Professor Itse Sagay (SAN) is the Chairman, Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC). In this interview with JOHN CHIKEZIE, he speaks on the raging forgery allegation of NYSC’s certificate against Finance Minister, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, defection, corruption and sundry issues
Your comment on allegation of forgery of NYSC’s certificate against the nation’s Finance Minister, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, triggered controversy among Nigerians. Would you still want to maintain same position despite criticisms by Nigerians?
I still maintain an unflinching support for Mrs. Adeosun despite those flimsy allegations. I simply see such allegations as mere attempts to rubbish the image of the Presidency by opponents. The allegation against the minister is mischievous and a plot to remove her from office in order to tag the federal government as being incapacitated and unfit to run the economy. Mrs. Adeosun is a very hardworking person. In the history of finance ministry in Nigeria, probably the most important history, this woman has an immense capacity and skill in that area.
In fact, do you remember she was a former commissioner for finance in Ogun State? Yes, she was and because she performed extremely exceptional, the governor of the state said she deserves to operate at a broader and higher level and now she’s doing perfectly well.
My view is that those who are trying to run her down with this allegation of NYSC certificate forgery are doing it out of mischief. They are doing so in order to have her removed from that position so that the capacity of this government and the delivery of good governance would be reduced and then have an excuse of criticizing this government.
I ask myself what is more important is that the people should decide between good governance and improvement of their welfare or that some ridiculously minor issue about whether someone attended NYSC or not should prevail? However, I totally prefer the one that will add more value to this country and that’s what she’s doing. Therefore, I still stand by her and my statement. I am already used to criticism and it doesn’t alter my perception or view on any issue.
APC is gradually becoming a place of refuge for politicians under EFCC’s probe especially former governors. Do you agree with this?
Well, it’s quite possible and we cannot deny that fact. Akpabio has not yet been charged to court by the EFCC but that doesn’t mean there is no investigation about his record. So, these are two different issues. But, I can say, even though I tend to be a purist, that brutality may not be the best approach.
However, I can understand why Akpabio was welcomed with open arms into this government because, at the end of the day, some baggage needs to be carried. Hence, at the end of the day, if you do not win the election and be in the seat of power, you cannot deliver good governance and the government welcomed him in order to strengthen its weight in winning the 2019 elections.
So, at times, some of these things would be over looked in order to strengthen the base of the government. I simply see the Akpabio issue as a way to improve the success of the government in the 2019 elections, regardless of the allegations against him.
Though, I’ll be very surprised if anybody covers him up from prosecution should the EFCC decide to act in that direction. He has joined the party to add value to the political weight of the party and that doesn’t affect any allegations against him.
Why do you think politicians with EFCC cases are taking refuge in APC in the name of defection?
I am so sure that such comments are coming from the PDP and their supporters. And my question is this, can they guarantee the honesty and integrity of all those who crossed from the APC to the PDP? So, if they cannot, why would they want only perfect human beings to cross over from PDP to APC? The painful thing is that Nigerians always like double standards in everything.
It appears perfectly okay when people whose characters are imperfect join the PDP but a taboo when the tables are turned to the APC. Honestly, I don’t see any relevant argument in their lamentation. I know that they are only seeking ways of tarnishing the image of the APC.
I don’t believe that people who joined the APC from other parties would not be prosecuted if there are allegations against them: there is no such guarantee. I need not add that currently, there are APC members, who joined from other parties that are still being prosecuted. So, there is certainly no basis for this allegation and I think they should be disregarded.
Nigerians want the former Director- General of the Department of State Services (DSS), Lawal Daura, prosecuted over alleged firearms and billions of naira found in his apartment. What is your take on this?
I haven’t seen any report alleging that firearms or billions of naira were found in his apartment. But if there is such a report that says firearms were found, then, there shouldn’t be any friction about that because Daura was professionally employed to carry arms and direct those carrying arms. The man deals in arms; that is his major business.
But, if billions of naira were found in his possession, then that is more disturbing and should not be allowed to pass unchecked. He must be investigated and the law must be applied.
Do you think that the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Ibrahim Idris, deserves sanction for refusing to honor several summons by the National Assembly to appear before its chambers?
The Senate really deserves a slap and I support the IGP’s decision not to appear. Whatever the reasons, he was summoned out of a purely and private animosity. The Senate President, Bukola Saraki, was abusing the Senate’s powers by inviting the IGP to its chambers.
The Head of the Senate Chambers made that summons in an attempt to intimidate the man, who was purely doing his job because his good friend, Senator Dino Melaye, was being investigated.
Saraki has been abusing the Senate powers and abusing the Senate presidency as he has always done from the beginning. So, I believe the man is right by not responding to that summons. Meanwhile, if I were in his shoes, I will not answer that invitation.
President Muhammadu Buhari at the annual General Conference of the Nigerian Bar Association said that the rule of law must be subject to national security. What is your opinion on this statement?
I would go even further than what the President has said, not just the national security but it must be subject to justice. This is because the rule of law is now being used as a tool by looters, criminals and gangsters in the country to protect themselves from the wrath of the law. These looters now wear the rule of law in form of a wrapper to cover their atrocities, thereby debasing the whole concept of the rule of law.
I think that justice ought to be the main thing. For instance, If there is a looter who is depriving millions of poor or wretched Nigerians a livelihood; causing them to be sick or die through accidents on bad roads which ought to be repaired but all the funds have been stolen by one person; or the poor soldiers who are left to die because they have no weapons to fight simply because their leaders and politicians have looted the treasury, then there is no need talking about the rule of law.
We, the Nigerians, should be talking of the rule of justice against these looters. Justice should be visited on them and not rule of law. So, I totally agree and also go beyond President Buhari in this matter.
Also, I think that the first obligation of every administration of government in this country is the security and safety of the people. It’s only an irresponsible government that will rely so much on the technicalities of the rule of law to overcome the pertinent and rare security of the people, and also overcome justice too. People abuse the rule of law in order to get away with crimes and it is unacceptable.
The issue is that a lot of things have gone wrong in Nigeria. Good principles like the rule of law are now being abused, and now being quoted by the abusers to shield themselves from their crimes.
I know of many cases in the last 2015 elections where huge riggers had bribed their way into offices and would come publicly to say ‘we observed the rule of law’. They would claim they succeeded because they followed due process and even went through tribunals. For them, that is the definition of the rule of law. But everyone knows that these people weren’t elected.
So, these are some of the problems the country is facing now. If you abuse justice, then the rule of law that you rely on, mind you, is certainly improper and unacceptable. If your basis of the rule of law is at the feet of justice, then that rule of law, for me, is illegitimate because it is being abused.
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