He was called to the Bar in 2015. Evans Ufeli, an alumnus of the Lagos State University (LASU), tells AKEEM NAFIU on how his journey into the law profession began
Evans Ufeli is an associate lawyer at a Lagos law firm, Ubani & Co., a group of legal practitioners in Lagos. He was called to the Bar on October 21, 2015.
Ufeli, who attended Air Force Primary School Kaduna, obtained a Diploma in Law from the University of Jos before proceeding to Lagos University, Ojo, Lagos for his LL.B.
He said: “My name is Evans Ufeli. I am an associate lawyer with the law firm -Ubani & Co. I attended Air Force Primary School Kaduna and thereafter my father who was an Air Force officer was transferred to Lagos State in the late 80s and the entire family moved with him to his new place of transfer.
Also, I attended Ezebaja Secondary School in Etua-Etiti, Ndokwa West Local Government Area of Delta State before proceeding to the University of Jos, where I first obtained a Diploma in Law and the Lagos State University (LASU) where I obtained my LL.B (Hons) degree. I proceeded to the Nigerian Law School for the completion of my post-graduate programme in Law. I was called to the Bar on October 21, 2015, at the International Conference Centre Abuja.”
Ufeli said his journey into the profession of law was not a happenstance. According to him, law had always been on his mind and his determination to join members of the wig and gown profession propelled him to the University of Jos where he first obtained a diploma in law before his call to Bar some years after.
He said: “I opted for law for many reasons. I had admired lawyers from childhood, their use of words, the nobility of the profession, the depth of scholarship, the trenchant elocution and the privilege it affords you to help the unjustly oppressed in our society.
I chose law because I hate injustice and law gives me the audacity to define my space intellectually, territorially and spatially. I opted for law because it is the highest reasoning embedded by nature which permits what should be done and forbids the contrary. Law remains the sum-total instrument of social control that regulates human conduct as it relates to existence, rights, privileges, civic orientation, policy formulations, capacity building, legislative engagement and directive principles of state policies. I couldn’t have opted for any other discipline other than legal profession because that is where I function effortlessly. I can research and read law reports the whole day or for weeks and months without any atom of fatigue or weariness. I think, law gave me meaning and purpose to life.”
Although he was fulfilled on day one of his appearance in court, Ufeli said his experience on his first court appearance in court was not palatable.
According to him, he kept missing the point notwithstanding his days of studying a simple instruction already given to him by his principal.
Ufeli said: “My first day in court was good even though I was consumed with stage-fright long before my case was called.
The matter was undefended and I was to inform the court that the business of the day was for the defendants to cross-examine the claimant and then open their defence. But like I said, the case was undefended and I had been told by my senior colleague who sent me for the matter to orally apply that the defendant’s right to cross-examination and defence be foreclosed in their absence and ask the court to adjourn for adoption of final written address.
I wrote all I was asked to say down in a plain sheet but I kept missing the points even though my voice was loud, my presentation was incongruous, much so because the court was filled up with lawyers and litigants. The magistrate forgave me my sins and I came out fulfilled that day.
On embarrassing moment, Ufeli said “one of my embarrassing moments happened when I was just a few months old at the Bar. There was a mistake in the numbering of an affidavit deposed to by the claimant who was my client and the 1st defendant had raised the issue before the court.”
He went on: “I opted to amend it orally to read in a particular way since it was just in the numbering that there was a mistake and the magistrate was furious. He insulted me for making the mistake of amending an affidavit in the open court when I am supposed to know that once there’s a problem on an affidavit, I must file a further and better affidavit to correct the anomalies and not to amend an oath orally in court. The magistrate asked me whether I went to law school. He went too far and I was embarrassed. He even said he wanted to see my call to Bar certificate. I did not utter a word. My client was in court while all these were going on. I was really messed up that day. I explained to my client repeatedly after the matter. I still had doubt whether he understood.
“Another one happened when my client was charged and arraigned one afternoon. I was called and I immediately left where I was to the court. I was not on black suit but on suit all the same. I felt since it was an overnight case and was called under an emergency situation the court will understand. Immediately I announced my appearance, the magistrate yelled at me for being improperly dressed. He cited the rules of professional conduct as it underscores the ethics of the profession. I was embarrassed. He said I was not before him because my appearance is unfit. He accused me of dressing improperly because I was in a magistrate court. He said he will grant the client bail because of his constitutional right to bail and not because he had legal representation. It was terrible.
Notwithstanding his moments of embarrassment while plying his law trade, Ufeli had some fond memories which had boosted his resolve to use as social engineering in a society already saturated with rights abuse and flagrant disobedience to orders of court among others.
He said: “I have had fond memories. I have won so many cases and lost a few. There was this case I handled against a university that rusticated students unjustly. I had to face two very senior lawyers representing the adverse party. I won the case and the students were reinstated. This was an outstanding moment for me after rigorous legal arguments with good senior lawyers the court gave judgement in my favour.
“Again, I did a case where the claimant in the suit had gone to alter agreements reached between him and my client so he could mislead the court during trial. I studied the document carefully and noticed the discrepancies. I raised it in our defence and given that such conduct is a crime, I recommended criminal prosecution against the claimant.
The claimant counsel read my defence and the relief therein he could not go ahead with the case. He told the court on the next adjourned date that they wanted to withdraw the suit. I was very happy that I knocked them that hard. We asked for cost and the court granted it while they withdrew the matter against our client. The sad part of this is that the client ran away thereafter and he never paid me my professional fees.
Although he expressed dissatisfaction on the snail speed justice delivery system in the country, he still envisioned for the country, a judiciary that would keep a stream of justice undiluted; a judiciary that would make the practice of law flow with ease.
He said: “I am looking forward to a judiciary that will make the practice of law easy. The current judicial system is slow. Cases aren’t expeditiously dispensed and this has become a cog in the wheel of progress. It’s worrisome that the laborious and impropriety of case management, judicial officers and lawyers are most times not vigorously check by the system and this impact on the profession negatively.”
Rage over electoral offences commission
What becomes of punitive sanctions contained in the amended Electoral Act 2010 if a new bill is seeking to establish National Electoral Offences Commission (NEOC)? Is the bill desirable in view of a series of other existing laws in the statute books to punish offenders? Lawyers say no. FOLUSO OGUNMODEDE reports
Lawyers at the weekend fumed at a bill being pushed by the National Assembly which would stipulate punitive measure for any judicial officer caught perverting electoral justice.
Should the bill sail through at the National Assembly, judges found guilty of perverting electoral justice would spend 20 years behind bars.
They particularly queried the rationale for the proposed law when the Electoral Act 2010, had prescribed penalty for impunity, violence, bribery and corruption arising from electoral process.
For instance, Section 124 of the Electoral Act 2010 provides that anyone involved in paying money to any other person for bribery at any election shall be liable to a maximum fine of N500, 000 or 12 months imprisonment or both.
Section 122 of the Electoral Act 2010 specifically says a person voting or attempting to vote in an election when he or she is not qualified, or inducing a person to vote at an election knowing that such person is not qualified, shall be liable to a maximum fine of N500, 000 or a jail term of 12 months or both.
Also, Section 130 of the Act provides for a fine of N100, 000 or imprisonment for a term of 12 months or both for anyone, including judicial officers caught accepting money or any other inducement during an election.
Notwithstanding punitive sanctions as specified in the Electoral Act, the National Assembly is proposing a new legislation to criminalise electoral fraud.
However, the bill, if it becomes law would now empower the federal government to establish an agency to be referred to as the National Electoral Offences Commission (NEOC).
Besides, the proposed law would empower the commission to try judicial officers of electoral tribunal or regular court found to have perverted course of electoral justice before, during and after a general election.
Specifically, Clause 22 of the bill said “perversion of electoral justice where a judicial officer of a court or a tribunal found guilty of perverting electoral justice before, during and after an election will be liable on conviction to a term of at least 20 years.”
Already, the bill is being fine-tuned by Senate Committees on Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters has got the INEC’s endorsement.
INEC chairman, Professor Mahmood Yakubu had said the bill was desirable as it would effectively prosecute violators of the country’s electoral laws should the bill become law.
According to him, the proposed law would not only facilitate quick dispensation of cases arising from electoral fraud but effectively curb impunity and violence which had enveloped the nation’s electoral process.
This, Yakubu said INEC would be relieved of the burden of prosecuting unending electoral offences which were being hampered by failure to enforce sanctions against the commission’s officials and the judicial officials, who perverted the course of electoral offences.
He said: “More so, that some of the offenders may be staff of INEC itself, how do we prosecute ourselves? So, the solution will be to have a commission to prosecute violators of Electoral Act.
“INEC cannot effectively prosecute electoral offenders and at the same time focus on our extensive responsibilities under the Constitution and the Electoral Act.”
But lawyers at the weekend disagreed with the INEC boss and the National Assembly on the proposed law.
In a voice, the lawyers described the proposed law as unnecessary as there were more than a thousand laws in the statute books to deal with electoral fraud and any other impunity associated with the nation’s electoral process.
Instead, they said the National Assembly should ensure strict implementation of existing electoral laws as a new legislation to curb electoral offences would be counter-productive especially when existing laws were yet to be strictly implemented.
According to them, electoral offences would continue as long as the laws prohibiting all form of electoral offences already outlined in the Constitution and the Electoral Act, 2010, were being ignored in the face of obvious inconsistent enforcement mechanism.
Specifically, the lawyers believed that the planned establishment of the National Electoral Offences Commission (NEOC) as being midwifed by the National Assembly in tandem with the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) was unnecessary, citing various sections in the 2010 Electoral Act capable of curbing electoral fraud if strictly implemented.
To them, the proposed law would open a new vista for corrupt practices should the bill be allowed to scale through
The lawyers, Senior Advocates of Nigeria, Chief Mike Ahamba, Norrison Quakers, a former vice president of the Nigerian Bar Association, Mr Adekunle Ojo, an activist lawyer, Wale Ogunade and Malachy Ugwumadi blamed non-implementation of laws on persistent impunity and violence characterizing the nation’s electoral process.
Ahamba specifically faulted the National Assembly for targeting judicial officers in the planned legislation saying the problem of non-implementation of laws in the country could be traced to their multiplication.
Ahamba while opposing the establishment of the National Electoral Offences Commission (NEOC) said there was no need to isolate judges for the special legislation.
He said: “I don’t think there is any need to make special law for judges. They are citizens of Nigeria. I don’t think there is any need to isolate judges for any special legislation.
“I also believe that all these multiple legislations about every facet of life will make implementation very difficult. I have always opposed the establishment of the Electoral Offences Commission because I think it will only open a new avenue for corruption. It will not solve any problem.
“This one about judges is unfair. No matter what may have happened or gone wrong, it only affected a few of the judges and not all of them. We must still have some respect for the office of the judicial officers. These are the people who have the courage to jail robbers and kidnappers while the average citizen is hiding.
So, the lawmakers should reconsider that bill because the existing laws are enough for us to handle issues relating to electoral fraud.”
Ahamba was echoed by his colleague in the Inner Bar, Quakers, who said there were sufficient laws on electoral offences and as such there was no need for any new legislation.
He further noted that there was no point coming up with new laws which prescribe punishment for erring judicial officers as the National Judicial Council (NJC) had been constitutionally saddled with such responsibilities.
Quakers said: “My first reaction on this issue is a question, which is, must we have another law? The Electoral Act is clear in terms of what could be seen as electoral frauds or infractions.
“Besides, if a judicial officer is compromised by making pronouncement that comes across or projects him as having compromised, the National Judicial Council (NJC) has to first deal with the issue.
“Afterwards, the judge will be subjected to criminal prosecution. There is the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) Acts to deal with issues like these.
So, we have laws that have covered the field and I don’t see the need for any new law. I don’t think it is necessary.”
Ojo cautioned against the plan to set up Electoral Offences Commission, describing the new legislation on electoral offences as undesirable as there were a series of law in existence to take care of such societal ills.
He said: “As we speak now, we have a series of laws under which electoral offenders could be prosecuted.
“Section 124 of the Electoral Act 2010 provides that anyone involved in paying money to any other person for bribery at any election shall be liable to a maximum fine of N500, 000 or 12 months imprisonment or both.
“Section 130 of the Act also provides for a fine of N100, 000 or imprisonment for a term of 12 months or both for anyone caught accepting money or any other inducement during an election.
“According to Section 122 of the Electoral Act 2010, a person voting or attempting to vote in an election when he or she is not qualified, or inducing a person to vote at an election knowing that such person is not qualified, shall be liable to a maximum fine of N500, 000 or a jail term of 12 months or both.
“I am also against the setting up of any court to try electoral offences. As far as I am concerned, I don’t think that is the problem that we have. What we need to do is to ensure that all the existing legislations regarding electoral offences were made to be effective.”
Ogunade said the new Bill was self-serving as it was targeted at blackmailing judges. He was also of the view that there were existing laws in the country to deal with electoral offences.
“There are indeed enough laws to deal with electoral offences. The Electoral Act is there and has prescribed punishment for electoral offenders, including judges. Then, there are other laws as well, among which is the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA).
Ogunade said: “But be that as it may, if the Senate is now thinking of putting a law together in order to ensure that electoral offenders are punished, I think it is okay. This is because in most cases justice is sold to the highest bidder, even at the election tribunal. The only way this can be curbed is to ensure the promulgation of this law, which I also think is self-serving. I believe that the legislature is interested in using this law to get at the judiciary. This law may just be a way of blackmailing judges.”
To Ugwumadu, the National Assembly must be wary of the direct implication of over-legislating the society.
He called for concerted efforts at ensuring strict implementation of existing laws against electoral malfeasance.
He said:” To a large extent, I think our state actors must begin to realize that there is a direct implication of over-legislation of a society.
“What would be the fresh dimension to a legislation that intends to criminalize bribery, corruption, financial inducement or obstruction of justice? What more would they say other than that it happened in the course of elections. I think our legislators should sit back a bit and come out of this convoluted environment that is over monetized and saturated by too much payments and emoluments.
“We can reflect on the laws so far passed by the legislative arm of government in Nigeria and now found out to what extent we need another fresh legislative regime in the country to deal with electoral malfeasance that are already captured in existing legal documents.
“So, I would be advocating that if that is the only concern that the lawmakers have, they should reflect on existing legislations and then activate them in such a manner that we don’t over-legislate our society.”
Like Ademola, Tokode, like Uzokwe, Orji
TUNDE OYESINA and AKEEM NAFIU write that two Justices of Abia State judiciary, Theresa Uzokwe and Obisike Orji, have joined the league of judges axed by the judiciary highest hierarchy, the National Judicial Council (NJC) for misconduct days after Justices A. F. A. Ademola and O. O. Tokode of the Federal High Court were given the kick
Days after Justices A.F.A Ademola and O.O.Tokode of the Federal High Court were kick out of the Bench for an alleged misconduct by the judiciary highest hierarchy, the National Judicial Council (NJC), two judges of the Abia state judiciary have suffered the same fate. They are; Justices Theresa Uzokwe and Obisike Orji.
Uzokwe was recommended for compulsory retirement following the findings of two investigative committees set up by the Council.
“The committees investigated petitions against her by Umeh Kalu, SAN, Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice of Abia state, alleging illegal constitution and working with a parallel Judicial Service Commission instead of the one constituted by the state Governor and confirmed by the House of Assembly.
“Justice Uzokwe was also found to have misconducted herself in Suit No. HU/131/2005, wherein she delivered judgement in the sum of N825,000 only in favour of a litigant but subsequently signed a garnishee order of N109, 612, 500.
For Justice Obisike Orji, the Council noted that he was earlier queried by the Council for allowing himself to be sworn-in as acting Chief Judge and thereby colluding in, and aiding an unconstitutional process.
“His reply was unsatisfactory and the Council recommended his compulsory retirement.”
Uzokwe and Orji have, however, joined the league of judges who were booted out of the Bench by the NJC for misconduct.
About two months ago, NJC had sacked Justices A. F. A. Ademola and O. O. Tokode, both of the Federal High Court for misconduct.
Although Justice Ademola had on December 6, 2017 written a letter notifying the NJC of his decision to voluntarily retire from the Bench, Ademola was due for retirement on April 9, 2018, when he would have attained the mandatory retirement age of 65 years.
However, the council said its decision to sack Ademola despite his letter was pursuant to its findings on an allegation in a petition written against him by a Committee of Anambra State Peoples Democratic Party House of Representatives Members-Elect.
The NJC said the petition had alleged gross misconduct in the handling of a matter it filed before Ademola.
NJC further said that Justice Tokode was also recommended to President Muhammadu Buhari for compulsory retirement with immediate effect.
It said this followed its findings on an allegation contained in petitions forwarded by the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) and Miss Abimbola Awogboro.
In a similar way, the Council had in 2016 sacked Justice O. Gbaja-Biamila of the Lagos State High Court and Justice Idris M. J. Evuti of the Niger State High Court.
Aside recommending their compulsory retirement, NJC, said it had in exercise of its power under Paragraph 21 Sub-Paragraph (d) of the Third Schedule of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as amended, suspended the two Justices from office with immediate effect.
NJC okayed Justice Gbaja-Biamila’s sack after it found out that he delivered judgment in a matter that was before him, twenty-two months after written addresses were adopted by all the parties and thirty-five months after the close of evidence in the suit.
Similarly, NJC found two other judges of the High Court of Niger State, Justices Evuti and Tanko Yusuf Usman guilty of allegations that they falsified their dates of birth.
Meanwhile, some senior lawyers at the weekend said the disciplinary measures meted out to some judges by the National Judicial Council (NJC) would help in cleaning up the rot in the nation’s judiciary.
The NJC had at its 85th Meeting held on March 14, among other landmark decisions, recommended compulsory retirement of the suspended Chief Judge of Abia State, Justice Theresa Uzokwe.
The Council also described as judicial rascality a role played by Justice Obisike Orji for allowing himself to be sworn in by Governor Okezie Ikpeazu as acting Chief Judge of the state.
He was, however, compulsorily retired for judicial misconduct for taking over the state’s judiciary in acting capacity after Justice Uzokwe was suspended from office.
Reacting to the development, the lawyers; Chief Mike Ahamba, Adekunle Ojo and Wale Ogunade, hailed the NJC’s action, saying it was in tandem with the rule of law.
In his submissions, Ahamba noted that the NJC’s action would help in bringing sanity to the third arm of government.
He said: “I believe that the National Judicial Council (NJC) was seized of the facts of the matter. The action will surely help in bringing some sanity to the judiciary.”
In his own comments, a former vice-president of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Adekunle Ojo, also hailed the NJC’s action, saying it’s in line with the Council’s mandate.
“I think the NJC was fair enough on the issue. The action is in line with its mandate and I believe it will clean up the judiciary.
“A petition was written against the Chief Judge and she was made to respond to it. Investigations carried out by the NJC borders on what was regarded as misconducts.
“However, it was the other man’s case that was worrisome. What he has done is capable of diminishing the integrity of the judiciary. Incident like this has happened in the past.
The same scenario played itself out in Rivers State. I think what has happened called for caution on the part of judges. They should not allow themselves to be used by politicians because when the chips are down, they would not be to defend them.
“People must learn from history. If the man has not done that, definitely he might have escaped the NJC’s hammer. So, I blame the man for accepting the job and I think he is the architect of his own misfortune.”
Ogunade called for more sanctions against erring judges to serve as a deterrent to others with bad intentions.
He said: “I think the rule of law has prevailed. There are procedures to be followed in some of these things and once these are flouted, then sanctions must follow.
“It is because punishment are not usually meted out that laws are flouted with reckless abandon and some people think they are above the law. So, I think the NJC’s action is in order. I look to seeing more of this soon in order to sanitize the nation’s judiciary.”
Ojo: NASS’ power to amend Electoral Act sacrosanct
Adekunle Ojo is a former vice-president of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA). In this interview with AKEEM NAFIU, he speaks on Federal Government’s $1 billion request to fight insurgency, abduction of Dapchi schoolgirls, incessant killings in Benue and Plateau states, amended Electoral Act and sundry issues
No positive news yet on the abducted 110 students of Government Girls Technical College, Dapchi in Yobe State by the Boko Haram insurgents. What is the implication of this on President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration’s terrorism war?
Well, except we are going to deceive ourselves, this incident has signified that Nigeria is as unsecured as ever. It also indicated that if there is anything government thinks it has put in place, it is not working. This kind of incident has happened before and it has happened now.
It means that the vulnerable, young children and women are now at the mercy of these terrorists. It is even more worrisome and unfortunate that prior to this attack, there were warnings and despite all these, the terrorists were still able to carry out their nefarious activities.
We all cried and shouted when the Chibok incident happened, blaming the government. The same thing has now repeated itself and without mincing words, the fault still lies with the government. It is even more worrisome that security agencies in the country were not united in their approach to these issues. As it is now, we are yet to embrace the advance ways of combating crimes in the country. Our intelligent gathering mechanism is not effective and we should do something urgent about it.
We need to deploy technologies in dealing with this issue. So, I think this time around, the buck still stops at the Federal Government’s table. As far as I am concerned, government has not done enough on this issue. As we are talking now, God forbid if this type of incident happened again, government will have no answer to it.
In view of the frequent abduction of schoolgirls, prowling killer herdsmen and the federal government’s inability to tackle them head on, don’t you think terrorism has come to stay in Nigeria?
I would not say that terrorism has come to stay in Nigeria but the terrorists have found Nigeria to be a very fertile ground for their operations, that’s the truth. It is much easier because of our dichotomy, ethnic mistrusts, religious differences as well as the belief that certain people are above the law.
This particular crisis has been emanating from a particular region of the country and the perpetrators have remained a particular set of people. It is a different scenario in other parts of the country, so we cannot say terrorism has come to stay in the country.
Would you say that the federal government has now found justification in Dapchi schoolgirls’ abduction to withdraw $1billion from the Excess Crude Account (ECA) to fight insurgency?
I think people are opposed to the move because of government’s plan to spend the money on a particular section of the country when there are crisis in several other places. There are concerns about government’s decision to focus squarely on insurgency in the North East when other parts of the country are also burning.
As far as I am concerned, every malaise including terrorism must be fought to a standstill. Also, every resources needed to do so must not be withheld. In essence, I am not against government spending money but I am averse to such arrangement when priority is given to some areas at the detriment of others.
I think government should find a way of spreading the money across every nook and cranny of the country. Beyond that, I have come to an understanding that our borders appear to be the most porous in the whole world. Every Tom, Dick and Harry comes to Nigeria. For as long as you can say you are a Hausa or Fulani man, nobody cares about your intentions.
I think these are part of the problems that we have especially in the North. People come in and move out at will from other African countries to Nigeria without any form of hindrance. I think we need to do something urgent about the porosity of our borders or else we will continue to have these problems.
What are your fears for the 2019 general election in view of a case of underage voting allegedly recorded during the local government’s election in Kano state?
It’s about people and impunity. The culture of impunity has been with us for so long. That is why up till this moment, we don’t have an acceptable census. This is because some people somewhere feel that they should lodge their numerical force over every other person.
This underage voting practice is not new in our system. It has always happen. Though the one that happened in Kano which gone viral is ridiculously alarming. That’s the truth. It is getting to a level where a child in the embryo is now being called to vote. I also think it is good enough that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has come to tell us they are investigating it.
However, certain questions must be asked. One of such is; who issued the Permanent Voter’s Card (PVC)? Are people’s ages not being requested for before the PVCs were issued? Why I am saying this is because basically registration ought to be done by INEC and not the state electoral body. The voters’ list used in the election was also compiled by INEC.
So, I have my reservations when the electoral body said it was investigating the allegation. What are they investigating? INEC is not in the best position to do so. It could better be done by either the National Assembly or an independent body. This will give some credibility to the exercise.
This is because at the end of the day, INEC will want to protect itself. Besides, In Nigeria, we all know that politics could be a bit complicated owing to the way it is being done. In this part of the world, rigging is not done on the day of election; it is something being planned ahead of election. So, what I am saying is that INEC is culpable in the whole thing and cannot really extricate itself.
INEC has insisted on its time table for 2019 general election despite an amendment to the Electoral Act 2010 by the National Assembly which reordered the election sequence. What is your take on this?
That is still part of the colossal crisis that we have in the country. Meanings were read into every step taken, even when you are objective. This is because of the high level of mistrusts. The executive does not trust the legislature and vice versa. Even in the National Assembly, there seems to be some form of hatred.
But can we for once have an enduring institution in Nigeria? If we cannot have it and everything is being done with some undertone, then, we are not likely to achieve the desired results. For me, although the power to conduct elections is constitutionally vested on INEC, but if the National Assembly is empowered to amend the Electoral Act, then, they are at liberty to do so. If an amendment can be carried out by the National Assembly and there is no limit to how far it can be done, it means the lawmakers have not acted ultra-vires.
The same Constitution that says INEC should conduct elections also empowers the National Assembly to legislate on the Electoral Act. So, what I am saying is that if there is an amendment to the Electoral Act, there is nothing wrong in following it up.
This is not the first time we are having an amendment. Don’t forget, it was an amendment carried out on the Electoral Act which specified the period within which petitions must be heard by Election Tribunals and we all accepted it like that. Now that the same National Assembly is saying it want to alter the sequence of elections, I don’t think there is anything wrong with it.
Why do you think the amendment of the Electoral Act is coming a few months to the 2019 general election?
For me, the timing might not be the most auspicious, but I think institutions should be allowed to evolve. If the National Assembly has the right to do it, let them do it and I think the lawmakers have the right to do it. As far as I am concerned, they have not acted ultra vires of any law by their action. I think we should learn to play by the rules and anyone that feels aggrieved with the amendment can challenge it in court.
The upsurge in drug trafficking has reached an alarming level. What do you think is responsible for this trend and how do we curb this menace?
Well, I think it has to do more with the high poverty rate in the country. If you check the cases of people caught, they are not the real drug baron but just like the courier. In fact, a good number of them are first timers. A check into how they get involved may also reveal that it may be because somebody said I will pay your school fees or I will give you a thousand dollars and so on. I think the upsurge is due to the fact that things are not working the way they should. Poverty has actually eaten deep into so many homes in Nigeria and I think that was the core reason why people are engaged in some of these nefarious activities. To curb the menace, government must attend to growing the economy in order to better the lives of the citizens. I believe that when actions are taking in this regard, there will be changes.
How much of independence can you say the judiciary has enjoyed since Buhari’s administration began?
The independence of the judiciary is governed by the Constitution which to an extent also entails checks and balances. Many people see checks and balances as factors eroding the independence of the judiciary but I don’t agree with such believe.
This is because if a judge has to be appointed and there must be an approval from certain quarters, this is what checks and balances are all about and it must be allowed. So, I am satisfied with the current arrangement in the judiciary. It also boils down to a judge knowing his onions and performing his duties as expected without minding whose ox is gored. So, I think so far, I am satisfied with the level of independence being enjoyed by the judiciary under the Buhari’s administration.
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