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Ubani: Civil servants, not politicians entitled to life pension



Ubani: Civil servants, not politicians entitled to life pension

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 second term in office, the 9th National Assembly, Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa’s withdrawal from the Presidential Election Petitions Tribunal and sundry issues


Former President Olusegun Obasanjo was recently reported to have said that the Boko Haram menace has gone beyond what the Federal Government can tackle alone. Do you share his sentiments?


Of course, we can all see that the situation is overwhelming. I think the former president is talking about proper coordination as well as assistance and support from neighboring countries. We need to share intelligence information about this problem with other countries that are willing to offer assistance.


We need to also ensure that our borders are not porous. Most of these insurgents entered the country through our porous borders to kill and maim people.

If by now, we are still talking about killing of people by Boko Haram insurgents across the nation, then, we certainly need assistance from other countries. It seems security operatives are overwhelmed with the problem despite billions of naira being spent by government in tackling the issue of insecurity.

So, I think the Federal Government should heed the former president’s advice and seek help from other countries of the world in tackling the menace of Boko Haram insurgents.



What is your expectation from President Muhammadu Buhari in his second term in office?


The president needs to recover the economy because the economic situation of the nation at the moment is very bleak. Nigerians are not smiling. The rates of unemployment and inflation are high. There is no money in circulation. People are suffering and populace cannot even afford one square meal in a day. The economic situation looks very bleak and uninspiring.


Therefore, the president should take the best economic managers on board in other to revive the economic situation in the country, create employment and re-engineered economic activities by ensuring that a conducive environment is created for entrepreneurs to survive.


Government also needs to wake up on the issue of rising insecurity in the country. Banditry, kidnapping and insurgency are all back in full swing. There is hardly any day that passed without people being killed in large numbers.


What are your expectations from the 9th National Assembly?


The 9th Assembly has a lot to do in terms of lawmaking. There were a number of Bills that have been sent to the outgoing Assembly that were not passed into law.


The incoming lawmakers must aid the fight against corruption and as such laws must be passed in that direction. Things must also change in terms of when appropriation bill is passed. Early passage of budget is highly desirable.

The 9th Assembly must also ensure that Bills meant for the poor are speedily passed into law. It is the harsh economic situation that propels Nigerians to seek greener pasture in other countries.

The lawmakers have a lot to do by enacting laws that will bring about good governance and ensure that the environment is conducive for people to do business, work and live.


How can we avoid a repeat of the frequent executive/legislature face-off that characterized the last dispensation as we enter a new phase in the nation’s democratic process?


I think all arms of government must understand that they are independent of each other. But, they must always synergize in the interest of the masses. They should not be working at cross-purposes. If they understand it that way, I see no reason why there should be any rancorous relationship.


A situation where one arm will want to impose itself on another arm should be completely avoided. The executive arm is expected to respect the sovereignty of the legislature and vice versa. It’s the same thing with the judicial arm.


It should not be headmaster, students relationship because no arm is superior to the other. Conflict must always arise, particularly when you have people from different background. But, the overriding principle that should guide even the resolution of conflict is the interest of the nation.


I don’t also want a rubber stamp National Assembly that will just accept whatever is brought by the executive without any questioning. What I am saying is that there must be check and balances because in the absence of such, we cannot claim to be in a democracy. One of the basic principles of democracy is that of check and balances.



Some women groups alleged that the Appeal Court’s President, Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa was intimidated to withdraw from the Presidential Election Tribunal. What is your take on this?


The position of the law is that if there is a relationship that will affect people’s perception or that may occasion a likelihood of bias in the administration of justice, the judge must recuse himself or herself.


This is already a well-established principle and I don’t know where the issue of intimidation is coming from.


This woman’s husband was said to be a chieftain of the All Progressive Congress (APC), while the son also campaigned for Buhari and he was even a gubernatorial candidate.


So, because of this relationship, if she is allowed to decide the petition, there may be likelihood of bias in the eyes of the public. Justice must not always be done but it must be seen to have been done.


Considering the nature of this clime, if the petition goes either way, people will read meanings into it. So, is it not in the interest of administration of justice that the woman recused herself and allowed the matter to be decided by a person that will be seen by people as impartial? So, as far as I am concerned, the issue of intimidation doesn’t arise at all.



The recent event in the nation’s judiciary has shown that it is not immune to executive’s interference. What can be done to guarantee the independence of the judiciary?


I think the judges themselves must understand the onerous responsibility that is placed upon their shoulders. A judge must be very courageous and take the issue of fairness in justice dispensation serious.


Justice is blind and it is given to anyone that deserves it. This is the fulcrum upon which justice must be dispensed. So the issue of courage is very key. This is because at any point a judge is handicapped in dispensing justice without fear or favour, there is problem.


The moment people lose confidence in the judicial system, what sets in is anarchy. That’s why it is important that people that are brought to the Bench must be courageous, full of wisdom and integrity.


What I am saying in essence is that judiciary will be independent to the extent that the judges also want to be independent. The judges have to earn it, demand it and show it.



Do you think the nation’s judiciary can actually be free from executive’s interference?


Of course, Yes. Judges are supposed to be independent going by the dictates of the Constitution. It’s even heartwarming that there is financial autonomy now for some judiciary in some states. It’s a constitutional issue and we are insisting that all states should be granted financial autonomy.



Do you agree with state governors that the recent directive of the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) regarding the operation of state and local governments’ joint account is unconstitutional?


No, I didn’t agree with the assertion of the governors. Over the years, the state governors have refused, failed and or neglected to pay their own part of the revenue as demanded by the Constitution into that Account but have abused and misappropriated these funds that belong to the local governments. I am laughing in English when I read their statement talking about the observance of the constitution. They are the major culprits in breaching the constitution by refusing to comply with Section 7 of the 1999 Constitution as Amended in ensuring that the local government councils are governed by democratically elected officials.


They rather appoint Caretaker Committees or Transition Committees and appoint their stooges and cronies through whom they collude in siphoning the funds of these local government areas for other purposes other than for the local government administration.
They have also refused to comply with Section 162(7) of the Constitution which compels them to contribute their own share for the administration of local government councils.


It is therefore very funny and laughable that they are referring the president to the same constitution they have observed in breach and insisting that the provisions that deal with joint account should be complied with as if the creation of the Joint Account was for them to steal and misappropriate the funds that ought to be used to develop the local government areas.


Have they lost their sense of shame? Is the money they are demanding now meant for them? Don’t they receive their own shares from the federation account? Did they share it with the local government councils? Something is wrong with these our governors.



Are political office holders among those recognized by the Constitution entitled to receive pension?


Political office holders are not part of those recognized by the Constitution to be entitled to pension and that was why they are enacting laws to back up their illegality.


Those who are entitled to pension under the law are civil servants who have worked for state and federal governments or in private sector.


The executive is manipulating the legislature at various states to pass these obnoxious pension laws. You can see that the State Houses of Assembly too are now imitating what the executives are pushing them to do.


I think it is only the Nigerian populace that could stop this kind of illegality and stealing of tax payers’ money. All these things are showing that this country is clearly sick. It is only a sick country that can allow this kind of thing to be happening unabated.


People should speak and rise up through protests to shut down this high display of impunity by political office holders.

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