A trader named his dog “Buhari” after Nigerian president Muhammad Buhari, and he was arrested by the Ogun State police.
Joe Chinakwe, who lives in Ogun State was released only to be rearrested on Saturday, August 20, and is being charged to court. What are his charges?
The charges leveled against Chinakwe according to the Ogun State police command is in Section 249 (1) (d) of the Criminal Code Cap 29 Vol.11 laws of Ogun State of Nigeria 2006:
“The provision is to the effect that “every person who, in any public place, conducts himself in a manner likely to cause a breach of the peace” shall be deemed idle and disorderly persons, and may be arrested without warrant, and shall be guilty of a simple offence, and shall be liable to imprisonment for one month.”
Here is what the law says about the Ogun State police versus the man who named his dog Buhari:
Section 36 (12) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) states thus,
“Subject as otherwise provided by this Constitution, a person shall not be convicted of a criminal offence unless that offence is defined and the penalty therefore is prescribed in a written law, and in this subsection, a written law refers to an Act of the National Assembly or a Law of a State, any subsidiary legislation or instrument under the provisions of a law.”
According to Inibehe Effiong, a legal practitioner and convener of the Coalition of Human Rights Defenders, COHRD, the correct test for determining whether a conduct is likely to cause a breach of the peace was articulated by the then Federal Supreme Court of Nigeria in a case where it held thus:
“The test to be applied is whether the conduct of the accused was such that a breach of the peace might reasonably have ensued, and the fact that no breach of the peace, in fact, took place is irrelevant.”
Effiong added that “the fact that an individual or a section of the public considers a person’s conduct repulsive and reprehensible does not necessarily bring such conduct within the contemplation of Section 249 (1) (d) of the Criminal Code so as to occasion a likelihood of breach of the peace.”
Mr Joe’s crime has no definition in the Nigerian law as stated till date, therefore he can’t be “conducting himself in a manner likely to breach peace” and can’t be “arrested without warrant” or “imprisoned for a month”.
The simple offense of “breaching peace” comes with “a month imprisonment”. How many people do you encounter daily “causing a breach of peace” including the mad people who roam the street? Still, these ones aren’t imprisoned for a month.
Using the Ogun State criminal code of “Conduct himself” both as a noun and a verb refers to an individual’s composure or ability to comport oneself, which is personal and has nothing to do with anyone or anything else, and is best described in Section 39 (1) of the Nigerian constitution which provides that “Every person shall be entitled to freedom of expression, including freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart ideas and information without interference.”
The questions to ponder on then is, “Is naming a dog Buhari the offense? Or is it because it’s that of a Northerner? Or maybe, the name belongs to a Northerner who is the president? Would it had made a difference if it had been any other Northern name or any other person’s name? If he had named his dog “Obasanjo”, “Tinubu” or “Abubakar” would he have been treated this way?
Till date, Nigerian comedians still use past presidents – who were in power – to make caricature during their shows to the amusement of the audiences. Yet, no comedian has ever been arrested for making a jest of Obasanjo, Tinubu, Yar’adua or Abdusalaam Abubakar.
Rather than arrest a man for a crime he didn’t commit or an act that isn’t criminal by morality or law, shouldn’t the police be educating the ignorant – in this case it refers to a person who doesn’t know naming a dog Buhari isn’t wrong – instead of blowing the case out of proportion.
If harm has been threatened to the man, shouldn’t the police be arresting the people who made the threats? Especially seeing as the accuser isn’t even a Nigerian and just might be deliberately inciting a “breach of peace”?
A name is a name, if Buhari wasn’t the president, would this case have even made news?
The individuals chosen to protect and serve the citizens should be properly educated on the constitution and what constitutes as a crime.
This case would be dismissed from the courts if we lived in a free and fair nation.