Interview: Subsidy Was Removed To Provide FG, States, Opportunity To Squander Funds- Akpomudje SAN

Interview with Olorogun Albert Akpomudje SAN, FCIArb, Life Bencher, Managing Partner, Albert Akpomudje SAN & Partners, Prime Minister (Otota) of Ancient Olomu Kingdom, President General World Wide, Government College Ughelli Old Boys Association.



Recently a federal High Court in Abuja gave the nod that a new Association for Lawyers can indeed be registered by the CAC, in Your view, do you think a rival Association would weaken or strengthen the NBA?


Well, I have not read that judgement, but I cannot pretend to say that they did not know that certain members of the association are in the process of registering what they called Nigerian Bar Society, certainly you know, the saying that the more we are together, the stronger we shall be. It is not something one will encourage at this time of our political life, the profession should now have two bodies that is my view but, like those of them who are craving to have a second association, you will see that most of them are either because they didn’t win elections or are not happy with the current leadership of the Bar, or you know maybe one reason that I believe is very personal if not if we look at ourselves as a united Bar, no reason why we should split ourselves, no reason whatsoever, but for just having two bodies, but again, the truth of the matter at the end of the day, we should be able to separate the chaffs from the grains, because those of them who are itching to have a separate association, unless something magical happen, there is no way they will be able to weaken the kind of support with lawyers have for the present Nigerian Bar Association at all levels.


There is a general perception that corruption is pervasive in the judiciary. How true is this perception and what can be done to root out corruption in the judiciary, If you agree that there is indeed corruption in the system?


To say that there is no corruption certainly I will be lying, the Nigerian setting is full of corrupt people, and the judiciary is made up of Nigerians, so you do not really expect that there won’t be any element of corruption in the judiciary. That is something, look at it at whatever level, look at it tomorrow you accuse police that they are corrupt, there’s no way, is it the Custom, everywhere, so judiciary the judiciary is a product of Nigeria, so we cannot say there is no corruption, certainly there are corrupt officers, to say otherwise we will be deceiving ourselves. Now what is the solution to this issue of corruption, from time I have always said that the method of appointment of judicial officers is to a very large extent is faulty. Faulty in the sense that members of the Bar who know themselves very well are not given prominent role in the selection of judicial officers, within the Judicial Service Commission, you have two lawyers there, two laymen, the President of the Customary Court of Appeal, as well as the Chief Judge and the Attorney General, so the Bar is in the minority. I think we should give a more prominent role to members of the Bar to play in the selection of judicial officers, we will come out with our best and the reason I say so is that we that are in the profession, no matter what you are you must be a lawyer first before becoming a judicial officer, we know ourselves because of our interaction with each other in court, in social gatherings, in Bar meetings, conferences, we know ourselves to the extent that this lawyer, if you put him in a place he will not be corrupt, if you put this lawyer in a place, he would be competent, he would know the law, those information, those kind of qualities which should be demanded of a judicial officer, which you won’t find corruption, members of the Bar have fore knowledge of those to be appointed, so if they are given the opportunity they will select their best, what happen, the Bar are not given that opportunity. For the two members who are not members of the Judicial Service Commission, their appointment is based on whoever the Chief Judge wants, not even a selection by members of the Bar that go and represent us in the Judicial Service Commission. In my time I was nominated to be a member of the Judicial Service Commission by the Bar, and we proposed the law that look that the two members who will be members of the Judicial Service Commission should be appointed by the Bar Association, so they owe their loyalty before everybody, but if you make the Chief Judge to appoint whoever he wants, he will definitely appoint those who will not give him/her headache. That is why I say, if you truly want the Bar to play a role, give them the opportunity. Unless they have the right to nominate person into the Judicial Service Commission, then they can now bring in their own understanding of those to be appointed to bear in the appointment. So the method of appointment is a big challenge in appointing credible judicial officers so we can vouch that they won’t be corrupt, people with integrity and again people with competence. Competence is very important, some of our judicial staff with the greatest respect they do not meet the expectation of members of the Bar.


What changes should Nigerians expect from the Supreme Court since it now has the full complement of 21 Justices as stipulated by law?


This is one area, members of the Bar who are in active practice have been suffering from, because the Supreme Court does not have its full capacity, you find out that those who are there are overwhelmed with work. We are all happy to know that we now have the full complement of the Supreme Court which is 21 Justices. As it is before now, if you file a motion in the Supreme Court, in the next 2, 3, 4, or 5 years, nobody will call you to come and argue your motion not to talk of substantive appeals. Substantive appeals, some of them, over 10 years, there’s not even one day you are called upon to come and maybe the required processes to be filed are not all in then you can the adjourned, no opportunity. It shows that those who were there before were being overworked, particularly now the time of politics, you know that political cases are time bound, so they give more attention to that, you can’t blame them because they have specific time within which they must deliver judgment. But my joy is that with the full complement of the Supreme Court, you can now have about three panels sitting at the same time and to that extent, the workload of the Supreme Court will now be well distributed and cases will move faster. In fact, litigants are more than patience, for example to file a case in the Supreme Court, five years’ time nobody has asked you to come to the court by way of hearing notice, what is the stage of the matter. Some of the cases have been lost in transit, you cannot find the records anymore because there is no attention that has been given them for these length of years, sometime more than a decade. So the expectation is that what we have been suffering in the past whereby cases remain in the Supreme Court indefinitely would definitely be reduced to the barest minimum now that we have more than one or two panels sitting at the same time.


The federal and state government recently proposed to establish state police as a major way to tackle insecurity in the country. What would you recommend as the structure operational guidelines for State Police in the country?


Well with the way the security system is in the country where we have the central police force, and the high increase of insecurity all over the country, one would have said, it is a very welcome development to have a change in terms of having state police or community policing, let me put it that way, but having said that why do you think that people have been opposed to state police? It is because when you have state police, politicians will use them against their opponents. Now, take for example in this country which everybody is aware of, once the governor wins in a particular statewhere he has control to conduct local government elections, for every state and for all the parties, the Governor who is there, either he is PDP or APC he will make sure all the local government positions down to councillors are won by his own political party. That’s it, that’s the fear of people that by the time you place police under the control of the governor as the chief security officers, just the way they are abusing the electoral system, they will use them to oppress and intimidate their political opponents that’s the fear. But, my take is that having known that in order for us to go ahead and have state police, we should take cognizance of that fact and put measures in place in the law establishing state police to checkmate the excesses of governors using state police to achieve their political aims but like I said, the mere fact that that possibility is there as it is, not just a possibility, it is a reality is there does not mean it should not be established. If the same could be said of the federal, and of course, the federal government is in charge of Nigerian police. So they may also be using the Nigerian police against political opponents, so if we think of that, it means we will not be having police at all. That’s why I said the fear that the governors will be using the powers of should not stop it, rather having known that such possibilities can happen, the law should be made in such a way that there should be checks of the excesses of governors using the state police for their political ambitions.



What do you make of last week’s looting of NEMA ware house in Abuja. Would you say it is a mere criminality or a reflection of the mood of the country?


I just want to think it is the mood of the reflection in the country presently, you see, the cost of things are so high, but imagine that the downtrodden how do they survive and if such an opportunity exist you cannot blame them for their action to a large extent. But when that became the position of the look, no matter the hunger people should not get themselves into criminality just because of the hardship. So what government should do, is to see how we can ease of this hardship which Nigerians are experiencing and make sure that people are at least have a basic need daily and that will deter them from going into such act in the future. It is a combination of both sides, you cannot give them oh that they were right 100% , oh that the hardship is too much so once you see a trailer, a warehouse loaded with food items then you pounce on it, no that’s not good but you find out that hunger can make people do a lot of things but it is not the justification, so the solution should go to government to try and ease the kind of hardship that Nigerians are experiencing as at today. So that we can at least reduce to the barest minimum this kind of criminality that we now experience as it is.


How would you assess some of President Bola Tinubu administration policies in tackling the economic and insecurity challenges in the country?


Assessment of security or other challenges can only be based with the results, if there are no results and you have good policies and it is not giving us the result, it means one cannot give you a clean slate on that. You see, until we see fundamental changes, the policies are there but until we see, for example in security, until wee that Nigerians are more secured, kidnapping is reduced to the barest minimum. Banditry, terrorism, no matter how good the policies you put in place, if it is not solving the problem, one cannot give the government a pass mark. Take a look at electricity, you may put up a good plan in place, but until Nigerians start to get constant supply of electricity, no matter the policy they put in place, it may be laudable but if the result are not there, and I must say with all respect that we are not seeing any result, rather things are going worse. Things are going worse, take for example the issue of fuel subsidy. So the money from subsidy was distributed between the federal, states, and local government, what significant development that each of these tiers of government can show to Nigerians that they have made with the surplus money that they have got by the removal of fuel subsidy.

It is like they got more money to squander, that’s the way I looked at it. You can’t see a reflection of it, so good policies, removal of fuel subsidy is good, but at the end of the day has it made our position better or worse. So the results will determine whether the policies of the present federal government are good or not. But my opinion is that we have not seen any result of which we can give commendation to the federal government and all the state government.

From what I have read from the print media, that report was prepared over 10 years ago. To be implemented a decade thereafter, it means as at today, that report may not be so adequate to cure some of the ills that which the federal government money is spent on the Oronsaye Report.

So if indeed, the federal government is serious about implementing it, there is need to be some areas that the federal needs to touch going by the present reality of what is on ground. To that extent, it is a welcome development.

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