I Became SAN After Seven Attempts — Banire | Independent Newspapers Limited
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I Became SAN After Seven Attempts — Banire

Posted: Oct 1, 2015 at 12:39 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

At just bellow fifty years of age, Dr. Muiz Adeyemi Banire achieved what took many a life time to achieve. A Ph.D holder in Law; a University teacher; a legal practitioner; an administrator and a ‘Professional in Politics’, Muiz served as Lagos State Commissioner for twelve years. Not only that, the National Legal Adviser of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) was among the recently decorated Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SAN). Banire speaks to a selection of Lawyers in the Media at his law office where he narrated his life journey and how he got to where he is today. ADAM ADEDIMEJI was there. Excerpts:

You must be a lucky person for achieving a lot before attaining fifty years; a Ph.D holder in Law; University teacher; legal practitioner; an administrator and politician who served Lagos State as Commissioner for twelve years. You are also the National Legal Adviser of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and recently became a Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SAN). How did you achieve these within a short period?

Dr. Muiz Adeyemi Banire

Dr. Muiz Adeyemi Banire

I must first of all give gratitude to God because to a certain extent, one feels fulfilled.   I thank God for that privilege. It is not because of hard work that some things in life come our way, but because of divine intervention. So I am grateful to God for the attainment. Let me add that somewhere along the line, I became a regular customer to the Legal Practitioners Privileges Committee going by the number of applications that I made. The glory of this award ultimately belong to God as you are aware that more than hundred applicants applied for it out of which fifty people made it to the final before the last selection in which I happened to be in the list. I must say that I got this award after seven attempts, five under academics and two times under advocacy. I eventually emerged under advocacy.

Can you recall what motivated you into reading law, and how was it at the beginning?

It all started when I was in primary school. Then, I used to prefix my name in my notebooks with Chief Justice.   I think it was Fatai Williams that was the CJN. At that time, I did not know my destination. After leaving secondary school, I wanted to read law but I got admission to read economics at Louisiana State University, US.   My uncle immediately paid the fees. But I had a brother here then who was paying part of my school fees. I went to him and told me about the development. The status quo then was that as you exit secondary school, you do JAMB. I had done JAMB and, when the result came out, I got admission to read law at Unilorin. My brother convinced me to read law. This was how I started my legal career.

Let us look at the issue of corruption in the country. How do you think we can collectively tackle the menace? Are we doing the right thing in tackling it?

We need general reorientation with a view to pointing out the follies inherent in corruption. This is because once you are ignorant of something, it becomes a vicious cycle. If you come to me for a service and I have cause to deny you of that service because you did not comply with certain corrupt practices, and it happens like that everywhere, then we are doomed. There must be a new orientation pointing out the negative impact of corruption on the society vis-a-vis each profession.   Pertaining to my own profession, for instance, I know that if there is corruption in the judiciary, I am in trouble.

It means that no matter the quality of the submissions I make in court, I will not get justice.   The same thing will happen to litigants. If at the end of the day people lose confidence in the justice system, the resort will be to self preservation, and that will lead to anarchy in the society.   And once there is anarchy in the society, there will be no development.

It must be a general resolution on the part of all of us that we want to banish corruption, otherwise we are heading nowhere.   One of the areas of reckoning is obedience to the rule of law by all individuals and institutions regardless of the position that you occupy.   If all of us do this, to a certain extent, we will be able to tame this vice.   Corruption is not peculiar to any sector. It is everywhere.

On whether we are we doing the right things or not, let me say that fighting corruption is not all about picking up people and taking them to court.   It goes beyond that. The Sagay committee   must look at the structure, the legal framework. That is the starting point. In fact, I wrote a paper on it about seven years ago, that we need to look at the legal framework because there are so many of them that are conflicting, some are unintelligible, some are obsolete.

Then how many structures do we have fighting corruption all over the place?   EFCC, ICPC, Code of Conduct Bureau, Nigeria Police even SSS, DMI are all fighting corruption. I believe this thing must be structured. We need a format. We may even need protocol so that somebody does not suddenly wake up and say this is the way he wants to do his own (fight corruption). The Sagay committee needs to give us the legal framework; look at all legislations targeted at fighting corruption in Nigeria, analyse them, I think there is a need for realignment, let them do the realignment and give us proper calibration of the direction to go in terms of the law itself.

Even the procedural law, we need to look at it. This is because if the substantive law is okay, but the procedural law is weak, you will still run into systemic crisis. That is why there are undue delays in anti-corruption cases taking us for four years, five years. The general impression is that no high profile anti-corruption case in Nigeria ever ends. That borders on the weakness of our procedural laws.

So, there is the need for the Sagay committee to evaluate the legal framework properly. Once they get that right, the next thing is to look at the structure with a view to ascertaining which institution does what. The submission I made in the paper I wrote some seven years ago was that all the things we need to fight corruption are already in the EFCC Act.   All the things the ICPC, the police do are just to follow up. So there is the need to clearly define the responsibilities of each of these agencies to see if they are still relevant.

Many Nigerians see President Muhammadu Buhari-led government as slow in action and policy implementation. What can you say about this?

The problem is that, by our nature, we are impatient. We are always in haste. To me, there are some areas we need to look at first and foremost in determining whether there is impact or not. For instance, the president said he does not want to make a mistake; he wants to do things meticulously. Everybody has been talking about cabinet.   To a certain extent,   I believe that is not particularly essential to the development of a nation.   This is because there are people in the public service doing the job presently.

The issue is that when the ministers are appointed, they essentially will deal with policies. And once the policies are in place, it is for the public service to implement. So, all these things, according to the president, he needs to look at the depth of what he met, so that he knows how to proceed.   This tells me how politicians make electioneering promises without knowing the reality when they get into office.   That appears to be the obstacle to the prompt realisation of the promises made by the president. But all the same, if we are able to set the right agenda by the end of the year, the people will smile by the beginning of next year.   We need to give the president enough time to plan so that the expected dividends can come in the quantum that we desire.

Recovery of stolen public treasury is believed to be one of expected policies of the Buhari administration. Do you think we are we on the right track in this area?

Beyond loot recovery, I have said the government has started well by setting up the Sagay committee. That is the foundation. Without it, you can’t do anything.   What we are doing at the moment is not fighting corruption. Fighting corruption is a lot more encompassing. You may even need to go to the schools to inculcate the basic values. I have been agitating for the return of moral education to schools.   I probably would have been something else but for the religious education I had while in school.   If you have the fear of God, the tendency to be corrupt will be limited.   So, we must go beyond the issue of loot recovery into all aspects of what corruption is doing to us and what even constitutes corruption.   Do you know that if you mess up somebody in terms of time-keeping that is corruption?   So, we need to address corruption holistically.

We need a complete orientation against corruption.   I envisage the MAMSER type of orientation, as spearheaded by Professor Jerry Gana, that, if you are a manager, manage well or you are a sweeper, sweep well.   That type of orientation must come back.

Apart from the two issues mentioned, another menace is kidnapping that is getting worse by the day. How do you think we can stem this kind of criminality?

I heard the IG recently talking about community policing. That is the way out. Policing is not all about carrying guns around.   Security is better carried out through intelligence. You must spend more on intelligence, people must be incorporated. We see the (American) FBI, CIA acting like magicians when they resolve puzzles.   It is because they have agents everywhere who gather intelligence. If I am in charge of any security agency, I will have my people in every sector assembling intelligence capable of bursting crime. And once you have intelligence, you are on top of the situation. Even among kidnappers, you must have your agent – undercover agent.   We need to improve the capacity of intelligence officers.

There was this rumour sometime ago that you were been considered to run for governorship of Lagos State. Will you succumb to it if you are offered the position by your party?

I don’t know how the rumour came about because I never told anybody that I want to be governor. Even to be a judge, I am not cut out to it for several reasons.   One of it is that the welfare of judges, to me, is not sufficient, it is not tempting, not inviting. You must engage in things that allow you to run away from temptation.   Let me give you a scenario. If I were to be a governor or got appointed as a minister today, maybe the highest pay I would get is N25 million per annum.   That cannot solve my problem.   Any other thing will come from stealing or bribery. So, if you are not ready to steal or ask for bribe, restrict yourself to a place where you can make good money legitimately. We have to pay our judges well; we need to possibly adopt the Singapore regime or the one in place in Saudi Arabia. In Saudi Arabia, their police are paid huge allowances such that they didn’t have to spend their salaries.