‘Buhari should consider national conference’s recommendations in order to amend constitution’
The numbers of those who believe that the recommendations of the last Political Reform Conference should be implemented are growing gradually. The conference in its report made far-reaching recommendations on how to rectify the inherent defects in the 1999 constitution. The agitators do not want the report to suffer the fate of those before it. In this interview with GODWIN DUNIA, an Akure-based law lecturer, notary public and newspaper columnist, Remigius Akinbinu, shares his view on it and other issues.
Some are advocating for the adoption of report of the last national conference. Do you think the implementation of the confab report is a way forward for the country?
During the last administration of Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, even before the Confab started, it has already been politicized. You will remember that the APC members did not partake in the Confab and now that they are in power one cannot say what their intention will be on the report. But I can tell you categorically that the report is very significant to Nigeria’s overall development.
Look at what is happening now! The president has appointed almost all his aids and assistants, yet it is so lopsided considering the numbers of those of Northern extractions, such that even those in APC are complaining. These are some of the mischiefs inherent in the constitution that the Confab sought to correct if implemented without any rancor. For quite a long time Nigerians agitated for the Confab and the Jonathan administration took the bold step and now we are confronted with the issue of implementation.
But if President Buhari really mean to bring about the change, I am of the view that the best way to do that is by considering the adoption and implementation of at least some of the recommendations of the Confab. The report must not be considered as a mere project of the previous administration. Governance should be a continuous exercise. So, whatever is good in a previous government must continue in subsequent government. Sincerely, the report of the confab needs to be revisited for implementation, at least some aspects of it, if not all for the sake of the development of this country.
How will you consider the call for Special Court on corruption by the current administration?
I think intention matters most in whatever we are doing. Buhari has good intention about it. But you know as a lawyer, my normal reaction would be that, we already have courts that can still try corrupt people. But if this administration insists on this, the point is that they must abide by the constitution.
If they are creating new courts, are you going to bring judges from heaven? Sincerely speaking, I don’t think it is about special court for corruption but rather on the personalities that sit on judgment. The reason is that if we try corrupt people in the regular courts or the special court, they would all appear before the judges.
So why not strengthen the Judiciary, ensure its independence and also make sure that the Judges are incorruptible? Is corruption the only problem we have? The answer is no! So, if we create special court to try corruption and the court is being occupied by credible and incorruptible judges, what about other Judicial staffs that are not lawyers? Shouldn’t we take care of them? To me, I believe in streghening the existing courts, ensuring credible judges are appointed and finding way to ensure that justice are done in all cases. And like I said earlier, if the government has good intention for the country and really want to fight corruption through the special court, then it may be all well and good.
How will you react to the move to stop lecturers from practicing law in courts?
I won’t tell you I am not aware of this development. It has been on for a while. But be that as it may, I find it preposterous for anybody to say practicing lawyers should not lecture, because lawyers are people who know how to schedule their time. I think nobody should bother about that because lawyers should be able to develop themselves in any area, even beyond the academia. I don’t think it is necessary to say practicing lawyers should be precluded from engaging in other meaningful endeavours. For instance, you cannot compare a lawyer who practice and lecture to the one who is only a practicing lawyer, because it has placed an innate limitation on the later. He also has an opportunity of stepping up higher.
But for you to restrict law lecturers from other developmental endeavour, is a way of limiting lawyers ability to self development.
Don’t you think it is too early to say Buhari’s appointment is loapsided?
This is Nigeria and ordinarily, the president has the right to appoint who he wants to work with him. He appointed what I will call his kitchen cabinet, which I think is vital to him. And it is possible to argued that after all, they are only the kitchen cabinet. But this is a country of over 300 tribes, four major tribes with six zones and majority of those already appointed are from a particular zone. I think this is not the best for him. People will definitely begin to doubt you, even if you meant well. And I think the president is wise, because he might want his ministers to be submissive to members of the kitchen cabinet. And if ministers are doing this before they could see the President or carry out their functions as ministers, then what power will they have as ministers?
But if President Buhari really mean to bring about the change, I am of the view that the best way to do that is by considering the adoption and implementation of at least some of the recommendations of the Confab. The report must not be considered as a mere project of the previous administration. Governance should be a continuous exercise. So, whatever is good in a previous government must continue in subsequent government. Sincerely, the report of the confab needs to be revisited for implementation, at least some aspects of it, if not all for the sake of the development of this country
The suspicion is that it may bring about situation whereby a minister could be possibly powerless as an ordinary Personal Assistant and decisions could be taken such that it will continue to reflect this lopsidedness. So those who are worried now are right in doing so. What President Buhari should do if he has good intention is to ensure that this suspicion or doubt about his intentions are proved wrong after appointing the ministers. So for now we wait for ministerial appointees and subsequent appointments.
You are a law lecturer in the National Open University (NOUN). What is your reaction to the issue of not accepting your law graduates into Nigerian Law School?
Well, I think the issue has been on for a while and I believe the board have been working things out. I am just a facilitator and as a lecturer, what we teach is just the same as what obtains in the conventional university. I think some of the grouse existing are gradually been overcomed by the board of NOUN. I read law and practice law and sincerely speaking, I have not seen anything different from what is obtained in my years at the university as a student from that of the NOUN. And I believe that whatever misconception that exists among members of the Council of Legal Education is been addressed and in due course law graduates from NOUN will be allowed to further their career in the Law School.
What is your advise to the current administration on how to reposition the judicial sector?
I think the problem currently with the Judiciary is the stakeholders, judicial officers and in general the attitude of Nigerians. What I think the President should do is to ensure independence of the Judiciary. The administration must not interfere with the activities of the judiciary and the lawyers too. The NJC must also be upright in its conduct and judges must ensure they are above board.
They must ensure discipline in handling cases that has to do with government. You know when government interferes with cases, just as we have experienced in the past, it has a multiplier effect which may trickled down. But if the President is seen as having no influence on the judges and the Judiciary, then the entire citizens will follow suit. Consequently, there will be justice from the Magistrate Courts to the Supreme Court, irrespective of who you are.