In this interview with AKEEM NAFIU, Mr. Gabriel Uduafi speaks on calls for President Muhamadau Buhari and the service chiefs’ resignation over growing insecurity, deregistration of 74 political parties by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and sundry issues
Do you think calls for the resignation of President Muhammadu Buhari and the service chiefs over growing insecurity in the country is justified?
Well, I think the first responsibility of government under the Constitution is to ensure the security and welfare of citizens. The security concern is one that any government must take very serious and handle effectively.
So, to the extent that there is still a prevalence of insecurity in the country, it behooves on everyone to call on government to be alive to its responsibilities.
However, on the call for the president to resign over growing insecurity, this, for me, is not the solution to the problem. Now, if he resigns, who takes over from him? It is the Vice-President, who is a member of the president’s cabinet. If the Vice-President takes over, then it means that we are still within the same political structure in the quest to finding a lasting solution to the menace of insecurity. So, to this extent, I don’t think that the calls for the president’s resignation really make sense.
If you look at the order of succession, where the president is unable to act, the vice-president takes over and where the vice-president is unable to perform, the senate president takes over. The Speaker of the House of Representatives is the fourth person on the line. All these individuals are from the same political party. So, if their political structure is unable to provide solution to the insecurity problem, the resignation of any of these top ranking political office holders will not be a solution to the problem.
The solution, in my view, is a review of the overall security architecture of the country. This must start from the constitutional perspective that put the responsibility of securing the country on the Federal Government. I think those calling for the resignation of the president ought to have looked into the Constitution and see how it has become a major problem in securing people’s lives.
We should also look at how well the police and other security agencies have been funded in their quest to discharge their responsibilities. Even, when we are asking the service chiefs to resign, we are not going to overhaul the entire military hierarchy. So, for me, I think the problem is with the structure and not the personnel in charge.
Has the Senator asking the president to resign told Nigerians how much he collected for constituency allowance and how far has he gone with the projects? So, as far as I am concerned, the call for the president’s resignation is political.
How do you sack the service chiefs who are appointees of the president? It is the prerogative of the president to appoint whoever he desires to these positions. Besides, security is a confidential issue. With this, the service chiefs must enjoy the confidence of the president and vice versa. It is not a political appointment, but a confidential appointment.
Therefore, if the president says these are the people in whom I have confidence to manage the country’s security, no one can tell him to fire them. But, all we must do is to put the president to action. Nobody knows the security mandate that the National Assembly has given the president. How prepared are these legislators to oil the machinery of governance to such an extent that security is given a priority and not political office?
When you see people protesting against the decision of the highest court in the land, this also has constituted security challenge. This is because a room has been provided for people to be lawless.
In the aftermath of a nationwide protest by Christians over unending insecurity in the country, President Muhammadu Buhari said that 90 per cent of Boko Haram victims are Muslims. Do you think there’s any justification for such declaration by the president?
I think we must analyse the position in perspective. I am a Christian and I want to say that our Christian leaders have been overtly political, unfortunately in this political dispensation. This is why it is very difficult for me to know the motive of any Christian leader when he is taking a position on any national issue.
Do you know that the highest level of governance is in the religious bodies in this country? We were told that nobody can question the pastor because whatever he does is right. These Christian leaders said they are protesting against insecurity in the land, have some of them not contributed to the problem by their careless statements?
What religious leaders do all over the world, even in the face of dictatorship is to call people to prayer and ask political leaders to act in the best interest of the masses. So, I am saying that though the Christian leaders have a right to protest, but many of them have also contributed to some of these problems we are facing.
Having said that, if the president disclosed that majority of Boko Haram victims are Muslims, has anyone called for the statistical basis for the assertion? Does anyone has a statistical basis to challenge the assertion? I don’t have. Hence, I would have preferred a situation whereby we ask the president to give us the statistical basis for his assertion rather than attacking him.
From the much I know, I don’t think the population of Christians in the entire North-East is more than 10 per cent. So, if the president’s assertion is true and correct, it is meant for all purposes and time.
It has been revealed that more than 115,000 inmates at the various correctional centres across the country are awaiting trial. How can we address this problem and ensure decongestion of correctional centres?
I think this is a major challenge facing the nation and as a lawyer, I want to say that the statistics is very damning to say the least. One way of addressing this problem is for other states across the country to create special courts to attend to criminal cases like what we have in Lagos State.
In Lagos State, we have the Special Offences Court and this is quite helpful. Those special offences like rape, household violence, economic crime and others are given accelerated hearing in Lagos because some judges have been assigned to these courts. Other states should emulate this. Besides, there should also designation of some courts at the Federal High Court to handle special offences.
If the National Assembly were able to make laws creating timeline for the handling of electoral matters, what stops them from doing the same thing for criminal cases so that they are decided timeously. If correctional centres are congested, why can’t the National Assembly come up with legislations that will help in decongesting them?
Constitutionally, the Supreme Court is expected to have 22 Justices but it is having just 13 at the moment. What is the implication of this shortfall on the administration of justice in the country?
We want to beg President Muhammadu Buhari to do the needful. He must make the necessary appointment to the Supreme Court’s Bench. The Supreme Court is a court of 22 Justices under the Constitution and there is no reason for us not to have the full complement of Justices at the apex court. This is the only reason the Supreme Court can be functioning optimally.
I also want to suggest that the nation’s judiciary should widen the scope of appointment to the Supreme Court’s Bench. It is not enough for us to say appointment into the apex court must be from the Court of Appeal. I think lawyers should also be considered. A number of Senior Advocates are interested in becoming Justices of the Supreme Court.
The quota system is also affecting judges’ elevation into the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court. Even the lower courts are not exempted from this problem. We have a lot of issues that slow down our development among which is the appointment to the judiciary. There are too many political rather than professional considerations in making the appointments. This is a major problem.
What is the implication of deregistration of 74 political parties by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on the nation’s polity?
I support INEC’s action. I don’t think that for us to have a perfect democracy, we need more than five political parties. I want to recommend that more parties should still be deregistered because the eighteen that are left are still on the high side. Let’s trim them to as few as possible.
It’s very sad that people are registering political parties because of the money they will get from INEC. Somebody who cannot win election as a councilor will be floating a political party and said he wants to contest for president. All these things must be stopped. I want to propose that before the next general election, it would be okay for us not to have more than five political parties.