Hakeem Afolabi Olatunde SAN, an alumni of the Uthman Danfodio University, Sokoto (UDUS), in this interview with PETER FOWOYO, speaks on federalism, creation of state police and sundry other issues.
Is Nigeria practising federalism as a system of government?
Nigeria is not practicing federalism in the real sense of it. Under an ideal federalism, States are suppose to be independent of the federal government.
In essence, states are not expected to rely on the federal government for survival. What I am saying is that states should not be subjected to the control of the government at the centre.
The Nigerian federal system is an aberration . What we operate is an amalgam of a federal and unitary systems of government.That is why we have federal agencies enforcing states laws or put differently, federal agencies controlling affairs of states.
It is the nature of our own peculiar federal system that makes it possible for EFCC (a federal agency) to arrest an official of state government for violating for instance the criminal code law of his state.
Another example can be seen in a situation where a person convicted for violating the law of a state is kept in a federal prison to be fed by the federal government.
Our own system is not an ideal federalism. In an ideal federal system, a federal agency has no business enforcing compliance with state laws.
This anomaly is what should be on the front burner of our debates and not the issue of dividing the country. In view of the persistent agitations especially from the south east, some have argued that the government should restructure while others believe in the implementation of the last government’s confab report. What steps do you think can take us away from this quagmire?
The agitation for restructuring means different thing to different people.I think we should focus more on practising real Federalism within our own peculiar structure.
We should unbundle some of the powers of the government at the centre and make the centre less attractive.
We should strengthen the local government administration in terms of structure and financial autonomy. If that is done ,the agitation for restructuring will reduce.
I do not support the confab report. Those people who went to the confab were not elective representatives of the people, hence they couldn’t have taken decisions for the generality of the people.
How do you react to a recent report by the National Bureau of Statistics that the police and the judiciary are the most corrupt organisations in Nigeria?
The position of the National Bureau of Statistics is a matter of individual perception. The issue is more of subjectivity.
The two organizations are part and parcel of Nigeria and are being directed by Nigerians. Thus whatever vice that affects Nigeria as a nation will certainly impact on the institutions.
However, I must say that I am not opportune to see the materials relied on by the National Bureau of Statistic in reaching its conclusion on the two organizations.
That being the situation,I am not in a position to take an informed position on the conclusion reached by the Bureau.
What is your assessment of this government’s fight against corruption?
Government is really trying in its effort to fight corruption to a stand still. We must all appreciate from where we are coming from.
The present government inherited a structure that was almost dead in that the roots, branches and stems of the structure had been destroyed.
The government had to diagnose what is remaining and see what prognosis to undertake,hence the slogan “if we do not kill corruption, corruption will kill Nigeria”
I want to say that within the limited resources and the pervasiveness of the scourge of corruption, the government is doing its best.
Some of your colleagues have argued that the government needs a special court to enable it fight corruption. Do you share this view?
I do not share the view that we need any special court to fight corruption.The focus should be on how to reform and strengthen the existing structures to have the desired result.
We should look at the challenges being faced by the present justice delivery system and take a candid decision to fix them.
Some state governors are clamoring for the establishment of state police to enable them combat crime in their domain. Do you think creation of state police would reduce the rate of crime?
I honestly share the view of those people calling for State police. I believe that state police will be an established structure and modern concept of community policing.
A policeman who originates from a locality will be more conversant with that locality than a stranger. For example a policeman of southern Ijaw extraction will know the structure of the riverine area than somebody coming from Zuru in Kebbi state.
Thus the knowledge which an indigene have of his area will be brought to bear on his work as a policeman. I believe we are “over-ripe” for State police.
Do you think the electoral umpire will be able to conduct a free and fair election in Anambra state due to the various agitations ongoing in that region?
I do not see any impediment that can stop the conduct of election in Anambra State.I do not believe that any individual or group of people can hold the people of Anambra State to ransom.
I think our security organization will have to be on top of their game to put an end to the threats being made by some people. We succeeded in putting an end to the threat of Boko Haram, Anambra State should not be an exception.
Election is due to hold in Anambra, do you think the electoral umpire can conduct the election especially in view of Indigenous People Of Biafra (IPOB) threat to secede?
The actions or threats of IPOB is nothing but criminal in nature. I think it is high time the hoodlums operating under the banners of IPOB should be dealt with accordingly.
The full wrath of the law should be bought down on those elements intimidating the good people of Anambra state.i do not see how IPOB can prevent conduct of election in Anambra state. Our security agencies should do the needful and put an end to activities of the IPOB.
What are your expectations in this new legal year?
In the new legal year I want to see a country where the rule of law will be in full operation .
“The Nigerian federal system is an aberration . What we operate is an amalgam of a federal and unitary systems of government.That is why we have federal agencies enforcing states laws or put differently, federal agencies controlling affairs of states”