Sen. Victor Ndoma-Egba,SAN

Ekwueme, Professional in Politics

30 Oct 2012

 
 
071012F1.Alex-Ekwueme.jpg - 071012F1.Alex-Ekwueme.jpg

Former Vice-President Alex Ekwueme

 

Victor Ndoma-Egba, in this piece, pays tribute to former Vice-President Alex Ekwueme who turned 80 years recently

The distinctive grey that marks out Dr. Alex Ekwueme, his measured gait, dignified visage and carriage have always exuded learning and wisdom- that priceless endowment that must be sought for through prayers and choice. As we celebrate him at 80, ten full years over and above the biblical promise to the faithful, the grey now confirms both age, and wisdom.

Dr. Ekwueme’s story is an open book and I believe his biography will be more appropriately handled by those who are better placed to tell his story; his life’s journey and its nuances, his highs and lows, trials and triumphs, challenges and victories. However the story is told, one thing that will certainly not be missed is that he excelled in every profession, calling or sphere he applied himself to. He is a renowned architect, successful lawyer- he chose law out of passion even as he was at the top of the social ladder- outstanding businessman, notable politician, and easily one of the most remarkable political thinkers and philosophers of our time.

He had at different times presided over the Nigerian Institute of Architects, the Architects Registration Council of Nigeria and Board of Trustees of the Nigerian Institute of Architects where he is perhaps, the longest standing and had run one of the most successful indigenous architectural practices. In the field of architecture, he had nothing more to prove. He therefore had to move on.

In 1979, the return of the military to the barracks which turned out to be temporary, presented the opportunity for Dr. Alex Ekwueme, the professional architect, town planner and lawyer to go into politics. He joined the National Party of Nigeria (NPN), became Vice-President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria with Alhaji Shehu Shagari, a professional teacher, as President.

A professional in politics is one who has made a success of a chosen profession before venturing into politics as against the professional politician, whose livelihood begins and ends with politics. It is assumed that the professional in politics brings value to it as he or she is expected to bring into it, the practical, economic, social, legal viewpoints and values and ethics and discipline of his or her profession, since he or she would have already been successful. Politics is a rare opportunity for service rather than a do or die affair.

Dr. Alex Ekwueme’s thoughts aptly conveyed in his book: “Whither Nigeria? Thoughts on Democracy, Politics and the Constitution” have defined the political discourse of this age and generation. Seminal, focused, determined, diligent- he has shaped our political thoughts, lexicon and politics. The intellectualism, vigour and relentless search for the common good have given our politics today, perhaps, its only redeeming feature. Ordinarily, our politics is said to be crude, ignoble and for never-do-wells .This has been shown not to be exactly so. As demanded by the various professions, we must stand up firmly for our beliefs. This professional exhortation he met when he formed the G34’, along with 33 other very eminent Nigerians to demand democracy and human rights of Gen. Sani Abacha, at grave risk to their personal safety. He dared the tiger and got away with it.

His dignity and integrity remain unaffected even in situations of unmerited and unjustified travails. When he was detained by the Buhari regime when the military unconstitutionally terminated the democratically elected Shagari government, his visage and carriage did not betray the dignity of the elective office that he held.

He represented the hope democracy offered. Thorough investigations after the overthrow showed that he did not use his office to amass personal wealth. Indeed, politics and public office had made him poorer. This was not to discourage him for he believes that professionals who neglect politics cannot, and should not, be heard lamenting its outcomes. Politics may justifiably have earned itself and its practitioners a bad name with its divisiveness, intrigues and avarice.

Today, we celebrate the consummate professional, politician and thinker who had shown that the best should rise to the calling of politics; that politics can be played with intellectualism and character; that if the best don’t get involved, we’ll consign our future to adventurists and fortune seekers. We thank God for Dr Ekwueme’s life and his wife and children who gave him the enabling domestic environment to express his enormous endowments in the service to country and humanity. There has been the eternal argument on whether or not good men in politics would make any difference. His sojourn in politics provides an answer. He certainly has given politics a tolerable face.

Nigerians can only truly celebrate this icon by developing a democratic attitude, mindset, value system and culture- a culture of mental engagement, forthright debate, intellectualism and accommodation. This is the only way we can acknowledge his contributions and sacrifices. He has demonstrated clearly what value the professional can bring to politics which in our environment determines everything.

I thank the Nigerian Institute of Architects for honoring one who not only deserves honour but earned it; a man who has demonstrated that politics can be noble and that rectitude in public life is possible and established the paradigms for the professional in politics- a living legend, scholar and statesman.

I have been active in the 6th and7th Senate in the constitutional review process. I can say categorically that the issues canvassed and that are momentous or topical are issues that have always been canvassed by Dr. Ekwueme and issues that have defined his persona and politics. Until they are resolved, we will remain agitated. Congratulations author of six political zones, author of books, the ultimate professional, thinker and politician. You have earned your place in history, and in our hearts.

May God grant you life to see our democracy mature in form and substance, bring every Nigerian peace and prosperity, give us security and equity, give meaning to human life, give us rectitude in public life, make our public officials see their offices as sacred opportunities for service, give every Nigerian a sense of ownership of the Nigerian project, give us an indivisible country which gives each and everyone something for being Nigerian.

May you live to see our land healed of strife and hatred! May you live to see human life regain its sanctity in our land- a land where though tribe and tongue may differ, in brotherhood we stand.

•Ndoma-Egba, Senate Leader, represents Cross River Central Senatorial District

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Ekwueme, Professional in Politics

Ekwueme, Professional in Politics

30 Oct 2012

Font Size: a / A
071012F1.Alex-Ekwueme.jpg – 071012F1.Alex-Ekwueme.jpg

Former Vice-President Alex Ekwueme

Victor Ndoma-Egba, in this piece, pays tribute to former Vice-President Alex Ekwueme who turned 80 years recently

The distinctive grey that marks out Dr. Alex Ekwueme, his measured gait, dignified visage and carriage have always exuded learning and wisdom- that priceless endowment that must be sought for through prayers and choice. As we celebrate him at 80, ten full years over and above the biblical promise to the faithful, the grey now confirms both age, and wisdom.

Dr. Ekwueme’s story is an open book and I believe his biography will be more appropriately handled by those who are better placed to tell his story; his life’s journey and its nuances, his highs and lows, trials and triumphs, challenges and victories. However the story is told, one thing that will certainly not be missed is that he excelled in every profession, calling or sphere he applied himself to. He is a renowned architect, successful lawyer- he chose law out of passion even as he was at the top of the social ladder- outstanding businessman, notable politician, and easily one of the most remarkable political thinkers and philosophers of our time.

He had at different times presided over the Nigerian Institute of Architects, the Architects Registration Council of Nigeria and Board of Trustees of the Nigerian Institute of Architects where he is perhaps, the longest standing and had run one of the most successful indigenous architectural practices. In the field of architecture, he had nothing more to prove. He therefore had to move on.

In 1979, the return of the military to the barracks which turned out to be temporary, presented the opportunity for Dr. Alex Ekwueme, the professional architect, town planner and lawyer to go into politics. He joined the National Party of Nigeria (NPN), became Vice-President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria with Alhaji Shehu Shagari, a professional teacher, as President.

A professional in politics is one who has made a success of a chosen profession before venturing into politics as against the professional politician, whose livelihood begins and ends with politics. It is assumed that the professional in politics brings value to it as he or she is expected to bring into it, the practical, economic, social, legal viewpoints and values and ethics and discipline of his or her profession, since he or she would have already been successful. Politics is a rare opportunity for service rather than a do or die affair.

Dr. Alex Ekwueme’s thoughts aptly conveyed in his book: “Whither Nigeria? Thoughts on Democracy, Politics and the Constitution” have defined the political discourse of this age and generation. Seminal, focused, determined, diligent- he has shaped our political thoughts, lexicon and politics. The intellectualism, vigour and relentless search for the common good have given our politics today, perhaps, its only redeeming feature. Ordinarily, our politics is said to be crude, ignoble and for never-do-wells .This has been shown not to be exactly so. As demanded by the various professions, we must stand up firmly for our beliefs. This professional exhortation he met when he formed the G34’, along with 33 other very eminent Nigerians to demand democracy and human rights of Gen. Sani Abacha, at grave risk to their personal safety. He dared the tiger and got away with it.

His dignity and integrity remain unaffected even in situations of unmerited and unjustified travails. When he was detained by the Buhari regime when the military unconstitutionally terminated the democratically elected Shagari government, his visage and carriage did not betray the dignity of the elective office that he held.

He represented the hope democracy offered. Thorough investigations after the overthrow showed that he did not use his office to amass personal wealth. Indeed, politics and public office had made him poorer. This was not to discourage him for he believes that professionals who neglect politics cannot, and should not, be heard lamenting its outcomes. Politics may justifiably have earned itself and its practitioners a bad name with its divisiveness, intrigues and avarice.

Today, we celebrate the consummate professional, politician and thinker who had shown that the best should rise to the calling of politics; that politics can be played with intellectualism and character; that if the best don’t get involved, we’ll consign our future to adventurists and fortune seekers. We thank God for Dr Ekwueme’s life and his wife and children who gave him the enabling domestic environment to express his enormous endowments in the service to country and humanity. There has been the eternal argument on whether or not good men in politics would make any difference. His sojourn in politics provides an answer. He certainly has given politics a tolerable face.

Nigerians can only truly celebrate this icon by developing a democratic attitude, mindset, value system and culture- a culture of mental engagement, forthright debate, intellectualism and accommodation. This is the only way we can acknowledge his contributions and sacrifices. He has demonstrated clearly what value the professional can bring to politics which in our environment determines everything.

I thank the Nigerian Institute of Architects for honoring one who not only deserves honour but earned it; a man who has demonstrated that politics can be noble and that rectitude in public life is possible and established the paradigms for the professional in politics- a living legend, scholar and statesman.

I have been active in the 6th and7th Senate in the constitutional review process. I can say categorically that the issues canvassed and that are momentous or topical are issues that have always been canvassed by Dr. Ekwueme and issues that have defined his persona and politics. Until they are resolved, we will remain agitated. Congratulations author of six political zones, author of books, the ultimate professional, thinker and politician. You have earned your place in history, and in our hearts.

May God grant you life to see our democracy mature in form and substance, bring every Nigerian peace and prosperity, give us security and equity, give meaning to human life, give us rectitude in public life, make our public officials see their offices as sacred opportunities for service, give every Nigerian a sense of ownership of the Nigerian project, give us an indivisible country which gives each and everyone something for being Nigerian.

May you live to see our land healed of strife and hatred! May you live to see human life regain its sanctity in our land- a land where though tribe and tongue may differ, in brotherhood we stand.

•Ndoma-Egba, Senate Leader, represents Cross River Central Senatorial District

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NBA presidential gladiators promise to reposition judiciary

NBA presidential gladiators promise to reposition judiciary

EMEKA NGIGE ,SAN CAMPAIGN AGENDA

ONE of the top aspirants to the Presidency of the Nigerian Bar Association election come July, 2012, Barrister Emeka Ngige has vowed to wage war against corruption in the judiciary so as to protect the integrity of the legal profession if elected.

The aspirant, who spoke in Dutse Jigawa State at the weekend at the ongoing two-day seminar with the theme: “Evolution of the Legal System and the Legal Practitioners,” organised by the Dutse branch of the Association were unanimous in their resolve to use their position as the national president of the NBA to ensure the Judiciary was rid of corruption.

Ngige said he would establish anti-corruption committee at every branch of the NBA with the aim of monitoring judges and lawyers.

He added that judiciary would be made to device strategies that would ensure judges that collect bribes were recorded on tape after which they would be tried and dismissed from service just like the sting operation involving Otedola and Farouk Lawan.

The presidential aspirant said he would also fight for the independence of the Judiciary and the bar to ensure that the body actually plays its role as the watchdog of the society.

According to him, “now a lot of things are going wrong in the profession, one is that when matters go to court they stay there ad infinitum, this is one of the challenges the Bar Association should find solution to.

Imagine a criminal matter or civil matter last for about seven to 15 years at the trial court, seven years at the court of appeal and another five years at the Supreme Court, it shouldn’t be.”

He advocated the adoption of the English type of practice in the proposed amendment of the Nigerian constitution whereby we appoint people inform of ad-hoc judges from the pool of lawyers, who will come and clear the backlog of all the cases.

“In such a situation you can bring somebody, who is not sitting in Enugu and you bring him down to Sokoto to help in decongesting the court in Sokoto and then the man who is not sitting in Sokoto you can bring him to Aba, he will also help the court there to clear the backlog, they are taken from the Senior advocates, retired judges and other established lawyers.”

He said another way the backlog of cases could be cleared particularly the criminal matters is to ensure that filing of preliminary objection should be taken at the time of hearing the case not at the beginning. He said allowing objection to be raised at the beginning would make the matter to remain there for the next 15 years.

The chairman of NBA Dutse Brach in his address commended the government of Jigawa State for not interfering with the justice system adding that the NBA enjoys a good working relationship with the government.

He indicated that Governor Sule Lamido recently assented to the Jigawa State Court law making it compulsory for only qualified legal practitioners to be appointed as chief registrar, deputy registrar and the chief inspector of the Sharia Court of Appeal.

 

Okey Wali’s Strategic Agenda

Okey believes there are a lot to be done for the NBA and the profession , but he is limiting himself to the pursuance of some strategic focal points the actualisation of which will leave a positive lasting impact on the association and the judiciary.

To this end, he has initiated six programmes that would serve as the cardinal focus of his administration if given the mandate to lead the association from August this year.

Believing his predecessors, such as Chief T.J.O. Okpoko (SAN), 1998-2000; Chief OCJ Okocha (SAN), 2000-2002; Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), 2002-2004; Chief Bayo Ojo (SAN), 2004-2005; Prince Lanke Odogiyon 2005-2006; Mr Olisa Agbakoba (SAN), 2006-2008; Mr Oluwarotimi Akeredolu (SAN), 2008-2010 and the incumbent Daudu (SAN) had done a lot in the promotion of the profession and the Bar in Nigeria, Wali reckons it would amount to stagnation or institutional reversal of fortune if the laudable legacies of these illustrious predecessors are not consolidated.

Thus, his carefully chosen six-point agenda does not only comprise consolidation objectives but also targets expansive forays into un-trodden areas – to bring revolution into the administration of Nigerian justice system, using NBA as the powerful platform.

These six-point agenda comprise professionalising the secretariat, continuing education for lawyers, institutional collaboration with regional, international organisations, Bar Associations, strengthening and reformation of human rights programmes, capacity building for lawyers at all levels and anti-corruption campaigns.

A comprehensive set of programme of actions have been developed to drive each of these six-cardinal points to procure success commensurate with the vision. Each of these cardinal agenda is highlighted below:

Professionalising the Bar

Driven with the vision to have a modern professional national secretariat that will efficiently co-ordinate the activities of the NBA, I plan to restructure the secretariat by reinforcing and professionalising the quality of its operations via measures like remodelling the management and administrative systems as well as strengthening the various directorates for the optimisation of their performances.

There will also be enhanced financial responsibility of the various organs, proper budgeting, accountability and transparency in issues relating to finance and development of strategies for more fundraising to improve the exchequer of the association.

Each year, more lawyers are called to the Bar than the preceding year. This means that our membership base grows. This membership growth creates a continuous challenge on our National Secretariat on how best to meet our individual and collective needs as members of the association.

I, therefore, propose that to lay the foundation for overcoming this challenge, we need to professionalise the operations of the secretariat to enhance and strengthen the Directorates. This may mean merging or splitting existing directorates and, if necessary, create new ones.

These directorates shall be publicised so that every member of our association can easily identify the first port of call at the secretariat when in need of the services of our national secretariat.This overhaul must include a restructuring of our administrative and management systems in order that continuity is enshrined.

The objective is to ensure that even if our elected officers change, there will be no information or process gap in the core activities of our association. Elected officers must also be recognised as leaders and servants who would be made to play adequate roles under a professionalised Bar. The elected officers under my leadership shall be committed to effective budgeting and fiscal responsibility. We shall also devise means of improving and increasing our revenue base of the association.

The heart of professionalism is the entrenchment of good governance and good governance cannot thrive without democracy. The Bar must be made not only to pursue good governance in Nigeria but must lead by example.

Branches of the NBA shall be empowered and connected as part of the critical movement for professionalising the Bar.

There shall be a proactive pursuit and advocacy to get a new Legal Practitioners Act, Legal Education Act and Legal Services Commission Act to put the bar and the legal profession at the highest standard of professionalism.

Continuing Legal Education & Professional Development

It is trite that knowledge and skills yield easily to stagnation and by extension ignorance. Thus all forms of knowledge must be constantly updated and improved to remain relevant, competitive and progressive. With this in mind, the NBA will place a premium on continuing legal education for lawyers.

Accordingly, there is a plan to restructure and strengthen the NBA’s Institute of Continuing Legal Education and to develop continuing legal education programmes that would equip lawyers with adequate and relevant skills to make them competitive in local and international markets, especially in increasing globalisation of the legal profession.

I recognise that my predecessors have focused on some of these areas, I commit to consolidating this focus. The Continuing Legal Education will be encouraged to ensure that disadvantaged branches benefit from them. Our core concentration in order to achieve best practices shall include training in ethics, practice management and Information Technology.

We shall also encourage our service providers in these areas to focus on training us in areas that would give us cutting edge which would enable us compete globally. This aspect of my contract with you is dear to me. Our professional competence eventually determines the revenue base, independence, viability and strength of our association.

The (expanded) robust continuing legal education programme would, inter alia, feature enlightening topics in such areas as use of national, regional and international human rights provisions before International and domestic courts, professional ethics, practice management, costs, professional fees and charges, use of Freedom of Information Act for legal practice, forming and sustaining partnerships, communication law practice, maritime law practice, Pensions fund law practice, Insurance law practice, maritime law practice, Consumer protection law practice, negotiation skill, mediation skill, arbitration, copyright and patents law practice, trade union law practice, public interest litigation, class actions, new law of evidence, advocacy skills, information technology etc.

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Chief Richard Akinjide (SAN)

Many sub-standard materials in National Assembly, says Akinjide

By Precious Igbonwelundu 10 hours 27 minutes ago
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Chief Richard Akinjide (SAN), former Attorney-General and Minister for Justice, in this interview with Precious Igbonwelundu, speaks on the state of the nation, the legal practice and the way forward.

Why did you choose law?

Because law is very interesting. It is the finest thing I have ever done. Another thing I have done which I love very much is journalism. So, if I had not been a lawyer, I would have been a journalist.

Who inspired you as a youngster?

I had lawyers as role models in America, Europe as well as Africa and Nigeria in particular. In Nigeria, people like Adeyemo Alakija, Obafemi Awolowo, Rotimi Williams, Bode Thomas, among others

What are your major challenges as a lawyer?

I do cases in court; attend to clients in the chambers, facing problems of litigations.

The most challenging case you ever handled?

Innumerable. It is impossible for me to say it is this case or that case. I have been confronted with that question for many years and if I try to answer the question, the next time another person will come with the same question another tim, I will be faced with the same problem again. So, it is limitless.

What is your perception of legal practice viz-a-viz your early days?

The legal practice today is different from the past. I started practising law about 55 years ago and at that time, the practice of law was just as it is in America or Europe. The standard in Nigeria was very high, but many years after, it is not as high as it used to be.

How do we enhance our legal practice to meet with international standard?

Law practice in Nigeria is of international standard. I go to America, Geneva, France, England to argue legal issues, the only problem we have here is that most of the lawyers we are producing now are not as good as my days. The standard of education has fallen. We need to have excellent universities, good prospectus and first grade teachers not third grades. We need first grade dons.

The recent appointment of Gambia’s Fatou Bensouda as Chief

Prosecutor, International Criminal
Court (ICC), what does it tell of our system?

 

It portrays the role of Africa and, in fact, the black race as being an eminent front burner in the legal world. I do not look at her as a Gambian, but as a black African and we should be proud of her. It shows that we are up to date and we are as good as the Americans and Europeans. I read her profile in The Time Magazine of America where she was given two pages, one page article and, the other, her picture. I must say I am extremely proud of her, particularly as a member of the Gambian bar where I also go to attend courts. I am sure she will perform well.

As the Attorney-General in 1979, you championed the abolition of death penalties as capital punishment. Would you still stand on such ideals today in view the spate of reckless murder of innocents?

The climate at that time was different from what it is today. aT present, see terrorists taking innocents lives, you see armed robbers riding on citizens in the highways, you see all manner of evil things but in my time there was peace and amity. At that time, every weekend or at most fortnightly, the parties and government sit together and sort things out and the Chairmen of the party will preside over the meeting while the president will sit as a member. The Senate president, the speaker and all the key members will be in attendance and whatever we sorted out was carefully done.

When I was the Attorney General, the ruling NPN did not have majority in either the Senate or House of Representatives, yet all our measures were going through with no problems at all.

Is there any decision you would have reversed if you had the opportunity, do you have any regrets?

I have no regrets. I entered parliament before independence when we were still under Britain and I do not regret it. I was in parliament at the time of independence and I continued to be in parliament after independence as a cabinet minister, and also when the military handed over power to civilian rule in 1979, I became the Attorney-General under the presidential system of government which I support. So, I have no regret at all. I only advocate that quality brains should go to parliament. Although we have some excellent brains there, most of them are substandard materials and should not be there at all.

On the alarm by the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) about spate of judicial corruption and his call for the creation of special courts to try corruption cases?

The CJN deserves the greatest respect and whatever proposals he brings forward deserves to be considered very carefully. I know he has excellent advisers and the CJN will not make frivolous statements.

The Minster of Interior recently said inmates awaiting trials out number convicted criminals. So, how do we fast-track dispensation of cases to decongest the prisons?

Do not forget that we have got a complicated system in Nigeria. We have 36 states and the FCT, making 37 states. Each one has its own legal system and their own high court add that to the Federal High Courts all over the country, and then the Supreme Court. So, our system is very complex and complicated and I hope that authorities concerned will ensure that all these things move speedily.

To operate true federalism, don’t you think it will be wise for states to be allowed to create their own Appeal and Supreme courts?

I do not agree to that because it will cause a lot more complications. If you allow states to create their own Appeal Courts, it means you are going to have a minimum of 37 states Appeal courts. All appeals from these 37 courts will now go to the court of appeal and from there to the Supreme Court. It is going to create more problem than is solved. So, I don’t think it is a wise thing to do at all.

What of state policing, considering the alarm by some states governed by the opposition parties for the decentralisation of the Police?

I do not think that statement is correct. The Police is federal but the state commissioner is a member of the State Security Council and he works with the governor daily. Of course, he is under the Inspector- General of Police, but that does not confuse the monopoly of power being centrally controlled, but shared by the governor. When I was the Attorney-General, a matter like that went to the Supreme court and we won.

As the NBA seeks to review its constitution, what areas do you think need amendment?

Well, you are talking of 36 states and the FCT. For any constitutional amendment, we should allow each state of the nation to bring its proposals, then we look at it and debate it dispassionately without any bias, and with national interest as the primary interest.

Are you in support of a Sovereign National Conference (SNC)?

No, I am not. You cannot have an SNC because if you do, it shows there is a government that controls the elected government of the country. You cannot have two governments. The president was elected by the whole country and the National Assembly leadership was also elected by elected representative from all parts of the country. We cannot have two parallel governments. Those who are talking about SNC do not understand what they are talking about because you cannot have an elected President with his cabinet, an elected National Assembly and still talk about SNC.

What are your suggestions on judicial reforms?

We have got an excellent judiciary, but I think we are going wrong in creating too many Courts of Appeal in the country. If you have many Courts of Appeal, it means many appeals will now go to the Supreme Court and the Supreme Court will not be able to cope. In that area, we have to be extremely careful.

What is your assessment of the tenure of former Lagos Chief Judge, Justice Akande (rtd)?

She was an excellent and a very good lady while in office and I have great respect for her. She brought in quite a number of reforms in Lagos and so we wish her a very good retirement.

What is your expectation of the new Lagos Chief Judge?

I expect that Justice A.A. Philips will do very well. I know her. She is a good lady and respectable.

Do you support the call for the abolition of the SAN title on the grounds that it delays justice delivery and encourages corruption?

I do not agree with that statement at all. The grounds do not hold water. I am the Chairman of the SANs and we do hold regular meetings to ensure that things go on well. Why should anyone call for its abolishment? It is practised in Canada, Australia, England among others.

Do you not think it is time for Nigerian lawyers to stop appearing in court in the colonial ‘wig and gown’?

I agree that we should do away with the wig and gown and adopt a more indigenous dress code. I think we have had enough of it. In England for instance, in the last court which they now call Supreme Court as against the House of Lords, they do not use wigs anymore, and the gown they use is ceremonial. So, I think if we can adopt an attire that will be uniformly accepted and suit our environment. We should drop both the wig and gown, but if not, then, I think we drop the wig.

Is it right for governments to engage private prosecutors?

As long as the prosecutor is independent and incorruptible, there is nothing wrong with it.

Do you plan to retire soon from active practice?

There is no retirement in the legal profession. Once you are in it, you are there for life. I am just enjoying law now. I do not know of lawyers who retire unless those who changed their profession. I am enjoying law now and I will continue to enjoy it.

What is your advice to young lawyers and to the nation?

I enjoy the company of young lawyers a lot. As you can see, I have about 20 young lawyers in the chamber who are either youth corps members or for attachments and that is great fun for me. I relate with them and teach them even things that are not law and it makes me happy.

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Mike ahamba SAN

Boko Haram:

Igbo should not leave North — Mike Ahamba
emerson.jpg
Photo: 

Sun News Publishing

By: 

EMERSON GOBERT, JR

Date: 

Sat, 06/30/2012 – 15:22

Igbo fleeing Northern part of Nigeria have been urged not to abandon all they have labored through the years to build because of the threats and/or attacks of the Boko Haram islamist sect. The charge is coming from none other than legal luminary and Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, Chief Mike Ahamba who recently fielded questions from Saturday Sun on myriads of issues affecting the polity. His comments on most of the issues are both erudite and vitriolic. 

“A lot of people are making statements that can create problems for rather than solve them and I advise them not to particularly to those that pertain to my own people, Ndi-igbo. Let us not acquire what belong to everybody and apportion it to ourselves. 

This is my position in this matter. Nobody should leave any place because of them. They will stay there to fight them if we want to fight them. Nigeria belongs to everybody. From whom are we running away? If somebody says everybody should go home, then Igbo people will run away and come to the South to do what? Where do you have a refugee camp where we will keep them? Do you have job for them? 

Do you have markets where you will put them?  Everybody should join hands and fight whatever is harassing them there. This is my position”, he declared while cautioning Igbos not to abandon their belongings acquired through years of hard work in the North because of the threats of Boko Haram. He spoke further on this and others. Excerpts: Excerpts:

How best do you think government can tackle the issue of insecurity in the country? Proper training and orientation of our security agencies and also proper funding by government. I believe that so far, the money budgeted for security has not always been used for security. People have cried out against what they call security votes because it is common knowledge that it is being used for something other than security of the country. So we need to equip our police, re-orientate them; not just the police but other security agencies that are grossly underfunded and not motivated at all. I don’t know whether you have known that the police barracks in cities are always the most neglected part of the cities. 

Now, you go to the police station, the policeman has no document, no paper for taking statements of complainants and accused persons are forced to use foolscap sheets sometimes when there is a special form made for it containing some vital information that one cannot deny very easily. You find that most of the policemen come to duty in sandals. They don’t have boots. I remember very well when policemen used to carry raincoats during rain because none of them had two uniforms. 

He will be beaten by rain in that uniform, the sun will dry it and rain will beat him again in it. That is not the way to motivate a force. So, some of these things must have to be addressed if they get serious and also know that with the challenges they are facing today, they are going to even begin to re-orientate themselves knowing fully well that they are also at risk, not just ordinary people.

In your opinion, is it possible for a detainee like the Boko Haram leader to have escaped without the knowledge of the guards? I hate to hear or read the word “escaped.” He did not escape. He was released. I say this because I do know that when such a person is given into the custody of a security agent, he cannot relinquish that responsibility without fighting back.

 I’m not aware that anybody was wounded in the struggle to take him. Even the tortoise they say in our homes, when he was being carried away by some people, asked to be put on the ground to urinate and when the tortoise was put on the ground, he scratched the ground and said, you can now take me, at least the people will know where one man fought the other. There is nothing to show that one man fought the other in this particular incident, so let us stop talking about escape. The man did not escape, he was released. And let me tell you, we must follow history the way the thing has been happening. 

If I were part of the security agents today, I would turn my pages backwards to when Mohammed Yusuf was killed in custody. If we identify how he died, the problem of Boko Haram will be solved because he did not die ordinarily. His death was like the man who beheaded that man in Owerri that caused the Okotoko crisis in Owerri. The main culprit was arrested. He was in police custody and was killed in police custody. He had made a very devastating statement before he was killed. 

That statement disappeared. One of the accused persons had raised an alarm that they were about to kill the man. In spite of that alarm, the man was killed and today, the story of Otokoto has been told but it did not get to the end. One of the people held in prison, that is the chief Otokoto himself was the man who raised the alarm that they were about to kill this man who had made a statement as to why he beheaded the young boy but before he was found guilty, he was on the death roll. 

So I believe that if it becomes absolutely necessary for us to go back, if we trace how Mohammed Yusuf died, it is the first and essential step towards solving the Boko Haram mystery. If we come back to the current times, the man who was supposed to have escaped from police custody after the Apo Six incident in which six young people –five men and one woman were shot by a policeman for nothing. He was arrested. They said he had escaped and they found the same man in whose custody; who was in charge of the escape of this person. 

That same man, from what I read in the newspapers, had a lot of record of wickedness during the Abacha regime. How did this man come to the top position after escaping from custody? Even if he was innocent, the fact that a policeman who was in custody escaped from custody instead of facing trial to prove his innocence should have warned the authorities that you have an element that should not be in the police. Instead of sending him away, he was now given more authority and he has performed again. 

So let us face these things. We need thorough investigation that should be sequentially followed. I see something that bothers me. I don’t believe that this is an ethnic war against anybody particularly against the Igbos. No! This is a political war by some people who want to grab power by intimidating the public. This is the way I see it. They want political power because if you tell Christians to go home, are you going to tell the Fulani or Hausa or Berom or other Christians who are not Igbo or Yoruba to also go? That is not possible. 

Not true. So I see something like what happened in Ian Fleming’s You Only Live Twice. If you watch that movie, it is one of James Bond’s movies, where the man with the pussycat tried to cause a war between America and the Soviet Union by using his own spacecraft to hijack America’s spacecraft in the space and it was James Bond’s assignment to go and grab that thing. That was the story. That was fiction. 

Also, The First Man in the Moon, was a fiction. When H.G. Wells wrote about the first man in the moon, there was no first man in the moon. He talked about a cabaret that was used to fly into the moon. Years after, men were in the moon. 

That story should come back to the psyche of Nigerians that here is a group of people who are very intelligently trying to arouse conflict between people who are not quarreling; bomb Igbo, bomb the Christians so that they can fight Muslims and the non-Igbo. In that confusion, they will get what they want. This is the way I look at it and so I advise caution on all sides and anybody from any part of the country who goes killing anybody who is innocent because of Boko Haram is also Boko Haram in his own way. We must patiently and professionally look for the end of this matter otherwise it will create for us a problem beyond the one we have. 

This is my real genuine concern about this matter now. A lot of people are making statements that can create problems rather than solve them and I advise them not to, particularly to those that pertain to my own people, Ndi-igbo. Let us not acquire what belongs to everybody and apportion it to ourselves. This is my position in this matter. Nobody should leave any place because of them.

 They will stay there to fight them if we want to fight them. Nigeria belongs to everybody. From whom are we running away? If somebody says everybody should go home, then Igbo will run away and come to the South to do what? Where do you have a refugee camp where we will keep them? Do you have job for them? Do you have markets where you will put them? Everybody should join hands and fight whatever is harassing them there. This is my position.

How do you see the judgment of the Supreme Court concerning the five governors who sought the elongation of their tenures?  What I have before me now is that judgment. I’m just going to read it then I will make my statement in support or in criticism of it but be that as it may, there is something that bothers me on general terms and that is the fact that before now, our jurisprudence was that nothing valid comes out of an invalidity. 

If a thing is null and void, it is void and irretrievable void and nothing can stand on nothing. UAC versus McFoil followed in several judgments of the Supreme Court like Adigun versus the electoral act gave the tribunal the power to declare an election null and void. Where such an election is declared null and void, I want to find out how something valid came out of that election. If an election was declared null and void, the implication in law the way I know it is that that election never took place. 

The only reason why steps taken by such a governor or legislator can be regarded as valid is that the electoral act says where a person’s election is nullified by a court of appeal, that he remains in office until the appeal is heard. In other words, statutorily, the nullification has been put on hold pending appeal but after appeal, to the best of my little knowledge of law, it becomes absolutely void and that person takes over. 

Now, my view is that without an elaborate legislative provision, that oath taken cannot be valid but you know there were some alterations of the constitution and there was an amendment. After I must have seen what the court did, when I issue my statement, I will discuss that aspect of it but generally speaking this is what I’m worried about and I believe their lordships must have found an answer to this problem I have when I will discover that portion, I will also speak my mind because it is a very very important judgment which should elicit fair and professional comments from relevant quarters but this is my concern. But be whatever it is, no matter what I say, no matter what you say, no matter what anybody says, that is the judgment of the Supreme Court and it is final.

The sentencing of Major Mustapha and Sofolahan in the case of the murder of Kudirat Abiola, what do you make of it? Well, I’m happy that at last, somebody has been held responsible for the death of Kudirat. The long wait has finally ended. People have said it dragged for so long; why did it drag for so long? Because it dragged for so long that he should have been acquitted. 

That is not the law. It had to drag for so long because the judicial system wanted to allow the accused persons their right to fair hearing so every issue they raised was taken care of and ruled upon and that is why the thing lasted for so long. For a long time, they were challenging the validity of the charges in the first place. A lot of objections came in from the defence and none could have been ignored without nullifying the entire proceeding. That is what the public must understand about judicial proceedings. At any stage in which the right of fair hearing is breached in any trial, there is a mistrial and it becomes null and void. 

This is what I’ve been talking about. No matter how eruditely written the judgment may be, that is the pronouncement of our Supreme Court, so it took time because I think the courts wanted to ensure that they gave him all the opportunities of fair hearing. Now, a judgment has been given, he has his right of appeal and he has exercised it. That is what the law says so let us wait and see what happens whether there was any omission or commission in what happened. Beyond that, I’m happy that there is a judgment at least after all.

Some people are calling for an entirely new constitution instead of a review. What’s your take on this? If we go for a new constitution without changing attitude, the story will be the same. How many have we had? We had that of 1960, then we had that of 1979. In 1963, we had the republican constitution. In 1999, we had another. In between all these, the military made their own constitutions called decrees so how many constitutions have we had so far? Now, I wish I had American constitution here with me. 

American constitution is smaller in volume and that is the constitution that is ruling a nation that contains 50 nations. I wish I had American constitution that is ruling a nation that contains 50 nations. The issue is attitude. We must find a way to ensure that those who are supposed to run our constitution, do so professionally and where they don’t, the man holding the whistle should blow it and that is the constitution. Any football game where the referee does not blow against foul will end in a crisis. 

Here in Nigeria, our referees don’t blow against foul in politics. They condone it so now, we have in our case law different  from statements on the same issue all over the place. Writing judgments to fit certain situations is unfortunate. So it is not the constitution that is our problem. Our constitution contains more than enough. It is the application of the constitution contains more than enough. It is the application of the constitution that is the issue. 

What else are you going to write in the constitution? Are you going to write that those who go to the National Assembly should have their legs up and their heads down? What else are you going to say? In a little book I published in 1982 on the 1979 constitution which I called Thinking Aloud on the 1979 constitution, I said that our constitution was sophisticated and was supposed to be run by people who are honourable enough to understand the responsibility they carry. 

That is why in talking about impeachment, apart from saying that the person who works contrary to the constitution may be impeached, the other qualification is gross misconduct and what is gross misconduct? Gross misconduct under the constitution is that conduct which the members of the legislature consider to be gross misconduct. You see the enormity of the responsibility but oftentimes, we play politics with it. People have cried and shouted that immunity clause is the cause of corruption by our governors and other people.

 I say no, it is not. If they are corruption, it is because the society which they are operating has condoned their corruption because the institution that was supposed to checkmate them has refused to do so, either because of ethnic bias or political bias. Let me give you an example. A governor has immunity against trial for an offence committed in office. He is also insulated from suits while in the office but time does not run against the plaintiff.

 In other words, he can be sued after he comes out so there’s no problem about that. When it comes to trial, people say it is because there is immunity that is why they are corrupt. No! if it were so, what has happened to those who have lost immunity for the last five or six years? That thing that has kept them untried, unpunished was what kept them or what led them into committing the crime in office, not the immunity. 

The real culprit is that they know that nothing will happen. How, if a governor is seen to have mismanaged funds or done something that is overtly and generally known, it is the duty of the legislature to impeach him so that security agencies can pick him up for trial. You see how the thing works? Now, if the legislature, because he has seen them or because he is from the majority party refuses to impeach him, he remains in office till the end. Let me give you some examples. When Nixon was president in America, there was this Watergate scandal. 

What was it? They didn’t say Nixon stole money. They didn’t say he killed anybody but that they heard that members of his party broke into another political party’s office and he did not do anything about it. That was the only thing Nixon did. That is why it is called Watergate cover up scandal. That he covered up the knowledge that people broke into Democratic Party office and he did not do anything about it and America said our president cannot do that. 

Every effort he made to run away from impeachment failed when the Supreme Court said yes, we know you have a privileged information, privilege to protect what you are saying for the security of the state but not when t is being said that you are covering a misconduct by yourself. Let a private body listen to that tape and advise the court as to what is happening (advise the grand jury as what is happening). Immediately the Supreme Court handed down that judgment, Nixon resigned to avoid being impeached. 

The man he appointed as vice president gave him pardon. You see how democracy operates? He had the right to give him pardon. He gave him pardon so he could not be picked up and tried. In recent times, look at what happened with Clinton, the sex scandal. In Nigeria, that would be, what’s our business? That will be the attitude in Nigeria but many members of the congress in America felt that he had desecrated the office of president and an impeachment procedure was commenced by the Attorney General he appointed. The same thing with Nixon. 

That Attorney General appointed by the president instituted the grand jury; the investigation that failed, Clinton survived but the lesson is that not a few Americans felt that it was a gross misconduct.  Unfortunately for him, majority did not less feel so and he survived. More recently, when Obama became president, his seat in the senate became vacant. Now the governor of Illinois under their constitution had the right to nominate his replacement. 

His phone was tapped and they said that he made a statement that that office cannot go for nothing. That was all. When the scandal broke, it was the Attorney General he appointed that took the matter to the House of Assembly in Illinois to find out whether as a result of what he is said to have done, he was still fit to remain as governor of Illinois. They voted no and he left even though his party was in the majority.

 We talk about politics and patriotism; statesmanship, the legislature is a very important arm of government because those are the people there on a representation of the people and they should know the load they are carrying. It was in that case that the Supreme Court of America made the great statement that just the way a president of America that veto so will the American judiciary protect their power to decide who was right or wrong in the performance of their duties. 

This is what we call separation of powers for the interest of the country and the sooner we learn that, the better for us in this our purported democratic environment. But however, we believe that this thing is evolutionary and I believe that with time, we’ll learn because I want to tell you in all sincerity, the best since 1999 because for once, they are responsible to the people and not to a party, or any individual. I hope they will be vigilant enough to know when they should do things they should do.

 That’s it. So it is not amendment of the constitution that is the issue or the review of the constitution. We can even jump from frying pan to fire. Look at what the last alterations did to electoral trials. In their heart of hearts, they wanted to solve the problem of the delay of election petition trials but did not consider other aspects of it that could be utilized negatively.

So much has been said about the removal of subsidy. What’s your position on it and how do you see the last strike that was called by the TUC and NLC? Was it justifiable? Very, very justifiable. One aspect that people have not considered is that it was a direct battle between dictatorship and democracy and democracy won because if we come to a situation where such a serious economic decision can be taken against the general will of the people expressed through different organs of the people including the National Assembly, what else do you call dictatorship? But the people said no. We can say no. We are saying no and the spirit of compromise brought peace but let me tell you, that thing achieved more than fuel subsidy. It has proved that Nigerians no longer can be taken for granted and this is a notice for everybody ruling anywhere at any time in the future.

 Next time, it will be worse. It has also exposed the corruption people have been saying has been occurring in NNPC is true and I think I must congratulate the present leadership of the House of Representative for instituting this enquiry, at least, let us know the facts. People will carry ordinary briefcase while you are running around turning to find news here and there and you are sweating all over yet you cant break even. 
People carry briefcase in and out of offices and come out billionaires. Well, we are watching. Let them finish this one and put on the shelf like the previous ones. Some of us will now come out and join those who are demonstrating but for now, what is happening is good. We know the facts. I wasn’t happy that somebody like Okonjo-Iweala whom I have great respect for was so mad that she was challenged.

 Considering the society in which she lives and works in America, I expected her to have realized that the voice of the people will always be considered and listened to. Don’t you see demonstrations in America? Why would somebody be so angry that somebody criticized what she did? She’s a reputable economist but not the only economist. Think if 100 other economists have a different view to her own, she should listen to them. 

That is part of intellectualism, considering what somebody else is saying about what you think you know. I don’t take anything from her. In fact, in my last conference, I described her as a blessing to Nigeria. She should please continue to remain a blessing to Nigeria and be ready to listen to criticism. 

So I thank labour and the civil society for standing up for the people. I thank those who stood up but I want to seize this opportunity to call on Mr. president to go and find where other countries buy rubber bullets. To bring live bullets in an environment of civil protest where nobody has a gun is most unfortunate. This is 2012 for God’s sake, not 1911, not 1929 when demonstrators at Enugu were shot by the white colonialists. 

If we can use live bullets on demonstrators who are not carrying guns, why should you blame the whites who shot 29 miners? Are they not workers? We must look at our history before we do things, so he must warn the police chief that anybody who is found to have used extra-violence on an unarmed crowd should pay dearly for it. In fact, as far as I’m concerned, it is murder, so I hope that in the discussion before the Belgore tribunal, the issue of adequate compensation for all those who were shot with live bullets should be discussed if not, let their next of kin try this right in court of law. We have to be civilized, we have to move to the age of the first world. Why must you remain in the third world? Is it meant for us? Who are those in the first world? Do they have two heads? I don’t believe Nigeria should remain in the third world. This is my position.

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chief Mike Ozehhome SAN

Jonathan needs to be ruthless –Ozekhome

ozekhome.jpg
Photo:

Sun News Publishing

Ozekhome
By:

CHUKS EZE

Date:

Sat, 06/16/2012 – 23:32

As usual, he was in his element, his voice dripping passion. Sunday Sun feels him out on the state of the nation and Lagos lawyer and Human Rights Activist, Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN) at his residence in Lagos, did not mince words. He concludes that the only thing that would make President Goodluck Jonathan excel and show that he is in power and in charge of the affairs of Nigeria is for him to start stepping on toes. Quoting copiously from the holy scriptures, he also reminds Mr President that he should not even attempt to please everybody, a feat  even Jesus Christ couldn’t achieve.

Looking at the politics of the South-South, would you say the infrastructure you see in the region tally with the Federal Allocation that has accrued to them since 1999? I will start by saying that in a federal system of government, each zone and state is supposed to develop at its own pace. But let me tell you that before January 15, 1956, when Major Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu played out the first military coup, Nigeria operated a true federal system of government.

We first had three regions with each having its regional constitution; the Western Region, Northern and Eastern Region. The Mid-West was later to be created by popular plebiscite and referendum of August 15, 1953, making them four regions. Each of those regions controlled their own resources then. The western region controlled its cocoa resources which made Nigeria one of the greatest exporters of cocoa in the world then.

Chief Obafemi Awolowo, the late sage, was able to use cocoa wealth of the Western Region to develop the West by giving the Yoruba people free education at all levels. That is why today, Yoruba are a very enlightened people in Nigeria. He built the famous Cocoa House in Ibadan then as a lasting monument. He also built the Liberty Stadium, the Obafemi Awolowo University, which was then known as University of Ife; and he started the first Television in Africa – all with the wealth of the Western Region because the arrangement then allowed him to use the wealth of that region.

The northern region was governed by Ahmadu Bello, the Sardauna of Sokoto, who used the famous Kano groundnut pyramid, the cotton, hide and skin wealth of the northern region to create the Northern Nigeria Development Corporation (NNDC).

The corporation produced great institutions like the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Dana Hotel and many other institutions that still exist today in the Arewa group in the North. In the East, people like Akanu Ibiam and Dr Michael Okpara were able to use the palm produce wealth of the Eastern Region to develop the East. It was also with the timber, plywood and the rubber industry of the Mid-West region that people like Dennis Osadebe and others used to develop the Mid-West up to a level before it became Bendel State and later broken into Delta and Edo States.

At that time, the sharing formular was 50 percent for the regions that produced a particular product. Then 25 percent was shared amongst all the regions from the same products while the remaining 25 percent was paid to the Federal Government at the centre headed by Tafawa Balewa. But that disappeared with military intervention.  And because General Gowon needed money to prosecute the war, he removed the entire derivative, and control of wealth by the region and broke Nigeria into 12 states. And since that day, we never had resource control as we had in the 60s. At a time, it was zero percent to a state and later it became 1.5 percent before General Abacha regime increased it to 13 percent derivation which is what is in the constitution today.

But to what extent would you say that 13 percent derivation is noticed in the South-South in infrastructure and good governance especially in the past 13 years? It must be noted that the terrain of the South-South is fragile and delicate and that in most of the states in that geo-political zone such as Bayelsa and Akwa Ibom as well as parts of Rivers and Delta states, they have to buy sand from other places to, first sand-fill a waterlogged or swampy areas before they can start thinking of constructing anything. So, to that effect, a kilometer of road that will cost about N23 million somewhere in Adamawa, Sokoto, Katsina or Borno, for instance, would cost N350 million in the South-South. That is because of the nature of the place they find themselves.

So, more money is therefore needed to intervene in the development of the South-South zone than any other zone of the country. It is not just because the wealth of the nation comes from the South-South but because it is the most delicate, fragile and dangerous place. But I must also confess that the development in the South-South is nowhere commensurate with the amount of money that accrues to that region; meaning that successive governments have not helped the people by giving them democracy dividends.

Many of them have been indicted for non-performance and for fleecing their people of their common wealth. I therefore cannot hold brief for them that they have done extremely well in terms of giving democracy dividends that is equivalent to the amount of resources that accrues to them which runs into billions of naira unlike other states of the federation who arguably have better terrain. Not only that the Niger Delta Development Corporation, (NDDC), has been created and then a special Ministry of Niger Delta also created, but what have these two interventionist programmes done to impact on the lives of the people?

I can almost say nothing. One would have expected to see the South-South as the greatest construction site in Nigeria today with bulldozers and other machines and equipment competing to open it up for human habitation because of the ecological disequilibrium brought about by oil pollution, oil exploration and oil exploitation. It is massive and ineffable and there is no doubt about that. The South-South is the only place where you have water everywhere but like in the Ancient Marina, not a drop is fit enough to drink.

The South-South is still where you have people defecating in the same stagnant ponds and streams from which they also drink. The South-South is where you have 24 hours of light, not from the National Grid of electricity but from gas flaring which emits gas effluence that destroy aquatic and agrarian lives. Nigeria, today, still flares over 70 percent from our 300 cubic feet of natural gas reserve in the 21st Century, whereas Netherlands flares zero and the United Kingdom and America each flares less than fire percent. What have we done in that regard? Do we have the will to stop gas flaring and penalize the multinational corporations that still flare gas? No.

Would you say that it is as a result of poor leadership? In the darkest hours of the Second World War, Winston Churchill challenged the British people to stand alone and fight for what they believed was right and they did. You need a leader that is smart; one that leads his people by using leadership qualities to plan, organize and control. You need a leader that energizes his people, a leader that empowers and supports his people.

That leader that communicates with his people is what you need. These are certain leadership qualities which I think most of our leaders are lacking. And that is why we are still where we are today. It was a great Chinese philosopher who once said, “To give a man fish, he will eat it for like a day but if you teach a man how to fish, he will eat fish throughout his lifetime”. So, we need leadership that empowers the people and creates a conducive environment for the people to thrive. We have not had that kind of leadership in Nigeria and that has been our albatross.

Even in the states like Edo? In the South-South, some governors have shown themselves to be amenable to the voice of the people. If you take the case of Edo State for example, for nine years, that state was in a quagmire. It was destitute, impoverished and there was nothing going on. Roads were not opened up, the people were hungry, education was in comatose, industrialization was zero and life was poor, nasty, bestial and brutish. But then, one firebrand and fire-eating labour leader, Adams Oshiomhole who won his mandate through the Court of Appeal in 2008, entered as the governor of Edo State.

The truth of the matter is that whether you like Adams Oshiohole or not, give him one thing: he has opened up Edo State. Even the blind can see it; the deaf can hear it and the lame can walk it because the evidence is there. These are visible, tangible, measurable developmental strides that can be seen and scientifically witnessed. Go to Benin City, the once moribund capital city which evoked the joke that because Benin is ancient, every governor that came in wanted to leave it ancient and not modernized.

But you can drive through Benin City today, and you will think you are in a modern city like Abuja, or Bauchi, Gombe, Enugu et cetera which are some of the most beautiful cities in Nigeria if you care to go round. You can now see flowers and trees springing up everywhere. In Bayelsa State, Governor Seriake Dickson recently stated that what the state witnessed under his immediate predecessor, Chief Timipre Sylva was a ‘Kalokalo’ administration. What is your reaction to that statement?

Well, if you go to Bayelsa State, you will see that apart from the development that was visible during the time of Alamieyeseigha, supported by Goodluck Jonathan, the present Nigerian President, as the deputy Governor then, you will not see anything impressive. I think the new governor has a huge task on his hands. There was practically nothing going on in spite of all the publicity we were seeing. The media were even bought over; the newspapers published whatever they were asked to publish.

And reading Bayelsa, in the last three years, with paid advertorials on a daily basis, you would think that Bayelsa was an Eldorado. But there was nothing going on. So, I would not be surprised if Dickson described his predecessor as one of ‘kalokalo’. Kalokalo is a sort of gambling where nothing is certain; you take it as you see it. In other words, the new governor is minded to give governance to the people on a measured template that is well-planned, not just haphazard hiccups or fire brigade-approach type of governance.

That is what he means by that. I think the young man being a lawyer means well for the Bayelsans. And Nigerians can see that lawyers can make a difference in governance; like I also hear the Kastina State Governor, Ibrahim Shema, is also doing well. And the reason is that lawyers have a sense of inner shame. Many politicians do not know the word “shame” because even their educational background does not recognize honour.

Talking about leadership, what advice do you have for your kinsman, President Jonathan, as he marked his first officially elected year in office as well as Nigeria’s 13th uninterrupted years of democracy? I urge Mr President to be a very strong leader. Former President, Obasanjo, was a very strong leader such that sometimes, he was even brutal. Nigerians want Jonathan to sit up and show the strong mettle of leadership not to behave like a leader who does not want to hurt anybody.

A leader must hurt some people. The burden is that you must do greater good to the greater majority of the largest number of people. He must step on some big toes if he wants to succeed. If you say you know those in Boko Haram and that some of them are in your government, then fish them out and punish them – arraign them in courts of law, deal with them and stop the source of the funds that go to these bodies so that Nigerians can have peace.

Do not think that you can please everybody because even Jesus Christ, as faultless as He was, could not please everyone. In spite of all his good intentions for the people, they still killed him, because He could not satisfy the whole world. Jonathan should not think that he can satisfy all Nigerians. But he can, and must satisfy a larger percentage of Nigerians and that means stepping on some fat toes and make them bleed. In fact, he should cut off some toes; not just smack them and make them bleed, he should actually cut off some of them.

That is one of the qualities of a good leader – be ruthless when you have to, be meek when you have to, laugh and smile when you have to, frown when you must and he should stop allowing himself to be distracted. He is the commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces for God’s sake and commanders are always in charge of their command.

They take absolute charge and carry out their duties without minding whose ox is gored. Whether President Jonathan has four years or eight years, he should use the first four years to distinguish himself from the pack of leaders that Nigeria has had in the past 51 years. I know that his beginnings were very challenging – to be or not to be, and even when he became the president, the cabal held him to ransom.

The doctrine of necessity had to be invoked for him to be president from vice president. We also know that since he came on board, some people who felt that it was their right to govern the country decided to also make the country un-governable. But then, he has to show leadership qualities as Murtala Mohammed, Nnamdi Azikiwe, Awolowo, Ahmadu Bello and others showed in the past. He must be able to get out of the pack and begin to bruise toes from now onwards.

He should begin to take decisions decisively – ignoring the minority to do good to the greatest number of Nigerians, even if the minority is vociferous and powerful. That is what leadership is all about. That way, he will be appreciated such that when 2015 approaches, he will not even need to fight for re-election by himself, rather, he will see the country pleading with him to present himself for a second term.

But we cannot be talking about 2015 now when the country is going through the challenges of insecurity, and corruption is on a daily basis becoming more and more monstrous and threatening to devour everybody. Nigerians are yearning for good roads, employment and water, education and health care, capacity building et cetera. Jonathan should not allow himself to be distracted because to me, it amounts to distraction for him to even think of 2015 now.

He should impart his goodluck on Nigerians. He should remember that in 2011, Nigerians ignored every other political party and all voted for him. In international diplomacy, he is damn good; and Nigeria is now more respected across the world. But the security situation of Nigeria is very bad. Nigerians are hungry, while corruption is getting worse. Going by the Transparency International corruption measurement index, Nigeria has worn several trophies in corruption.

Mr President should revitalize the ICPC and EFCC. All the people involved in the petroleum subsidy scam should be brought to book and punished adequately. I agree with the Attorney General of the Federation that the House of Representatives report is a mere report; it should now be given to the EFCC to go and look into those criminal elements and then, it is those criminal elements they should now interrogate. Then the documents should be given to the expert lawyers who will now prepare charges, so that these people can be charged to court and punished accordingly.

All those who have stolen billions of naira from Nigeria, and made citizens to gnash their teeth should be punished. They should not go scot-free and there should be no sacred cows. I also advocate that the fuel subsidy should be removed once and for all so that those who have been feeding fat on this so-called subsidy will have all the avenues for such cheap money blocked.

And those who have been taking our oil in tankers across the Nigerian borders to neighbouring countries will now see that it is no longer profitable. Nigerians have seen that some of the measures taken have made fuel available daily, as against what was obtained before when majority of people were taking the commodity outside the country because it was too cheap. The president must realize that what he owes Nigerians, to appease them for all the hardship and discomfort the fuel subsidy crises caused them is to ensure that all the indicted actors in that business are jailed.

He should not say I do not want to step on toes because of 2015 because 2015 will be a weakening and a tempering factor in trying to be a damn, strong and progressive president. If he begins to think about 2015, he will not want to step on toes and it will be difficult for him to deal with certain sectors of the economy. He should act now as if there is no 2015 by stepping on toes that all of us know deserve to be stepped on, including some of his friends, like Obasanjo did.

If he does that, Nigerians will hail him again. Nigerians want to see good governance; and when that happens, you will see that Nigerians are interesting people who do not care where their leader comes from. All they care about is good governance. So, what I am saying is that Jonathan should know that history beckons on him to write his name in diamond in the annals of Nigeria’s governance.

Therefore, he should come out a strong leader. The story of Nigeria is one of a potpourri of the good, the bad and the ugly. She evokes a scenario where one can cry and laugh simultaneously. Though it sounds paradoxical, but that is the truth of the matter. We can laugh because in spite of all the challenges, brouhaha and ‘wahala’, Nigeria is still together as one country, one entity although with very frail fabric that is being torn to shreds from the seams and in a very crooked manner, by her citizens.

So, we can afford to laugh because, notwithstanding the buffeting and rampaging assault on her, the old woman still remains resilient to both internal and external aggression. A lesser being would have suffered not just explosion, but implosion. But she has been able to withstand this onslaught. That is why I can laugh.

So, like Obasanjo would put it, but mine in a positive way; “I dey laugh”. But I also want to cry deservedly, because Nigeria is a country of lost and untapped opportunities, lost dreams, and a country of receding  hope, relying on only one mono-product – the black gold whereas Nigeria that has natural endowment freely, voluntarily and graciously given by God – when she ought to rely on more than five hundred products.

How many people know that Plateau and Nassarawa states have the greatest natural resources in Nigeria – Plateau has 27 natural endowments and Nassarawa is blessed with 25. We are talking about tin, gold, colombite, caoline, granite and lead among others, which are lying un-tapped. That is why I feel very sad; I feel sad that Nigeria is over-politicized. We dwell so much on politicking such that the real art and science of governance is put at the background.

Are we not a mad country to be discussing 2015 elections when the mandate given by Nigerians is still in its embryonic stage; when a marathoner should actually be warming up in a serious marathon race that involves four legs, (four years)?  Is it not madness that rather than talking about putting food on the tables of hungry Nigerians, giving security to unsecured Nigerians, giving water to thirsty Nigerians, giving education to ignorant Nigerians, giving empowerment to unemployed and destitute Nigerians, and giving shelter to homeless Nigerians, we busy ourselves discussing who becomes president and who becomes governor in 2015?

The first mandate given has not yet been used for the benefit of the people. Are we a country that is cursed? Are we really going to break up into smithereens by the year 2015? Is it the year of Armageddon? Is that why everybody keeps talking about 2015 so prematurely, in such an uncalled for manner; in such an irritable manner; in such a provocative manner and in such an undesirable manner? Once I am convinced after close scrutiny and investigation, and after talking to my God, I give my views un-inhibited, courageously, fearlessly and fiercely.

I believe that we need a single term of office for the president and for the governors – a single term of six years during which you either shape in or ship out. You either perform and have your name written in gold or not perform. For any governor or president to execute his programmes for the benefit of the people, either of his state or of his country, if we had six years, nobody would be talking about succession now.

The reason being that those who have been given the mandate will want to work for the next six years and because they look forward to no other tenure in the same office, they will sit down to do the work for which they have been elected. If the recurring cycle of elections today, elections yesterday and elections tomorrow is doing more harm and damage to the economy of Nigeria and when we are having about 85 per cent of our national budget devoted to recurrent expenditure with less than 20 percent to capital projects, how can such a nation grow?

It is not possible. For Nigeria’s nearly N4 trillion budget this year, about N2.7 trillion is devoted to recurrent expenditure alone – payment of salaries, gratuities, perks of office, tea and coffee drinking, dinners, external journeys and foreign trips – money that is unproductive. And you have a situation where governors have commissioners who themselves have special advisers. Then the special advisers would have special assistants and in some cases, you have the special assistants also having personal assistants and it goes on and on.

There are too many aides, advisers, assistants and all sorts of unnecessary positions and appointments in Nigerian governance from the presidency to the lowest political office. That is why I have come to view Nigeria as a country that is over-governed. There is too much of government without the real work of governance. The real work is to provide democracy dividends. But when I hear people talk about democracy dividends in Nigeria, I laugh.

The word dividend is borrowed from the corporate world which is a share that shareholders get from a company after declaring profit.  Dividends are paid out of profit. But has Nigeria even made profit in the last 13 years of democracy of which dividends can now be shared amongst Nigerians? I say no! Even our being together as one country has been by the grace of God who is ineffable, omniscient, benevolent and in mercy clear as in Genesis 18 verse 14, and replicated in Jeremiah 32 verse 27, where he says behold, I am God of all flesh, is there anything too hard for me to do? It is because there is nothing too difficult for God to do that Nigeria in spite of convolution, hiccups and implosive tendencies still remain one, as a united country.

I am a sad Nigerian. I am not a happy Nigerian because we have missed so many opportunities as we have not behaved responsibly like a country. Look at Japan. It does not have a single drop of oil but that country is today, unarguably, one of the three leading economies in the world. Is it China that has a population of over one billion people? China is the emerging power in the world, sidelining America that is now fighting spiritedly to stay as number one. What about India with a population that is more than half of that of China and more than four times that of Nigeria?

India only gained independence in 1957, three years earlier than Nigeria; they have risen above the stage of motor manufacturing and now manufacture aircrafts and ship. But for us, we cannot even manufacture the bicycle spoke, tooth or ear pick. We still import milk, sugar, rice wheat and flour – things that we should be comfortably producing, we still import in the 21st century world.

Do you know that Malaysia borrowed her palm kernel from Nigeria when they came to this country in the early 6os? They went to the east where palm produce was thriving and took some away from Malaysia and today, that country is not just the largest producer of palm produce in the world, but Nigeria is a grateful importer from Malaysia.

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Prof. Taiwo Osipitan SAN

Judges should not be under control of governor

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WALE IGBINTADE 18/06/2012 04:47:00

image Prof. Osipitan (SAN)

Prof. Taiwo Osipitan, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) is a Professor of Public law at the Faculty of Law, University of Lagos. In this interview with WALE IGBINTADE, the learned scholar speaks on the relationship between the judiciary and executive in some states and the falling standard of legal education, among other issues. Excerpts.

As a Law lecturer, how will you assess the standard of legal education in the country?
Definitely, it is not only in legal education that standard has fallen. Standards have fallen throughout the education sector right from the primary school to secondary school and to the university. So, I agree that standard of education has fallen and standard has also fallen in legal education, but it is not peculiar to legal education. But, what is troubling about legal education is that there are too many Law faculties in Nigeria producing so many lawyers. Unfortunately, many of these faculties do not have required manpower to be able to teach the students effectively. There is a minimum number, I think one lecturer to 40 students prescribed by National Universities Commission (NUC) for each faculty, but most faculties are not able to meet the NUC prescription, which is something that ensures effective teaching of Law. And, because we don’t have so many lecturers, students are not given tutorials in some universities the way we were taught in the University of Lagos and the way we still do it in the University of Lagos.

So, these are the reasons why standards are falling, namely too many Law faculties, very few dedicated lecturers, very few experienced hands being chased about and being available to teach too many students. So, I concede that the standard has fallen. But even then, in some advanced countries, we see their products; they are not as well-grounded as the ones we are teaching in the University of Lagos. So, it is a global issue and not peculiar to Nigeria.

But, one would have expected that standard would be preserved at the Law School level?
Those we teach at the University are the ones that also find themselves teaching in the Law School. But, a unique thing about Law School is that it is a training ground for intending lawyers. Law School is also a practical school where the students are supposed to learn the practice of Law, but unfortunately, most of the lecturers there do not have the required practice experience and you cannot really give what you don’t have. So, it is a continuation of the same theory that they are still teaching them there. I like to see a Law School that is vibrant enough to bring in seasoned practitioners to come and teach these students, even if it is for a month or two. It will be different from what we are seeing in various campuses. Again, we have multicampus system in Law School, a campus in Lagos, Abuja, Enugu, Bayelsa, Kano and Adamawa. These are too many campuses and these campuses don’t have the required staff strength. Also, those they are recruiting do not have the required practice experience.

What advantage does a Law lecturer who is in practice have over his colleagues?
It is very challenging, but also very rewarding to the lecturer and also to the students. A lecturer who is in practice has the advantage of teaching the students the living law. I teach Evidence and Evidence is the heart of Law. I also teach Constitutional Law which is very important and I also teach Criminal Law. Because, I teach the students, I must find time to research into those areas. My research skills are brought to play in practice, when I sit down to write briefs or argument, there would be a clear difference between me and the average practitioner. In other words, the discipline to sit down and research puts me in a vantage position over some of my colleagues who do not have the time or training in research area.

Again, the experience I gain in the field, I take it back to my students and when I teach them, I teach them with illustration of practical issues that are happening in court. Namely, how do you tender a document in court?, how do you tender a computerised statement of account in court in the light of the new Evidence Act? How do you object to the admissibility of a confessional statement? These are issues which I gain the experience in the field and straight from the field I take it back to the students and use it to illustrate the various principles of law and various provisions of the Evidence Act or the Criminal Code or even the Constitution. So, I believe that it is quite challenging, but very rewarding too. What you gain in the classroom from your students, you take to the field and use it to argue your case. What you gain in the field – from my colleagues, I take it back to the classroom, so there is what is called cross-fertilization of ideas or what I called a marriage of the town and the gown. The town is the court, the gown is the university.

The outgoing CJN recently suggested that the study of Law should be second degree. Do you agree with him? His lordship’s suggestion may not be unconnected with the ages which lawyers are called to Bar. The average age of call to Bar is between 22 and 23. They are not experienced in life as to be able to face the challenges in the field. The CJN may be right, but there was a time when people who were becoming lawyers did not even have first degree. Until recently, a law degree was not compulsory requirement for being called to Bar, especially in the ‘60s. You don’t have to have a Law degree, all you have to do is go to inns of courts and dine and pass law exams. But, it was later a law was passed that you must have a law degree before you can be admitted to the Law School. This suggestion of having first degree before study of Law, I do not agree with that. First, I did not have a first degree before I studied law and here I am today being able to hold my head in the legal profession both within and outside Nigeria.

Let me share with you our experience on the field. As a lecturer, we have seen that those people with first degree were sponsored by their parents and relatives. Majority of the parents cannot afford to keep their wards in school for more than four years. Having kept somebody in school for four years, they expect that person to start paying back by taking care of the parents and their siblings. So, our society is not that rich to afford the luxury of keeping somebody in school for eight to ten years.

From experience, we have students who are first degree holders studying Law and we also have students who are not first degree holders studying Law. When you check the attendance of students, those with first degrees are giving us problems in the sense that they will say they are coming in for full-time. But from experience, they are working. They are either running from their offices to the classroom, so they don’t give the second law degree the deserved attention. They have what is called divided attention. Unlike the person who is coming in fresh without first degree, they usually have 100 percent attendance. So, you can imagine a class where you have the entire students with first degrees, I can tell you that not less than 60 percent absenteeism is what you are likely to get because they have to feed as either paid employees or self-employees.

In August this year, Nigeria may have the first female CJN in the person of Justice Aloma Mukhtar. How will you describe her?
I have had the cause to appear before her ladyship both in Court of Appeal and in Supreme Court and I feel very comfortable with her appointment and very confident that her ladyship will do very well. You will find out that she is very friendly but very firm. She has zero tolerance for corruption, all the vices associated with some of our justices and all the controversies surrounding them; we are not likely to experience that with her. So, one is very confident that her appointment would be a right step in a right direction. I am sure she will take decisions that will benefit the judiciary and the legal profession. So, her appointment is a welcome development.

I understand she delivered a dissenting judgment in a petition by General MuhammaduBuhari against former President, UmaruYar’Adua. People are worried that this may be used against her?
We are all watching, it cannot be true. Nigeria belongs to all of us, not only to the ruling party. The judiciary is both for the ruling party as well as for other parties that are not ruling. The judiciary is to do justice to all manner of men and women, no matter whose ox is gored and no matter which party you belong to. I do not believe that President Jonathan and his team would allow personal interest to affect a well-deserved appointment. The NBA will not accept that, the Body of Senior Advocates is watching. It cannot happen and it will not happen.

The NJC has asked the President to reinstate the suspended President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Isa Salami, what is your take on this?
It is a welcome development and at the same time, one is unhappy about it. If you are asking that Justice Salami should be reinstated after all the issues that have been raised, it would mean that NJC was too much in a hurry to take a decision to suspend him. That means the suspension was not justified in the first instance, his suspension was a mistake. At the same time, his suspension could be seen as something that afforded NJC an opportunity to investigate. That, while being investigated he should step aside from being in charge of affairs. But, at the end of the day justice has prevailed, even if a mistake was made in sending him on suspension, those who made the mistake have realised that they made a mistake and have corrected the mistake. One would only hope that Mr. President will accept the recommendation, so that Salami can come back and continue to steer the affairs of the Court of Appeal.

What lesson do you think the judiciary should learn from this? The judiciary is the third arm of government vested with the power to interpret the law and also apply the law. In interpreting the law they would be at loggerhead with the executive and also the legislature. To that extent, judicial officers should not see politicians as their friends. They would use them at the right time and dump them. I suggest that judiciary should continue and intensify effort to maintain dignified distance from politicians. If they are able to do that, they will be able to uphold the independence of the judiciary and be able to do justice to all manner of men. I feel uncomfortable about arrangement in some states where judicial officers, including the Chief Judges are under the armpit of the governor. There is fusion of judiciary and executive in some states and the result is confusion, anarchy, and distrust for the Judiciary. People don’t trust the Judiciary of some states because of this unholy alliance between the Judiciary and the executive. So, it is time for the judiciary to stand up and assert its independence and maintain dignified distance from the executive and legislature, otherwise the image of the Judiciary will continue to be smeared by these politicians who, out of desperation, can do anything to smear the image of the judiciary.

There are provisions in the Constitution aimed at judicial independence. A governor cannot wake up today and say ‘I want to remove a judge because he has given judgment against me’. Before you remove a judge, you must make allegation against him and that allegation must be investigated by the National Judicial Council (NJC). So, the fact that nobody can just remove you by a stroke of pen, gives some levels of comfort that once appointed, you should stay there until you are 65 or 70 years unless on account of ill- health or infirmity of mind and body or misconduct. If it is misconduct, there will be a trial by his peers who are in NJC. Again, the salary of a judge comes from what they call Consolidated Revenue Fund. So, they don’t have to beg anybody for salaries and the salaries are also sufficiently comfortable for somebody who is not greedy. So these are things that have been put in place to ensure the independence of the judiciary. But, above all, when you talk about independence of the judiciary, the acid test of judicial independence is the quality of persons appointed to the judiciary. If you have all the support and you have all the logistics, if you lack the courage of a judge, then you cannot be a good judge. You cannot exhibit independence if you are a timid person. So, the acid test of independence is not about material things as such, but in knowledge of the law of those who are appointed and the stuff they are made of, character wise.

Apparently, using the conviction of former Delta State governor, James Ibori as an example, some of your colleagues are of the view that the Judiciary has failed in Nigeria. Do you agree with them? Unfortunately, the judiciary has now been turned into the punching bag. But, I want to believe that in the Ibori’s case in the UK, they didn’t have 170 charges and they don’t need 170 charges. From my experience as a defence counsel, some of these charges are bad for duplicity. It is like charging somebody for one transaction five or six times. Before you go to the Judiciary, you must find out how well the case was investigated. How badly or how well drafted was the charge? Did the prosecution obtain the required leave of court before bringing the charge? If for example, the prosecution did not obtain the required leave of court before bringing the charge, the judiciary has no choice but to strike out or quash the charge. That is the law.

Judiciary is to apply the law between individuals and government and give decisions in accordance with the law that is the role of the judiciary. Again, when the judiciary quashes a charge, when the evidence before the court cannot sustain the charge, it is bad ab-initio. That is not the fault of the judiciary; it is the fault of the prosecutor, as well as those who investigated the crime. Don’t forget that that we operate what they call adversary system. The accused person is presumed innocent until proven guilty. I am not saying that the judiciary is totally blameless, I have not said so and I will not say so. But, then, all the faults which the prosecutors should bear, all the lapses of those who are investigating the crime are now being put on the judiciary. I do not think this is fair.

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Rafiu Lawal-Rabana (SAN)

Cleanse The Assembly Of Bad Eggs – Rabana

RabanaFormer Secretary of Nigerian Bar Association, (NBA) Rafiu Lawal-Rabana (SAN) says members of the Nigerian National Assembly must cleanse itself of corruption or corrupt tendencies by looking inwards to remove bad eggs He talked to ABIODUN FAGBEMI in Ilorin.

What is your assessment of the current National Assembly, in view of the seeming summersaults of all the probing endeavours they had ever embarked upon?

It is unfortunate that since 1999 when the ongoing republic commenced, we had never had any successful probe at the National Assembly. I mean no probe had been concluded with recommendations and actions carried out on such recommendations.  Even where they claimed to have done that, Nigerians, who voted them to power, do not know the outcome. Again the style is such that all the probes had been tainted with one form of allegation or the other against the legislators involved in the probing exercise. So concerning their pedigree I would say action speaks louder than voice.

What are the needed steps to be taken to restore sanity to the National Assembly’s capacity to investigate?

To start with, they must have the will and the courage to ensure that their probe exercise is carried out untainted. Again, the Assembly must ensure that all the committee members are prevented from receiving money in whatever form from government agencies or parastatals they are asked to oversee. We must ensure that the composition of such probe committees is made up of members who are not in any way connected to the agency or the parastatals they are to probe.

For example, if you are probing the aviation sector, none of the members of the committee on aviation must be involved; I mean none of them with any link with aviation sector should be part of the probe. That should be the starting point to guarantee the impartiality of the probe panel members or the committee. It is natural that no thorough probe could be carried out if there had been cases of where the members performing their oversight functions had taken an advantage of the parastatals they oversee.

In advanced democracies probes are comprehensively released to the public with recommendations promptly implemented. How would you assess the situation in Nigeria?

You see in Nigeria, apart from treating Nigerians to television show of scandalous allegations, Nigerians don’t seem to eventually see the full contents of these reports.

For instance, Nigerians would want to know the causes of crisis in any sector or cases of inefficiency in such sectors and the dramatist personae behind it. Is it the management, the enactment, inadequacy of funding, corruption or gross incompetence that has prevented them from functioning? Besides, Nigerians would want solutions to them. When you highlight all these and we all see it, there can be a way out. But all we have seen so far has been scandalous allegation, creation of tension in the land and wasting of resources. So it has been a hurricane experience that destroys without a remedy on how to halt future hurricane. We need to avoid a situation in which the people probing suddenly become those being probed.

There must be an oath to be sworn to by all of the committee members; I mean they must all take oath of honesty. Besides, they must be made to give full disclosures of any existing relationship either by way of affinity or consanguinity, or by way of business between them and the institution being probed.

Therefore, when this oath is administered by way of deposing to affidavit, whoever breeches it knows the consequence under the law. When these measures are taken into consideration, there can be neutrality during probing sessions. I think we need to start from somewhere. Again, the terms of reference of this committee must be clear and unambiguous. It must not be a loose cannon. This will effectively guide them against venturing into another thing.”

Can there be a reasonable nexus between probe results and the Freedom of Information Act (FOA)?

The final responsibility of Nigerians now is to take advantage of the FOI act, by specifically approaching the Clerks of the National Assembly to demand for the reports of these probes. Of course the Clerks know the consequences of any refusal to comply with the demand. I think truly that there is a link between the two as stated by you.

When former President Olusegun Obasanjo recently lambasted members of the legislature, some Nigerians felt the statements were rather too harsh. With the recent revelations can we say Obasanjo was right?

That is where the question of leadership and integrity came to bear. The National Assembly will have to re-build its image because the image at present is bad. The only way is to be seen as not covering up the rot of some of their members. After all, the collective image of the National Assembly is greater than that of an individual member. The National Assembly will do Nigerians a lot of good now by exposing the bad eggs among them, rather than covering them up.

Both the Senate and the House of Representatives have quality leaders. But this is the time to demonstrate that to Nigerians, that no member is greater than the nation itself. While I agree with Obasanjo that some members of the National Assembly are irresponsible, some of them are truly responsible. The statement is too sweeping. But the onus is on them however to tell us that the man (Obasanjo) is wrong. The image of the National Assembly is at stake and the world is watching us.

In this case involving Farouk, I think the best thing is to place him on suspension in order to demonstrate utmost good faith. If the public officer is involved, he is immediately placed on suspension, how much more a lawmaker! They should lead by good examples. At the Security Exchange Commission (SEC), Aruma Otte is on suspension pending the outcome of investigation in an allegation against her. In Nigeria, we have seen ministers removed without being charged to court. These are good examples for the national assembly to follow.

 

What is your assessment of the current National Assembly, in view of the seeming summersaults of all the probing endeavours they had ever embarked upon?

It is unfortunate that since 1999 when the ongoing republic commenced, we had never had any successful probe at the National Assembly. I mean no probe had been concluded with recommendations and actions carried out on such recommendations.  Even where they claimed to have done that, Nigerians, who voted them to power, do not know the outcome. Again the style is such that all the probes had been tainted with one form of allegation or the other against the legislators involved in the probing exercise. So concerning their pedigree I would say action speaks louder than voice.

What are the needed steps to be taken to restore sanity to the National Assembly’s capacity to investigate?

To start with, they must have the will and the courage to ensure that their probe exercise is carried out untainted. Again, the Assembly must ensure that all the committee members are prevented from receiving money in whatever form from government agencies or parastatals they are asked to oversee. We must ensure that the composition of such probe committees is made up of members who are not in any way connected to the agency or the parastatals they are to probe.

For example, if you are probing the aviation sector, none of the members of the committee on aviation must be involved; I mean none of them with any link with aviation sector should be part of the probe. That should be the starting point to guarantee the impartiality of the probe panel members or the committee. It is natural that no thorough probe could be carried out if there had been cases of where the members performing their oversight functions had taken an advantage of the parastatals they oversee.

In advanced democracies probes are comprehensively released to the public with recommendations promptly implemented. How would you assess the situation in Nigeria?

You see in Nigeria, apart from treating Nigerians to television show of scandalous allegations, Nigerians don’t seem to eventually see the full contents of these reports.

For instance, Nigerians would want to know the causes of crisis in any sector or cases of inefficiency in such sectors and the dramatist personae behind it. Is it the management, the enactment, inadequacy of funding, corruption or gross incompetence that has prevented them from functioning? Besides, Nigerians would want solutions to them. When you highlight all these and we all see it, there can be a way out. But all we have seen so far has been scandalous allegation, creation of tension in the land and wasting of resources. So it has been a hurricane experience that destroys without a remedy on how to halt future hurricane. We need to avoid a situation in which the people probing suddenly become those being probed.

There must be an oath to be sworn to by all of the committee members; I mean they must all take oath of honesty. Besides, they must be made to give full disclosures of any existing relationship either by way of affinity or consanguinity, or by way of business between them and the institution being probed.

Therefore, when this oath is administered by way of deposing to affidavit, whoever breeches it knows the consequence under the law. When these measures are taken into consideration, there can be neutrality during probing sessions. I think we need to start from somewhere. Again, the terms of reference of this committee must be clear and unambiguous. It must not be a loose cannon. This will effectively guide them against venturing into another thing.”

Can there be a reasonable nexus between probe results and the Freedom of Information Act (FOA)?

The final responsibility of Nigerians now is to take advantage of the FOI act, by specifically approaching the Clerks of the National Assembly to demand for the reports of these probes. Of course the Clerks know the consequences of any refusal to comply with the demand. I think truly that there is a link between the two as stated by you.

When former President Olusegun Obasanjo recently lambasted members of the legislature, some Nigerians felt the statements were rather too harsh. With the recent revelations can we say Obasanjo was right?

That is where the question of leadership and integrity came to bear. The National Assembly will have to re-build its image because the image at present is bad. The only way is to be seen as not covering up the rot of some of their members. After all, the collective image of the National Assembly is greater than that of an individual member. The National Assembly will do Nigerians a lot of good now by exposing the bad eggs among them, rather than covering them up.

Both the Senate and the House of Representatives have quality leaders. But this is the time to demonstrate that to Nigerians, that no member is greater than the nation itself. While I agree with Obasanjo that some members of the National Assembly are irresponsible, some of them are truly responsible. The statement is too sweeping. But the onus is on them however to tell us that the man (Obasanjo) is wrong. The image of the National Assembly is at stake and the world is watching us.

In this case involving Farouk, I think the best thing is to place him on suspension in order to demonstrate utmost good faith. If the public officer is involved, he is immediately placed on suspension, how much more a lawmaker! They should lead by good examples. At the Security Exchange Commission (SEC), Aruma Otte is on suspension pending the outcome of investigation in an allegation against her. In Nigeria, we have seen ministers removed without being charged to court. These are good examples for the national assembly to follow

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O.C.J. Okocha SAN

NBA has joined in the war against corruption – O.C. J Okocha

 

CHINEDUM EMEANA 11/06/2012 00:59:00

image O.C.J. Okocha (SAN)

Chief O.C. J Okocha (SAN) is a former President of Nigeria Bar Association (NBA). He is also a member of the National Judicial Council (NJC) and the current Chairman of the Council of Legal Education (CLE). In this interview with CHINEDUM EMEANA, in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, he speaks on the trial of corruption cases, the justice sector reforms, challenges before the judiciary and other legal issues. Excerpts.

What role has the NBA, as a stakeholder in the administration of justice, played in recent times to bring corrupt public office holders and politicians to justice?
Well, the Nigerian Bar Association is an association of lawyers. Their role as lawyers is to represent their clients in the carrying on of their various businesses and activities. The NBA, by its aims and objectives and, indeed, its motto or slogan is expected to promote the rule of law and to that extent, it has also joined in the war against corruption and made several statements and urged all concerned to uphold the law and ensure that corrupt practices in our national life are eliminated. Now, the Bar association, as an association, is not a prosecutor of those accused of corrupt practices. Invariably, the members of the Bar association handle these roles because they are either prosecutors prosecuting those offenders and then members of the Bar association also play a role in defending the people who have been accused of corrupt practices. So, we are just lawyers carrying on our roles and functions as lawyers and depending on what side of the divide each individual lawyer finds himself, he is expected to uphold the rule of law and ensure that truth and justice are held supreme in all matters, particularly matters relating to corruption and corrupt practices.

The processes of determining cases are quite slow; what suggestions do you have to speed up the slow pace of justice delivery in the country?
You are correct and it is slow because we have not established the proper machinery for administration of justice and enforcement of law and order. When I talk about the machinery, you contemplate the court, where finally at the conclusion of Police investigations accused persons are brought to trial and duly prosecuted and if found guilty are sentenced to terms of imprisonment or any other punishment prescribed by law. So what we do to speed up the process is to ensure that our members take their engagement seriously and we also insist that the Federal Government must establish the structures that are requisite to secure speedy trial and disposal of cases.

So there must be new courts built, sufficient enough to deal with the large number of criminal cases and indeed other civil cases that are before the courts. We also encourage the government to appoint more Judges and Magistrates so that the work will be made easier for those who are to hear the cases and determine them. We also call on the government to ensure that the Police, the authority that investigates and prosecutes cases is properly manned, properly equipped and properly motivated so that they can do their job to secure speedy dispensation of justice. And you know the Prisons are an essential arm of that machinery, most awaiting trial men who have not been granted bail or released on bail even after being granted bail are kept in prison custody and unless the prisons are able to bring them to court their cases will not be heard.

Do you agree that lack of capacity of some judges often contribute to the slow pace of justice delivery?
No! I do not subscribe to that at all. You see if a man does not have the required qualification and the necessary attributes he will not even be appointed a Judge or Magistrate; that is my starting point. So I want to assume that every person serving as a Judge or a Magistrate has the capacity. But then having said that one cannot discount the fact that some people after they have been appointed Judges or Magistrates suffer some kind of reversal in their own personal lives, some people may be ill because of human nature, some people may become lazy because of the fact that nobody is paying due attention to their performance. But aside from those situations I cannot conceive of a situation where anybody can say that a Judge or a Magistrate lack the capacity to hear and determine cases.

And for those ones that are sick, we recommend that they be given proper medical treatment, and you know that some people get so sick that they are unable to perform, we recommend that they be urged to leave the Bench. And for those who are unable to have the facilities put in place for them to do a reasonable job for a reasonable day’s pay, we urge the authorities to make sure that these deficiencies in the structure, the required materials for the courts to function, the books for the judges to read and the other paraphernalia requisite for the Judges to function are put in place.

Supreme Court recently directed that election petition cases be determined within 180 day. Do you think that will promote justice in view of the slow pace of judicial processes?
Yes I think so. You see because 180 days is nearly six months and you know they set up these election petition tribunals and the Appeal tribunals in sufficient numbers to deal with the election petitions and if the lawyers and parties involved in those cases are up and doing, I have a very strong believe that they should be able to conclude the presentation of their cases and enable the courts and the tribunals to deliver verdicts as may be appropriate so I don’t quarrel with the provisions of the law and the Supreme Court has actually upheld the provisions of the law. Anybody who is serious about fighting an election petition should be up and doing.

Do you agree with suggestions that Law should be made a second Degree course in Nigerian Universities?
I do not believe that there is any necessity to make Law a second degree course in Nigerian universities. In most developed democracies, law is a first degree course; it’s only in USA that you have law as a second degree course. That is for their own special reason and because of the way their legal profession emerged. We used to be a commonwealth country and our legal system is borrowed from the English system and in England, law is a first degree programme, so I do not subscribe to the argument that that law should be a second degree course.

You have to appreciate that Nigeria is a developing country and the more lawyers we have the better for us. You also have to appreciate that Nigeria is not a rich country, in the sense that most of our parents, most of the people whose children are interested in going to school are not as buoyant financially as you may think and if we want to give everybody a fair opportunity, law should not be made a second degree programme because you see parents and guardians go through that financial burden of training somebody for four years in the University, the person finishes and you say that is when he should now start going to read law, another four years, eight years!

The hostel project at the Lagos Campus of the Nigerian Law School has been abandoned for many years; how long will it remain that way? And do you think that the law school needs more campuses?
Now talking about the Nigerian Law School, the hostel at the Lagos Campus has remained uncompleted for some time now; it is one of the matters that the Council is now looking on and hoping that we can source funds to complete the hostel. So it is a priority issue on our agenda and I hope that before long we will be able to source funds to complete the remaining portions of the hostels at the Lagos Campus of the Nigerian Law School.

We already have six campuses of the Nigerian Law School, and your question is whether we need more campuses. For now I would not say yes, I would say no. let us try and maximize the facilities we have from these six campuses, which incidentally have been located at six geopolitical zones of Nigeria. The five that have already taken off and are up and running are doing well and I believe they will have space for more students there. The only one that has not really taken off is the Yola Campus, which I believe before the end of this year should be up and running.

Over the past four years, about 12 judicial reform bills have been pending at the National Assembly e.g. the Prison Act (amendment) bill, the Legal Aid Council (amendment) bill etc. Do you think the NASS has the political will to pass these bills before the end of the Jonathan administration?
I believe that they do have the will to deal with these Bills that relate to the legal profession. You forgot to mention even the one that is of most pressing importance to us as legal practitioners, which is the Legal Practitioners (amendment) bill, we also have the one that deals with the training of lawyers, the Council of Legal Education and the legal education (amendment) bill. So all these bills I believe will help to revolutionize the legal profession in Nigeria and to transform the way and manner in which we are training our lawyers to become legal practitioners. They will also help in the speedy and efficient administration of justice when duly passed and implemented. The Speaker of the House of Representatives is a distinguished lawyer and he personally promised us when we held our last conference in Abuja that he will do all in his power to ensure that these Bills relating to the legal profession in Nigeria and the administration of justice are given priority attention.

When Justice Ayo Salami was recommended for suspension, it was carried out almost immediately; now the same process has recommended his reinstatement. What do you think about the delay in carrying out the NJC directive?
Well, let me preface my statement by informing you that I am a member of the National Judicial Council and it would be inappropriate for me to make any comment that would be adverse to the situation that the NJC has finally taken that matter to. The NJC has resolved that a recommendation be made to the President for the reinstatement of Justice Ayo Salami to his position as President of the Court of Appeal and I believe that that recommendation is receiving attention at the Presidency. My appeal to all Nigerians, to all lawyers and judges and particularly to the members of the press is for all of us to be patient and await the final decision of the President of Nigeria on the matter.

Soon the first female Chief Justice of Nigeria will emerge. Do you think she has what it takes to inject fresh impetus into the administration of justice in Nigeria?
I believe you speak about Justice Aloma Muhktar , the first woman to become a Supreme Court Justice in Nigeria; she is eminently qualified to be CJN and you know in our profession we proceed by seniority and my knowledge of Aloma Mukhtar’s career indicates that she has moved from the lowest to now the highest court in Nigeria. She served the highest superior court of record in Nigeria as we call it, she served in the High Court and she served in the Court of Appeal and then also served and is currently serving as Justice of the Supreme Court.

My little interaction with her indicates that she is a very decisive and focused woman and I can tell you that in my heart of heart I believe that she will be a dynamic Chief Justice for Nigeria, and it is my hope and prayer that when her turn comes to be Chief Justice, she will be duly appointed and I pray that she performs, not only to her own credit, but to the credit of all the women, who I am sure are gearing up for a tumultuous celebration of one their own being sworn-in as the CJN.

What agenda do you think should be pursued by the incoming CJN?
Well, first and foremost is the restoration of the past glory of Nigeria’s judiciary. You know in recent times all these stories are being bandied around and I wonder where they are coming from about the judiciary now being a place where anything goes, the reputation of the courts have been sullied, people even allege that Judges and Magistrates are all corrupt. But I keep saying we cannot continue to bandy around such unfounded rumours. There is machinery in place to discipline Magistrates who engage in wrong doing, who engage in corrupt practices, who are indolent and tardy in the discharge of their function. So my hope is that Justice Aloma Mukthar, when she becomes CJN will take this battle of restoring the judiciary’s pride of place from the point where the current CJN has taken it.

And all of us must give kudos and credit to the current CJN, Justice Dahiru Musdapher for the remarkable strides he has taken to restore the pride of the judiciary. So hopefully, the incoming CJN, when she is fully appointed and sworn-in, will further the work of her predecessor, I believe that justice dispensation is soon going to see glory days.

How will you react to the way the Nigerian judiciary handled the Ibori case?
This is not a matter of opinion, it is factual. You know you have to appreciate that before you bring a criminal to justice you must prosecute him and prosecute him to the point where you have proved his guilt beyond reasonable doubt. That is the standard of proof required for criminal cases. Now before you even start prosecuting, you must investigate and produce evidence which you will present before a court of law and the presentation of this evidence is usually placed in the hands of a prosecutor.

So investigation is done by the Police and other investigating agencies, they have the responsibility to assemble the evidence with which an accused person will be arraigned before a court. That is the first hurdle, I personally do not think that our investigating agencies presently as constituted have the capacity to thoroughly investigate high calibre crimes as is thought were committed by James Ibori. No Judge can convict anybody unless there is proper evidence establishing that the person has committed the offence with which he is charged and that evidence must prove that beyond reasonable doubts because you see an accused person is presumed innocent until he is proven guilty and you know in proving an accused person guilty, the accused person is entitled to legal representation. Now you get an unseasoned prosecutor from the EFCC or acting for the EFCC to present evidence and the accused person himself gets a seasoned lawyer, invariably a senior lawyer, sometimes a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) to defend him. It is a contest between the prosecution and the accused person, and in that contest the more expert craftsman, the more expert lawyer will prevail because you can bring the evidence, but there are many reasons and many ways to destroy evidence because once you cast some sufficient doubts on that evidence no court will accept it as the basis to convict an accused person.

What happened in Ibori’s case here is that no evidence that was credible enough was presented before the court and so the court acquitted and discharged him, but in England, when Ibori and his lawyers saw the overwhelming evidence, the seasoned prosecutor, not the kind of prosecutor who may be seasoned and then subject to corrupting influences, and the fact that the Judge there was serious to do business, he had no choice but to plead guilty.

Some have been convicted in this country, have you forgotten? Is it because one man called James Ibori escaped conviction for corrupt offences that you are saying the image of the judiciary has been badly dented, I say no, it is not true.

What of the Akingbola’s case, the trial judge at the Federal High Court castigated EFCC lawyers and the SANs?
Let me tell you, if you go and look at the records, there were no five SANs that appeared before the Judge, Justice Charles Achibong. On the day in question it was Obla, who is not a SAN, who was in court, and you know, the comments that the Judge made, for me appears a bit funny because how can you be making an order against lawyers who are not appearing before you? And let us face it, is it the fact of a lawyer who is prosecuting not prosecuting well that will make a Judge to say to the Federal Government disband a team of lawyers that you have hired, itis not his business. So I do not think that that paints a clear picture. Again I say Erastus Akingbola’s case is just one of several cases of corruption.

The problem all of us are trying to run away from is that the prosecuting agencies are not strong enough. The average Police investigator today may not even know how to switch on a computer, may not even know how access the internet to begin to track money transferred from a bank to another bank to another bank which is what happens in these money laundering cases.

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Chief Afe Babalola (SAN)

‘Current review will not lead to a peoples’ constitution’

Tuesday, 12 June 2012 00:00 BY ABIODUN FANORO Features Law

 

Afe-baba

More than 13 years of unbroken democratic rule, a functional and acceptable constitution, central to the resolution of several challenges facing Nigeria today, still appears to be very elusive. It is the realisation of this and the need to redress it that made successive administrations in the country embark on either a review or an amendment of the Constitution from time to time. Despite these efforts, rather than getting it right, the country has continued to slide deeper and deeper into arguable confusion, with its people losing hope. Chief Afe Babalola (SAN), a renowned constitutional lawyer and an elder statesman, in this interview with ABIODUN FANORO, concludes that the planned review of the Constitution by the National Assembly would suffer the same fate as the earlier ones except it is a new Constitution that flows from the gathering of the people of Nigeria, through a Sovereign Constitutional Conference, is enthroned. Excerpts:

THE Federal Government, through National Assembly, is again in the process of amending the Nigeria’s Constitution. How best should this exercise be carried out to avoid the failure of many previous exercises in the past?

When I read about the planned National Assembly exercise to amend the defective and the un-representative 1999 Constitution, which in all its wordings, lied against itself and the people of Nigeria, after a deep reflection, I asked myself: “for how long shall we continue to deceive ourselves? How long shall we continue to be forced to grope in the dark despite the fact that this country is the melting point of all classes of intellectuals and for how long shall a tiny group of self-serving individuals hold the vast majority of the people hostage and keep lording over them with their whims and caprices?”

What I am saying is that as it was in the past, this exercise would not take us to the desired point, it would only prolong the suffering of the people and further endanger the future of the country. I have said it before and I will say it again. The Constitution, which would enable a country to attain its objective of making life comfortable for the people, must be the Constitution of the people? It is the Constitution, which is arrived at, at a conference of the people, usually called the Sovereign National Conference (SNC). The 1999 Constitution is not a Constitution of the people, and I challenge you, whether you knew when it was made. I was not part of it, nobody was party to it. It was single-handedly drawn up by the military and it was called the Constitution of the people of Nigeria. The military is just a minute fraction of the people of Nigeria. It had no right to make a Constitution for the people of Nigeria, and the Constitution is very faulty. The Constitution is a copy of the United States’ Constitution. It is not applicable to this country. The American Constitution was as a result of their success in the 1776 American War of Independence against the British. The 13 American colonies consciously came together for a common purpose and they fought the British for independence. They knew what they were doing, they knew what was at stake and together, they fashioned out a common way to achieve it. Nigeria never fought a war (of independence). The several hundreds of nationalities existed independently of one another. They never had or nursed a common goal. Each of them was okay with the way it was running its affairs and living its life. Nationalities or tribes with different religions and different ideas of life, somebody just woke up from a long sleep and from his sleep-walk to put them together, gave a Constitution and forced them to live together. You don’t make a people that way. A people would not become united merely by proclamation, something must bind them together. Take South Africa for example, they are together because they suffered together and they fought a war.

But, it is not every country that emerged as a result of war, yet its people live together?

Yes of course, it is not every country that emerged through war. In Canada for instance, there was no such war. So they appreciated the fact that they had come together with differences. If you look at Quebec, or the state of Novascritia, they are all French settlers. If you come to the West in Vancouver, they are mostly Chinese and Japanese. The centre is also made up of different communities. They all knew their differences, so they formed a constitution where each is able to manage its affairs and develop at its own pace. But at the centre is the Canadian government taking care of Foreign Affairs with a few matters. What Nigeria needed was what our fore-fathers agreed to in 1960, after a long deliberation for over a period of over 11 years, from 1950 to 1960, in Lancaster House in London. They realised the difference between the tribes and they allowed the West to develop at its own pace, differed from the East and the North. As a matter of fact, if you could remember, the North as at that time said it was not ready for independence because it knew that the South was more advanced than the North. Why was this obvious and significant difference not allowed to determine the future of these two communities?

However, in the wisdom of our fathers, they said that the North should be given time to catch up with the South. Of course, I disagree with that. You don’t give time to somebody who it took 10 years to develop to catch up with someone that it took one year to develop.

For instance, the first lawyer in Yoruba qualified over 150 years, whereas there were some states which their first lawyer qualified less than 50 years ago, also for engineering, medicine, among others. The difference is crystal clear. There are those who want to move fast, there are those who don’t want to be rushed.

In your view, the problem facing the country today is our failure to stick to true regionalism (federalism) which Nigerian founding fathers agreed to in Lancaster House, Britain?

The problem is that those in position of leadership today believe that Nigeria’s founding fathers were stupid, that they are wiser than they were and that they are more Nigerians than they were.

As I said, the 1999 Constitution was imposed on us by the military. Now that they are gone, the right thing for us to do as a right-thinking people is not to begin to amend or doctor this unacceptable document, but to begin a process of fashioning out a new one by calling for a gathering of the people. This Constitution that would emerge from the conference of the people would be the one that would allow us to continue to live together but would allow the component parts to develop at their different rates.

Is everything that bad with a presidential constitution for our own situation that it cannot be domesticated to meet our peculiar situation?

It was not applicable to our own situation right from the beginning. It is not applicable now because one: that type of constitution is not suitable for our state of development. Two: It is not suitable to a country where the vision, the philosophy, the religion and tradition are totally different.

Nigeria’s presidential system of government is believed to be more expensive than what obtains in the United States of America. What is your opinion?

Yes, it is very true. This again, is as a result of the constitution we operate, which allows a greater percentage of our resources to be controlled by the central government, while the states and local council, will every month, go cap in hand, to beg for allocation. The state and the local councils can hardly pay salaries of their workers. As a result of this, after payment of salaries, states and local councils have little or no money left to develop their areas, create and promote employment and other socio-welfare facilities that can keep people and youths in their areas to be self-employed.

The only sources of employment now remain government and political office-holders. Today, you see one political office-holder having as many as 10 to 20 aides, all of them drawing their salaries from government purse without being productive or adding any value to governance.

In the United States, this is not so because of its high level of development, where you cannot take anybody for a ride and because strict federalism is practised there. It is because there is no development at the states and local council, no new industries, the existing ones have collapsed and become moribund. That is why you have unemployment all over the place. Until a truly peoples’ constitution, which would enable each component part of Nigeria to develop at its own pace, a pace that is suitable to its peculiar people and peculiar needs, we are sitting on a keg of gun powder.

One other contentious area is the responsibility sharing list, where the Federal Government legislates and controls virtually everything. Isn’t there a need to review this?

This is certainly an abnormality in a supposed Federal Constitution. In the former Constitution, all these items, which the Federal Government has today appropriated to itself under the Exclusive List, were functions of states and local councils on which they legislated. What has the Federal Government to do with, for instance, agriculture in Ado-Ekiti, Calabar or Sokoto? We need to go back and readjust those things through a constitutional conference, take away most of those items under the Exclusive List and return them to the component states. All our money goes to the maintenance of the Civil Service and the political structures in the country. That is why in Nigeria, nobody wants to do anything (for a living) than to seek the “kingdom of god,” and the kingdom of god is Abuja and the constitution, which allows those who serve in different capacities in government to get rich over-night.

Having realised the imperativeness and the dangers ahead, if we fail to act, what are legal icons and elder statesmen like you doing to draw government’s attention?

I have written to all the presidents of the country so far, that the earlier we have a constitutional conference to address all these problems, the better. I did not write only to former Presidents Olusegun Obasanjo and Umaru Yar’Adua, his successor, I must have written four letters to incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan on this issue, requesting him to please, initiate necessary processes to convene a national conference for the purpose of avoiding dangers that are looming ahead.

What has been the reaction of President Jonathan?

I haven’t got any reply from any of them, not President Jonathan alone. I am not the only Nigerian proposing this conference. All Nigerians from all callings, including Osun State Governor Rauf Aregbesola, have been making this call.

In the light of this and in further view of the current state of the country, do you share the fear that there is palpable threat to the future of the country?

The way things are going, only God and you and I can save the country, by persuading those who are in positions of authority to quickly intervene by convening this Sovereign National Conference to settle the issues. We can still live together. That is the only way out of these problems.

Now, let us shift our attention to the judiciary, which made you, but today its walls are collapsing, what is the way out?

This can only be truly achieved, again, through a Sovereign National Conference. The new constitution will have to establish a new structure for the Judiciary, the Legislature and the Executive. It will define a new and unambiguous pattern of operation and relationship that cannot be impeded by any form of action of the three parties.

In essence, there has to be a truly separated power and independence in all languages and in practice. If you ask me, I will tell you that we run one of the most expensive Legislature in the world. We don’t need such an expensive Legislature. I have been a councilor before, but this was on part-time basis.

Are you calling for a parliamentarian system of government?

Whether it is going to be presidential, parliamentary or anything whatsoever, it is the people who should decide. Whatever form of government we want must be the one that will be able to function in such a way that the security of lives and property will be guaranteed. It must be the one that will allow the states to control the resources in their domain and use it for the development of their areas in such a way their opportunities for employment will be guaranteed.

How can the judiciary be protected from corruptive influences?

Again, this is a function of the constitution. A constitution that places the appointment of judges in the hands of the president or a governor is certainly not helpful to a free administration of justice.

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