When The Punch newspaper decided to investigate the position of the chairman of the defunct National Electoral Commission, Prof. Humphrey Nwosu's claims in a new book, it found, not surprisingly, that ex-military dictator, Ibrahim Babangida, played an active role in the annulment of the June 12, 1993, presidential election.
The investigation showed that Babangida endorsed the invalidation of the historic poll through nine decrees he signed between June 22 and 26, 1993.
Legal experts, some of whom did not want to be named, on Monday, said his actions through the decrees made nonsense of the claim by Nwosu, that Babangida should not be blamed for the annulment.
They told our correspondents that some of the decrees ousted the jurisdiction of the courts to entertain any legal action in respect of the election.
Nwosu had at the public presentation of his book, ”Laying the Foundation for Nigeria‘s Democracy: My Account of June 12, 1993 Presidential Election and its Annulment,” stunned many Nigerians when he absolved Babangida of blame in the infamous act.
He had said that, Babangida did not annul the election but some of his civilian friends and senior military colleagues were the masterminds”.
The professor of Political Science added that in spite of a series of plots by a military cabal to stop the election from holding, NEC, through Babangidas cooperation, still went ahead with it.
But the nine decrees, which were obtained by our correspondents in Lagos, showed that the former military President endorsed the annulment in order to prevent the winner of the poll, the late Chief M.K.O. Abiola, from actualising his mandate.
For instance, Section 2 (1) of the ”Presidential Election (Basic Constitutional and Transitional Provisions) (Repeal) Decree 39 of 1993 states, Notwithstanding anything contained in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1979, as amended, the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act or any other enactment, no proceedings shall lie or be instituted in any court for or on account of any act, matter or thing done or purported to be done in respect of this decree.
Sub-section (2) of the decree which also backed the annulment of the poll states, Accordingly, if any proceeding has been instituted on or before or instituted after the commencement of this decree, such proceeding shall abate, be discharged and made void.”
Also, the Transition to Civil Rule (Political Programme (Amendment) Decree 40 of 1993 also states that, If any proceeding has been instituted on or before or instituted after the commencement of this decree, such proceeding shall abate, be discharged and made void.”
Section (2) of the Presidential Election (Invalidation of Court Order etc) Decree 41 of 1993 also barred the courts from inquiring into any dispute on the election.
The section states, Accordingly, if any proceeding has been instituted on or before or instituted after the commencement of this Decree, such proceeding shall abate, be discharged and made void.”
Realising the challenges that the annulment might cause the polity, Babangida also okayed the ” Transition to Civil Rule (Disqualification and Prohibition of Certain Presidential Aspirants) (Repeal) Decree 42 of 1993 to allow certain presidential aspirants, who were previously banned from contesting the election to stand for elections in the future.”
The other decrees promulgated by the Babangida junta are:
Decrees 36 and 48 of 1993 which proscribed The News Magazine, Concord Group of Newspapers, Punch Newspapers, Sketch Newspaper, and Observer Newspapers. The decrees came into being in order to prevent the media from reporting comments and activities geared towards the actualisation of the June 12 poll;
The Newspapers Decree 43 of 1993 which prescribed stringent conditionalities for the registration of new magazines and newspapers.
Decree 58 of 1993 which paved way for an Interim National Government;
The ING (Basic Constitutional Provisions) Decree 61 of 1993 under which the ING headed by Chief Ernest Shonekan was constituted;
The National Guard Decree 63 of 1993 to arrest, detain and prosecute subversive elements in the society.
Decree 62 of 1993 which extended the tenure of the ING to April 1, 1994 for the purpose of holding a fresh presidential election.
Two Senior Advocates of Nigeria Prof. Itse Sagay and Prof. Taiwo Osipitan as well as the President of the West African Bar Association, Mr. Femi Falana, said nobody else but Babangida should accept responsibility for the annulment of the June 12 poll.
Sagay said, Even in the absence of any decrees, which Babangida signed, he was the Head of State of the country. He was the leader of everybody by virtue of his position as the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces.
IBB should take full responsibility for the annulment of June 12, 1993 election.
As for Prof. Nwosu, he should just retire out of the politics of Nigeria and from the minds of Nigerians. For 15 years, he has been keeping quiet. So, we do not need him now or at any other time.”
Osipitan said, Whether Babangida had a hand in the annulment of June 12, 1993 election or not is a question for politicians to answer.
I am not a politician. I am a lawyer and a teacher. But in my view, Babangida had the powers to make laws by means of decrees as Head of State. By the provisions of the decrees, the constitutional powers vested in our courts do not extend to the challenge of the validity or legality of a decree. In this regard, there have been judgments that validated this position.”
Commenting, Falana said, It is intellectually dishonest on the part of Nwosu to exonerate Babangida who enacted and signed into law all the aforesaid annulment decrees.”
Many people, who spoke at the presentation of the June 12 book, described Nwosus account of the annulment of the poll as a public relations stunt for the former military President.
The ex-dictator had on many occasions stated that he accepted full responsibility for his actions as the military President between 1985 and 1993.