Monday Onyekachi Ubani, former second vice president, Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, speaks to Anayo Ezugwu, staff writer, Realnews on the current travails of Walter Onnoghen, chief justice of Nigeria, CJN, the defects in Nigeria’s electoral process and the expectations from Mohammed Adamu, new inspector general of police. Excerpts.
Realnews: With the ongoing trial of the CJN, can you say that the judiciary is on trial?
Ubani: The issue is that people are looking at it from that direction but I’m not seeing it that way. I’m seeing it that the government is ill-advised. If a person has committed a crime, we are saying that the processes of trial must be complied with constitutionally. Because if the constitution says this is the procedure and there is a decided case to that effect, which has not been upturned, it makes it mandatory for the process be complied with. If you don’t, then the legal community would rise up against such process.
Realnews: As a lawyer, with the case of Paul Usoro and the CJN, is it not obvious that your profession is on trial?
Ubani: As I said earlier, nobody is above the law. Any person that commits crime should be tried but in the trial of any person let there be due process. Due process in fair hearing and due process in trial. As in Paul Usoro’s case, he is not a public officer. He is only an NBA president. So if they have given him that opportunity to explain his side of the story that is all it requires. For the CJN, for a matter that is related to the course of his duty, you have to take him first to the NJC if you really want to prosecute him. But if you don’t compile with that, there is a problem.
Realnews: What is the way forward out of this legal issue involving the CJN?
Ubani: The CJN lawyers have raised the issue of jurisdiction and so that matter would be decided by the CCT whether it has the jurisdiction to try the case. So if the court rules that it doesn’t have jurisdiction that ends the matter.
Realnews: On the 2019 elections, how do you rate INEC’s neutrality in relation to the elections?
Ubani: The point is who appoints INEC chairman. Is the president of the country, who most of the time is a contestant in the election conducted by INEC. So that is an institutional defect. We must separate INEC chairman’s appointment from the president that is going to be a contestant in the election. This is a defect in the system. If we really want INEC to be independent in the real sense of that word, we must look at the issue of appointment of the person that presides over INEC. We must also look at the issue of funding; who funds INEC and even look at the structure itself and also look at the operational framework. If all these measures show some level of lack of independence, there is no way INEC can be independent. So INEC will only be independent in name but when it comes to the issues of operations and logistics, INEC relies on the executive. We must try as much as possible to watch what other nations have done in order to make their electoral umpire to be really independent. For now, INEC in Nigeria is not truly independent in the real sense of the word.
Realnews: Is the issue of lack of independence of INEC related to the delay in releasing funds to the umpire?
Ubani: That is why I said INEC is not independent. Ordinarily, if INEC is independent before the election maybe four years to election, it should have all the money and resources it will use to conduct an election. It doesn’t have to go cap-in-hand to the executive for funds. Few weeks to the election it has not gotten all the money it is supposed to use. This shows that INEC is not independent. I think we must insist that government must do the right thing in this country. We have not gotten it right with our electoral process and I tell you if our electoral process is not right we cannot get the kind of leadership we want in this nation. Leadership that is audacious and leadership that takes care of the masses, we have not gotten it yet in this country. So our electoral process is the determinant factor that brings this kind of leadership we have been suffering for many years. So let’s get our electoral process right to get the kind of leadership we desire in Nigeria.
Realnews: With the way things are going, do you think the election will hold?
Ubani: The election will hold but whether is going to be free, fair and credible is a different process. I have this belief that it is going to hold unless you have the information I don’t have.
Realnews: The federal government has appointed a new Inspector General of Police, IGP, what do you think about the former IGP Idris?
Ubani: The immediate past IGP was an underperformer in my view. He didn’t impress me as an Inspector General of Police. He was involved so much in politics. It is not supposed to be that way. He is not supposed to be involved in politics but he was so much involved in politics. So let him go.
Realnews: In setting agenda for the new IGP, what are your expectations?
Ubani: The new IGP must be interested in the welfare of his officers. He must also ensure that lives and properties are secured and that average Nigerian must be secured.
– Jan. 18, 2018 @ 14:25 GMT |