order to prevent him from leaving Nigeria; or (b) providing for the removal of any person from Nigeria to any other country to – (i) be tried outside Nigeria for any criminal offence, or (i ) undergo imprisonment outside Nigeria in execution of the sentence of a court of law in respect of a criminal offence of which he has been found guilty: Provided that there is reciprocal agreement between Nigerian and such other country in relation to such matter.
From the foregoing, it is therefore clear as the day light that the banishment and deportation from Kano State by the Governor of Kano State on or about the 9th of March, 2020 of Alhaji Muhammad Sanusi II to Nasarawa State as reported, is most unconstitutional, and illegal.
By the said banishment and deportation, Alhaji Lamido Sanusi has been, unduly and wrongfully denied his constitutional rights “to respect for the dignity of his person”; “to assemble freely and associate with other persons” – including the people of Kano Emirate of KanoState; and to “move freely throughout Nigeria and to reside in any part thereof” as respectively provided in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999.
Suffices to note that though some persons have argued that the Emirate Law, 2019 allows for the banishment of a deposed Emir, it suffices to state that such provision is against the enshrined provisions of the Constitution and as such it is void ab initio pursuant to section 1(3) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
One point must be stated clearly; Nigeria has moved from the Medieval era and gone beyond the era when British Administrative officers appointed to administer Colonial Territories and Protectorates could at the shout of Jack Robinson, dethrone and deport native chiefs or emirs, restricting their movement to certain geographical locations within or beyond their domain in the name of the Queen of England. In a democratic system, right of law and respect for the civil rights and obligations of persons residing in this country must take the centre stage and repugnant laws and practices must give way to sacrosanct provisions of the Constitution.
From whatever angle one considers the issue at hand, the Governor of a State has the power to recognize and remove a traditional ruler pursuant to an enabling law of the State House of Assembly. However, the Governor of a state not being a law enforcement agency cannot deprive a citizen, the enjoyment of his/her fundamental right as enshrined in Chapter IV of the 1999 Constitution.
In the circumstance, it is imperative to state that if those entrusted with the power to govern or rule Nigeria have no respect to the traditional institution or the citizens, how could these personalities be respected abroad? That will not be possible as charity must begin at home.