No Geopolitical Zone Can Hold Nigeria To Ransom – Okoye | Independent Newspapers Limited
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No Geopolitical Zone Can Hold Nigeria To Ransom – Okoye

Posted: Oct 3, 2015 at 1:36 am   /   by   /   comments (1)

Barrister Festus Okoye is a Kaduna based pro-democracy and human rights activist and a constitutional lawyer. He is also an Executive Director, Human Rights Monitor and was a delegate to the 2014 National Conference. In this interview with Gabriel John, he says no geo-political zone of Nigeria can hold the entire nation to ransom. Excerpts:

How would you describe President Mohammed Buhari’s 100 days in office in relation to key appointment he had made so far?

Barrister Festus Okoye

Barrister Festus Okoye

My opinion is that, I know President Buhari very well; I know that he is a man of justice, and he is man of integrity and he is a man of fairness. I believe that if any geo- political zones have been excluded from the appointment he is already made, the exclusion was not deliberate. Now, you will also know that there are some key appointments which the president is expected to make. Some of these key appointments are not appointments that are directly recognized by the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.  Some of these key appointments are in relation to those who are going to work personally with him. Some of them are going to be his personal staff. Some of them are going to be his just personal advisers. I think that we can only begin to judge him base on some of the appointment that are constitutionally recognize and constitutionally protected.  So,I believe the president when he says “yes, I know that some of the appointments that have been made are not balanced. In subsequent appointment, we are going to balance out issues so that all the geo-political zones in Nigeria will feel a sense of belonging and a sense of presence in the government.”  I think that rely on section 14 sub section 3 of the constitution, the president will make subsequent and future appointments in such a way that the gender diversity of Nigeria will be taken into consideration. I want him to make appointment in such a way that the choice of persons with disability will be taken into consideration. And also we want him to make the appointments  in such a way that all the states of the federation and all the geo- political zones will feel a sense of belonging  and feel a sense of ownership in all the governance processes in Nigeria. So, I think that in terms of the appointments that have been made, the appointments have not balanced out. I believe the president when he said he will balance the appointments so that everyone  will feel happy with the government in terms of ownership of the process.

You said some appointments are on the way, especially in the South East geo Political Zones. MASSOB and other groups have threatened the Igbos that they should not accept any appointment from Buhari’s government.  How do you look at the issue?

*****No geopolitical zone has the capacity to hold Nigeria to ransom.  And no political zone has the capacity to hold the president to ransom. The constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is very clear*****. The constitution made it possible for the Nigeria people to let the president who shall nominate people as associate and run with the person as a vice president for the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Secondly, the constitution gives the president right to go before the senate and ask for a number of special advisers that will assist him in the performance of his duties. That is the constitutional right of the president. And that  is the constitutional responsibility of the president. The constitution has also said that the president has the right to nominate ministers that will assist him in performing his functions. Those ministers will be confirmed by the senate. The caveat is that the constitutions of the Federal Republic of Nigeria says that  in making appointments, in terms of those who are going to assist you as ministers, that you should make sure that at least you get one person each from each state of the federation into your cabinet.  That is the exclusive reserve and preserve of the president. No socio cultural group and no political group has the right to insist or to direct to command anybody not to accept any appointment made by the
president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. This is because some appointments are made at the discretion of the president. The only thing is that the constitution has given the president some guidelines on how to make appointments and it says in making appointment. You make sure that you carry all the geopolitical zones on board, you carry all the agents on board, you take into consideration the gender equation in Nigeria.  Take into considerations, the interest of persons with disability. Also you make your appointment in such a way that the appointments you make shall command national loyalty thereby ensuring that there will be no predominant of persons from a few states or from a few ethnic or sectional groups in the government or any of these agencies. This is the command that the constitution has made to the president. So, I don’t think that any ethnic militias or ethnic force pressure group have the right to impose anybody on the president or
insist that anybody the president appoint to any position, should not accept such a position. They don’t have the right to do that, they don’t have the constitutional mandate to do that. And I think that they don’t have even the locus to do that.

Buhari emphatically said he will only probe former President Good luck Jonathan’s administration. But critics of his government are saying such probe should be extended to other past leaders. Do you consider that necessary?

My take on the issue is one.  The president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria has been given basically two functions by the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The first function of the president, as articulated in section 14 subsections two B, is to see to the security and welfare of the people of Nigeria. In other words, the constitution says that the security and welfare of the people of Nigeria shall be the primary purpose of government.

So, the Nigerian people or the Nigeria people expect the government to articulate policies and programmes that will address the welfare issues and also address their security. As at today, the president is addressing in a more fundamental and practical manner the security challenges of the Nigerian persons. That is why the president has moved the command center of the military to Maiduguri to deal more decisively with the issue of insurgent.

The president is also dealing with the issue of kidnapping and
oil bunkering in the South Southern part of the country and the issue of  kidnapping also in the South east of the country. He is addressing some of the security challenges in all the Nigeria federation.  You can see the result of such policies and such programmes.

The second issue is that one; they are so many Nigerians that cannot put foods on the table. They are waiting for the attention of the president.  They are so many graduates that are unemployed.

They are waiting for the president to address the issues of unemployment.  Many of our schools are in a state of dilapidation. Hospitals are crying for attention, there is infrastructural decay. Some of the workers in some of the Federal Ministries and some of the state ministries are not getting their due pay. These things are waiting for the attention of the president. I am quite sure and have the confidence that the president will in no time future will dealt with some of these issues. Now, the president has pointed out, in more concrete terms that one of the reasons why we have this infrastructures have collapsed. One of the reasons why social services are not working in Nigeria and why Nigeria is poor is because some vested interests in the country have kidnapped the common wealth of Nigeria. And that he wants to free this common wealth so that government will get money for development issues and development challenges. To that particular extent, I support  that those who have abused their oath of office, those who have taken monies illegally from the pocket of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and those who have done things that are completely unethical should be force to account or should be ask to account.

Well, in accounting, I also insist that the president must at all times, pay attention to the provisions of the constitution which says that every person who is suspected of having infringe any penal law, remains innocent until proven guilty by the competent court of law. In other words, whatever we are doing must be done within the ambit of the rule of law and due processes. So people must be given their due process right and everything must be done within the ambit of the law. In terms of recoup and recovery money  stolen by public office holders,  I will prefer a situation where a president will engage or embark on sectoral approach to fighting corruptions and probing past regimes. In other words, let the president take a due consideration like the NNPC, face it headlock.

Carry out in-depth investigations on what is going on in the NNPC. If some people have been find culpable, the people should be within the confines of the rule of law and within the confines of due processes and the place will be reorganized.  He can take another sector. He can take on the security agencies and security issues. So, a multi sectoral approach to some of these issues will be more beneficial.
Secondly, in other for us to tackle the issue, in a more holistic manner, we need to get an Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice on seat to put together a compendium of all Nigerian laws dealing with issues of corruption, dealing issues of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, and advance fees fraud and so on.  Put all of them together, harmonizing them and then get us to have one comprehensive anti-corruption law that will serve the purposes of the present regime. secondly, the regime should move in quickly and designate some courts  as courts that will try anti-corruption cases. So that the workload in the regular courts will not overwhelm the work load of regular judges who are trying some of these cases. But in the long run, it is possible for us to put together a bill to the National Assembly that will lead to the creation of an anti-corruption court. This particular court will also tackle the issues around Economic and Financial Crimes
Commission. It will deal the issues around the abuse of office, it will deal with the issues around advance fees fraud, it will deal with the issues around money laundering. Also, some of the under issues that will be brought and awaiting its jurisdiction. More fundamentally, there must be value re-orientation in this country so that we can have a set of ethics that will guide the Nigerians and the president will be the focus of that valued orientation. He will lead by example. The Nigeria people, I am sure will follow.

What about the exclusion of former president Obasanjo in the ongoing probe?

In my own take, I will not exclude any regime from this particular probe. What I am saying is that, let us not say that the regime we are probing or the regime we are fighting or the regime that is most corrupt is Jonathan’s regime, Yar’adua’s or Obasanjo regime.

What I am saying is that let us engage sectoral approach to some of these issues. If you engage sectoral approach, take a particular sector, look at the operation of that particular sector, look at the way it has been run, look at some of the challenges the sector is facing, see whether the sector has become a cocoa farm for some people, or is just a cash cow that people have been milking. Deal with that sector and then move to a different sector.

In doing this, you don’t have a time frame. If you like you can start from colonial time to see where the rain began to beat us. If you think the whole of Jonathan’s  regime, the whole of Obasanjo’s regime, you are just going to muddle things up. So, a sectoral approach will be away to tackle some of those things. If you do a sectoral approach, by the time you are going to other sectors, they will shake up, they will know that it is not business as usual. Let us adopt sectoral approach rather than a regime centre approach to some of these issues.

How would you describe his fight against corruption, do think it is politically motivated to witch hunt the opposition party?

You will agree with me that so much have gone wrong within the Nigeria federation. And that the Nigeria people consciously voted for a change. The people voted for, is not just cosmetic change. Nigerians are looking for a fundamental change in government and in the private sector. We are also looking for a change in our own personal values and in our own personal minds. I think that the mistake we make is to assume that this change will come tomorrow or that it will be automatic. No, this change will be gradual and it will be painful because for you to change from one mechanism of doing things to another mechanism, is going to be painful. For you to carry your account from one bank to the other, it requires that you do certain things. To change your orientation, change your values, change your  attitudes requires a long period of time. For me, I think that this period demands that Nigerians should be patient with this particular regime. Let him put his
lips on the ground, let him understand the dynamics of what is on ground, let him understand the dimensions of the rot Nigerians have fallen into. Then, systematically, put him processes, programmes and procedures for overcoming some of these challenges. The challenges and the change that will come will be painful but at the end of the day, Nigeria will be better for it and the regime would have succeeded in laying the foundation, for a better future for all of us and laying the foundation for Nigerians to regain its  domestic and international credit and reputations.

Comments (1)

  • Oct 3, 2015 at 9:17 am Uche Obi

    In terms of probe of corruption, I Wholly agree with this sectoral approach, because it will remove the insinuation of a witch hunt. Since the government wants to recover money to use to work, I advise that it starts with Petroleum sector which commanded huge financial flows, then electricity or power sector, works and housing, etc. Why it is not advisable to take a regime approach is because of its ethnic coloration, and a witch hunt. It will promote ethnic differences, whereby it will be seen that whereas all past administrations were known to have promoted corruption and stealing, and headed by people from about three sections of the country, Hausa Fulani, Yoruba, and Ijaw, and it has been common practice that those leaders appointed mostly their tribesmen in sensitive economic sectors or directly control the sectors by combining leadership with headship of powerful economic sector like Petroleum and Power ministries basically for corruption reasons, excluding the other two administrations of Hausa Fulani and Yoruba from the probe, only to probe the administration of an Ijaw man, being the first time an Ijaw man ruled the country, and especially when the outcome of the just concluded election was perceived as a collusion between the Hausa Fulani and Yoruba. The truth is that iit is only the sectoral approach to probe that will be focused and devoid of ethnic agenda which regime based approach tends to promote.

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