Mohammed Fawehinmi, scion of the late Chief Gani Fawehinmi law dynasty in this interview with AKEEM NAFIU, speaks on the Senate, Presidency’s face-off, rejection of the chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Magu, former Adamawa state’s governor, Bala Ngilari’s post-conviction bail, democratization of SAN award and sundry issues
There seems to be a crack in the Senate, Presidency relationship over the chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Magu’s rejection as the agency’s czar by the Senate. What does this portend for the nation’s fledgling democracy? The issue of face-off between the legislature and the executive will definitely slow down a lot of things in the country and it will heat up the polity unnecessarily.
In my view, I heard the Senate said it will suspend the confirmation of the Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs) which is highly desirous at the moment because the president has refused to sack Magu. In the first place, where is it written in the Constitution that the Senate can give the president orders he must comply with? You see, this 8th Assembly, I don’t know where they got their ideas from and I think they should talk to the lawyers amongst them for proper advice.
The best they can do is to advice the president with regards to some of their actions. For instance, on their stand over Magu’s nomination, they can talk to the president and give their reasons.
If the president looks at it, he can discuss with the Attorney-General of the Federation, Minister for Defence, Minister for Internal Affairs and others that are relevant. They put heads together and come up with something.
If the president still believes that Magu can continue to act, then, so be it. But, for the Senate to now make it mandatory, I think they have no right to do that.
They are not in a position to instruct the president. It’s an insult and they have gone beyond their bounds already. With this, they want to hold the whole country to ransom.
These are people who earn N36million each a month; a salary which is not even accorded to either the president or the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) who does ten times the work they are doing.
First and foremost, I think that they should not be earning more than N4million a month. That is sufficient for them. Many ex-governors used the Senate as an enclave for hiding out. They don’t give any meaningful contributions and from my view personally, I don’t see why the Senate is still there.
The Representatives with all due respect, are more responsible, more concerned and more attentive to the needs of Nigerians in terms of doing their duties as legislators and also carrying out their oversight functions.
The reverse is what is happening in the Senate, they have always been given us problems. So, I believe that the Senate can be scrapped. We can only have the House of Representatives as they are more widely spread.
We can convert the Senate building into something more meaningful. Let’s forget about these people as doing away with them will not be tedious. It can be done through a referendum where people will have to decide whether the Senate goes or stays. If majority says Senate should go, so be it. Then, an amendment can then be carried out on the Constitution.
What is your take on the postconviction bail granted a former Adamawa state governor, Bala James Ngilari?
I am impressed with the fast speed with which his case was concluded. When he was in power, he was not sick. But he became indisposed when he was convicted of corruption.
How can the court grant him bail after been convicted? I am sorry for the judge who granted him bail. Some of these judges need to go for re-orientation.
This is because I cannot fathom a situation where a man that was convicted was later granted bail on health reasons by the court; it’s nonsense. The judge involved should be punished seriously for that affront on the judiciary.
The best thing the judge ought to have done is to grant the convict access to proper medical care which he must pay for. My late dad had many cases on that issue.
What is your assessment of the Prof. Itse Sagay-led Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC) since its inauguration? Well, the committee has tried.
I also heard when Prof. Sagay said even if the Senate failed to confirm Magu, he can go on as Acting chairman. Well, in that view, if it suits the president, it’s a good advice.
But Prof. Sagay must do something for us. He must liaise properly with the EFCC to help them clean up the evidence it have so that convictions can be easily attained.
Overall, I will give the committee 50 per cent but they still need to offer advice to the anti-graft agencies of government. Prof. Sagay is well respected and I believe a man like that advising the president will do a lot for us.
What positive impact would you say the fight against corruption of the President Muhammadu Buhari’s government has had on the polity?
It has given a lot of drama because it is mostly in newspapers and the Television. But we need to secure convictions like it was done in the case of a former Adamawa state governor, Bala James Ngilari.
The Attorney-General and Minister of Justice should take a proper look at some of these cases and fine-tune them. This is because if we don’t achieve anything meaningful at the end of this year and have some of the high profile cases determined on time and people convicted, it’s useless; it will just be mere propaganda.
You also know that one-third of the people in the Senate have case with the EFCC. Magu too should do his job; he must be more aggressive. It is his sluggishness that has put him in this trouble.
What I am saying in essence is that I have not really seen any positive impact the current fight against corruption has had on the polity. In fact, a lot of people are now looking at it as just a programme of entertainment.
So, the president must be serious with it. It’s good to fight corruption but we must get people who can do it because this is the last chance for Buhari to do any meaningful thing in Nigeria, if he loses this chance, God forbid what I am thinking should happen in this country.
Some lawyers are rooting for the democratisation of the award of Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), do you share their view? Well, I may not agree with the call for the democratisation of the award of Senior Advocate of Nigeria because it is a priviledge and not a right.
In judiciary, there are certain things that are considered before any lawyer is awarded SAN. Apart from the lawyer being brilliant and meeting the criteria, there are certain other things involved.
These include the lawyer’s outlook, his or her relevance to the society, whether the person is competent enough to advise a state governor and make the state very rich or advice the president and just turn everything around.
Someone like Fashola is a Senior Advocate of reputable standings. Look at what he did in Lagos. It was on that basis that he was made the Minister of Housing, Power and Works by the president.
Despite this, we still have a number of SANs who have questions to answer pertaining to how they become silks. So, I do not agree with the democratisation of the award of SAN which when awarded is only a priviledge by the Priviledges Committee of the legal profession.
Apart from the politics of old where someone like my father suffered for about 21 years before he was given, if you study the politics of judiciary, you will understand why the award is like that.It’s more like a political appointment where people are selected because of certain qualities.
PDP is embroiled in intra-party crisis which has hindered the party from effectively playing the role of an opposition party in the true sense of it. What do you think will be the implications of not having an effective opposition party in the nation’s political land scale?
Well, we have always had a one party state, even when PDP was in power.
Don’t also forget that APC was formed by politicians that dumped PDP. It is only when a party like the National Conscience Party (NCP) comes up as a formidable opposition that either the APC or the PDP can be challenged.
I don’t know what Sherrif and Makarfi are fighting over and for them to be fighting like that shows that PDP is truly dead. I think it was Obasanjo that killed the party from the day he asked one of his aides to tear his membership card.
I have a lot of respect for the National Chairman of the APC, Chief John Oyegun, but he has a lot of work to do. There are two camps in APC, the Tinubu and the Atiku camps. This did not augur well for the party.