What is the essence of The Law? When exactly does it serve the ends of justice? Is corporate well being, that is, national interest, inferior to individual right? Why do our judges routinely find it convenient to deploy technicalities to upend critical programmes of incumbent governments; corruption or poor thinking? Although, in asking these questions, I am not by any means suggesting, even where I will not say the same thing for the detained former national security adviser and his other military colleagues who should, more reasonably, be defending themselves before a court martial, that the government of President Buhari is right in not releasing somebody like Sheik Ibrahim Elzakzaky, what exactly are our judges thinking when they fail to take into account, the primacy of the national interest in arriving at their decisions? In other words, which is superior, national interest or individual right ensuing mostly from the strictest interpretation of the law? Shouldn’t judges naturally give greater weight to national interest just as the Appellate Court did in the Hamza Al Mustapha fundamental rights’ case against the federal government?
These musings were my immediate thoughts on learning that Justice Binta Nyako, sitting at the Abuja High court, had on Tuesday, 5 December, 2017, vacated her order of 30 May, freezing 16 separate accounts linked to the wife of former President Goodluck Jonathan, Patience.
I urge Nigerians to mentally convert the 9.3 million dollars in these accounts to naira to see the reasonableness, or otherwise, of granting Mrs Jonathan access to these humongous amounts of money on the absolutely flimsy ground that the order had lapsed and could not be renewed by the EFCC. Is man made for law or the law for man?
EFCC’s case against Mrs Jonathan and the associated companies reads as follows: EFCC by an ex parte motion it filed before another judge of the same high court, applied for an order of interim attachment/forfeiture of assets and properties of Mrs Jonathan’s foundation, at stated addresses. It sought for an order stopping any disposal or alienation of the assets and an authorisation to appoint a competent person (s)/firm to manage the temporarily forfeited assets pending the conclusion of investigation. It contended that the assets are subject matter of investigation, enquiry and examination by it, and that there was need to preserve them as any transaction on any of them will render nugatory, judgments that may arise from possible criminal charges against the suspects.
It may be pertinent to mention that, amongst other things, the agency’s investigation unearthed the fact that none of all the huge payments, transfers and purchases traced to these accounts had any contract award whatsoever, backing them up leading to the very reasonable suspicion that these are fraudulent payments and an illegal dissipation of the nation’s resources’.
Now, if the agency’s case was so straight forward, why would the judge not find a way of maintaining the status quo rather than facilitate a possible ‘attack’ on the accounts as we have seen before in this country? Why are our judges so incapable of thinking about this country if President Muhammadu Buhari would be so traumatised about the country’s systemic corruption that he would say the following at a recent public event in Kano: “Those assigned to public positions of trust are mortals, they will transit and appear before their creator to answer for the misdeed carried out while holding forth the positions entrusted in their care by the populace.” Not yet done, the president who made anti corruption his ‘numero uno’ campaign promise said: “Those who ruled Nigeria without vision and looted the nation’s treasury are the same people boasting that they will displace the APC government and return to office. We will wait and see if they think Nigerians are ignorant.”
But why is the Nigerian judiciary – especially the higher bar, and the bench so unmindful of the deleterious consequences of corruption on our country? Why is it impossible for them to see the correlation between corruption and all the pervading lack in the county: the poor and niggardly infrastructure stock, the poor healthcare services so self evident in the atrocious maternal mortality rate which, at 814 deaths/100,000 births in 2015, more than quintuples the world’s average, and the very predatory, unsustainable life of the poor who does not know where the next meal would come from?
And what exactly would have to happen for the Nigerian judiciary to buy into the Buhari anti-corruption war?
Pa. G.O. OKOOBO, FCA, WRITES THE SENATE PRESIDENT
From his home in Idumebo Irrua, Edo State, one of my most distinguished and most cherished, dedicated readers, Pa Okoobo, Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Accountants, who not only reads, but regularly sends a reaction to many of the articles on this column, even at 86, writes to the Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki on the trending subject of RESTRUCTURING.
Restructuring Nigeria for UNITY
My voice may be a lone one from the wilderness. Many people have made various suggestions about how Nigeria should be restructured. Some ask for more states when some of the existing ones cannot pay workers salaries while others ask for autonomous local governments many of which are merely “Local Estates” for Chairmen and Councillors.
With the existing 36 states and 774 local government councils, Nigeria succeeded in emphasising things that divide us Eg. ethnicity, tribal affiliations, language and culture. Rather than being source of unity they have divided us more and more.
In the days of regional governments they had their own constitutions and people thought more of their own region than the federal government, ethnic groups worked together to promote the development of their regions.
With the creation of states and yet more states followed by military intervention in government, unitary form of administration came into being because the military are used to central command. With the oil boom everybody became economically complacent waiting to be “fed” by the federal government which controls nearly all economic resources. Today, local government are impotent while states are not viable; the much that is distributed from the centre they share out through fraud, money laundering and “ghost workers”.
My own idea of restructuring Nigeria is one that emphasises the need to work and cooperate with one another for the development of their areas.
In other words I suggest the following:
A central or federal government
Six geopolitical regions to replace 36 states
3.109 Mayoral municipalities to replace the 774 local governments.
Those concerned can then dot the “i’s” and cross the “t’s” to make the system work. With the control of resources in their areas the viability of the regional governments and municipalities is guaranteed.
Registration of political parties and party supremacy
I think the Supreme Court of Nigeria carried Fundamental Human Rights and Freedom of Association too far when it permitted households to form political parties. Ideally Nigeria does not need more than three political parties. This will save cost and emphasise manifestoes and Ideologies.
As for party supremacy, it is ridiculous that a person sponsored by a political party for an elective position turns round to become the leader of the party. Where is the check and balance? The present system encourages dictatorship, impunity and corruption. The party should be able to discipline the president, governors, legislators etc, when they go wrong or fail to ‘toe the party line’.
Time was in the old Western Region when legislators before taking their seats in the regional assembly were made to sign an undated “Letter of Resignation”. When a legislator ran foul of the party’s “laws” the party just dated the “Letter of Resignation” and submitted it to the clerk of the regional assembly. If party supremacy had existed, President Obasanjo would not have gone far with his third term bid nor would the Senate President Dr. Saraki have succeeded the way he became President of the Senate.
May God bless and save Nigeria.
Source: The Nation