Top lawyers, including a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mr Seyi Sowemimo, said on Wednesday that the culture of impunity must be stopped for democracy to take firm root in Nigeria.
Sowemimo told a correspondent of the News Agency of Nigeria in Lagos that the political class must eliminate impunity and allow parties to make free choices on candidates for democracy to thrive.
Nigeria returned to popular democracy 20 years ago after a ruinous military era that left Africa’s most populous nation prostrate.
On June 12, an election, described as free and fair that businessman Moshood Abiola was poised to win was annulled by veteran military ruler Ibrahim Babangida.
However, 26 years after the annulment, the Federal Government has immortalized Abiola, endorsing June 12 as Democracy Day.
Sowemimo lauded the government for adopting June 12 as Democracy Day to honour Abiola for his sacrifice in setting the path to democracy.
“l commend the government for taking this type of initiative to have June 12 celebrated.
“When we celebrate people like Abiola, we make it easier for others to make sacrifices for the country.
“However, government must ensure that candidates are not imposed on the electorate during elections. Elections should be made free and fair.
“We still have a long way to go to enjoy the dividends of democracy as we wish because whenever we have elections, we still talk about rigging. It shows that a lot needs to improve,” said Sowemimo.
Another lawyer, Mr Daniel Idibia, told NAN that declaring June 12 as a statutory holiday was not sufficient for democracy.
He said that such declaration would remain mere pronouncement unless the dividends of democracy were widely felt.
“We have a big challenge today were a common sachet water seller needs electricity to refrigerate the water in order to make more sells. A welder who welds steel also needs electricity to do his work.
“We experience strikes by workers in education and health sectors now and then.
“All these challenges affect economic development. Therefore, our leaders should emulate what they see in developed countries to develop our country.”
“Those who annulled June 12 are still alife. I am not aware that they have apologised to Nigerians. They should be made to apologise to Nigerians. That’s the way forward.”
Similarly, another senior lawyer, Mr Ogedi Ogu, said “the acceptance of June 12 as Democracy Day is a wakeup call towards the need for a more grounded and robust democracy in the country.
“Therefore, June 12, having been made Democracy Day now offers Nigerians the needed opportunity to reflect on the sacrifices of our past heroes.”
He noted, however, that democracy had not been fully strengthened since the return of democracy in 1999.
Ogu said that democracy needed to be improved upon especially, in the area of obedience to the rule of law.
He advised that court orders should be obeyed totally and not selectively, stressing that agencies with prosecutorial powers should prosecute anyone found wanting.
Edited by Silas Nwoha