Mr. Kabir Akingbolu is a rights activist. In this interview with AKEEM NAFIU, he speaks on COVID-19 pandemic, anti-graft war and sundry issues
Do you think there are enough measures in place by the Federal Government to contain the ravaging coronavirus in view of the rising figure of cases nationwide?
The last speech of the president on preventive measures to contain the pandemic is nothing more than a nursery rhyme to many Nigerians. This is because majority of Nigerians are not expecting any further lockdown or if there is going to be any further restriction of movement or business, they expect that government will put in place workable and pleasant programme that will reduce the burden of the lockdown to ease the negative consequences.
Unfortunately, the speech came as dry and as unsavoury as usual. There was no established means of distributing palliatives and relief materials to the people. And to worsen the situation, the government was only reeling out highfalluting figures of the billions it has spent purportedly as palliatives for the people but the claims appear as mere ruse and unnecessary political chicaneries.
This is because even though the president did mention in his speech what it has spent on palliatives, it is more of pseudo palliative than real because the number of people purportedly given the reliefs are rather imagined than real as nobody knew how the government generated the names of the beneficiaries.
Apart from this, the number of people claimed by the government to have benefitted from the scheme are too insignificant to ever be meaningful in the scheme of things because according to the government, the number of people who purportedly benefitted are one million and this is less than 0.3 of the population of Nigeria which is likely above 200 million.
The interstate movement restriction has no definitive day of commencement. The partial relaxation of the lockdown permitting movement from morning till evening though a welcome development has its limitations in the failure of government to back it up with palliatives.
Also, there is the compelling need to enforce the law strictly. And one tends to also ask questions as to why people can move in daytime and not at night when there is no scientific proof yet to show that the virus is only active at night. Thus, the curfew is unnecessary.
Besides, if parents are allowed to go about their daily businesses why should students not be allowed to resume especially those who were about writing exams which could be done batches? Government needs to take a second look at this.
Since the inception of COVID-19 pandemic lockdown across states in the country, many Nigerians have been killed extra-judicially by security agents saddled with the responsibility of enforcing the lockdown. What do you think should be done to stem the tide of this ugly trend?
First of all, it stands logic on the head that the courts can be locked down completely without giving rooms to skeletal judicial activities. This is because the judiciary is an essential service provider in the country. Now that there is lockdown, there is the compelling need to allow the judiciary to work so as to be able to deal with issues of human rights abuses and harrassment by security agents of citizens in the name or guise of enforcing the lockdown rules.
Also, it is sad that officers deployed for this kind of special assignment are not civil or well-trained enough to know how to handle emergency situations like this. To worsen the situation, some of the security agents have turned the assignment to money spinner by extorting innocent citizens who are found wanting in the observance of the rules relating to the lockdown directives.
This is not only sad but leaves a sour taste in the mouth. This is because the security agents who are supposed to protect the citizens have now constituted themselves as nuisance and a source of torment to the people they ought to ordinarily protect. As a matter of urgency, the government needs to do a lot in this regard and ensure that the security agents are well mannered and guided to adhere strictly to their rules of engagement by serving as security agents rather than killing or maiming innocent citizens.
Thus, if the courts are opened for business, any erring officer could be brought to justice so easily but if not so, such officers may escape justice forever. Also, citizens’ rights may be difficult to enforce in the scheme of things if the courts are not opened, at least, partially.
Mr. Femi Falana has linked the growing cases of COVID-19 in the country to inconsistency and double standards of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) and lack of coordination on the part of the Federal Government. Do you share his view?
I completely share the humble view of the revered activist, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN), when he opined that the growing cases of COVID-19 infections in the country is as a result of inconsistencies and double standards of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) and lack of coordination on the part of the Federal Government.
This apart, there is the growing inclination or tendentious proclivity of Nigerian governors in vainglory or ratrace of some kind because of the advantage the breaking out of the virus in their states can give them. Though a terrible scourge, most of the governors are happy and competing with the numbers of cases in their states.
It is a shame that most of our governors have turned the scourge of COVID-19 to money-making ventures after running their states’ purse dry. On the part of NCDC and the states too, there is serious lack of cohesion and cooperation. Some tests or number of cases sent by NCDC to states were sometimes contradicted. A good example of this happened in Bauchi State, so, for the virus to be contained or end timely there is need for cohesion amongst all the driving agencies in the country. Otherwise, Nigerians may suffer the negative consequences.
President Muhammadu Buhari has asked the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Tanko Muhammad, to consider taking immediate steps as appropriate to ensure the setting up or designation of Special Courts in all states, including the FCT, to try cases of armed robbery, banditry, kidnapping and other serious offences, in order to facilitate speedy trials. How do you view this request by the president?
The directive by the president to the Chief Justice of Nigeria, on the need to take steps to ensure the setting up of special courts in the country to try armed robbery, banditry, kidnapping and other serious offences courts are not out of place. It is a step in the right direction. In fact, it is long overdue because the establishment of these courts will aid and assist not only the quick dispensation of justice but decongestion of our regular courts.
Meanwhile, there is the compelling need to add corruption court to the list. The reason for this is that if you look at all the listed offences, ranging from kidnapping, banditry, armed robbery to other offences, you will discover that apart from armed robbery which had been with us, others including corruption and executive stealing are new trend offences that have recently gained notoriety in our society and also have become so prevalent to a sickening level.
Therefore, it is better that proper attention is directed towards them with a view to curtailing them or nipping them in the bud before they assume a more complicating dimension that may be too difficult to handle easily with time. The time to do it is now.
Do you agree with the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), that Federal Government’s fight against corruption in the country is impartial, objective and non-discriminatory?
The Attorney General of the Federation missed it completely when he said that the government of the APC is impartial and objective in its fight against corruption. This is because the government of the day is always friendly and romances any corrupt individual who does their bidding. Today, many known personalities with tainted past and sometimes having very serious criminal allegations hanging on their necks are serving as ministers or heads of various agencies without anything done to them.
That apart, many opposition members who had earlier being charged with criminal offences of corruption and embezzlement becomes freeborn immediately they did the biddings of the ruling party. This government is terribly discriminatory in its fight against corruption. As a matter of fact even though the government came to power on the shoulder of promise to fight corruption, it has done little or nothing in this regard and the balance sheet of the government as far as corruption is concerned is debit. The government has failed woefully in its fight against corruption.