Oyekachi Ubani is a former chairman of Ikeja Branch of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) and public affairs analyst. In this interview with INIOBONG IWOK, he spoke about the ongoing trial of the senate president, impunity in the administration of justice in Nigeria among other issues. Excerpts:
What is your view about the ongoing trial of the Senate President?
The trial process has started; the prosecution has been bringing witnesses that have been testifying against Bukola Saraki. But the beauty of the law is that Saraki would be given the chance to cross examine the witnesses and at the same time tell his own side of the story if he actually hid some assets and information on his assets.
But what we don’t want is a situation where the trial would be manipulated and tempered with; whether to avoid trial which is what he has been doing, looking for court to truncate the process. Infact, he has ran to virtually all the courts in the land and has not been successful. The administration of criminal justice system has now made it easy for criminally exposed persons to be tried.
The usual drama is no more, there is now real criminal trial of criminally exposed persons; the usual manipulation that usual attend trial of persons who are big is no more; now the law does not encourage stay of proceeding in preliminary criminal matters, now the law does not encourage appeal in preliminary matters or interlocutory matters, you allow the entire process to run out at a time then you appeal. In the past, they used to appeal in piece meal and bring one frivolous appeal to frustrate the process. So the new system is changing things, cases now do not suffer long adjournment.
Are you surprised at the magnitude of allegations leveled against the Senate President?
You would hardly find 10 percent of Nigerian politicians that are without corrupt tendencies. That is why they do all manner of things to get into power. This practices are in other countries, it is just that here, we don’t allow the system to work, we don’t implement the law. If the system is working, how would a state house of assembly be there and a governor corner the state treasury and deal with it the way he desires; sometimes share the money with the legislators?
He would distribute it and the system would allow it; a system that allows public officers to corner public money into their personal use is not a good system. In advanced countries, they maintain high level of trust in public office. When you hear a public officer has an allegation, if he does not resign, they would disgrace him out of office.
Has the immunity clause aided corruption?
It is not immunity clause, the system that is supposed to check all that is the legislature who should check the governors; if there is check and balance among the arms of government, even the executive must know what is going on in other arms of government.
So you mean there is no check and balance among the arms of government?
There is not; they are even messing up the entire system. If care is not taken, the arm of government that would derail this government is the house. Look at the budget, look how they pass the budget without sending details to the president and they want to amend the Code of Conduct Bureau Act in their favour. The legislature may give this government a bad name because they may be defendants in corruption cases, they now want to amend the law in their favour.
Does it mean APC is losing control of it members?
No, it is the merger. The circumstance when they wanted to take over power from the previous government. The way they merged was an all comer affairs; they came from different parties without ideology. What they are suffering now is because it was an all comer affairs; they call it mixed multitude.
Do you foresee APC breaking up before 2019?
I am not a prophet of doom, but if there is no maturity shown in the way they run public affairs and they don’t have a consensus that they are here to effect a change and give Nigerians change, if they don’t have that ideology even before 2019 I foresee them having problem. I see them breaking up and some forming a new party and others going back to PDP. It is about personal interest which has overrode national interest; they can even bury the party for their personal interest.
But these traits were there in the former regime under PDP?
The problem is the system which allows so much impunity, laxity and no proper monitoring. The problem is from the enforcers of the law; the judiciary is not firm in enforcing the law; the executive arm of government is not firm in enforcing the law. Most times there are allegations of corruption in the system, so the system is not arranged like we have in other countries. The law is often manipulated and interpreted to favour certain persons; they look at your ethnicity, background and status and that is not the way to run a society; society is run on rules. If you look at other societies, that is the way it is.
But lawyers have been accused of aiding corrupt politicians?
A law was enacted to check the administration of criminal justice system in Nigeria. We should blame the system. If you are a Senior Advocate of Nigeria you walk in and asked me to do otherwise, I would do the right thing. I think we should blame any judge or the system that allows manipulation. There was this law that has been used by lawyers that allows lawyers to do manipulation; they often say the court has no jurisdiction or the act their clients are accused of is not related to the offence. And the court would rule and they would appeal the ruling of the lower court and they continue to appeal; and you know this case are not assigned on time and it would drag on for years that is the system.
The president promised to rescue the Chibok girls, but up till now he has failed?
What would the president do? I doubt by this time if the girls would still be kept in one place. The American man that spoke the other day said when these girls were kidnapped, they identified the place they were kept and informed the government in power; nothing was done about it. I doubt if those girls are still in one place and in this country in the light of the people that have been recovered. I don’t think the president knows where those girls are and would not want to rescue them.
There have been controversies over the use of PVC by INEC, are you surprised nothing has been done to amend the electoral law?
If it was in a serious country, that bill should be before the National Assembly for amendment. The issue of inconclusive elections should not be coming up. Again it is an issue of what people want to get in government. There is so much laxity in the system, in checking people in government. As long as that system is sustained, when you are in government, you are already a multi millionaire. So as long as that system is allowed, they would do anything to truncate that system. We must take time to check mate those that are encouraging corruption. We must take time to close loopholes so that those who engage in corruption are punished so that those that would be coming out next would be coming to serve. Tell me which election is not corrupt in Nigeria is it the one that brought in incumbent president?
Do you foresee problem in 2019?
That would be if we don’t amend the electoral act. As long as corruption is not dissuaded; only if we continue to run a country where everyone is put on alert and those who engage in electoral fraud are banned. The Supreme Court judgment recently upholding some election victory was an encouragement to legitimate electoral fraud. It means that you can perpetuate electoral fraud and when you get in, the system would legitimise you.