Chief Mike Ozekhome, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, in this interview with AKEEM NAFIU, speaks on his assessment of President Muhammadu Buhari’s second term in office, planned creation of local government and state police, removal of service chiefs and sundry issues
What is your assessment of President Muhammadu Buhari’s performance in his first term in office on issues bordering on economy, security and the fight against corruption?
I will most honestly and patriotically describe the last 4 years of the President Muhammadu Buhari’s government as quite uneventful, below average, colourless, clueless, vindictive, selective, exclusionary, non-nationalistic, non pan-Nigerian, haemorraging, economically and highly sectional, cronystic and prebendaslistic.
In terms of security, his performance is below par, since whatever gain he would have made in the much trumpeted degradation of Boko Haram (you and I know this is merely theoretical as the sect is more deadly today than ever before) has been replaced with a more potent escalation of herdsmen insurgency and unrestrained banditry. Nigeria has been turned into a gruesome killing field by rampaging gun-weilding bandits of different genre.
The economy is in tatters and at the lowest ebb. Hunger, squalor, ignorance, despondency, abject penury, corruption, hopelessness and haplessness have been enthroned as fundamental objectives and directive principles of state policy.
Rule of law has been replaced with rule of might and of the thumb. Fundamental rights of citizens are wantonly breached. Disobedience to valid court orders has become a norm. Corruption is on the ascendancy, rising geometrically where it used to be antithetical.Only a tiny cabalistic few have unrestrained access to the national treasury.Yet, when traumatised citizens complain, they are dismissed with a wave of the hand as wailing wailers.
What is your agenda for the president in his second term in office?
He should take Nigeria out of the doldrums his APC government sank it into. Be more nationalist, less sectional and nepotic.Give democracy dividends to the people through security, robust economy and infrastructural development. More importantly, dust up the over six hundred 2014 National Conference recommendations and implement restructuring of Nigeria to be a truly fiscal and federal system.
What is the legal and social implications of President Buhari’s Executive Order withdrawing arm and short gun licenses?
Ordinarily, one would have readily applauded the president for signing an Executive Order banning possession of guns, having regard to the unbridled proliferation and possession of small and medium scale politically motivated and banditorily-induced arms currently in circulation.
However, Buhari’s sectionalistic perception of governance from the opaque prism of ethnicity and religious nuances do not give one such euphoric comfort of nationalistically induced decisions.
It seems to me a panicky measure meant to forestall the threats by Niger Delta militants to declare their Republic by 1st of June, and also for the now historic struggle by IPOB for self-determination.
Whatever be his reasons, the president and his handlers appeared to have lost the larger picture of the citizens’ rights to life and self defence. Section 33 of the 1999 Constitution provides for the right to life. Section 258 of the Criminal Code which operates in the Southern part of Nigeria and Sections 59-60 of the Penal Code that operates in the North, all guarantee the right to self defence and the defence of one’s property.
What the Executive Order has unwittingly done is to leave honest and innocent Nigerians most vulnerable to the unrestrained murderous and blood-letting activities of marauders, herdsmen, terrorists, armed robbers and kidnappers. People may now decide to possess these arms illegally and under cover as guerrilla tactics, since even a legitimate licence cannot guarantee same, after thorough screening by law enforcement agencies. After all, self- preservation is the first law of nature.
The Executive Order is also gravely flawed in the sense that those known and notorious to illegally possess these same arms, like herdsmen, were not even named at all.There now appears to be two sets of laws for Nigerians.
Can the president summarily direct the setting up of state and local government police forces without constitutional amendment?
Mr. President cannot unilaterally, whimsically, capriciously and arbitrarily set up state and local government Police without the necessary constitutional amendments to that effect under Section 9(1) of the same 1999 Constitution.This Section requires two-third majority approval of the bicameral National Assembly made up of 109 Senators, 360 House of Representatives members and also two-third majority approval by the 36 States Houses of Assembly and FCT. Sections 214 and 215 of the same Constitution establishes the Nigeria Police Force, giving it powers and duties and its major operatives, such as the Inspector General of Police and State Commissioners of Police. Surely our non- performing behemoth, unwieldy and elephantine organisation needs to be broken up into State and Local Government Police Forces, as we have it in more advanced countries of the world.
The result is great synergy of purpose and inter-agency cooperation in detecting, preventing, fighting and prosecuting crimes. President Mohammadu Buhari should go beyond mere rhetorics, presidential directives and sheer populism, by instructing government officials to immediately draft and send an Executive Bill to the National Assembly for amendment of Sections 8, 214 and 215 of the Constitution.Then, I will verily believe him and know he is serious about this project of giving Nigeria a new security lease of life.
Are you in support of the calls for the removal of service chiefs owing to the growing spate of insecurity in the country?
Yes. The service chiefs have since outlived their usefulness. They are part and parcel of the insecurity problems we are experiencing.The corruption within the security architecture, IDPs, equipment, etc, are too mind boggling to be swept under the carpet. In any case,they have since passed their compulsory retirement age.
What is your take on the call by the Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC), Prof. Itse Sagay (SAN), for the rejection of the Supreme Court’s judgement which annulled the victory of all candidates of the All Progressive Congress (APC) in Zamfara State at the last general election?
The judgement by the Supreme Court is robust, reasonable and met the justice of the cases based on its facts. I handled and won the cases at both the Court of Appeal, Sokoto Division and at the Supreme Court. Justice does not operate in vacuum.
Law is the hand maid with which justice is midwifed and delivered.That is what the same Supreme Court had said in Bello Vs AG of Oyo State.The same Supreme Court had also in the earlier case APC Vs Karfi, involving the same APC, held that where a party, such as the APC, ignored its own Constitution, Guidelines, the Electoral Act and the Nigerian Constitution in conducting illegal primaries, whatever votes it garnered in the main election with other political parties are deemed wasted votes, since in the eye of the law, no candidate was ever fielded by the APC.
In such a situation as held by the Supreme Court, the apex court must make consequential orders to meet the justice of the case. Incidentally, PDP benefitted just as their Amaechi had benefitted Omehia’s sweat more than 13 years ago.
What is good for the goose is good for the gander.Those crying wolf where there is none should advise their intransigent party, APC, to learn what is called internal democracy.The party has shown much impunity and utmost disdain for the most elementary adjuncts of democracy and democratic practices.
What is your assessment of the 8th National Assembly?
The 8th National Assembly has been the best so far in the legislative history of Nigeria, in terms of sheer productivity and daring insistence on being truly independent of an overbearing and rampaging executive that did everything to annex it to its apron strings.
Right from the emergency of its principal officers when it insisted it was its inalienable right to produce them in accordance with Section 50 of the 1999 Constitution and outside the dictatorial, whimsical, capricious and arbitrary desire of any political party as if we were operating a parliamentary system of government, it has held sacrosanct, the hallowed doctrine of separation of powers, as ably propounded by great philosophers of yore and famously dilated upon in 1748 by the great French philosopher, Baron de Montesque.
In the entire legislative history of Nigeria, the 8th National Assembly has passed the greatest number of pro-masses motions, resolutions and bills (into Acts of parliament) than any legislature before it. It has also incubated and thrown up the most daring, courageous and brave legislators that spoke truth to power and authority, at the perilous risk to their lives, families and property.
Future National Assembly should and must take a cue from the 8th National Assembly, that it is an independent arm of government specifically created by Section 4 of the 1999 Constitution, to make laws for the peace, order and good governance of Nigeria.Though expected to cooperate with the Executive, it must not do so at the expense of its own independence as an arm of government that participates in the inbuilt constitutional checks and balances.
It is not a rubber stamp to executive desires and nuances. Any National Assembly worthy of its name as the last one, must rise up and use its oversight powers under Sections 88 and 89 of the 1999 Constitution to check the excesses of the other Judicial and Executive arms of government, especially of the usually intolerant, overhearing, dictatorial, arm-twisting and imperious Executive arm that controls the coercive apparachick of state power and forces.
A National Assembly must defend the Nigerian people at all times because governments like soldiers, come and go, while the barracks (the people, the real owners of power) remain. They constituted the dog that wags the tail (government).
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