‘Enhanced intelligence gathering, state police, panacea for insecurity’
The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) including some of its members have picked holes in the nation’s Inspector General of Police (IGP), Mohammed Adamu’s position that there is sharp decline in crime rate across the country. AKEEM NAFIU reports
Piqued by unending wave of insecurity, banditry and kidnapping spreading across the country, lawyers and its umbrella body-the Nigerian Bar Association have upbraided the federal government on what they described as “pervasive insecurity of lives and property in the land” and “systematic erosion” of the independence of the judiciary.
Specifically, they said judges and lawyers had been so intimidated and blackmailed by the Federal Government that they nursed a fear of being visited with “inquisitorial terror” should they rule against government or take briefs considered to be anti-government.
For instance, NBA President, Mr. Paul Usoro (SAN), said this in a speech he delivered and unanimously adopted by the National Executive Committee of the association at its meeting held last week.
According to Usoro, the level of insecurity in the country and attacks on the independence of the judiciary and the legal profession had constituted a threat to the rule of law, and by extension the country’s democracy.
Usoro said: “Without the rule of law and security of lives and property, society gradually descends into a state of anarchy and democracy becomes a mere pretension. Democracy itself cannot survive without the rule of law.
“These twin elements – rule of law and security of lives and property – are what drive society and the economy. It would be revealing if we were to have proper and verified statistics on the investment opportunities that have been lost by Nigeria because of these twin pervasive challenges: insecurity and the erosion of the rule of law.”
Usoro was echoed by tens of lawyers, who expressed dismay at the manner the menace of banditry, kidnapping and insecurity had spread across the length and breadth of the country while proffering solutions to the menace.
The lawyers while expressing concerns that the menace was increasingly becoming a nightmare for many citizens also faulted news of a drop in crime rate in the country credited to the Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Mohammed Adamu.
The IGP had Monday, last week while addressing senior police officers at a conference in Abuja declared that crime rate in the country had declined amidst new patterns and threats of criminality which had necessitated a review of strategy.
Adamu while noting that decline in crime rate could be linked to the successes recorded by his men through the ongoing ‘Operation Puff Adder,’ tasked Zonal AIGs and Command CPs to redouble their effort as the battle was still far from over.
He said: ”Sequel to the launch of ‘Operation Puff Adder’ in all the states of the federation and other security strategies recently emplaced to address internal security threats, a total of 424 kidnappers were arrested between 10th May, 2019, and 14th June, 2019. 101 kidnap suspects were arrested in Kaduna State, followed by Katsina State with 79 arrests. 54 suspects were apprehended in Nasarawa State and 32 in Taraba State.
“In the same vein, a total of Forty Four (44) murder suspects were arrested during the period under review, with the highest number of seven (7) in FCT and six (6) in Kano State. In addition, two hundred and seventy six (276) armed robbery suspects were arrested within the same period with the highest number of thirty eight (38) in Edo State, followed by twenty five (25) in Nasarawa State and twenty three (23) in FCT.
“It is to be emphasized that the achievements were recorded with the cooperation of members of the public in a manner that clearly demonstrates the increasing determination of the citizens to support the police in restoring internal security. It was also the result of the sacrifice, courage, zeal and exceptional dedication of police commanders and other ranks.
“I therefore wish to use the opportunity of this forum to immensely thank all well-meaning Nigerians for their support and to commend you and other personnel of the Nigeria Police across all ranks for aligning to my policing vision and supporting the implementation of the strategies emplaced towards restoring internal security.
“We might have taken giant steps against crime and criminality but the battle is still far from being over. I therefore charge you to sustain the sense of commitment to duty as it represents a sacred call to nation”
However, some members of the Inner and Outer Bar disagreed with the Inspector General of Police, saying contrary to a drop in crime, crime rate across the country had increased tremendously.
The lawyers, however, believed that media reports about upsurge in terrorism, kidnapping, banditry and other vices had eroded IGP’s assertion on dwindling crime rate.
First to fire the first is a Senior Advocate of Nigeria 3(SAN), Chief Mike Ahamba who noted that the current trend of events in the country did not support IGP Adam’s view on crime rate.
He said: “I don’t agree with the Inspector General of Police that crime rate in the country is reducing because we are still reading of more kidnappings and killings across the country in national dailies.
“Until some of these people in authority are affected, they may not have some pains in their hearts about this issue of growing insecurity which has created fear and tension in the country to the extent that people are scared of moving around.
“What I read in newspapers were very far from declining insecurity in Nigeria. We are still far from it. Let nobody say that crime rate has declined. The fight to restore sanity in the country should continue”.
Another silk, Chief Ifedayo Adedipe, also disagreed with the Inspector General of Police that crime rate in the country is going down. He asked the Federal Government to upgrade the architectural set up of the nation to address growing spate of insecurity.
“I don’t agree with the IGP’s assertion that crime rate in Nigeria is declining. The Federal Government should take a second look at the architectural set up of the country. My view is that the centralized arrangement is not helping us at all and like politics, security could be local.
“The growing spate of kidnapping in the country is worrisome. I remember that one of the selling points of Buhari in 2015 when he came to office was that as a former Army General, he would be able to deal with this security issue. But it’s unfortunate that things have degenerated into this level. You can no longer travel on the high way.
“People are now being abducted at random. Foreigners are also not spared and somebody is telling us that Buhari has done well in the area of security, I don’t think this is correct because people’s lives are no longer secured.
“Nigeria is not the only heterogeneous country in the world, but the incursion of foreigners through our borders is worrisome and something urgent must be done to put it under check. Particularly, from the Sahel, people who fought in Libya had unrestricted access to Nigeria. This had to be tackled head on by government.
“Besides, the unresolved issue of importation of arms into the country is also fuelling kidnapping. People now buy arms and they use it at random and at will.
“Then, we do not have enough policemen in this country. Lagos with an estimated population of about 20 million, how many policemen do we have there? The same thing for other states of the federation; so, we need more “I also think we need to seek foreign help to tackle this menace. We should stop pretending that we are capable. I am not sure either Afghanistan or Libya is worse than us at the moment in terms of insecurity. Something is not adding up in the way we handle our security in this country.
“The President is the Commander-in-Chief and the buck stops at his table; the failure of the nation’s security is his own failure. There can be no question about that. He is the one that we voted for and he should find solution to it. The menace has spread across the length and breadth of the country,” Adedipe said.
Mr. Seyi Sowemimo (SAN) called for an enhanced intelligence gathering efforts and military deployment to flash points to tackle the menace.
He said: “To tackle the problem, I think we should seriously reconsider the idea of establishing state police. This is because it is very clear that the police force as federally constituted cannot deal with the issue.
“We can also look into having more individuals in the police force to tackle the problem on ground. The country is not well policed at the moment.
“Besides, we should also deploy more military personnel to flash points across the country. More intelligence activities must also be carried out by security operatives to arrest this ugly trend because certainly some of these kidnapping activities appeared organized and well planned.
To Dr. Biodun Layonu (SAN), prior to the establishment of state police, state governments can create special force to handle violent crimes.
“Pending constitution amendment to create state police, State Command Special Unit only for violent crimes must be created. “They are to be paid for by state government according to number of personnel stationed within the state, under the Commissioner of Police and to be deployed at the direction of the governor, not for any other purpose except violent crimes”, he said.
Another silk, Mr. Norrison Quakers, asked the Federal Government to put in place policies that will tackle unemployment and turn round the economy as a way of tackling the growing trend of insecurity in the nation.
He said: “I think we got to this stage because of our economic downturn. Even if you kit the police and the military without economically empowering them, these personnel will also be involved in acts of brigandage and criminality. That’s what is going on.
“We have a restive population of youths who are unemployed with no sense of direction. Nothing to uphold or look up to and state of medicare is also in comatose. We have teeming graduates roaming the streets and looking for jobs that are not available.
“We also have people going into governance as politicians and coming out wealthier and richer. People now flaunt their wealth around without any reasonable means of livelihood and no evidence of hard work. These people continue to live large. That’s the recipe for the crisis that we have.
“Therefore, if we want to address all these societal ills, government must create an environment for businesses to thrive. There are artisans who can no longer do business because the jobs are no longer there. Whether we like it or not, there are starvation and hunger in the land.
“The only way out like I said earlier is for the economy to work and government must come up with policies that will address unemployment and create jobs in place.”
A former National Secretary of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Mazi Afam Osigwe, said security operatives should do more in tackling the menace. He added that necessary infrastructure and intelligence must be put in place.
“Security agencies have failed to put in place the necessary infrastructure and intelligence needed to nip the menace in the bud. We are not even getting the right statistics because I believe more people are being kidnapped around the country than was reported. We may never get the accurate number of people that lost their lives either in the course of being kidnapped or while being rescued by security operatives.
“Until the society shows that it is a matter to be taken serious and not only to be concerned only when a high profile individual is kidnapped, we may never get it right.
“We need to see the capacity of the police and the State Security Services (SSS) in tackling banditry and kidnapping. What numbers can people call when in distress that help will come their way? These are some of the things we need to do to tackle the problem which has fast becoming a criminal enterprise.
“Police should also device means of arresting those involved in kidnapping and banditry so that information retrieved from them will be used to arrest others associated with these criminals.
“Besides, the police involvement in these crimes should be preemptive. There should be an intelligence network that will give out information about those involved in kidnapping and banditry. It’s all about methodology and building up the capacity to prevent commission of a crime.
“State police may also help in some aspect, particularly, as those in a community where a crime is committed are usually in the know as to who are the offenders”, he said.
Judges suspended over fighting
The three Indiana judges who were involved in a brawl in Indianapolis that left two of them shot have been temporarily suspended by the Indiana Supreme Court.
The state Supreme Court handed down the order Tuesday, writing in its ruling that the actions of Clark County Judges Andrew Adams and Bradley Jacobs and Crawford County Judge Sabrina Bell “were not merely embarrassing on a personal level … they discredited the entire Indiana judiciary,” the Washington Post reported.
The order states that all three judges were intoxicated and “behaving in an injudicious manner” during the May 1 incident in a White Castle parking lot.
Jacobs and Adams were shot following a scuffle with strangers in the lot — about a half-mile from the state Capitol — after a night of bar-hopping, reports the New York Post.
Adams and two other men were charged in connection with the fight.
Under the order of the Indiana Supreme Court, Adams will serve a 60-day unpaid suspension ending January 12, and Jacobs and Bell will serve 30-day unpaid suspensions ending December 22.
Osinbajo, Akpata, World Bank VP, others bag 2019 ESQ’s awards
Although he was not physically present at this year’s ESQ award night where prominent lawyers and corporate organisations were rewarded for their outstanding contributions to nation building and the development of law, Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo (SAN) was conferred with ESQ Nigerian Legal Award.
Osinbajo, who was penciled down as special guest of honour and awardee in the Special Award category for 2019 award which took place at the prestigious Land Mark Event Centre, Oniru, Victoria Island, Lagos, at the weekend was not physically present.
He was recognised for his invaluable contribution to the development of Business Law in Nigeria especially through his landmark contribution towards the attainment of the milestone of Ease of Doing Business, the promotion of transparency, ethics and good governance in Africa’s biggest economy.
According to the ESQ Nigerian legal awards committee, Osinbajo has contributed immensely to the development of law in Nigeria both at the international level as an academic, democrat, legal practitioner, and the Vice-President.
His contribution towards reshaping the lives of young Nigerian lawyers, according to the group, was well-recognised and the award well-packaged and sent to him.
But the Vice-President’s absence did not affect the evening negatively as many other awardees and dignitaries turned up in huge numbers to grace the occasion.
Among the personalities who were present at the event were the Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice of Edo State, Professor Yinka Omorowe, chairman of the awards committee, Dr. Olusegun Akin- Olugbade, the World Bank Vice President, Dr. Stanley Okoro (ably represented) and a former chairman of the Section on Business Law of the Nigerian Bar Association, (NBA/SBL), Mr. Olumide Akpata who was awarded the best business lawyer of the year.
Welcoming guests at the event, the convener and chief host of ESQ Nigerian Legal Awards, Mr. Lere Fashola said “when we envisioned the idea of an award ceremony, we did not fully appreciate the gravity of the undertakings.
“However, through the years and after many different experiences that we have learnt from, we have made considerable progress.
“What we see tonight is a culmination of ten years of consistent and dedicated efforts. Ladies and gentlemen, I welcome you to the Nigerian Legal Awards.
“We stand for excellence, we believe in excellence and we reward excellence. Hence, we considered it imperative to recognise the excellent and important contributions to the legal profession.
“Tonight, we shall be celebrating the biggest and the best players in the legal profession; the law firms, the leaders and the icons. We also acknowledge that our future is already being shaped by extra-ordinary young persons. These are the people that will dictate the future prosperity of the legal profession.
“Tonight, we shall be honouring 40 under 40 lawyers. If there was any decision most herculean for the Judges to reach, it was coming up with the 40 honorees out of the galaxy of the over 100 star finalists.
“The role of new wigs and younger lawyers in the profession cannot be overlooked. With the best grooming, training and mentorship and the right work ethics, they can aspire and certainly reach for the peak of the profession.
“It is for this reason that ESQ is building the first professional co-work station for lawyers. The station will be a hub for cutting edge continuing legal education and innovative legal practice.
“Dear distinguished industry leaders and mentors, we acknowledge your towering support and contribution to the profession that we so dearly love. You are our icons and we pay our gratitude for leading the path for us to tread.
Distinguished guests thank you very much for gracing us with your presence; the Award is nothing without you.”
Other awardees at this year’s awards included Abimbola Ogunbanjo, President of the National Council of the Nigerian Stock Exchange and Managing Partner of Chris Ogunbanjo LLP, Cecilia Akintomide, Independent Non-Executive Director of FBN Holdings and Fmr. Vice President Secretary General of the African Development Bank, Sola Adepetun, founding Partner of one of Nigeria’s most reputable firms, Adepetun Caxton-Martins & Segun (ACAS-LAW) and Chairman, Board of Directors, Standard Chartered Bank, Prof. Yinka Omorogbe, Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Edo State and Fmr. National Secretary to the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, Adedoyin Rhodes-Vivour, SAN, Managing Partner of Doyin Rhodes-Vivour as well as Olumide Akpata, former Chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association Section on Business Law will be recognized at the 2019 Nigerian Legal Awards
The Nigerian Legal Awards which being convened by ESQ Legal Blitz is the only platform projecting the achievements of legal players within Nigeria’s thriving business law community. The awards represent the beacon of honour and prestige on the achievements recorded in the Nigerian legal industry.
‘I embrace litigation, taxation to prepare for the Bench’
Boma Opulah is an indigene of Okrika Local Government Area in Rivers State. Opulah attended the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN) and was called to Bar in 2018. She shares her law journey into the noble profession with JOHN CHIKEZIE
My name is Boma Opulah. I am an indigene of Okrika Local Government Area of Rivers State. I grew up in Port Harcourt where I had my primary and secondary education in Bereton Montessori Primary School and Jephthah Comprehensive Secondary School.
In 2017, I obtained a Law degree (LL. B) from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. Thereafter, I obtained a BL from the Nigerian Law School, Lagos.
I was called to the Nigerian Bar in 2018. I am currently working as an Associate at Probitas Partners LLP.
Choice of career
There is something noble and dignifying about the legal profession. The ability to help people get out of trouble is synonymous with saving lives. Being a voice of reason in the society and fighting for justice gave me the courage to study law.
Secondly, I never really considered any other course besides law. The nobility of the profession and how every lawyer I met, in my younger years, was intelligent and confident made me fall in love with the profession more.
My father, Chief Dan Belema Opulah, studied law as a second degree. So, when I was in primary school, I was eager to finish primary school and join my dad at the Rivers State University of Science and Technology to study law. I actually thought that was how it works. I was often teased about going to the university from primary school. The day I was told that there was something called secondary school, I cried.
I looked up to my dad a lot and all I wanted to do was follow his footsteps. Interestingly, he wanted me to be a model.
But my mum wanted me to be a doctor. I got to secondary school and didn’t like the sciences. So, I chose the arts. I wasn’t pressured into decisions while growing up. I was advised and well brought up to make the right decisions.
First court appearance
I was quite nervous when I had to appear alone in court. I took down notes of what I wanted to say so I will be more coordinated. I just took it like I was having a conversation with the judge and that is how it went; a professional conversation with the judge. Today, I remember how nervous I was and still wondered why.
I have an experience I can’t forget in a hurry during my undergraduate’s days. It was in the early hours of the day during my final examination. There was a fire outbreak at a shop beside my hostel.
The fire was spreading fast and you can only imagine the chaos it caused. My friend and I were determined not to get distracted and nothing was going to stop us from finishing well. Some people were carrying their boxes but we took our file that contained our documents needed for clearance and our study materials for the exam and went to the classroom. We left all the chaos behind. By 5a.m., when we came back to the hostel, the fire had been put out and everything was back to normal. We laughed about how much we wanted to graduate and that was the only thing we had on our minds at the time.
My preferred areas are dispute resolution, taxation, Corporate & Commercial Law.
Dispute resolution is the litigation aspect. There’s a lot to learn in the courtroom that can’t be gotten from anywhere else. Litigation is an essential part of the law practice especially for a lawyer that wants to become a Senior Advocate of Nigeria or wants to move from the Bar to the Bench. I hope to be on the Bench someday.
I’m currently a key member of the tax industry at Probitas Partners LLP. My work experience has increased my interest in Taxation. With all that’s going on right now with respect to taxation in the country, everyone should have a Tax lawyer on speed dial.
Corporate and Commercial Law is an aspect of law I developed interest in while practicing. I struggled with corporate law in Law School but I realized it’s more interesting in practice than in theory. Also, a good knowledge of Corporate and Commercial Law makes a lawyer very versatile.
Death penalty for rapist
Rape is a very serious crime. In my opinion, life imprisonment is an appropriate penalty for persons found guilty of rape. Death penalty is the ultimate punishment for any crime and I think this will be more suitable where the victims are underage.
Defiling a child is another level of crime.
At the end of the day, is there really any punishment that can right the wrongs done to the victims of rape?
So partially, I agree with the proposition of death penalty if only the victim is a minor.
Marrying a lawyer
“Lawyer” isn’t one of the attributes I look for in a man. Any reputable career is fine.
I aspire to be a successful woman. I hope to move from the Bar to the Bench in the next 15 years. I aspire to be a leader and role model to young people. While excelling in my career, I will be a wonderful wife and mother, by God’s grace.
Dust over Buhari’s power to sign bills abroad
Can President Muhammadu Buhari attend to issues of governance under whatever guise on foreign shores? Lawyers say no, yes. FOLUSO OGUNMODEDE writes
Sagay, Ozekhome, Layonu, others differ over power to sign Bills abroad
lthough the raging dust over whether President Muhammadu Buhari, who on a private visit to the United Kingdom without transmitting power to his deputy, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria as enshrined under Section 145 of the Constitution is still on, lawyer, who at the weekend joined the fray could not agree on the legality or otherwise of the President’s action.
President Buhari, who some couple of weeks ago declared a reduction in number of foreign trips ministers and other government’s officials would embark on, headed for a 15-day trip to the United Kingdom.
While announcing the reduction, President Buhari had said the reduction in the number and the duration of foreign trips for ministers and other categories of government officials was a ‘cost-saving measure’ to achieve fiscal prudence by removing travel allowances known as estacode.
His UK private visit commenced on 2nd November, 2019, arriving Friday 15th November, 2019 according to Femi Adesina, the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity.
Adesina had said “President Muhammadu Buhari leaves the country today (2nd November, 2019) on an official trip to Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to attend Economic Forum of the Future Investment Initiative (FII) in Riyadh.
“On the sidelines of the event, President will hold bilateral talks with His Majesty King Salman and His Majesty King Abdullah ll of Jordan.
“On Wednesday, 30 October, 2019, the President will participate in the High Level Event titled ‘What is next for Africa: How will Investment and Trade Transform the continent into the Next Great Economic Success Story?’ with Presidents of Kenya, Congo-Brazzaville and Burkina Faso.
“At the end of the summit, President Buhari will on Saturday 2nd November, 2019, proceed to the United Kingdom on a private visit. He is expected to return to Nigeria on 17 November, 2019.”
This was without handing over to his deputy, Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo in accordance to Section 145 of the Constitution which empowers Vice-President to act during temporary absence of Mr. President.
Section 145 says: “Whenever the President transmits to the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives a written declaration that he is proceeding on vacation or that he is otherwise unable to discharge the functions of his office,
until he transmits to them a written declaration to the contrary such functions shall be discharged by the Vice-President as Acting President.”
Notwithstanding President Buhari’s failure to comply with Section 145 by transferring power to Osinbajo, his Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari, Monday last week took a bill to Mr. President, who is in London for signing.
The bill, which amended the Deep Offshore and Inland Basin Production Sharing Contract Act, was signed into law in London by President Buhari, indicating that future memos, bills and other documents requiring the President’s signature must be taken to London for signing at least for the next few days.
But this, however, drew sparked among Nigerians, who described it as embarrassing to the nation.
Yesterday, lawyers joined the fray, although could not agree on the legality or otherwise of President Buhari’s action.
Can the President continue with the business of governance abroad or anywhere in the absence of a written declaration?
Lawyers said Yes, No
Chairman, Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption, Professor Itsejuwa Sagay (SAN), Dr. Biodun Layonu (SAN) and Mr. Hakeem Afolabi (SAN) believed that President Buhari was not limited by law on where to carry out the issues of governance since he had executive powers to perform duties of his office.
Sagay said: “It’s a waste of time talking about the legality or illegality of his actions. Questioning whether it’s legally valid is taking the issue out of context.
“Rather, you might question the appropriateness, in the sense that why not wait until he comes back? So, the question of legality doesn’t come into this context because it is very wrong to conclude. I don’t know why but there must be a reason. So, definitely, Mr. President has the powers to rule from anywhere.
Also, to Layonu, President Buhari had not violated any by law by carrying out some of his presidential functions outside Nigeria.
“Yes, the president can perform his duties outside the country. The important thing is that there is no provision prohibiting him from carrying out some of his presidential functions outside Nigeria,” he said.
Layonu was echoed by another silk, Hakeem Afolabi, who simply said there’s no hard and fast rule about the president’s appending his signature to a Bill.
He said: “The issue is quite academic. There is no law that state mandatorily that law must be signed in any particular place.
“Wherever the President is, he remains the President of Nigeria, hence, no illegality in signing documents outside Nigeria.
“The only point is the moral aspect in that, why should the document be taken to the president while overseas. The immorality does not however make it illegal.”
But fiery Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Chief Mike Ozekhome, a Law Professor, Ernest Ojukwu (SAN) and Dr. Jonas Ekpo disagreed with Sagay, Layonu and Afolabi, saying although President Buhari was vested with a variety of duties and powers, including negotiating treaties with foreign governments, signing into law or vetoing legislation passed by the National Assembly, appointing high-ranking members of the executive like Ministers and all judges of the federal judiciary and being the Commander –In-Chief of the Armed Forces, these powers could only be exercised under the sovereign entity of Nigeria.
Accordingly, the Principle of Sovereignty envisaged that the powers of the President would only be exercised within the territorial limits of the country.
For instance, Ozekhome said President Buhari was not legally permitted to either rule Nigeria from overseas or sign Bills while on foreign trips.
He said: “The present ongoing visit of President Muhammadu Buhari to the United Kingdom on a private visit and his act of signing into law, a Bill entitled “Amended Deep Offshore and Inland Basin Production Sharing Bill” doing this in a foreign country, the UK, has evoked mixed reactions from Nigerians.
“As expected, some government apologists and sympathisers have already queued behind him and argued that he can govern Nigeria from any part of the planet earth. No. This is a constitutional aberration, to say the least.
“Section 5(1) of the Constitution vests the executive powers of the Federation in the president. He shall exercise these powers either directly or through the Vice-President and Ministers of the government of the Federation or Officers in the Public Service of the Federation.
“The corollary of this is that the Constitution does not envision a one-man riot squad, or an absolutist dictator whose absence will automatically cripple governance. Surely, the President is only president of the enclave called Nigeria. Nigeria is a sovereign country. She has geographical boundaries that are recognised by the United Nations. She cannot by herself arbitrarily extend or expand her boundaries, whether in governance or influence.
“The President may travel abroad, either on official or private visits. But, he must inform the National Assembly which, by the way, now appears to be a mere toothless rubber stamp. He did not.
“The United Kingdom where Mr. President is currently is, however, not part and parcel of the entity called Nigeria. That is why Section 145 of the 1999 Constitution makes provisions for transfer of powers to his Vice-President as “Acting President” with the approval of the National Assembly, through a letter to the Senate President and the Speaker, House of Representatives, whenever he is proceeding on vacation or that he is otherwise unable to discharge the functions of his office.
“Travelling abroad outside the shores of Nigeria, except where it is on declared official duties, certainly amounts to proceeding on vacation, no matter what colouration of interpretation any one may want to give to it.
“The president’s spokesperson had publicly told Nigerians the president would travel abroad to spend 15 days on “a private visit” and return on 17th November, 2019 after attending an official summit in Saudi Arabia.
A private visit is what it means “private”, not “official.”
“How can a whole president of the biggest black nation on earth even if President of one tiny Banana Republic, begins to perform functions as important as signing an Act of Parliament in a foreign land? Why did the Constitution provide for a joint ticket for a President and Vice-President in Section 142(1)? This important section was to ensure that there shall never be a void, lacuna or gap in governance, which is a continuum.
“Can President Donald Trump of U.S.A. or Prime Minister Boris Johnson of the United Kingdom, or even President Matamela Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa come to Nigeria on “a private visit” and begin to sign laws for their country right here in Nigeria? Don’t we have national pride or self-esteem as a sovereign nation? Why is the Vice-President there in the first instance?
“What was so urgent about this Bills which had been pending for years that it couldn’t wait for Mr. President’s return? Can the NASS or Supreme Court in Nigeria therefore take a cue to go and sit in London to conduct legislative and judicial duties respectively? The world is laughing at us.
“I get embarrassed by the kind of condescending questions I am asked about governance in Nigeria whenever I travel abroad.
“We are fast reducing the serious act of governance in a constitutional democracy of a 200 million people to the ludicrous template of a Baba Sallah’s Alawada Keri Keri Dance Troupe’s histrionics and the theatrical melodramatic.”
To Ojukwu, Mr. President was vested with a variety of duties and powers, including negotiating treaties with foreign governments, signing into law or vetoing legislation passed by the National Assembly, appointing high-ranking members of the executive like Ministers and all judges of the federal judiciary, and serving as commander in chief of the armed forces.
He said: “These powers are exercised under the sovereign entity of Nigeria. The Principle of sovereignty envisages that the powers of the President can only be exercised within the territorial limits of the country.
“But today, the World has become a global village with improved connections and communications through means of travel and online communications. Under these circumstances it is easy for a President to keep in seamless contact with activities at home and so could make decisions from anywhere as if he was sitting at his desk in his office at home.
“And leaders of every country now make routine decisions for their countries from their aircrafts and faraway places. There is no question about that as this is the reality of today’s technological age.
“There are no laws or rules banning Nigerian Presidents from making routine decisions for the country from anywhere. There are, however, certain acts that may still be intrinsically tied to the exercise of the Country’s sovereignty and such acts may undermine our sovereignty and expose the country to foreign interference if done outside the territory of Nigeria. Example is signing a bill into law on a foreign land.
“That is a fundamental exercise of the right of a nation to its sovereignty. It should not be allowed. I think the courts may declare such bill invalid despite the fact that there is no express provision against such act in our constitution.”
Ekpo “the Nigerian Constitution does not have extra-territorial application. The President of Nigeria cannot exercise presidential powers from anywhere.
“To put it in perspective, two examples will suffice: First, President Buhari cannot exercise his authority under Section 58 (1) of the Constitution to assent to Bills passed by the National Assembly in the United Kingdom.
“He also cannot exercise his authority under Section 148 (2) of the Constitution to preside over the regular (weekly) Federal Executive Council meeting from the United Kingdom, or anywhere outside the territory of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“The authority of the British Prime Minister over the affairs of the United Kingdom cannot be exercised in Nigeria, neither can the President of Nigeria govern or exercise authority over the affairs of Nigeria from the United Kingdom.
“There is a reason why responsible foreign leaders in saner climes usually abort their foreign trips and return home upon the occurrence of national disasters or emergencies in their countries. It is not just for convenience sake; it is also because their constitutional authority either as President or Head of State cannot be insulated from their state (country).”
Why Buhari can’t rule from anywhere, by Ubani
Mr. Monday Ubani is a former Vice-President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA). In this interview with AKEEM NAFIU, he speaks on President Muhammadu Buhari’s ‘ private visit’ to the United Kingdom, INEC’s call for Electoral Offences Commission and sundry issues
How wouldo you view the call by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for enactment of a legislation to establish an Electoral Offence Commission and Tribunal to handle cases of Electoral Act’s violation, particularly during elections?
It is something that is commendable and I think that the request was part of the recommendations by the Uwais Electoral Commission set up by the former administration.
But INEC should not just stop at making the request, it should put up a structure to draft the necessary Bill regarding its request and then send it to the National Assembly for enactment. The proposed Bill can come from INEC.
The electoral body is in charge of conduct of elections and if it feels that there are certain aspects of it that should be handled in such a specialized manner, particularly regarding people who manipulate the electoral system, then, it should go ahead to pursue it.
However, it is important that INEC should put a Bill in place and send it to the National Assembly rather than just making blanket suggestion. I think it’s something that is worthy of being considered, most importantly because the electoral process in the country has been bastardized.
Year after year, we seem to move a step forward and several steps backward. There seemed to be an improvement in the electoral process in 2015. However, you will agree with me that the 2019 elections fell short of international best practices. That’s an indication that we are going backward.
Besides, the National Assembly should also expedite actions on the amended Electoral Act for the president to sign it before the next general election in 2023.
In any event, the request by INEC will involve tinkering with the Constitution because it must capture the hierarchy of the proposed court and I don’t think there should be any problem with that as long as members of the National Assembly are willing.
President Muhammadu Buhari is currently away to the United Kingdom on a two-week private visit without transmitting power to Vice President Yemi Osinbajo. Has the president in anyway committed any constitutional infringement by his action?
Just like his earlier visit to the United Kingdom in April this year, the president again failed to transmit power to the Vice President of Nigeria, Professor Yemi Osinbajo in accordance with Section 145 of the Constitution. That section mandates the president to transmit power through the National Assembly to his Vice-President to take charge of the country in his absence.
The drafters of the Constitution have genuine reason to insert such a Section in an important document like the Constitution, one of which is to ensure that vacuum does not exist and also to give a sense of belonging to whoever the country have elected as Vice-President to the President of the country.
The most important reason maybe also the fact that presidential duties are enormous and any hardworking president deserves to take a rest from the onerous burden of the presidency and allow his deputy to man the office while he rests and resumes refreshed for the task ahead.
When President Yar’dua was in power and took ill and failed to hand over the reins of power to the then Vice-President, Goodluck Jonathan, that failure created so much crisis, that the National Assembly had to device the doctrine of necessity to obviate the conflagration that was about to blow up the country then.
It was not a pleasant time for Nigerians as words like “the president can rule from anywhere in the world” rented the air to the annoyance of majority of Nigerians. Sadly, we are being treated shockingly to the same menu under the new dispensation.
In 2010, the National Assembly in conjunction with the 36 State Houses of Assembly cured the defect by inserting Subsection (2) to the Section 145 of the 1999 Constitution to avoid a repeat of that ugly incident. The sum total of that subsection is that if the President fails, refuses and or neglects to transmit power to his Vice President, the National Assembly is mandated after the period of 21 days to pass a resolution empowering the Vice-President to start to act automatically as the Acting President of Nigeria.
That section did not and never provided that it is only when the president will spend more than 21 days outside the shores of the country, that he will be required to hand over power to his Vice President. The 21 days provision is meant to give the maximum period the president will be allowed to be in breach of Section 145 of the Constitution as the National Assembly will come in to do what the President ought to have done in the first place by mandating the Vice President to act in the place of the “travelled president.”
The president has breached the Constitution, no doubt, by his inability to transmit power to the Vice President of the country for the 19 or less that he wants to spend for his ‘private visit’ in the UK.
The ‘private visit’ has no place in Section 145 of the 1999 Constitution in the first place. He is only allowed outside the shores of Nigeria for official visits, medicals and or vacations.
The Senate President, Dr. Ahmed Lawan, has expressed reservations about the clamour for the adoption of unicameral legislature, describing it as impossibility because of the nation’s peculiarities. Do you share his view?
My thinking is that nothing in life is sacrosanct. The only thing that is permanent is change. Even, if we are adhered to certain procedures over time and years, it doesn’t mean we should continue in that way forever.
I want to look at this issue from the angle of value derivative. What are the benefits we have derived from having bicameral legislature? How has our lives been improved upon by virtue of having both the Senate and the House of Representatives? Is there anything that has positively affected citizens’ lives in having these two chambers? If you asked me, my sincere response will be that there is none.
There is no benefit whatsoever that Nigerians have derived from bicameral legislature, apart from those representing us, who have enjoyed immense benefits alongside their family members. I understand that one quarter of our national budget goes into servicing the National Assembly yearly. This is ridiculous to say the least. What is the percentage of those at the National Assembly compared to the larger population?
So, if you look at it that way, coupled with the fact that the general consensus is that we should discontinue to operate bicameral legislature, I don’t see any reason why we should not switch to unicameral legislature.
Therefore, if people are now clamouring for unicameral legislature in order to reduce the huge cost being expended on the National Assembly, I am in total support. There are so many ways by which we could achieve this, one of which is to retain the House of Representatives and do away with the Senate.
We must also be concerned about the quality of people going to the National Assembly. It shouldn’t be an all-comer affair. Majority of those presently at the National Assembly don’t even know why they are there. That is the truth. They just bought themselves through, bamboozled people and gave them money, knowing the level of poverty in the country. So much money is being spent on these lawmakers and there’s no corresponding benefit being derived by Nigerians for their representation.
That brings me to the issue of sanitizing the electoral process in order to guarantee an electoral system that will produce quality men and women, particularly at the level of representation at the National Assembly.
This is what developed countries are enjoying. They have developed their electoral process in such a manner that people who are going to government are those who have succeeded in their private enterprise. These individuals now bring their experiences in their private enterprises to bear in public service. This is usually seen in their quality of governance.
So, I expect Nigeria to tow this path by addressing the lapses in our electoral process in order to have an electoral system that will produce better leaders. Therefore, I am totally in support of the call for a look at the structure and juxtaposing it with the level of benefits accruing to Nigerians.
In what way do you think we can achieve the goal of switching from bicameral to unicameral legislature with the current crop of lawmakers at the National Assembly?
The fear you have expressed is genuine and I also share in the sentiments that it will amount to a class suicide for these lawmakers to agree to a constitution amendment that will allow a switch from bicameral to unicameral legislature.
It is expected that they will not view such issue objectively as something that needs to be done in the overall interest of the masses. Meanwhile, they are supposed to look at issues from the point of view of the country and national interest. This is what happens in sane climes.
It would be practically impossible to achieve any switch under the present dispensation unless we have a brand new Constitution that is not made by these lawmakers but by Nigerians themselves.
I am talking about the way the 1979 Constitution emerged from a Constituent Assembly. At that time, people were elected and the Chairman of the Assembly was the late Chief F. R. A. Williams (SAN). I think his Deputy was Chief Awolowo. They are the ones that gave us the 1979 Constitution.
So, all those fundamental suggestions including the unicameral legislature will be incorporated once a Constitution put together by the people is in place. It is in this kind of situation that we can make any headway.
You’re starving us of funds, Kenya’s Chief Justice laments
Kenya’s Chief Justice lashed out on Monday at budget cuts that he said were intended to undermine the court system and would hamper an anti-corruption drive.
David Maraga, who angered President Uhuru Kenyatta’s government as head of the Supreme Court in 2017 by overturning Kenyatta’s re-election and forcing a re-vote, said some courts had stopped working and a drive to speed up corruption cases was on hold, reports Reuters.
“A number of critical processes in the courts and the judiciary will be severely crippled,” he said in a televised news conference.
“Some of the incidents that we encounter are deliberate attempts to undermine the judiciary … I am not serving at the pleasure of a few people in the executive who are bent on subjugating the judiciary.”
A former finance minister and hundreds of other senior officials and business people have been charged under a high-level corruption crackdown launched last year. None of the cases have been concluded, however.
The judiciary was allocated 18.9 billion shillings ($183 million) for the fiscal year starting in July, well below the judiciary’s request for 33.3 billion.
Maraga said money for salaries remained the same, but the development and recurrent expenditure budget had been halved.
Government spokesman Cyrus Oguna and the president’s spokeswoman declined to comment. Finance Ministry officials were unavailable.
Maraga said a plan to automate some proceedings in special new anti-corruption courts in Nairobi was now on hold, and that judges should not be blamed if corruption trials are derailed.
Circuit courts of appeal in Nairobi, Mombasa, Nakuru, Eldoret and Nyeri had been suspended and 53 mobile courts working in remote areas had also stopped working owing to lack of money for vehicles and fuel.
Last month, Kenyatta declined to confirm the nominations of 41 judges, citing integrity concerns.
Mercy Wambua, Chief Executive of the Kenya Law Society, said the judiciary was under more pressure than at any time since Kenya returned to multi-party democracy in 1992.
“All the gains we’ve made since democracy to improve access to justice are being eroded,” she said. “We’ve been sent back several years in terms of reforms.”
Uproar over OPI
‘OPI exercise’ll spell doom, chaos, crisis’
AKEEM NAFIU writes that lawyers have joined the fray notwithstanding explanations by the military that its Operation Positive Identification (OPI) which commenced across the country at the weekend was targeted at members of the dreaded Boko Haram terrorists, banditry, and other crimes
esides the OPI, the military is involved in Operation Lafiya Dole in the North-East, Operation Ayem Akpatema in the North-Central, Operation Crocodile Smile and Atilogu Dance in the South-South and South-East.
“However, the OPI is based on intelligence. We decided to come up with the initiative because we got the intelligence that Boko Haram terrorists were infiltrating the civilian population, not only in North-East, but other parts of the country.
“But the exercise is not new; I’m surprised that we are getting the alert now. We actually started it on September 22 (this year). We are using it to checkmate criminality. It’s not new. The OPI is an intelligence-led operation.
“We are covered by the Constitution. The exercise is constitutional. What we are doing is in line with the 1999 Constitution. So far, two arrests were made in Kogi and Lagos states, and several other arrests would be made in the course of the last quarter of the year.
“We have details of arrests being made through the operation, but the operation won’t amount to additional roadblocks. It’s still based on credible intelligence. We’re actually getting intelligence from outside sources. We’re surprised when we got this alert from you that it’s fake news. It’s not fake; it is going on and it will assist us in conducting our operations”.
The above were part of the explanations made by the Army’s Chief of Civil/Military Affairs, Maj. Gen. Usman Mohammed in defence of the Operation Positive Identification while appearing before the House of Representatives’ Committee on Army on behalf of the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai.
The Army had in October said it planned Operation Positive Identification in the North-Eastern part of the country as a way of tackling the menace of Boko Haram insurgents, banditry, kidnapping, armed robbery, cattle rustling as well as other sundry criminalities in the region.
However, on 25 September, 2019, it revealed plans to extend the exercise to other parts of the country as the exercise would enable soldiers to accost citizens on the streets or roads and ask them to produce a means of identification.
Many Nigerians including the House of Representatives were, however, not comfortable with the plan and this resulted in the lawmakers directing the Chief of Army Staff to appear before it for proper briefing on the planned exercise.
In summoning the army chief, the House had last Tuesday, adopted a motion brought before it by the minority leader, Hon. Ndudi Elumelu (PDP-Delta), condemning the OPI and seeking the summons of the COAS to explain its rationale before a relevant committee.
Buratai’s representative told the Reps’ committee that even though the military was not the lead agency for identification, its intervention was needed considering the ‘peculiar circumstances’ currently facing the nation.
He insisted that the special military exercise will commence as scheduled.
But the Chairman of the House Committee on Army, Hon. Abdulrazak Namdas (APC, Adamawa) was of the view that with the OPI, the army may be biting more than its statutory share.
He subsequently constituted a sub-committee to liaise with the army on the details of the operations. The committee is expected to submit its report to plenary tomorrow.
Suit against OPI
Already, a rights activist and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Mr. Femi Falana, has instituted a suit at the Federal High Court in Lagos to stop the army from going on with its Operation Positive Identification.
In the suit marked FHC/L/CS/1939/2019, Falana argued that the army’s exercise which required Nigerians to move around with legitimate means of identification was unconstitutional and illegal.
He added that the Operation was an infringement on the right of Nigerians as guaranteed by Section 35 of the Constitution as well as Article 6 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act, (Cap A10) Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.
In an affidavit in support of the suit, Falana disclosed that by virtue of Section 215 (3) of the Constitution, the Nigeria Police Force “has the exclusive power to maintain law and order and secure public safety and public order in the country” and not the army.
He further contended that the President could only deploy military to suppress insurrection or restore law and order when such need arose in line with Section 217(1) of the Constitution.
The silk averred that there was no insurrection in any part of the country which was beyond the control of police part of the country which was beyond the control of police to warrant the deployment of armed troops all over the country from 1st November, 2019 to 23rd December, 2019.
According to him, the Nigerian Army under the leadership of Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai was not empowered to take over police duties while the President and Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces also lacked the power to deploy members of the armed forces in the maintenance of internal security in any part of the country by virtue of Section 217 (a) (b) and (c) of the Constitution.
He added that neither the Constitution nor the Armed Forces Act Cap A20 LFN, 2004, empowered the Nigeria Army to arrest any citizen who was not subject to service law.
Also, a Civil Society Organization (CSO), the Campaign For the Defence of Human Rights (CDHR) has equally petitioned President Muhammadu Buhari to direct the military to halt its Operation Positive Identification exercise.
In the petition dated 28th October, 2019 and signed by its National President, Dr. Osagie Obayuwana, CDHR expressed its concern about the negative impact of the exercise on Nigerians.
It noted that the operation would portend usurpation of police duties by soldiers who were not trained for civic duties.
CDHR said it was also concerned that the operation would seriously infringe on the freedom of movement of the people of Nigeria, a right constitutionally protected by Section 41 of the 1999 Constitution, which entitles every citizen to move freely throughout Nigeria.
It added that the interference of this well-entrenched right was not justified or justifiable on any of the grounds stipulated in the Constitution as there would not be said to exist any reasonable basis to suspect that all Nigerians were criminals or about to engage in criminal activities.
The petition reads: “Nigeria has outgrown the crudity of the military issuing warnings to the nation as a whole for a population of about 200 million persons to carry valid means of identification whenever they are going out to avoid being seen as criminally minded by soldiers.
“To our knowledge, no state of emergency has been declared to warrant this wholesale interference with the rights of the people.
“We see the operation as a trivialization of and a crude approach to the serious security challenge with which our country is faced at this critical time.
“We urge Mr. President to rather pursue economic and social policies that will address the root cause of crime and win the confidence and cooperation of the majority of our people, as a way of reducing deviant behaviour to the barest minimum. We call on Mr. President to have a rethink and immediately announce the cancelation of Operation Positive Identification.”
However, some senior lawyers have equally joined the fray as they condemned the military exercise, describing it as illegal and unconstitutional.
They said the military was not constitutionally empowered to dabble into internal security.
Speaking on the issue, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Chief Mike Ahamba, said such an operation is better handled by a civil authority and not by the military.
He said: “Even if government wants to check people’s identity, it should not be by the military. It should be by a civil authority.
“Essentially, it is not a military affair and I don’t think this is right.
“The Federal Government should ensure that things that may ignite violence are avoided. The Operation Positive Identification will not stop the spate of insecurity in the country.
“Nigerians should first be encouraged to get their national identity card and once this is achieved, it will be easy for security agencies to fish out criminals”.
A former Vice-President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Mr. Monday Ubani, said it was illegal for the military to involve itself in internal security.
“It is purely illegal. The Nigerian Army has no business asking any person for his or her identity on the road. It is not the business of the army.
“When I first heard the announcement, I was thinking that an Executive Order permitting the army to carry out such exercise has been put in place but I later found out that there was nothing like that. In essence, the army has no business in internal security. That is the job of the Nigeria police.
“The Nigerian Army Act is yet to be amended to now include this kind of responsibility. The military is supposed to be in charge of any external aggression. That was the responsibility assigned to it under the law. Therefore, asking the military to now be engaged in internal security arrangements in which they will begin to ask people of their identities on the road is a clear violation of the law and citizens’ constitutional rights as concern right to free movements and dignity.
“We are aware of how security agencies even carry out legal duties with excessive abuse lest talk of this kind of operation. You can be assured that there won’t be any regard for people’s dignity. So, if the military is given this kind of power that does not exist under the law, it will surely be abused.
“There’s no doubt about the fact that the country is facing security challenges, but the point needs to be made that security agencies need to up their game,” he said.
Destiny Takon believed that issues bordering on migration or identification of persons and their nationality were principally the constitutional province of the Immigration Services and narrowly, of the Nigerian Police.
He said: “First of all, I query the use of the Army for an operation within Nigeria which requires individuals to positively identify themselves. The question that beckons is, is that the constitutional role of the Army? My answer is in the negative because issues bordering on migration or identification of persons and their nationality, are principally, the constitutional province of the Immigration Services and narrowly, of the Nigerian wPolice.
“The use of the Army is suspicious and it also amounts to a misplacement of resources and priorities, when you consider that the Army should be applied to more demanding areas of our national life, like dealing with insurgency and militancy, which twin evils have so far outwitted and reduced the operational efficiency of the Army.
“Now, as against requiring Nigerians to go about in their own country with means of positive identification and not to move within certain hours, I say is tantamount to initiating a Police State. The constitution guarantees freedom of movement to Nigerians within our shores, without let or hindrance. Any action of government which directly or indirectly hinders that right, like the planned operation, amounts to a breach of that right.
“If the planned operation only required you to say your name and what community and Local Government you were from, without restriction as to what time you can move and not do so. I would not have faulted it as breaching the citizens’ right to freedom of movement. I would have faulted it only on lack of effectiveness because Soldiers are not trained to know or identify Nigerians by their names, facial looks and outline and their ethnic nationalities, communities and Local Government Areas, as the Immigration Service is.
“Nigerians are also advised to dress properly and not argue or contend with the soldiers. All of these amount to putting Nigerians under siege, fear and psychological trauma, while deifying soldiers or clothing them with authority to molest Nigerians: that authority, soldiers have never been able to manage without brutal excesses.
“On a final note, I strongly believe that the planned operation has some ulterior motive to serve, knowing the antecedents and body language of the Buhari administration and Nigerians should comply with it, not because they are legally obliged to but because because tyrants make, execute and interpret laws by themselves and to soothe their own purposes.”
Ladan: FG fighting terrorism through border closure
Muhammad Tawfiq Ladan is a Professor of International Law and Director -General of the Nigerian Institute of Advanced Legal Studies (NIALS). In this interview with TUNDE OYESINA, he speaks on gains of border closure, the $9.6 billion judgement debt and NIALS’ vision among sundry issues
Some Nigerians and African countries are of the opinion that the Federal Government is breaching the protocols of free movement of member-states to Nigeria by the closure of Seme border. How will you react to this?
No necessarily so. All member states have had and are still having one or two challenges in the implementation of their treaty obligation under the ECOWAS in terms of compliance, enforcement monitoring and implementation of some of the agreement at the national level. No regional block survives without the member-states respecting the treaty obligations, putting measures on ground, budgetary, administrative and legal to implement their treaty obligations. Nigeria has been doing its best to implement some of its decisions and the treaty obligations, but it has not been easy, because take for instance, we were at a conference in Accra, we just came back today, a number of participants raised the issue of why did Nigeria actually close the border in Benin, alluding it to a violation of protocol of free movement among member states.
There are three members of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs there that had to give a response. And after, I had to address the press there.
Here is the distinction: A closure of border is different from border drilling. Even the media have a misconception about it. Border closure restricts the movement of persons, goods and services that violates the protocol on free movement because the protocol is a right of all the 15-member-states of the ECOWAS to move across the borders for not more than 90 days without a Visa.
But the 90th day, you must return to your country or in the host country where you must get resident permit for yourself or for your business or for your service otherwise, you must return on the 90th day.
If you stay beyond the 99 days, you are violating the protocol and that member state can deal with you by their immigration laws. The truth of the matter is that every country can engage in border drilling exercise in order to curb criminality or border crimes. In our own case, from Benin in particular, for years, we have been having problem smuggling goods into the country. The protocol of ECOWAS that we have been respecting for years is what people are abusing. Even if you meet some people in Cotonou, they will tell you that that the place is just like a state in Nigeria. On their own, they are like a state within Nigeria. If we shut the border for a long time, their economy will suffer because they have liberalized their port system in such a way that people prefer to come through Lome or Cotonou ports.
When you are drilling your border to fight cross-border crimes just as it is going on now, it is to prevent smuggled goods, including rice into the country. Benin ports is known for 16, 25, 27 years expired rice, coming from Thailand and other places, being uploaded at the Benin-Cotonou ports, repackaged and re-bagged.
And first point of call of this expired rice is the neighboring country in Nigeria. It is not because, we are producing our own rice; it is not because we want to protect local investors, No. It is also because, the protocol itself did say that before you can actuary move not persons but goods from one neighboring to another, you must make sure that 70 per cent of that goods were actually produced in that particular member state that is moving it to another member state.
Tell me, where is Benin producing rice? That is the problem. At times, we don’t seek clarification of issues. Nigeria is not violating any protocol. Some people make it too flashy to look like ECOWAS citizens are suffering and Nigeria is doing nothing about it. No. If you go to the border right now, going by testimonies of other participants that also attended the meeting in Accra, especially one Ivorian, the border is opened for people who have all their papers to move in and go out. The Ivorian passed through the Ceme border. People are actually moving. But when people want to sensationalize it, they will say, even persons are not moving. If you have your valid documents, in and out of Nigeria, you will go. But if you have goods along with you, and the goods are part of the smuggled goods, you will be prevented from entering. Those that are smuggling expired rice into the country are not putting any measure on ground to protect the health of the citizens who are eating the rice. That is the problem. They only make a lot of money for their economy and then we can go to ‘hell’ in Nigeria. This is not what the protocol says.
So, the border drilling is about combating cross-border crime and our target this time around is in smuggled goods which the protocol says no member state can actually move goods from one state to another. You must show that 70 per cent of such goods were produced by your state because, you have to add value. This is the current state. It is not true that Nigeria has been violating treaty obligations. We have been complying.
What is your reaction to the $9.6 billion judgement debt slammed on Nigeria?
Well, the case of judgement debt was inherited by this administration. Even the Attorney-General inherited it. But, it is nevertheless against Nigerian government and his people. I think many states and heads of parastatals have in the past behaved very irresponsibly, and the people thought they could get away with it. You enter into a contract with a company, the company had already incurred some loses, and also borrowed money to execute part of the contract, all of a sudden, you failed to discharge your own part of the obligation, and then, when you borrow money as a contractor, investor from bank, interest keep accruing, you have no control over. At a point where we actually needed to enter into a negotiation, we failed to do so as a nation, at a point when we needed to get ourselves an arbitrator to peacefully arbitrate on our behalf, we did not do that.
The problem is not the companies that dragged Nigeria, it is also because, they never believed in our system that justice can be done, so they went outside. Don’t forget, we are dealing with foreign investors versus the host nation. In the contract, you are not always bound always by the legal system or the laws of a nation.
So, you have a clause always there, that you can arbitrate outside. So, the company actually used UK an arbitration panel venue for the dispute arising between the company and Nigeria. Although, a judgement was given, we could have appealed against it, but we did not, we could also negotiate out of court, we did not, we could have set up a review panel to review the award given, we did not.
But at a point in time, about four years ago when the issue came on board, we were asking questions and said we were not going to abide by it. Meanwhile, the cumulative interest of the award given in terms of the judgement and the losses they were incurring. Don’t forget that the company borrowed money from the bank, and interest is rising by the day. The loss is not about the arbitrary amount given, but what contractor and investor was actually facing.
So, all these accrued money, they made a case for it to be built into the arbitral award against Nigeria. And it rose to $9.6 billion. We can’t pay that kind of money because, it is practically the life wire of our annual budget; it is a key chunk of our national budget which means we won’t be able to do anything.
In a nutshell, the Federal Government has given a direction to the AGF to set up a committee to review all the cases and put in place strategies to review them and have a mediation process. I think that is a good step. Getting the judgement not to be enforced against Nigeria is the first step, and the second step is opening up an appellate review system which we are getting through. But the most important thing is the directive of the President that when the AGF finished this particular case, should not come back and put our MDAs and the state governors on a proper track that from now onward, you cannot box the Nigerian government into this contract when you don’t have the capacity to deliver on your part.
So, I think it is about financial prudent and responsibility on the part of those in governance at all levels. We need to put all hands on deck to achieve that.
The federal government has been accused of negligence in the handling of the matter, what is your take?
Every administration will need to understand why it is fighting over such an issue. You don’t just accept, you first have to review it. It is like me assuming duty and then everybody coming to me to say this is what we are doing and we shall continue with it.
I need to review and understand certain things for me to understand why I need to give approval of it. The fact that the AGF knows the implication of enforcement of arbitral award will not prevent Nigeria from reviewing and understanding as a new administration, to understand why we even got there first.
The federal government refused to accept the word negligence, because you have every right as an administration to review how the country has got into this mess. Who are the people responsible because you have to find out? Why do you want to negotiate when you know that you can fish out the culprits? People though that could get away with some of these things, and that is why at times, you need to steady and review, then you are better informed. And after getting information, the federal government went out to block the first phase, which is the enforcement of the arbitrary award.
Now, the federal government has gone on appeal and it also worked. You don’t assume responsibility when you know you can fish out those responsible for an act. Next time, people will be more cautious and know that they can’t get away with it.
You are barely three weeks old in office as the DG of NIALS, what are your visions for the institute?
For over 40 years, we have been squatting in Lagos and squatting in Abuja for about 20 years without having our own permanent office. I was not happy about this, when I came on board as the DG. We have about 317 staff and about 120, out which we have 28 technical professional staff squatting at the basement with reptiles.
My vision is, however, to make this place visible and generate fund. Despite our teething problem, we are the only institute with a functional press where we publish our own publication. Part of the law is for us to do research, publish and help all MDAs and organs of government which need our service for us to really be there for them. We have to move the institute away from its enormous problem. We have to go out and make a case for our visibility. If you don’t rise up to make a case, nothing will happen. You must plan and move forward. We are engaging stakeholders to come in and help. By my 100 days in office, I want to get concrete result as far as our temporary and permanent office is concerned.
In the next four years, I intend to engage in capacity building in comparative international law and practice for our staff. All the three organs of the ECOWAS is in Abuja. Nigeria has been playing big brother. We want to refocus and reposition the institute from its analogue ways of doing things to a digital one. We shall add new strategic programmes as we move on. IGR is another strategy, we shall explore. We have a printing press which we shall introduce to potential clients and to contest favorably in the market.
We are equally moving away from analogue publication. I have invited a creative director, so as to move all our publication to e-book subscription. Then the second phase will be e-book purchase because our key target groups are young guys, professionals and lawyers. They don’t have time to buy hard copies, they want to subscribe and purchase on line. This is part of the repositioning I am talking about.
Lagos dislodges land grabbers from Amuwo Odofin residential scheme
The Lagos State Government at the weekend dislodged miscreants and land grabbers from a portion of land at Amuwo-Odofin residential scheme.
Officials of the Lagos State Task Force on Land Grabbers dislodged the hoodlums from the land measuring 661.659 square metres located at Block 86, Plot 3638, Amuwo-Odofin Estate.
Justice Commissioner and Attorney-General, Mr. Moyo Onigbanjo, who disclosed this at the weekend while reviewing report of a recent enforcement exercise carried out by the taskforce and the policemen from the Governor’s Monitoring Team (GMT), said that the land grabbers had forcefully encroached and seized the land belonging to one Janet Johnson preventing her entry and possession. Onigbanjo explained that Johnson had petitioned his office through her solicitors to report the persistent encroachment and disruption of work on the land by land grabbers demanding justice and right of possession of her land.
He said: “As a responsible and responsive government, we investigated the claim by the petitioner and found out that the said land indeed belong to her. She presented copies of the C of O, composite survey plan, deed of assignment and letter of allocation from the State Government which were authentic and proved her rightful ownership of the land.”
He, however, advised legitimate land and property owners in the State to perfect title documents as well as all other legal documents pertaining to their lands and properties saying this will help put land grabbers at bay and ensure easy administration of justice in the event that such properties are forcefully taken. Onigbanjo averred that undocumented and incomplete transactions as well untidy property documentation make it difficult for property forcefully taken to be retrieved through legal means stressing that the case of Janet Johnson has proved beyond doubt that property forcibly and illegally seized can be retrieved when title document are perfected.
While noting that the dislodgement exercise is in continuation of the renewed drive of the present administration to put an end to the illicit activities of land encroachers and grabbers in the State, the Commissioner for Justice said that all illegal structures constructed by land grabbers on the land were pulled down during the enforcement. He further hinted that the land has been secured and returned to the rightful owner since the enforcement exercise.
“The zero tolerance stance against land grabbing and land encroachment by the Governor Sanwo-Olu’s led administration is very clear. He assured that every legitimate interest and investment made on land and property in Lagos State would be protected by Government. “I want to remind residents that the Lagos State Property Protection Law of 2016 is in full swing. This Law which prohibits forceful entry and illegal occupation of landed properties, violent and fraudulent conducts in relation to landed properties in Lagos State prescribes severe penalties with various prison terms for different offenses”.
“Members of the public are therefore advised to bring to the notice of the Taskforce on Land Grabbers any issue or issues bordering on land grabbing by addressing a petition to my office or call the following numbers 09096667123,09020085005,” the Commissioner said.
Malawi court suspends wearing of wigs, gowns as temperatures soar
Malawi’s constitutional court has suspended its requirement that lawyers and judges wear traditional white wigs and black robes in the courtroom as an early season heatwave sweeps the southern African nation.
Temperatures in some parts of the country have hit 45 degrees Celsius (113 degrees Fahrenheit) this week, the country’s Department of Meteorological Services said.
Malawi, a former British protectorate, still follows the British legal system, with the wearing of wigs and robes a requirement for judges and lawyers, reports Reuters.
But Chikosa Silungwe, one of the lawyers in court this week in the capital, Lilongwe, said the heatwave was making the court’s work challenging.
“It’s simple really. The heatwave this week meant that the gowns and wigs were uncomfortable,” he said in a telephone interview with the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
He was he wasn’t ready to attribute the excessive heat to climate change, noting “that’s stretching it too far”.
But Jolamu Nkhokwe, Malawi’s Director of Climate Change and Meteorological Services, said that while a range of factors contribute to higher temperatures, “the big suspect of this heatwave is climate change”.
“The (temperature) figures within their respective areas are higher than what is always expected during this time of the year,” as the southern hemisphere heads toward summer, he said.
Agnes Patemba, the Registrar for the country’s high court and a judicial spokeswoman, said the lifting of the wig and gown requirement, which began Wednesday, was a temporary measure.
“There is a heatwave and that has compelled the court to indeed do away with wigs and gowns. It is not the first time this has been done,” Patemba said in an interview.
Malawi’s high court is currently hearing a petition brought by the country’s political opposition seeking to nullify this year’s elections, which it says were marred by irregularities.
The country’s ministry of health has issued a press statement warning of heat risks and urging people to take precautions.
Metro and Crime22 hours ago
General Overseer: Why I started selling unborn babies
News7 hours ago
Kogi guber: Makinde, Wada escape abduction
Energy13 hours ago
Why hike in cooking gas price may persist – Marketers
News15 hours ago
IGP appoints new CPs for Lagos, Ogun,5 other states
Metro and Crime22 hours ago
Robbers turn guns on POS operators in Ogun, Lagos
Sports23 hours ago
Musa raises the alarm over synthetic pitch in Lesotho
Politics15 hours ago
Bayelsa guber: Declare state of emergency in Nembe over killings – Diri
BREAKING NEWS16 hours ago
Ex-Information Minister, Alex Akinyele, is dead