PEOPLE RUSH FOR public offices. Some do so with a good intention to serve the common good of the people, while others, unfortunately, aspire to public office to serve themselves and their selfish interests. The problem is that it can be very difficult to know who aspires to office without the interest of the people at heart because so many of our politicians are insincere. During campaign, for instance, every one of them sounds like the long-awaited messiah, who has the solution to all our problems in this country. They promise heaven and earth, and some actually succeed in doing one good thing or the other, temporarily, when and because they know that they need our ballot. But, sooner or later, it all turns out to be just a camouflage, a bait to catch the big fish, that is, victory in the elections. As we have seen in this country repeatedly, it is only when they have been elected, and have taken the oath of office, when they have become the officer in charge that is when they begin to display their true colour, and their real nature becomes evident. It is sad, and is unfair.

Public offices exist for the important functions which the office holders must exercise for the common good of the society. Unfortunately, in this country, the way some people in leadership positions neglect with impunity the obligations of their office shows that many of them assumed public office to serve and enrich themselves. It is not unlikely that they falsely swore an oath of allegiance to be loyal to Nigeria Constitution. It is, in other words, as if, always or for the most part, they premeditated the crime. Otherwise, how could they go on for so long without regrets, without the least remorse. They are going about as if all is normal, doing business as usual, completely unmoved by the pain and suffering of the people who elected them into office.

The recent phenomenon of callous and barbaric massacre of innocent Nigerian citizens in cold blood by Fulani Herdsmen, and lack of appropriate legal action on the part of Mr. President and some state governors is a worrisome saga that puts a big question mark on the genuineness of their intentions in ascending to their various offices and on the effectiveness of the criminal justice system in Nigeria.

Fundamental human rights are recognized in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in Chapter IV Section 34-48 (these fundamental human rights are: right to life, right to personal property, right to respect for the dignity of his/her person, to personal liberty, freedom of thought and expression, to privacy, freedom of religion etc). On the right to life the 1999 Constitution states: “Every person has a right to life, and no one shall be deprived intentionally of his life, save in execution of the sentence of a court in respect of a criminal offence of which he has been found guilty in Nigeria” (1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended 2010, Section 33). This fundamental human right to life is violated at will in our country today and the perpetrators of the acts are going about their business undisturbed.

We have witnessed in this country mass killings of people in Benue State, Enugu State, beheading of a woman preacher in Kano, abominable and disheartening slaughter of Christians in southern Kaduna, and the most recent mass murder of people again in Benue state to mention but a few. Till now no adequate action has been taken to prosecute those responsible for these crimes against humanity. They are still moving about in our midst, unrestrained; and who knows who will be their next target.

Being saddened by these painful incidents in our motherland, one cannot help asking the following questions: Why this silence on the part of those responsible to act in situations likes these in order to defend the fundamental right to life? Moreover, if and when one in a leadership position as a President, or as a State Governor fails in his duty, what provisions are there in the Constitution to take action against him or her because of neglect of duty of office?

That is precisely the purpose of this paper. It aims at exploring the constitutional provisions as regards the duty of public officers to protect life, and the action to be taken against those who fail in this respect. This paper also calls for an immediate action to be taken to uncover and prosecute those who have committed the abominable acts already mentioned above. The inaction on the part of Nigerian authorities in the face of the deaths of innocent Nigerians at the hands of heartless delinquents is not only unfair, but also constitutes a grave injustice to humanity as a whole.

The introductory part of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (1999) states as follows:

We the People of the Federal Republic of Nigeria: Having firmly and solemnly resolved: To Live in unity and harmony as one indivisible and indissoluble Sovereign Nation under God dedicated to the promotion of inter-African solidarity, world peace, international co-operation and understanding: And To Provide for a Constitution for the purpose of promoting the good government and welfare of all persons in our country on the principles of Freedom, Equality and Justice, and for the purpose of consolidating the unity of our people: Do Hereby Make and Give to Ourselves the following Constitution  (1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria As Amended 2010 with Fundamental Rights, introductory part).

The supremacy of the Constitution is affirmed thus: “This Constitution is supreme and its provisions shall have binding force on the authorities and persons throughout the Federal Republic of Nigeria.” (1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as Amended 2010, Chapter 1, Section 1).

No one and no authority is above the law. Nigerian Constitution made this clear affirming that “It shall be the duty and responsibility of all organs of government, and of all authorities and persons, exercising legislative, executive or judicial powers, to conform to, observe and apply the provisions of this Constitution” (1999 Constitution as Amended 2010, Chapter II, section 13).

Nigerian Constitution provides for the existence of the three tiers of power (Legislative, executive and judicial), each of these has specific responsibilities or functions to discharge and is subject to the provision of the Constitution. That is to say that they are at the service of the Constitution, to see to its implementation and application.

The legislative power of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is vested in a National Assembly consisting of a Senate and a House of Representatives. “The National Assembly has the power to make laws for peace, order and good government (governance) of the Federation or any part thereof with respect to any matter included in the Executive Legislative List set out in Part 1 of the Second Schedule in the Constitution” (1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as Amended 2010, Chapter I, Section 4 (2). - To be continued

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