Nigeria is no doubt a victim of long years of the locusts. In the prophetic words of Professor Chinua Achebe in his book 'THE TROUBLE WITH NIGERIA', there is nothing absolutely wrong with the Nigerian climate but the problem of Nigeria according to him, is failure of leadership.
As a result of the cumulative consequences of failure of leadership which has visited devastating social-economic realities like mass poverty; unprecedented insecurity and corruption, Nigerians as a collective do not always appreciate some good Nigerians whenever they show some of the rare attributes of patriotism such as volunteering to work to rid Nigeria of all traces of social crime.
But in the case of citizen Emmanuel Osita Okereke, a red-cap chief from Imo State, he has so far witnessed twists and turns and what may be considered as the good and ugly sides of appreciation and lack of appreciation for one of the rarest attributes of patriotism - that of setting up a task force alongside other patriotic Nigerians to assist law enforcement agencies to check the flow of illegal firearms and weapons.
Only last year, he was among the very few Nigerians that President Goodluck Jonathan identified and showered with the national honour of officer of the order of the Niger particularly for his contributions to the growth of democracy and respect for the rule of law. This gentleman has consistently played significant role in national politics since 1999.
But few months after he was honoured by Nigeria, a trumped up charge of running an illegal anti-firearm taskforce came up which culminated in the media trial and celebration by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) which also alleged that the national taskforce to combat illegal importation of goods, small arms, ammunition and light weapons headed by chief Emmanuel Osita Okereke was a syndicate used to extort money from unemployed Nigerians with promise of job placements.
Okereke, alongside his other officials stridently denied this allegation by the anti-graft body and indeed headed to the Federal High Court, Abuja division to challenge a purported letter by Federal ministry of finance disbanding the said taskforce. Those named as respondents were the minister of Finance Dr. (Mrs.) Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala; the Federal ministry of Finance; and the Inspector General of Police Mr. Mohammed Dikko Abubakar.
Alongside several prayers, the most salient was the request for the order of the Federal High Court, of certiorari quashing the decision of the minister of Finance which purports to have disbanded the National taskforce to combat importation of illegal weapons in a letter dated January 5th 2011.
Okereke and his other patriotic Nigerians told the court that government's decision offends the rules of natural justice; lacks fair hearing; amounted to official falsehood; was arbitrary and was done in bad faith.
Besides, the plaintiffs-Importers Association of Nigeria; and National Taskforce to combat illegal importation of goods, small arms, ammunitions and light weapons; asked the court for a declaration that it is not within the executive and/or administrative powers of the minister of finance to order or direct the disbandment of the anti-illegal arms taskforce being a private public partnership initiative of the Applicant for combating illegal importation of goods, small arms, ammunition and light weapons pursuant to international treaties and convention, notwithstanding the letter purporting disbandment.
Okereke and his fellow Nigerians who constituted the anti-illegal weapons taskforce also challenged the move by the Nigerian customs to interfere in the discharge of the patriotic job of the group of Nigerians who are worried that illegal weapons have infiltrated the nation's cities through all Channels.
The Court was asked to restrain all security agencies from disturbing the activities of the national taskforce against importation of illegal weapons.
The Federal High Court granted the prayers and ordered thus; 'That an Order of Certiorari is hereby issued quashing the decision of the minister of finance and the ministry of finance contained in the letter with reference No. F2756/T/168 DATED 5th January 2011. Same having breached the Rules of Natural Justice; and 'That the letter with No. F2756/T/68 dated 5th January, 2011 directing the immediate disbandment of the 2nd Applicant based upon a unilateral letter Ref. No. NCS/ADM/MGT/018/C9/Vol. IX dated 10th November, 2010 is hereby declared null and void and of no effect".
Justice E.S. Chukwu's verdict has been applauded as timely.
Few days after this landmark court verdict, the security agencies arrested some Lebanese including the owner of popular Amigo Supermarket Abuja for allegedly importing huge weapons of mass destruction which were allegedly found concealed in an underground bunker erected by the three foreign terrorism suspects.
The question on the lips of Nigerians is why is the Nigerian customs trying to stop other patriotic Nigerians from working independently to stop the illegal importation of weapons? Why did the Nigerian custom failed spectacularly to stop the over flow of illegal weapons into Nigeria thereby constituting serious threats to the lives and property of Nigerians?
Emmanuel Osita Okereke
* Emmanuel Onwubiko; Head; Human Rights Writers’ Association of Nigeria; blogs @ www.huriwa.blogspot.com; www.huriwa.org.