Mr. Malachy Ugwummadu is the National President of the Campaign for the Defence of Human Rights (CDHR). In this interview with AKEEM NAFIU, he speaks on President Muhammadu Buhari’s decision to recontest in 2019, looters’ list, anti-graft war and sundry issues
Do you share the view that the looters’ list recently released by the Federal Government is selective and capable of diminishing its ability to fight corruption?
I think the PDP was too arrogant in challenging APC to go to town with the names.
This is because a party that has officially come out in one breadth, to apologize for its misadventure, misdeeds and transgression, cannot in another breadth, begin to throw spanners in a glass house. As a lawyer, apparently the action of the government is subjudice, because those on the list are currently going through trial for alleged corruption.
But, I think that in the eye of the law, those on the list have an option to raise it as a matter that is subjudice but more fundamentally, they can take out defamation action against the government.
However, in the law of defamation, justification is a total defence. If the concerned PDP members decide to challenge government over its action and the government as it were has a water-tight evidence to back up its claims, the action will fall flat.
However, the CDHR has challenged the government to move a step further from naming names and prosecute those involved, just as a former Deputy Senate President, Ibrahim Mantu, has just confessed his sins. There is no other evidence stronger than confession. So, government should act by apprehending Mantu, so that he can tell us more about his exploits.
However, I want to say that the APC government should look inward and balance this capacity to unearth corruption. Those who indulge in corruption among its members should also be exposed because it is all about restoring the integrity of this country.
In whose interest is the on-going arms mopping exercise by the Federal Government when killer herdsmen who are maiming and killing innocent citizens with AK 47 and other sophisticated weapons are yet to be disarmed?
The first point to note is the reason behind the directive. I think it was borne out of the upsurge in the level of violence across the country. This is as a result of huge amount of arms in the hands of unauthorized people. Besides, I am sure that if disarming killer herdsmen is that simple, then senseless killings would have stopped.
On this issue, I want to urge the Federal Government to show capacity as a government in charge of Nigeria for it to deal decisively with all acts of violence and criminality across the country.
Every tier of government responsible for the welfare and security of Nigerians, according to Section 14 (2) (b) of the Constitution must rise to the occasion and ensure that the use of arms by unauthorized individuals must come to an end.
The Federal Government is in control of cohesive powers of Nigeria. Indeed, the very symbol of sovereignty of Nigeria lies with the military and in the might of the country. So, if the Federal Government, particularly the Commander-in-Chief, does not have the capability to bring his weight to bear in this situation, then our integrity and sovereignty will be questioned.
As guaranteed by the Constitution, President Muhammadu Buhari is seeking re-election in 2019. Do you think he deserve to be re-elected considering his performance in office since 2015?
On this issue, my position as a Nigerian but drawing from my experience as a lawyer would be to interrogate Section 131 (1)-(4) of the Constitution. I then ask myself a humble question, is this man qualified? What the Constitution requires of anyone who intends to contest for the office of the president is to establish that the individual is a Nigerian by birth. I don’t think this is in doubt. Secondly, it must be established that the person belongs to a political party which sponsored his candidature.
We must also be able to establish that he has attained the age of 40. Lastly, he must be able to show that he has been educated up till at least a school certificate level. That was all that the Constitution requires. But given our experience with the governments we have had in the past, I want to advocate that in addition to these requirements by the Constitution, there should be a means of ascertaining the health status of whoever aspires to lead us at the executive cadre of government both at the state and federal level of governance.
This will underscore the importance of improving on our heath sector. It will also emphasize the point that beyond the expertise and knowledge of the aspirant, we need to be certain that the person is also healthy.
This is because the rigour of that office demands that the person in charge is very healthy otherwise the regular incidence of the person travelling abroad for medical treatment will continue. I have looked at the issue from the perspective of the law.
This is to tell you that I have no reason to disagree with President Buhari who has declared his intention to seek re-election. However, what the electorates considered is the performance ingredients and how far such a person has kept faith with earlier promises.
When in 2015 that the promises of improvement on security, economy and graft war were made by the present administration, it was a response to the debilitating failure of the PDP government.
To have approximated your leadership to the restoration of security, the Nigerian people who reserved the sovereignty under Section 14 of the Constitution were able to judge and ask the question, are we better off today? In 2014, Boko Haram has gone beyond the North-East taking towns after towns and taking cities after local governments. They were fully established as far as Kogi state and advancing into the southern part of Nigeria. Now, all of those were reversed but at a huge cost.
This is in terms of the lives that were lost and the resources expended. But as the Buhari’s government was plugging the holes of Boko Haram insurgency, there were other forms of violence ranging from kidnapping to armed robbery and so on.
This re-enforces the bigger reality that until we deal with the socio-economic conditions that breeds this violence in the first place, we cannot but continue to harvest violence across the country. Unfortunately, we have now gotten to the point where there is a balance of violence and aggression. Boko Haram now give the country conditions and we are also negotiating with them.
They gave us conditions for the release of our girls that were abducted and we ensure they were met, including that they will have free passage. One of the consequences of this is that we are already establishing the rewarding aspect of violence in the mind of a violent prone youth. The message being passed is that if a violent prone youth is hardened enough, he can take the entire country hostage and blackmail it up to a point where he will be paid.
As we speak, the entire female girls’ child schools in the entire North-East have been closed down. It will take more than 10 years for as long as this war will continue for us to understand the implication of what has just happened.
This is because we are growing a generation where we are already foreclosing the capacity of a particular set of people from having education. If we link that with the economy, you will see that what determine the state of the economy are not the figures and data that the CBN reads out daily, but the capacity of Nigerians to be able to feed themselves. We all know the state of the Nigeria economy at the moment.
We all understand that prior to the coming on board of this administration, the treasury was plundered, but the investiture that Nigerians had on Buhari’s government was partly to the effect that it will be able to re-organize and turn around our fortunes in such a way that we will not continue to lament. In essence, so far, it has not looked so good. As far as I am concerned, what Nigerians needed is not any person from the political class, we needed an alternative to the political class.
By political class, I was referring to all the political parties in the country. We needed an alternative not just in terms of ideology but in the area of governance which will be a departure from what the politicians have been offering us. Sadly, this is almost not achievable at the moment.
This is because the real class that could upturn the ruling class as it were is supposed to be the middle class, but we don’t have it in this country and it was deliberate. People were incapacitated and that is the challenge. However, the good news is that it is in the midst of this deprivation that the resentment will set in and when that happens, we will start experiencing what I described as ‘class suicide’. Only recently, we saw Ibrahim Mantu, confessing to his crimes.
The beauty of what is happening today is that there are some young people who have decided to take the bull by the horn. Though the system as it is presently structured may not allow them to achieve their ambitions but they have started and their resolve will soon resonate across the country in the minds of people. I believed that a lot of things will soon conspire to make the impossibility possible.
What can you say about the anti-graft war of Buhari’s administration?
No doubt, we have seen very remarkable zeal on the part of government which has refused to be blackmailed by the legislature over the non-confirmation of Ibrahim Magu as the substantive chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
The man has shown serious zeal to fight corruption at the risk of everything, including his life. The legislature has been reluctant to consolidate on the anti-graft war of this government.
This can be seen in the light of executive bills which are meant to fortify the fight that are avoidably suffering at the National Assembly. By and large, whereas we could see so much energy and desire, the way to measure the anti-corruption fight is to be able to ascertain the extent to which the crusade itself have been institutionalized. Such that in the absence of a Buhari and Magu, the campaign can still go on seamlessly.
On that score, much is still left to be desired. When we exit this government, it will be difficult to find a kind of continuation except we institutionalized and have enough framework in place to deal with the challenges of fighting graft.
However, there is no doubt that there has been an increase in the number of convicts and concluded cases, perhaps not as much as with the cases of politically exposed persons, than it is with cases involving corporate bodies and ordinary citizens.
Are you in support of the adoption of jury trial system as a way of addressing delays associated with high profile corruption cases?
If you look at the innovations introduced by the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) 2015, it was all aimed at the speedy dispensation of criminal justice. The law also targeted the beginning of criminal administration, which is the point of arrest.
So, as it were, there are lots of innovations in the ACJA and as such adopting the jury trial system as far as I am concerned is unnecessary. It will be difficult for us to apply the jury system into a jurisdiction that is not properly configured to absorb it. So, I think we should focus more on the ACJA and ensure strict enforcement of its provisions.
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