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‘Nigerians must force this govt to prosecute those indicted in fuel subsidy probe’
Barrister Onyekachi Ubani is a public analyst, commentator and legal practitioner, who doesn’t shy away from expressing his opinions on national issues. In this interview with Yejide Gbenga-Ogundare, Ubani, who is now the Chairman- elect of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Ikeja branch speaks on corruption, insecurity and sundry issues. Excerpts:
In recent years, there have been different kinds of probes revealing fraud in government agencies.
What does this portends for the nation?
The point is that the bane of this country is corruption, that Nigeria is not making any progress in any sphere is because of corruption. That you wake up every morning, you don’t have light, you go to bed in total darkness is because of corruption. That you get to your office in two or three hours, sometimes, you spend average of five hours on the road, is because of corruption, because there are no new roads being built, they are not expanding the roads. And if they build one kilometre, they will tell you that they spent one billion on it. So the retardation Nigeria has suffered over the years is corruption and everyone knows that but there has been no serious fight against it. Even though we have established EFCC, ICPC, all these agencies that are supposed to tackle fraud and corruption, there has been institutional lapses, the institutions are not strong enough to tackle these issues, because the political elite, have infested those institutions and they will not allow them to operate in order to make sure that they remove this particular problem. And so what we have today is that corruption is thriving in the private sector and the public sector and there is no serious fight against it. So the point is this, we know that the bane of this nation is corruption, Nigerians have knowledge, but for the fact that Nigeria is not making any progress today is because of corruption.
Nigerians have knowledge that these things are happening everyday, with the report coming up from all the panels they are setting up, but Nigerians are docile in addressing these issues, like if the political elite are being expected to address these issues, they will not address it because they cannot fight themselves. They cannot commit what we call class suicide. President Goodluck Jonathan cannot pursue the oil marketers because they used this money to sponsor his election, all the billions that they spent on election where did they come from? Are they from the oil subsidy? If you expect them to prosecute them, then you expect them to commit class suicide. The only way this people can be persecuted, is for Nigerians now to wake up from their sleep and demand for their prosecution. If you do that, the way we did in January and sustain the fight that is the only thing that can move them. Because your strike and civil disobedience in January that even made them to set up the panel in the first place and all of them now are running helter skelter, telling you that they are fighting corruption. Now the report is out, let us see now, whether they will implement it. They will not implement it until Nigerians wake up and say you must implement whole heartedly the full report of that panel and if you don’t do it, we will bring down your government that is the only thing that can move them.
So do you think that Nigerians can force the government to implement the report of the fuel subsidy probe?
Civil disobedience, coming out, because if you expect the House of Representative and the Senate to fight on your behalf, they are supposed to carry what you call oversight function, they have indicted those people and they are awaiting EFCC, now to carry out their own investigation and prosecute, but I tell you the political elite are the same class of people, who were indicted they will not commit class suicide so it is now left for a section of the populace to wake up and say we demand the prosecution of this people and then sustain the struggle and the fight, if we don’t do it, it will be swept under the carpet, just like the power probe of Obasanjo, almost 16 billion dollars that was frittered away under his administration, up till now we are in total darkness and nothing has happened about that report rather the hunter became the hunted and was charged with corrupt practices and that was the end of the probe report. So that is what will happen also with this fuel subsidy report. If we Nigerians, will not wake up from our slumber and demand for the immediate prosecutione of those who have been alleged to have frittered away our resources.
Another issue that is causing trouble in the country now is the issue of insecurity and it seems the president, doesn’t have any answer to the problem, what do you think is the solution?
The problem of insecurity, there are conditions that led to insecurity, some of them are political, some of the are economical and some of them are social and some of them are religious. So it is a combination of many factors and as long as you don’t address those factors, individually and holistically, those problem will remain. Now, when I say is political, there was no Boko Haram until Yar’Adua’s administration and then later under Jonathan, it became a very big issue, it became a very big problem, you remember the bombing of Abuja on first of October last year and then almost every second now, bombings are going on in the north. It is political in the sense that PDP, had an internal arrangement dealing with zoning the highest political office of this nation, between the south and north, they agreed that the south will rule for eight years. After which the power will return to the north, for another eight years, Obasanjo ran the administration of Nigeria, for eight solid years, now it was the turn of the north to also take over, Yar’Adua came in and mid stream, the man died . We insisted that Jonathan should take over, because it was his constitutional right to be the president after the man died. But after finishing the tenure of Yar’Adua, he should have stepped aside and allow power to return back to north to finish their four years making eight years and the power will come to the south, now along the way, PDP, came up with what you call an ambiguous arrangement saying that PDP retained zoning, that Jonathan could run and this was an ambiguity. That was an ambiguity of the highest order. What are you talking about zoning system, whereas you are allowing this man now, at this point in time to truncate the zoning system. You had an arrangement, you had an internal arrangement that you even wrote down in your constitution that this is the arrangement and you are breaching it. And instead of you speaking out, the truth because I know that even among thieves, there is what you call honour.
What is your position, on the recent sack of medical doctors by the Lagos state government?
Well my position is that I have called the Attorney-General of Lagos State, I want to hear his own side of the story, it’s very important. I have also called the chairman of the Medical Guild and so I want to see him so that I can hear his own point of view. I want to make very informed opinion concerning this. Because it is very unprecedented, for 700 and something doctors to be sacked in a day. It is very unprecedented. I have never seen it happened. It’s unheard of moreso, when we have a governor who is a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, I don’t expect such and like I said earlier, I want to make an informed opinion after I have heard from the Attorney-General and hear from the doctors. I want to hear them, to know if there was any agreement, was this agreement signed? is there any breach of the agreement? And if there is a breach of agreement, what have you done to remedy this particular breach and all that. So what is the problem so that by the time I hear all parties, I will now be at a better position to make comment. But for now, my only take is that the doctors are prevented from going on strike. What you do is that you tackle problems, you don’t create more problems. That’s my own take on that.
Recently, there is rumour that government wanted to increase fuel price and electricity tariff what is your stand in this?
My stand is that, it will affect the poor. You know why, we went on strike in January and our take was that there was no subsidy and that what the government was subsidising is corruption and they called Sanusi, Okonjo-Iweala, they all came on television and said it’s only the rich people that were enjoying this money and they made sure that what they were doing is that they gave the money to their colleagues and friends, they were not subsiding any oil. They said they will set up a panel, they set up a panel the panel report now came, we’re vindicated, it means that what we were saying, was right. There was no time they were subsiding oil, they were just giving this money to their friends. Now you have not addressed the issue of indictment, you have addressed the issue that what we are subsiding, is corruption, you now want to remove oil subsidy again, does that make you a government that is sensitive? Does that make you a government that is intelligent? We are saying that what we are subsiding is corruption and our reports have found that what you are subsidising was corruption and you now come up again that you are going to remove the subsidy because you went ahead and removed the subsidy, I will say that it was wrong.
Recently the NJC recommended that Justice Salami, should be reinstated. What do you think this portends for the judiciary and the nation as a whole?
My position is that maybe they have made a mistake and they have seen the mistake and they are now trying to correct themselves. But some other people had said that they wanted Justice Salami out of the way so that the presidential petition would be heard by another person that they believe in and more so very soon his retirement, will be around so they know what they did. But the lesson is this, that no matter how many year, truth will always over come lies and light will always over come darkness.
And truth will always prevail against lie. So am happy with that recommendation of the NJC and that is the best thing for the president to do at this junction. To go ahead and reinstate him, because he did not consult any body, when he was asked to be suspended. He went ahead on a Sunday while we were in church, he went ahead and suspended him. Now the same NJC, has recommended that the man should be reinstated, the president has no right to begin to look towards another institution so that he will take advice from, before going to do what is right. So the president should go ahead and reinstate him, but that is not the end of the matter, when the allegation that Salami, made against the former CJN is also investigated, he made an allegation that the man wanted him to come to the judicial proceeding in sokoto election tribunal. Those allegations are there and that allegation has to be investigated, and if it is true, that the former CJN did this, then I don’t think we are running a good country, if they allow him to go scot free because that matter, no matter how you want to sweep it under the carpet, the common man, still have an impression that our judiciary is a corrupt institution. An institution that can not clean self, an institution that is the last hope of the common man. I think in the light of this thing that is happening now Justice Salami, should be reinstated.Share