On July 31st, 2023, a notice signed by Julius F. Sandy, Secretary to the President, was announced on national radio and put out on social media, informing the general public that it had pleased His Excellency the President to appoint Osman Ibrahim Kanu Esq. as the new Director of Public Prosecutions. Strikingly absent from this announcement was any reference to the fate of Easmon Nguakui Esq., the erstwhile Director of Public Prosecutions. This conspicuous omission has ignited discussions about adherence to the constitutional provisions.
The void of information surrounding Nguakui’s departure caused speculations concerning whether his exit was voluntary or compelled. In light of this uncertainty, many have delved deeper into the latter possibility, focusing mainly on the adherence to the stipulations enshrined within section 66 (12), (13), (14), and (15) of our Constitution. These provisions form the bedrock of safeguards to ensure security of tenure, procedural justice and accountability.
Section 66 (12) unequivocally establishes the criteria for removal, stipulating that the Director of Public Prosecutions may only be relieved of duty on the grounds of incapacity or misconduct. Furthermore, any such removal must strictly adhere to the procedural requirements delineated within the Constitution.
Section 66 (13) outlines a comprehensive process for initiating an investigation into the removal of the Director of Public Prosecutions. It calls for the involvement of the Judicial and Legal Service Commission, which, in consultation with the President, is tasked with establishing a tribunal to assess the situation. This tribunal undertakes an impartial inquiry and subsequently submits its findings and recommendations to the President. Should removal be recommended, it is then effected by the President, pursuant to section 66 (15) of the Constitution. If Nguakui’s departure was a summary dismissal, then the question that naturally arises is whether the stipulated procedures were dutifully followed.
The implications of deviating from this constitutionally prescribed process are profound. Such deviations elicit concerns about how executive decisions can potentially undermine the checks and balances intrinsic to our democratic fabric. Neglecting these provisions jeopardizes the very core of our governance and our commitment to constitutional democracy.
In the past, pro-government lawyers have relied on Supreme Executive Authority cited by the Supreme Court in the Sam Sumana case. When Supreme Executive Authority consistently supersedes constitutional mandates, a critical question emerges: Does our Constitution hold pragmatic significance, or is it relegated to a symbolic existence? If this is left unchecked, the erosion of constitutional norms can lead to a state where the rule of law is weakened, and the fundamental rights of citizens are compromised.
Ideally, the Government should have included an explicit explanation within the press release to reassure citizens about the circumstances surrounding this transition and the scrupulous adherence to due process. Without such clarity, we find ourselves contemplating whether our Constitution’s significance has dwindled to that of a mere historical artefact. Unfortunately, a disconcerting sentiment is taking root – suggesting the gradual sidelining and relegation of our Constitution to the periphery of irrelevance. Observing our Constitution’s gradual descent into the realm of insignificance is undeniably disheartening.