Femi Falana, a senior advocate of Nigeria (SAN), says national security is subject to the rule of law.
He said President Muhammadu Buhari should not place government security above the security of individual Nigerians.
Falana made the remark during a presentation at the 2018 conference of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) in Abuja on Wednesday.
The human rights lawyer made reference to the president’s comment that his administration will not sacrifice issues of national security for the rule of law.
Buhari had made the remark while delivering the opening address at the NBA conference on Monday.
“The rule of law must be subject to the supremacy of the nation’s security and national interest,” Buhari had said.
But in his presentation, Falana said Nigeria’s political history has subjugated the rule of law at the detriment of protecting the rights of Nigerians.
“Owing to the refusal of the civilian wing of the political class to demilitarize the polity there has been unsettled debate over the primacy of national security over the rule of law,” he said.
“The debate over the clash between the rule of law and national security has been reopened by President Mohammadu Buhari at this conference when he enjoined Nigerian lawyers and judges to realise that national security takes precedence over the rule of law.
“A few days before then, the President had threatened to jail looters who had sabotaged the security of the nation by diverting huge funds earmarked for the development of the country.
“It is implied in the presidential declaration that the alleged looters cannot be jailed without a trial conducted in criminal courts under the rule of law.
“Majority of political office holders in the country are not committed to the observance of the rule of law. In place of the rule of the rule of law the political system has enthroned the rule of might or rule of rulers.”
Falana said placing security of the state above the interests of individual citizens “creates a false dichotomy” that should be avoided.
“It is therefore important for Nigeria to strive to nurture the synergies between the two, and to incorporate human rights into national security strategies,” he said.
“I firmly believe that both security and human rights can fully coexist and are absolutely necessary to prevent breakdown of law and order.
“I posit that the purpose of national security should be to protect democracy and enhance democratic principles.”