Daniel Bwala is a member of the Lincoln’s Inn London. He is an academic and public affairs commentator. In this interview with TUNDE OYESINA, Bwala speaks on the looters’ list, its legal implication as well as the twin problem of lobbying and cronyism in the country’s judiciary
What are your thoughts on the alarm being raised by a former CJN, Justice Mariam Mukhtar, that lobbying and cronyism have become prevalent in judicial appointments in the country, corroborating a view by retired Justice Clara Ogunbiyi (JSC)?
Well, I cannot speak on the details of what the Honourable Justice Ogunbiyi said and what the former CJN said because these are issues within the precinct of the judiciary. However, I can speak on politics that is associated with virtually everything in our national life in Nigeria. For instance, the point Justice Ogunbiyi made that she was going to be elevated to the Court of Appeal, but the then Chief Judge of Borno State did not give his support. While I may not know the details that were there, but one thing is clear; Borno State is one state where the majority (the Kanuri) followed by my tribe, most of the times try in almost all facets of life to oppress our people.
Our people are the ones by privilege exposed and educated, but politically and numerically, they are not. So, anytime anything is happening to someone from that part of the state, there is always some manipulation by the majority to stop them.
And I can even attest to myself that during my undergraduate days when we had a national competition; I came first in Nigeria and a colleague of mine from Bauchi, represented Nigeria in the UK. We came 2nd in the entire world. When we came back, we were recommended to our respective states’ governor for scholarship abroad. My other colleague from Bauchi got scholarship from his state. But in my state, because I am not from the majority tribe, I was denied the opportunity to even see the governor let alone getting scholarship. So, I have in my own honour and struggle go through all the things that I have gone through to come to the point where I am today; I was able to go for my Master’s degree, I was admitted to the English Bar. I have been able to do everything today by God’s grace, never by the political efforts of the majority tribe.
So, if that happens in other aspects, then it can also happen in the legal landscape; I’m not surprised.
Secondly, with regard to lobbying; lobbying in itself is not a crime, especially in politics, in National Assembly matters. It is a legal means by which interests of a group are aggregated and articulated. But when it comes to an individual lobbying for something that affects him, which is where the dichotomy is; that is where it becomes wrong, especially in our legal profession where integrity and merit are paramount. Therefore, I agree with the former CJN that lobbying is very bad in the judiciary.
Even at the Bar, people lobby to become Senior Advocates of Nigeria and people lobby to be made judges. It is a terrible situation in Nigeria because when you dig deep into lobbying, what you would end up finding is that while “lobbying” on the face value is not a crime; but so many things go behind what is considered as lobbying; it can be bribery, it can be suppression of merit, it can be promotion of certain tribe or religion as criteria upon which a favour is to be given.
Recently, President Buhari was in Lagos on an official visit with the Vice President, where they said the All Progressives Congress-led Federal Government would continue to tell Nigerians about the corrupt activities of the immediate past government of President Goodluck Jonathan. Three years down the line in the life of the Buhari-led administration, shouldn’t the blame game stop?
I have on several occasions, warned the APC not to focus on the past administration as the talking point leading to 2019; the reason you were voted into power is to change what had happened. I went to my village at the last Christmas; and the people kept complaining that it was corruption that brought us to where we are. So, when the people are aware, why do you go about talking about it? If you continue to build on the narrative of constantly making reference to the PDP, then the PDP in countering it would then say okay, since the APC cannot solve the problem, they (PDP) need an opportunity to resolve the problem.
I said the APC should focus on what it has achieved. For example, the Treasury Single Account (TSA) has stopped massive corruption in the system; they are supposed to emphasise more on it. The N-Power programme has created job opportunities. Take a look at the school feeding programme. They are supposed to talk more on all these and talk about what they can do to improve on that. What about the increase in foreign reserve? What about the anti-corruption fight? They are supposed to talk about it. Why are they not talking about it? Therefore, it is lack of focus for them to continue to talk about past administration’s failure when they are on the saddle, and they are supposed to correct whatever it is that is the problem of the past.
What is your reaction to the list of alleged treasury looters?
The Federal Government’s action on this is subjudicial. Definitely, it is. When a matter is before the court, you are supposed to allow the matter to come to an end. You see, what the PDP did was to put a trap; they baited the APC and the APC fell right into it. Now, to counter the APC’s list of alleged looters, the PDP has released its own list which it said is three times longer than APC’s. And the list of looters by the PDP is credible.
When a matter is in court, you are not expected to talk about it. You are being prejudicial. First of all, somebody who has stolen and is charged to court is presumed innocent until proven guilty. When you go ahead and say the person has looted; you have made a judgment out of the situation.
For instance, Justice Adeniyi Ademola was charged, against all weight of evidence, he was discharged and acquitted. Secondly, when the PDP published its own list, the burden has now shifted to the EFCC to make sure that they investigate the list that was published by the PDP. This is why people believe that our institutions are being controlled by the government, otherwise, with the PDP list, the anti-corruption agencies are supposed to swing into action and investigate the persons on the list.
Now the popularity of the EFCC will go down because it will then be clear to everyone that it is ‘persecution and not ‘prosecution’.
Now that it seems the APC and the PDP are peopled by alleged looters, shouldn’t Nigerians look up to the “Third Political Force” as we approach the 2019 general election?
I intend to run for the Senate in my state and I am most likely going to run under a party supported by the Third Force. I believe in the philosophy of the Third Force. And Nigerians should look towards them. But the Third Force should be swift and fast enough to bring candidates ahead of time for Nigerians to make up their minds.
You don’t have to wait until the ruling party declares its candidate. If I’m thinking about you and you have not declared your intention and I give my support to Mr. B, by the time you come out, it might be too late because Nigerian politics goes with commitment.
Whistleblowing policy’ll address abuses, corruption on campuses – LASU VC
Since his assumption of office as the Vice-Chancellor of Lagos State University (LASU), the atmosphere and the image of the state-owned university have never remained the same. Prof. Olanrewaju Fagbohun in this interview with MOJEED ALABI, speaks about the good and the bad of the university, including solutions to the rising cases of financial and moral corruption on Nigerian campuses.
Many things seem to have changed about this university environment in terms of aesthetics and infrastructural development. How have you been able to do this?
I will start by thanking the Governor of Lagos State, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode for the various developmental projects executed on the campus that have been consistent with our vision. The state has tarred the entire network of roads on the campus, lighted up the university and changed a whole lot of things. And till now the government has not stopped working. It has continued to support us with huge subvention by providing at least 80 per cent of it. And, that has helped us tremendously to ensure that regularly staff salaries are paid. The government is also supporting the university with funding towards actualising our accreditation exercise. We have also continued to have good relationship with ministries and parastatals, which use our faculties in the area of research to deepen their activities.
For instance, there is a social economic studies being conducted by the state, our Faculty of Social Sciences is very much involved. It is a confirmation of the trust in us by the government. The Ready-Set-Work programme, which is entering its third phase, is another innovation of the state government, which is aimed at deepening the entrepreneurship skills and employability of our graduates.
But, there have been reports of demotion, suspension and dismissal of staffers, which have resulted in various court cases with a particular union on your campus accusing your administration of witch-hunting. How true is this?
Only journalists can independently help our institutions to overcome challenges created by issues like this. The media must come up with editorials and investigative reports to critique the system because we must all protect our value system together. This is because your pen can make or mar institutions, and this is why they say the pen is mightier than the sword.
But, the media doesn’t seem to realise this power. Don’t talk to Fagbohun or any member of my management; meet the security guards, cleaners and students and do your unbiased assessment of our activities. Any institution that fails to instill discipline will definitely have itself to blame.
We need discipline in the country and it must begin with the education sector. Look at the case of Professor O.T.F Abanikanda that you raised, who sued the university because the Governing Council took an action against him. As at today, my knowledge about that case is that the university has engaged a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) to lead our team, and till date the matter is in court.
And, on the allegation that some of those sacked had their cases reviewed, I must let you know that if a decision was taken by the Council, you have a right to complain and seek review of the case. I think about two persons, who were part of those dismissed had their cases reviewed because they wrote to complain.
So, the Council took the decision and did the review of the case. And at the end of the day, if you are still not comfortable with the review, you can go to court. However, we have a situation where some individuals who went to court and while their cases are still subsisting in court, they go to the pages of newspapers to complain.
But I will not join them in doing that because apart from being the vice-chancellor, I am also a Professor of Law. I won’t join such people to undermine the judiciary because the matter is subjudice. You sued that your dismissal is illegal, why don’t you live the adjudicator to do its work? Why are you inciting the public against the institution when your matter is already before the court?
And, you should note that if one union is running up and down to run down the management, what happens to the other unions? Are they on sleeping tablets that they are not doing the same thing? Then you must note that something must be wrong somewhere.
What is your reaction to the rising cases of moral and financial corruption on Nigerian campuses, and particularly the recent OAU saga?
Well, the fact that it is not only OAU that has such challenge, but one of the things you would recall we did on resumption into office is to institute whistleblowing policy because we strongly believe that it is one of the many ways to get information from the students and other members of the university community.
Of course, when we get the information, we quietly investigate. This is why you see that disciplinary actions have been very strict on our campus here and we will continue along that line. That is why I advise other academic institutions to toe the same path because the system assures informants of adequate protection, and due process.
In the case of sexual harassment, there are instances where students are provocatively dressed and they become irresistible to people of opposite sex. Shouldn’t there be dress codes on campuses?
You would also recall that this administration had started out with dress codes. We do not tell our students what to wear, but there is a standard you must meet by not dressing provocatively. We won’t tell you what to wear but we will tell you what not to wear. And we will enforce it. Though, we have some faculties like Law, School of Transport and the College of Medicine which have prescribed dress codes in their own ways, however, we cannot deny the fact that LASU is a subset of a larger Nigerian society where some mischief makers in the system are simply interested in crises because they benefit from such.
At the end of the day, when we discipline students, they go on different platforms to castigate us. Few days back, we started engaging our students on cultism because we have found out that the use of abusive substances is becoming rampant. It will shock you that we had intelligence report towards last convocation when staff members incited cultists to invade the convocation ground. But the students themselves are also enjoying the peace that we have here and they came to report the situation to us.
During the last admission process, LASU could only admit about 4,000 candidates despite the increasing figure of admission seekers in the institution. How do you intend to increase your admission quota?
You would notice that we are aggressively improving our facilities towards ensuring that we can increase our admission quota. We have attracted benefactors, who are complementing government’s efforts in terms of infrastructure development. For instance, The Caverton Helicopters has just donated to us a 500-seater capacity auditorium, which construction work is already ongoing. Also, through the office of the Special Adviser to the President on SDGs, Mrs. Adejoke Orelope-Adefulire, we have received a new ambulance and the construction of a primary healthcare centre. All of these are aside the TETFund intervention projects, which we have received our allocations and we are just going through the process of selecting those to be involved. By the time all these are actualised, more access will be opened to candidates subscribing for admission into the university. You may not feel all these until the next one year or thereabouts.
The law establishing LASU did not provide for hostel facilities on campus, but now you are considering building hostels. Has the law been reviewed?
In terms of hostel facilities, I want to assure you that the law establishing LASU, which hitherto was meant to be a non-residential university, has now provided for accommodation. Hence the 6,000 bed space hostel has been approved by the state government. So, we are covered under the law. And in terms of security, the way we are going to be doing it, the experiences of the older institutions like UNILAG, UI and OAU has taught us how to go about it. The model we are putting up doesn’t give the management the responsibility of hostel maintenance; it is a private sector arrangement with PWC serving as the transaction adviser. At least, two companies have been selected to build about 13 of the hostel blocks out of the total number of 16 we are planning to build. I must add that from the starting point, we are concerned with affordability of the hostels to our students.
The university’s Law Faculty used to be very strong, but suddenly it lost NUC and the Council of Legal Education accreditation. What is the situation now?
The truth is that there was a time the university, for two years, could not admit students into the Law Faculty because we lost our accreditation with NUC. Thereafter, NUC came back and gave us full accreditation which is what we have now. But, what we ought to have done at that time was to have gone back to the Council of Legal Education and tell them we have our accreditation back by showing them the papers so that they can send their team for another round of verification or inspection. We failed to do that then, but that is already in process towards rectifying that. So our students are not in any peril.
How far about LASU external system and the backlog of certificates?
We have successfully wound up the external system and almost all the results and certificates have been processed. However, we understand there are still some of the certificate issues that are still pending, but we have retained a director to resolve all them.
What happens to the buildings being used by the external system?
Those buildings, particularly those in Jibowu and Anthony, are not owned by LASU and we have told the owners to do what they want to do with them.
Ali: FG goofed on looters’ list
Mallam Yusuf Olaolu Ali, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria in this interview with TUNDE OYESINA, bares his mind on injustice, inequity, hate speech, corruption and sundry issues
Sir, what is your view on death penalty as punishment for hate speech?
That is too highhanded. What of those who killed directly? For me, we should address the disease not the symptoms. What brought hate speech? It is injustice and inequity in the land. People feel that they are being denied what is due to them ordinarily by being Nigerian citizens. Like people would tell you, when you beat a goat and it runs but when the goat gets to the wall and it cannot escape, it will charge back.
I did not support people who espouse hate speech of any type. What most people forget is that humanity is just one and like I challenge people, who among us chose where we came from in this country or anywhere. Things you don’t have choice over should not be a decisive factor in your relationship with people.
But you can choose your friend because we are all short-sighted, all those things that were imposed on us by nature, so to say, are now what we used to. Even the doctors would tell you, the only person who can tell you who your father is your mother. That tells you how stupid it is to start to fight about this thing and to make all those kind of speeches.
A man who is claiming to be the best Hausa person, actually by origin, may be a Yoruba man or vice versa. If you start to go back to history, most of the people of this country are related in one way or the other from somewhere, lost in history. While the hate speech should be criminalised to serve as a deterrent, I don’t believe killing somebody because he made a speech, could be justifiable. There are more serious offences that should carry death penalty, corruption being one of it.
Are you of the opinion that corruption should be made a capital offence?
That has always been my position. We must be sure that we do everything right, because you don’t just kill people because you hate the persons. We should not be doing it in haphazard way, it has to be thorough. We must first of all ensure there is raw solid investigation with facts built up before you take a person to court and then the rest will follow.
The Federal Government recently released names of alleged looters of public treasury, many of which are undergoing trial in court. What is your take on this?
Our country is an interesting country. We trivialise serious issues and it is quite unfortunate that in spite of all the constitutional safeguards and the principles of rule of law, we are still behaving this way in 21st Century.
The law is settled and sacrosanct above board that once parties submit a case to a court of law, parties hold themselves; you don’t resort to self-help. What I have just seen from all these unfortunate scenarios is that we have allowed politics and grandstanding to override a very solemn issue.
Those individuals who are undergoing trials, it is only the court that pronounces them guilty; it is beyond any of the parties. And you see when I said this thing is being trivialised, the other side too came up with names of others, who belong to the ruling party, who are also in court, being tried for various offences.
So, it shouldn’t be encouraged.
Government should not do such a thing no matter what propelled the federal government. You can only call someone a criminal or a looter or an economic saboteur if he has undergone normal trial in a court of law; he has been so pronounced by a court of law. But you see that it is all politics now.
The people in government named people in opposition who are undergoing trials as looters; the people in opposition came out with people who are also part of the ruling party who are also undergoing trial as looters. We are trivialising very serious matter unfortunately.
With the release of the list now, don’t you think those listed may not have confidence in the Judiciary if they are eventually found guilty?
It may not but I don’t want to speculate. They all know what they are doing, but unfortunately, in one way or another they are sabotaging the rule of law. I don’t think it is right. There is nothing that could justify that. You don’t try to sabotage the rule of law, especially when these matters are in court.
Going by the list of alleged looters from both the ruling party and the opposition, don’t you think Nigerian Judiciary is being put under pressure?
That was what I said at the beginning, that people are not respecting the rule of law. These matters are in court, people must respect the court. It is the same set of people, who will turn round to attack the Judiciary. The Judiciary has become the whipping point of people in power and their collaborators at one point or the other.
Now, the danger in what we are doing is that courts of law don’t decide cases based on rumours or allegations. Those cases must be proved and judgements are given in accordance with the law and the facts.
But when highly placed people do the kind of things that they are doing, then you jeopardise the rule of law; you also jeopardise the independence and impartiality of the Judiciary. You will still come back to blame the Judiciary for your own actions.
To a large extent, you are very correct but I can assure you with the training of judges, they are ordinarily inbuilt for all these ranting. A judge has been trained in a way to maintain his impartiality and his focus. But my worry is the average Nigerian. That is why some of us are opposed to media trial because the average Nigerian only hears one side of an issue. They don’t have the patience or the gift to listen to the other side. If those who made allegation cannot sustain it in court, the general belief in the society is that Judiciary is doing something to free somebody whereas, the person ab initio ought not to have been labelled or branded as a criminal.
What will you proffer as the way forward?
The way forward is for all of us to demonstrate seriousness in all issues. What names of alleged looters have shown is that we are not serious.
Look at what is happening in the U.S about alleged Russian Interference in the election that produced Donald Trump. In spite of the fact that Trump is the President for more than a year, they would use their system because they have strong institutions.
They appointed Independent Council, which has been doing its own work, indicting people, in fact, some people have been convicted.
If it were to be in this country, most of us would start to query that the man is now the President, what are they still looking for. But in their (US) own system, it is very important because of the integrity of the system. Our system here has no integrity. So, there is nothing to defend. It is everything goes. For me, I believe quite honestly that we should show seriousness and those who are in positions of authority have greater responsibilities to show seriousness.
How would you look at General T.Y Danjuma’s view, asking Nigerians to defend themselves against killer herdsmen terrorising the country?
My first reaction is that we would be unserious as a people if we dismiss what he said. And it would be more worrisome if government dismisses it with a wave of the hand. You have to know Danjuma’s antecedents, right from the day when he was a Lieutenant in the Nigerian Army.
Anybody who has followed the history of Nigeria; the first coup, the counter coup, will know that Danjuma is a veteran, and then he rose to become the Chief of Army Staff in our country; he didn’t stop at that, he became the Minister of Defence in 1999.
So, it would be very unserious for anybody to dismiss it because what he said essentially is an indictment against the Nigerian Army, of which at a time he was their Chief and Minister of Defence, superintending all the arms of the Armed Forces.
We cannot take him not to know what he is talking about. And the level of information he has, ordinary people don’t have that kind of information.
For me, truth is sacred. It doesn’t matter, who says what. Substance of what has been said should be the issue.
He is saying Nigerian Army has become partisan in the way they are handling these issues.
So, we should address the issues and that is the problem of our country. Usually, we leave the substance and chase the shadow. I think we should not take his words as “ranting of Mr Nobody”. Danjuma is something in this country; rightly or wrongly and we must take his words seriously. Let’s employ self-introspection.
This attitude of dismissing everything; Transparency International has said that we have gone lower in corruption Index, we dismissed it. Amnesty International made allegation against Armed Forces, we dismissed it. Anything that does not cheer with our perception, we feel there is no substance. I think that is not the correct way of moving forward in a country.
The Chief Justice of Nigeria has set up a committee to monitor corruption cases. What is your assessment of the committee so far?
The committee has no role to play. Politicians are doing their own thing. Luckily, the committee is made up of judges and seasoned lawyers. My own understanding of their work is to ensure that there is adherence to the rule of law in everything that happens to all these trials. And I’m sure at the end of the day, the position some of us took earlier will be vindicated that most corruption cases are lost due to two major reasons; lack of proper investigation and weak prosecution.
The Judiciary is the last leg in the administration of justice and issues of courts. Once you don’t get your investigation right and I give the example, people say in Nigeria James Ibori was discharged by the court whereas in the UK, immediately he was convicted. Yes, it is simple. In the UK or America, nobody would take you to court except you have a raw solid case. Nobody acts on sentiment in those places. Here, most cases are rushed to court based on sentiment and because people who are supposed to be investigators in the agencies want to make a point to show that we are working whereas it is more than that. In those places, they would confront you.
Look at what is happening about an alleged Russia interference in the US election and what the Independent Council is doing. It had facts and that is why you see former officials of Trump going to plead guilty because they built incontrovertible cases against them.
In those places, people are scientific with their forensic investigation and by the time they confront you with facts, you will breakdown. But here, people are first of all arrested, hounded and then you start to look for evidence.
You just talked about strong system over there. And here, the Presidency and the National Assembly are at loggerheads over retention of acting EFCC Chairman, Ibrahim Magu. Where do you think we are missing the point?
Everything boils down to our attitude. I have spoken about the continued stay in office of Magu. I have no problem with him as a person. But if we are talking of building an institution and I have made this analogy several times before. The Constitution says these categories of officers must be screened by the Senate and confirmed. If you appoint somebody in acting capacity, and his name has not gone to the Senate, there is no problem about that. That can be accommodated within the spirit of the Constitution.
But immediately you submit the name of the person to the Senate for whatever reason either tenable or untenable, the Senate says no, me, indifference to that institution and in defence of the Constitution, I don’t believe it would be right to say the person must continue. And I give simple example, if the President submits the name of somebody for ministerial appointment and the Senate rejects the name, can you appoint him as an acting Minister? That is the simple logic.
So, in order for us to defend the institution, if only for that, I think the matter should have been handled in a different way. For me, it is as if we are saying there is only one individual in Nigeria, who has the credentials to help us battle the hydra-headed monster of corruption. I don’t think so. I think there are a lot of good men in this country, many of them very silent individuals.
Shettima Gana:Why FG must continue with fuel subsidy
Former Commissioner of Agriculture and Natural Resource in Borno State, Shettima Umar Abba Gana, is now the Acting Chairman, Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC). In this interview with ABDULWAHAB ISA, he says that unlike oil that is located in five or six states, the presence of solid minerals across the land qualifies every local government and state to benefit from 13 per cent derivation. Excerpts:
The Revenue Commission embarked on advocacy campaign across the states on resources diversification, could you share the outcome of this exercise with us? The result has been very positive. The reason we took that line was simply because depending on only one source – oil for revenue has opened Nigeria to vicissitude of oil price fluctuations. Revenue Commission has identified two veritable sources of income, the solid minerals and agriculture. Apart from their high potential in Nigeria, the two sectors are conveniently available in every state and every local government in equal proportion. That means unlike oil that is located in five or about six states, there is presence of solid minerals everywhere. Every local government and state will benefit from derivation fund. The commission for the first time two years ago worked out the 13 per cent derivation of solid minerals. About N15 billion was collected as taxes and royalties from solid minerals, which was included in the sharing formula as applicable to the 13 per cent of oil revenue. We want the states to see the benefits of allowing solid minerals to be developed because they will also have earned 13 per cent of whatever revenue that comes out from solid minerals so developed. That was the main reason why we pursued the diversification of revenue across states and local governments.
How many states have benefitted from 13 per cent derivation?
Mostly all the states in varying degrees. Some get large, some small depending on the level or quantity of solid minerals. But if you want the figure, we will get it for you.
Could you give an insight on tax audit exercise set up by the commission to establish tax liability of states, MDAs and local government councils. We heard some defaulting states and MDAs pleaded for penalty waiver. What is the position of your commission?
Waivers are for the penalties, the funds itself have to be paid. The amount is about N168 billion and this include the ones owed by some federal MDAs, some states and their MDAs and the local government. Some taxes were supposed to come to the federation account totalling about N168 billion. We are doing reconciliation and as they are paying, some taxes are becoming due. It’s the penalty they are pleading to be granted waiver on.Will the Commission accede to their request on waiver? We’re talking with the federal ministry of finance, the Federal Inland Revenue Service and other agencies on how to handle that. They gave their reasons and we have to listen to them.
The fuel scarcity is back ( in Abuja). As usual, experts are engaging in arguments on why fuel subsidy should be retained or discarded. The NNPC said it bore certain portion of landing cost as a subsidy. The argument rages. What is RMFAC position?
Traditionally, the Commission is always in support of full deregulation of petroleum industry and is against subsidy depending on time. There is a time to do it. There is also a time it can’t be done. For now, it’s not proper to deregulate, we are supporting introduction of subsidy. Mark my word, I said for now. The reason being that, the current rise in the price of fuel is induced by increase in crude production cost, the crude price may also be coming down.
Would the price be coming down again?
We should give it sometime to see the real cost of crude, at what price will it stabilize, then we can begin to talk about removing subsidy. Interestingly, Nigeria has just come out of recession, removing fuel subsidy will jeopardise the fragile growth recorded post-recession. If you increase the price of fuel now, it will increase inflation and it will reverse the modest gain. What we are saying is, let the recovery from recession be strong enough; allow economy derivatives to be strong before contemplating removing subsidy. For now, the recovery process of the economy should be allowed to run its course before subsidy is removed.
Have you communicated this position to the federal government?
We mentioned it, we spoke in many fora when we had the opportunity to speak. We’ve not been asked but we made our opinion known in the public. What is going on is a public discussion and we contributed our own opinion on the subject at hand.
The idea of a revised revenue formula, which has been on the table of Commission, has been described as a mere wish hard to realise. Any new update on proposed new revenue formula?
Revenue formula is something the Commission continuously need to study. We did the study and we will continue to study and monitor it. The issue of revenue formula is a bit difficult because the basic building block of revenue formula is constitution itself. The constitution has given exclusive function to the federal, give concurrent functions to the federal, the states and the local government, right? Whatever you are going to give, each tier of the government has to follow what that tier of government has been asked to do by the constitution. If the constitution says, you should do ABC & D, you must be given money to do the ABCD. Whatever we are going to do in the review of revenue formula a major aspect of it is going to depend on the constitution amendment. Would you now transfer some assignment from exclusive federal to exclusive state? Once you live it as concurrent, it means that both of them will share the money. These have to be looked at and we are looking at it and we will recommend to the government what should be done and how. Whenever concrete proposal comes out, it will go to the National Assembly.
Where exactly is the new revenue formula, is it with the National Assembly or the presidency?
Nothing has been sent to the National Assembly nor the presidency. But that is not to say we have not been engaging in discussion with them. Of course, we have been engaging in discussion with the presidency, that one is ongoing. We continue to discuss on various issues but nothing has been sent to anybody to say, this is new revenue formula. But as we sit here, we are continuously analysing the trend, looking at all the dynamics and how it will look like. We are doing a lot of work in-house.
How soon do Nigerians expect it to be out?
I don’t know. Remember I just told you that the building block is the constitution and the debate is on about its amendment. I can’t say right now when but immediately we have something of substance it will be made public.
Your Commission is facing man power shortage. Out of the 37 Commissioners, one from each state of the federation including the Federal Capital Territory(FCT) only nine are currently on board. The rest have resigned having served out their tenure and no replacement for them. How do you run a Commission with a handful commissioners that don’t form quorum?
No, it didn’t affect the workings of the commission. With five or six Commissioners, the commission will function. The staff are there working. What has happened in most instances is that, we look at the quorum as dictated by the constitution and by the Act establishing the Commission. The Act says one third of existing members. So, if you are 10, three or four form a quorum you can work. But the constitution says five. If you get figure of five of existing members you can work. We have enough commissioners to do our work and we are working effectively. Remember constitution requires commissioners and chairman, people of unquestionable integrity. Whether a state hasn’t got a commissioner here, we work as if no commissioner is missing.
Adequate funding is key to a hitch-free administration of commission but this has been a major challenge of the Commission. To what extent has poor funding affected RAMFAC operations?
Is been difficult but the understanding is that, it’s a bit difficult across the board. The issue of oil price collapse has reduced drastically the government’s income. But we are working, we are doing our best and we are still on the ground, tasking ourselves in the face of economic challenge to bring out the best in us and meet our constitutional mandate. We have funding challenge, which is true. No body dispute that but we are coping and doing our best. As you can see every month money is being allocated to each of three tiers of government at Federation Account Allocation Committed (FAAC). We are the secretariat of post-mortem, we are the secretariat of technical session. We play the major role in FAAC, we are doing our work.
As one of the key stakeholders in the federation account, what is the position of Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission regarding debate on propriety of federal government decision to withdraw $1 billion from the balance of Excess Crude Account for prosecution of insurgents’ war?
The Commission is a bit straight forward and remain guided by the constitution. There are three beneficiaries of the federation account- the federal, the states and the local government. If on the floor of the National Economic Council Meeting a decision to share money takes place and at that meeting, the vice – president was there representing the federal, the states’ governors were there, they are representing the states and local government, that satisfies the constitution. That the owners have decided, all the three have decided amongst them; I don’t know who says no, but if they had a decision after the NEC meeting and said, a decision has been taking, then of course that is it.
But what the Revenue Commission will attest to is: Even if you are going to take the money out to fight insurgency, there are two issues here: The 13 per cent of the state production, that 13 per cent must be removed and paid to those states because derivation must first come out before any sharing of the money. The particular period the excess crude money was withdrawn, that month there must have been 13 per cent allocation formula given by the revenue commission.
That formula has to be applied to the 13 per event of that money to the states that produced the oil first, before the rest of money – 87 per cent is taken to prosecute insurgency. Insurgency is a serious security challenge spreading across some states. It’s no longer restricted to Boko- Harram areas. States that are safe today, it will be in their interest to support every step being taken to curtail insecurity because it could spread to them.
The revenue commission can’t say no to a decision taken on the floor of NEC. National Economic Council is made of shareholders of this fund. It’s a collective decision and the constitution is satisfied at that point the decision was taken. The only thing, is that the 13 per cent must be removed and shared to states that produced the oil first because constitution says anything you are sharing, remove the 13 per cent first before using the balance.
You mean that 13 per cent to be removed first and shared to oil producing states before applying the balance for insurgency prosecution?
Yes. I know some states have complained and they are right because that is what the constitution says. Everything commission does, we adhere strictly to the provisions of constitution. In fact, I have a copy all the time in my table here (he raised a copy of the constitution)- that is where we derive our powers, that is where we get our functions. Anything we are doing that violates the constitution, we will head to the supreme court. Everybody, including the president swears to uphold the constitution.
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