Human rights lawyer, Femi Falana, has told the Oba of Lagos, Rilwanu Akiolu, to apologise to the Igbo people in Lagos “without delay” over his controversial statement.
During a courtesy visit by Eze Ndigbos (Igbo traditional rulers) of all the local governments in Lagos at the Oba’s Palace on Sunday, Mr. Akiolu had said that Igbo residents in the state should cast their votes for the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Akinwunmi Ambode, or “perish inside the lagoon.”
In a statement issued on Tuesday, Mr. Falana said the Oba’s diversionary threat is totally unacceptable as it is a mockery of the political objective of national integration.
“It is illegal as it clearly offends Section 42 of the Constitution which has prohibited discrimination on grounds of ethnicity, religion, political opinion, creed or sex,” said Mr. Falana, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria.
“Although the Oba lacks the power to cause anyone to ‘die in the Lagoon within seven days,’ the threat constitutes a violation of the fundamental right of thousands of citizens to life.
“In the case of Director-General of State Security Service v Olisa Agbakoba (1999) 3 N.W.L.R (PT 595) 314 it was held by the Supreme Court that ‘It is not in dispute that the Constitution gives every Nigerian citizen the right to move throughout Nigeria and to reside in any part thereof. It also guarantees to the citizen the right not to be expelled from Nigeria nor be refused entry or exit therefrom.’
“Since the residency right of every citizen is constitutionally guaranteed the Igbo people in Lagos should discountenance the threat of Oba Akiolu.”
The monarch came under severe criticism on Monday, as christian groups and opposition politicians lambasted him for his utterance.
Mr. Falana reminded the Oba that Lagos had continued to provide accommodation for Nigerians from all walks of life, a reason he said accounted for the absence of ‘abandoned properties’ in the state after the civil war.
“From time to time, armed militants and other misguided youths who unleash mindless violence on ‘non indigenes’ have always been called to order by the Government and the people of Lagos State,” Mr. Falana said.
“Indeed, the human-rights community has always kicked against discriminatory policies and ensured that all victims of human rights abuse are defended and protected regardless of their ethnic identity.
“As a senior lawyer, Oba Akiolu ought to have realized that the Electoral Act has not conferred powers on any traditional ruler or any other authority to sanction anyone for voting for a candidate of his or her choice in any election conducted in Nigeria.
“After all, before the just concluded presidential election the Oba adduced reasons why he could not endorse the presidential candidate of the APC, General Mohammadu Buhari (rtd.). He was not harassed or intimidated for exercising his freedom of choice.
“Since the Electoral Act, 2010 as amended has banned any form of hate campaign the Oba is advised to withdraw the threat credited to him and apologize publicly to the Igbo people without any delay.”