Dr. Paul Chibuike Ananaba, is a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, (SAN). In this interview with INIOBONG IWOK, he proffers regionalism as the solution to Nigeria’s numerous challenges; the Judiciary and the current anti graft war, among other issues. Excerpts:
There is corruption in the Judiciary but among the three arms of government the judiciary is the least corrupt.
Some of the states are not viable at all, they are feeding bottle states, a particular state in Nigeria it allocation for last month was 131 million when Akwa Ibom State got 8.9billion so what manner of governance would they get in the other state.
There have been increased calls for regionalism based on the view that the current system is not working?
I’m an apostle of restructuring, I am a disciple of regional government, we need to do this to be able to overcome some of the challenges, some of the states are not viable at all. They are feeding bottle states, a particular state in Nigeria had only N131 million allocation for last month when Akwa Ibom State got 8.9billion; so what manner of governance would they get in that state? Workers would not be paid, incidentally, I went to that state two days ago, capital projects could not be executed, all the roads they created years back are still where they were because they don’t have money to execute them.
But some say creation of states would bring even development?
I have no problem with creation of states, I only have problem with the federating unit; If we have Western Nigeria as a federating unit, you would have just one commissioner of education and the rest of the other five states you would put their money and the other five commissioners would have personal assistants, they would have secretaries they would have permanent secretaries and the permanent secretaries would have directors which is wasteful.
One commissioner of education is enough for the south-east, south- south and north. The states can be units in the region, then you would see that there would be no need for each state to set up universities and the rest would be colleges of the big universities.
At that point, rather than each state struggling to make investments each region can exist on its own and can execute big projects, and each would run like a country of its own. The problem of election of the president would be over, because it would be a ceremonial and the government of each of the region would be vice and the president would be rotating among the regions on the basis of two year and we would have one army and there would be no wastage; so money especially on election and each region would have its police and so on.
What is your view about the president’s war against corruption?
So far so good, I believe the government should start somewhere and he is starting somewhere. Nobody should be worried, I believe there should be no exception. Nigerians should expose corrupt individuals whoever they are and report them to relevant government agencies, there should no be no sacred cow.
The opposition party said they are being targeted?
the opposition is primarily the PDP. I don’t agree with that; even if it so, the law does not know who is PDP and APC. There is nothing to worry about, it would get to other people; the people in PDP were in APC before. Over time, more revelations would come but we should not prosecute someone because he is in PDP. It seemed so because they are the people that just left government and is the natural place to start.
You can see that a lot have been unraveled and those accused should expose the people. You know I have not seen any one you who has done that. If you have such incidence, you should open up: this are the people in government some months back and you can’t start from 1999 because even the EFCC do not have the manpower.
What about the attempt to set up special court for corruption cases?
Courts are not created by executive fiat, courts are created by legislative process. Section 6, of the Constitution established the court in this country, so that section has to be amended. That can be the wish of the president but there is nothing on ground like that amendment. No president set up a court; the courts are set up by the constitution as amended by the national assembly, section 6, says that. It is different form designating some court, which is ongoing as anti corruption court, some judges have special training to handle EFCC matters; that is ongoing and do-able without amendment. They can even improve performance by way of passing directly the chief judge of the federal high without setting up special courts which is not an easy process as it requires an amendment of the constitution.
There have been allegations of corruption in the judiciary, how deep rooted is it?
Yes, but it is not as blown as people think it to be. Nobody doubts that, majority of our Judges are men of integrity, when a hand touches oil, it tend to stain the rest. But the NJC have been taken steps to rid the judiciary of corrupt Judges as much as possible. There is corruption in the judiciary, but among the three arms of government the judiciary is the least corrupt.
How would the new administration of criminal justice act help in the fight against corruption?
The ACJ is a revolution, it is so good it would make the administration of criminal Justice simple and good but we would still need an amendment as time goes on; but so far we have had it so good. The interlocutory appeal would be eliminated which, because of its absence, there are other thing that needs to be done; there has to be improvement in the facilities and infrastructures in court, electronic proceeding in court, we need to embrace the NBA, so that lawyers don’t delay cases in court and strike should be eliminated in court, and judges should be taken care of; steps should be taken to train the support staff and the Bailiff.
Are you worried that recent elections in the country have been inconclusive?
It is human beings that make elections and not the law, that leads to the inconclusive of elections. The issue is that political office in Nigeria is so attractive, when you consider how much people get. The former CBN governor revealed sometime ago that 25 percent of the national budget is spent on the national assembly members so in that mood, nobody remembers the law; there is violence because they want to be there at all cost. There is all manner of malpractices and non compliance and when they are done and one candidate is already declared the winner, it becomes difficult because the kind of cases that the electoral cases are, and the timing make it difficult to get justices and then it is technical; tribunals are time bound, of course there is limit of amendment, and you are given 21 days to file a petition.
What is your view about the Supreme Court judgment?
The Supreme Court Judgment is very clear on electoral act, INEC has the power to bring about an innovation that would bring innovation in the electoral process, but it must be within the law that judgment was clear and it goes in line with the constitution. The PDP is having its own part of the crisis, that is what politics is all about. We cannot judge them now, two years is not enough, a lot of things can change, so don’t worry about the crisis; a lot can happen, a mega party can emerge, there can also be alignment.
There are complaints among your colleagues about the process of award of SAN, how do you react?
Those people complaining are not SAN. Many times you find out that they are people who want to be SAN, and are unable to get there. last week the list of the people were made public, one third of the list that would be picked, everybody knows its act of parliament .There is some screening if you feel you are not given fair hearing, there are processes of appeal, I have gone through the process and I think it is fair. If they can only advertise 50 lawyers this year, that means there is some level of screening, and after that, there is a committee called the Legal Practitioners Privileges Committee is set up; the award of SAN is a privilege and the word privilege is understandable.