Code of Conduct Tribunal Chairman Drops the Ball When It Matters Most

The Chairman of the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) Umar Danladi, was recently caught on camera physically assaulting a security guard at Banex Plaza in Wuse, Abuja.

In a five-minute video that has gone viral online, Mr Danlandi was seen slapping and kicking a yet-to-be-identified security guard, while police officers suspected to be attached to him were trying to restrain him. The crowd around the scene kept shouting “Go away, go away, go inside your car, respect yourself.”

A plastic bottle was seen hauled at his vehicle while the policemen were struggling to calm Mr Danlandi. The voice from the person filming the scene was heard saying “You are not the most powerful person here, they will beat you here”.

The voice also said in the video clip that the mirror of Mr Danladi’s black sport utility vehicle SUV was smashed. The CCT chairman was eventually pulled back into his vehicle by the policemen. But as the vehicle was leaving the premises, the gate was shut. The vehicle, which had others in its front, was trying to find its way out of the premises when the video ended.

It has become quite a trend for public office holders to abuse their power and position by harassing and victimising ordinary citizens. Sometime ago in 2019 it was the embattled senator representing Adamawa North senatorial district, Elisha Abbo, the youngest Nigerian senator in the current democratic dispensation.

He initially alleged that the video which gained traction on social media was doctored. A CCTV footage however showed the senator assaulting a woman at an adult toy shop in Abuja. The assault was done in the presence of an armed policewoman who instead of assisting the victim arrested her. The action elicited condemnation from all quarters including Abbo’s Peoples Democratic Party. Although he tendered a public apology for his misconduct, the sum of N50m was slammed against the senator by a Nigerian court.

It was only a while before horrid tales from his sordid past was unearthed. Nobody knew Elisha Abbo had a wife who had died. A twitter user, Ndi Kato, shared a picture of Elisha Abbo’s late wife who allegedly died as a result of physical abuse. Prior to her death, several claims bordering on domestic violence were substantiated to buttress the allegations. Dino Melaye also in July 2014 whose first wife left him because of his violence, was accused of beating his second wife.

The case of Justice Danladi Yakubu Umar, nevertheless, appears different. He is known to be a genuinely simple and a down-to-earth figure. Only a few public office holders do not detach themselves from the public, taking out time to connect with the people. The CCT chairman is one of those. It is said that he visits public places without the usual plenitude of security bodies that accompany public office holders of his position. His simplicity and humility is seen in his frequent stops by the roadside to buy roasted plantain and his walk ins into phone reparation plazas. This he does without any bodyguard.

Most Nigerians treat people based on outward appearance. They adore you when you drive a big car armed with a retinue of armed-to-the-hilt security goons. This was where Justice Umar’s simple lifestyle never fails to leave a strong, positive impression because he has always been the “big man” with a difference.

While the trending video where he was caught on camera assaulting a private security man at a popular plaza in Abuja takes so much away from him as a lawyer and someone who should be an example of conduct of persons in public office, his only sin perhaps could have been identifying as an ordinary Nigerian. One fact is, if Justice Umar had appeared with the usual retinue of bodyguards, he probably would have been given more courtesy than he got from the security officer.

It is noteworthy that what brought about the whole incident was over a parking lot which a statement from CCT public relations unit, averred that Justice Umar met vacant and was directly opposite a shop he wanted to make a purchase and fix his phone. This was when the security guard cited him and apparently not knowing who the CCT chairman was, ordered him not pack his car in that particular empty space.

When the CCT chairman asked why, a reasonable explanation was not given to convince him. Justice Umar, being his humble self, did not bother to identify himself. This could have elicited the rude approach and the threat by the security guard to deal with the chairman if he refused to leave the scene.

According to the statement, if the chairman had gone to the plaza to cause trouble or intimidate someone as suggested, he would have gone as a “big man” with his full official paraphernalia, but went alone with his younger brother. The policemen that were seen in the video clip were operating around the plaza that first intervened before the arrival of the police team from Maitama police station.

According to the explanation, a group of people inside the plaza started throwing sharp objects at the CCT chairman’s car that led to a deep cut and dislocation in one of his fingers, causing damage to his car and smashing his windscreen.

Justice Umar’s case is further compounded by a mix of illiteracy and ethnic bigotry from Ibraheem Al-Hassan, the Head, Press and Public Relations Unit of the CCT. Rather than strive to defend his principal or narrate the situation as it is, he decided to add fuel to fire following the bigotry and unnecessary ethnic profiling laden in his press release with talks about Biafra boys. The man has himself attracted more dislike to Umar whereas his very duty is to burnish his image.

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Nevertheless, it important to take a look at what the law says in Section 9 (Abuse of powers) of the Fifth Schedule, Part 1, of the Code of Conduct for Public Officers as contained in the 1999 Constitution. It states that “A public officer shall not do or direct to be done, in abuse of his office, any arbitrary act prejudicial to the rights of any other person knowing that such act is unlawful or contrary to any government policy.”

The CCT was established by law for such purposes as an adjudication unit of the Code of Conduct Bureau, CCB. As Chairman of the CCT, Umar has the legal backing to mete out punishment on any public officer whom his tribunal finds guilty of abuse of powers (office) and consequently impose punishment on such officer, including vacation of office or disqualification from holding any public office for a period not exceeding 10 years.

If stretched within the context of the Criminal Code Act, slapping someone in the manner the learned Umar did is questionable. Assault remains an infraction of the law. It’s even graver if it came from a presumed custodian and defender of the law, especially laws bordering on the conduct of public office holders like Umar.

Umar’s conduct in the viral video is a clear violation of the rights of the assaulted security man. No matter the provocation, the CCT Chairman should never have allowed his temperament get the better of him, especially as he is known for his gentility and humility. He owes that security man and other Nigerians an apology for dropping the ball when it mattered most.

Piercy Mabel

Categories: Features, Politics