Victor Ogunje in Ado Ekiti
As legal fireworks begin to trail the shunning of the summon issued by the House of Representatives to President Muhammadu Buhari to appear before it, a legal giant, Chief Afe Babalola (SAN), has said the president was grossly misled into shunning the invitation.
The founder of Afe Babalola University, Ado Ekiti condemned in strong terms the refusal of President Buhari to appear before the lower chamber of the National Assembly to give explanation on the country’s security challenges.
Babalola said it was disheartening that Buhari could be ill-advised by the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), and some governors of the All Progressives Congress (APC) to cancel the invitation he had earlier agreed to honour.
The legal luminary spoke in ABUAD, Ado-Ekiti, on Sunday, while receiving an Award of Excellence bestowed on him by the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA), Akure Branch, under the chairmanship of Mr. Rotimi Olorunfemi.
He stated that President Buhari is under legal obligation to appear before the National Assembly when the need arises, adding that the invitation was prudent on the part of the legislative arm to find a lasting solution to the insecurity in the country.
“It is disheartening and saddening that President Muhammadu Buhari refused to appear before the National Assembly to address issue germane to livelihood of Nigerians. If the Parliament invites the president, it is a legal obligation for him to appear before it. I don’t know whether they summon him but I thought they would have invited him.
“If he was summoned, then that gives room for disobedience. But if it was invitation, he ought to have appeared by way of courtesy to those people. After all, the National Assembly is the legislative body of this country. They made the law and expect the president to carry out the law. If I were in that position, I would have gone. Fortunately, he wanted to go and told the whole world that he was going to appear until he was ill-advised not to go,” he added.
Babalola appealed to President Buhari to have a rethink and reverse his decision in the best interest of Nigerians, saying this will help in regaining the lost trust of the disillusioned Nigerians.
He expressed concern that the security situation in the country had deteriorated, saying there has been upsurge in killings, kidnapping, insurgency, banditry and other manifestations of insecurity across the country.
He stated that the government must take immediate and frontal steps to arrest the situation by restructuring the country’s security architecture and provide enough modern equipment to effectively combat the hydra-headed insecurity.
The ABUAD founder condemned the National President of the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS), Sunday Asefon, for threatening to shut down all private universities if the ongoing strike in public universities is not resolved.
He said it was not only disappointing but also appalling for Asefon, who claimed to a progressive-minded individual fighting for the greater interest of the Nigerian students, to contemplate closing down private universities.
He said rather than leading onslaughts against private universities, the NANS president should direct his vengeance to the federal government and the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) to seek a lasting solution to the lingering industrial action.
“NANS president is not the NUC, Minister of Education. What power does he has to shut down private universities. If has no such power, it means he’s going to resort to violence. I think the police need to take necessary action against him,” Babalola said.
The NBA Chairman, Akure Branch, Olorunfemi, said Babalola was conferred with the association’s grand patron for his incalculable contributions to the development of Nigeria’s legal system and jurisprudence through advocacy in courts of law and scholarship.
He described Babalola as a titan in the study and practice of law, whose exploits in the legal realm transcend the shores of Nigeria and Africa, adding that the legal icon has carved a special niche for himself on the international grid of excellence as a “walking encyclopedia of the law profession”.
Olorunfemi stated that Babalola’s litany of achievements in all spheres of human life, including education, agriculture and law are not a fluke but full of diligence, dedication, hard work and sacrifice.