Judiciary Not A Stumbling Block To Anti- Corruption War – Gadzama | Independent Newspapers Limited
Newsletter subscribe


Judiciary Not A Stumbling Block To Anti- Corruption War – Gadzama

Posted: May 26, 2016 at 3:30 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

Barrister Joe Kyari Gadzama (SAN) was a one-time Chairman of the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) in Abuja. He is the first Senior Advocate of Nigeria from the North East geopolitical zone. Gadzama who is vying for the office of the National President of NBA was in Bauchi recently for a seminar where he spoke with PATIENCE OGBODO-IWUAGWU on his plan to transform the law profession in the country, inconclusive elections in Rivers and Kogi states among other issues. Excerpts:

What would you say is the aim of the seminar?

This seminar is being organised by the Bauchi branch of NIgeria Bar Association (NBA) with the support of the state government for practising lawyers in the state with some lawyers invited from other parts of the North East region. I believe it is very important to support them. So, we have to abandon some other programmes to be in Bauchi. The seminar has been very engaging because the creme de la creme of the profession in the state are in attendance. The only person that is not attendance is the state governor, Mohammed Abubakar, who is a past Chairman of NBA and also a former Attorney-General. We know he is not in town, as he has to attend another assignment representing the country in Washington DC along with President Muhammadu Buhari. We are happy about that, but he was represented by the state’s Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice. The theme of the seminar is a life theme in the sense that when you talk of lawyers and their professional colleagues within the Bar, you must be talking about the Code of Ethics, conduct in terms of relationship with the court, relationship with our colleagues, relationship with our clients who engage us for our professional services because of our knowledge, experience and training and also relationship with the general public. Then you talk about our behaviour in the public and our dressing. We believe that every lawyer, once you are called to the Bar, has become a leader in the society. As a lawyer, you don’t need to have billions of Naira before you can lead the society. As a professional lawyer, you are unique, because lawyers are the best professionals in the world. They are the best governors wherever you find them governing. Lawyers can occupy any kind of position in life, any kind of exalted office. They can be Agriculture Minister or Commissioner for Environment or Finance and still perform because of the knowledge they have acquired. So, we want the young lawyers to be worthy ambassadors of the profession wherever they happen to serve, whether as Judges, whether as commissioners, local government chairman or politicians. We want them to be different from other people. They must be men and women of integrity always. It is a pity that often times, you find one or two lawyers that have committed misconduct. But, the good thing about the legal profession is that it has a guideline that regulates itself. So, the legal profession does not wait for law enforcement agencies to deal with lawyers who are erring because it has a mechanism within itself that it uses to punish its own members, likewise the judiciary. That is why you will hear that one judge has been penalised one way or the other, whether suspended or compulsorily retired or dismissed from active service. This also applies to lawyers. A lawyer may be barred, suspended, penalised one way or the other. So, the aim of the seminar is to encourage one another. We are here to remind ourselves of the right things to do and the wrong things not to do. We want to tell ourselves that this is the way we must behave and that we must dress well. We must not embezzle clients’ money; we must lead by example in the society. We also mentor young lawyers who are coming up from Law School and have started practising, we have a duty to lead them, counsel them and direct them.  Mentorship is very important because that is what the younger lawyers need. They need to ensure good payment for lawyers so that they can look healthy and dress well.

Is it true that you are contesting for the position of the NBA National President? What informed your interest in the position?

It is true; I am interested because I am ripe for it. I have paid my dues as a leader in the profession; I was called to the Bar in 1986. I am from Borno State, from Lasa. I was born in Mubi in 1961. I have served in different capacities in all the branches I happen to find myself. I served in Kano, Maiduguri and Lagos branches and now I am in Abuja, I have served as Chairman of Abuja branch. I wear the shoes and I know where they pinch. I have the interest of the Bar in my heart. That is a personal decision. I have the passion to serve, I run a Non-Governmental Organisation through which I also serve the society. The profession has done a lot for me and I want to give part of it back to the profession. We all know that NBA is the watchdog of the society. It is a catalyst for social development and positive change and it needs the right person to lead the association and I believe that I am the right person. As God will have it, it is the turn of the North to produce the President and I am the most senior lawyer in both the North Western and North Eastern part of Nigeria. I became SAN in 1998. So, I have been accessible and available.  I have been at the service of the Bar. I think of the Bar, I eat, I drink, I talk the Bar and the profession at all time. That is what I know.

What gives you the confidence that you would win and become the next NBA President?

By the Grace of God, I am the in-coming President of the NBA and all indices are working towards that. All indices are showing that and we have support in every branch and state. It cuts across tribe, religion, regionalism, branches. I have visited most of the branches; spoken to most of my colleagues. Although it’s a personal decision, it is also a response to numerous calls from lawyers, many are my seniors and many are my juniors. I believe that I can lead with vision, courage, intellect and professionalism. I have never been found wanting in my private life or professional career as a lawyer and I know the ambition of the Bar. The ambition of the Bar is that it needs a leader that will not be afraid, a leader that is fearless, a leader that can call a spade, a spade, a leader who can criticise the government when the government is wrong and do it constructively and not with mischief; a leader that knows a little bit about economics. l am not an economist, but I know of the economy. I have practised it, I have worked in some agencies and the private sector and I know the issues on ground. You need a leader who can appreciate the Federal Government’s fight against corruption. You need a leader who can promote rule of law, who can fight for transparency, good governance and can fight for human rights and ensure that government performs its statutory responsibility to put food on the table of the common man. The association needs a leader who has the fear of God and thinks of the common man, who is fair to people and this is what I stand for.

There has been a controversy over the conduct of the governorship election in Kogi, Rivers and Bayelsa states since the coming of the new INEC Chairman. What is the implication of this as the 2019 general elections beckons?

I used to be the Chairman of the Legal Team of INEC when Professor Maurice Iwu was the Chairman of the commission. I have worked for INEC for ages, even before I became the Chairman of the Legal Team. I don’t want to say the performance of INEC is below standard, but INEC is expected to have the capacity to handle our elections, even if these elections are taking place on the same day all over the country. So, why can’t INEC manage these elections for just a state in one day? Is it because of change of baton or leadership or because some of the federal commissioners in INEC have not been appointed? But, I think INEC needs to retrace its step and to do more because’ the expectations of Nigerians are high, their performance was below par but again the politicians and the Nigeria populace must cooperate with INEC, it is not a do or die thing because it affect the corporate image of Nigeria as a country.  As Nigerians, we must unite together and elect people who want to render selfless service to the society instead of killing and maiming one another. If we say it is about service, so why all these? You hear unguarded statements from highly placed persons. It is most unfortunate and it is discouraging. We want to encourage professionals to join politics and become governors and leaders. But with this kind of situation, it is bad for decent people. So, I think we need a change of attitude in this country. I call on all Nigerians to put all hands on the deck and let us have credible, fair and free elections in the interest of our image as a people and for us to see the emergence of the right people. If you intimidate the right people, they will not come, but leave the election for those who have physical strength and this may result to rigging.

What is your advice to the leaders, particularly in Rivers State where many people have been killed and some of their leaders are on each other’s throat?

They should sheathe their swords because they claim they are working for the people. They just have to lead by example. They must allow law to take its course, allow the rules and regulations to guide us and where somebody goes wrong by breaching the law, the person must be punished. Nobody should be treated as a sacred cow except if somebody has immunity. But, whoever does not have immunity must be subjected to law and if found guilty, must be punished; and if not found guilty, he should be allowed to go, but must have been seen to have been subjected to the process. So, that is what you can do to win the confidence and to bring back the lost glory of INEC and the lost glory of credible elections in this country. So, whosoever has breached the law, will have to go through that process.

Are you comfortable with the position of the present administration as regards the Judiciary? Impression is being given that the Judiciary is a stumbling block to the anti-corruption war?

We have three arms of government and we have separation of powers. But my advice is that while the Judiciary is doing its work, the Executive should be doing its own work, while the Legislative is also doing its own. The Executive cannot be the Executive and the Judicial officers at the same time. Interpreting the laws is the work and function of the judiciary. That is why we say that each arm of government is being checkmated to avoid excesses. So, this allegation is unnecessary because it only overheats and heat up the polity, which is unnecessary. But, this is not to say that we are not supporting the fight against impunity and fight against corruption. Once you have credible evidence against anybody, bring it out and we will support you to fight that person. That is what we want. We want a society where there is law and order, whoever is wrong should be told that he is wrong and if it is a type of wrong that needs to be punished, we punish the person. But, there is no point to make this allegation against anybody. We support the government in fighting impunity, in fighting corruption, but come out  with concrete evidence against such person.