‘President Jonathan has no confidence in NASS’
Barrister Sadau Garba is a Kaduna-based private legal practitioner and the Executive Director of Kaduna Human Rights Association. He bared his mind on how President Goodluck Jonathan is spending the nation’s resources and why delegates to the ongoing nati
Is the proposed referendum from the outcome of the national conference constitutional? The issue of the national conference from the legal angle has no place in our constitution. It is alien to the constitution. Section 4 of the 1999 Constitution has given the legislative powers to the National Assembly to make laws for peace, order and good governance of the federation of Nigeria. But what the president means is that certain people should come together, constitute themselves into a group and fashion out the way forward for Nigeria.
What the people want to know is what is the National Assembly, NASS doing. The entire federation is in the National Assembly. You have the senators and House of Representatives members. For the president to expend over seven billion naira to organise a national conference is sad as we have started seeing the in-house fighting and those sleeping during the conference. This does not augur well for us.
He picked people that are advanced in age to speak for the people, there is a question mark there. Already we started seeing most of them falling asleep. When you look at it from such angle, I would say the president cannot at this moment handpick some people to determine the fate of Nigeria.
If he wants anything, the NASS is there for him. He has his Council of Ministers as an executive president as enshrined under Section 5, he has his advisers. He can package it and send it to NASS.
Section 153 of 1999 Constitution makes provision for commission and council of states. They are there to advise the president. If he is not clear or in doubt whether Nigeria should go certain direction or not, he should consult his advisers and the Attorney General by tabling his issues before them before proceeding to the NASS and say I want to you to fashion a way or to amend the constitution. They are there for him to do the job.
Why did he leave the NASS and went on to organise another political jamboree that will not take the people anywhere? It shows that the president probably does not have confidence in the NASS anymore. Even though he is saying he will take the findings to the NASS. If he will take it to NASS why not take the case to NASS and avoid convoking a confab by picking people of questionable character; from day one of the sitting some of the members said they are the problem of Nigeria. They indicted themselves and it is high time someone told the president the truth.
How did the president get the money to finance the confab?
It was not provided for in the budget. And we are not aware of any supplementary budget sent to the NASS for this confab. It is time for the NASS to say what they are here for before it is too late. They should ask the President to answer before it is too late; he should just write to NASS and they amend the constitution and it becomes law.
Can the Chief Justice of Nigeria intervene?
She has no problem with that. One thing with the judiciary is if you have any problem you go to them for interpretation legally. CJN cannot wake up one morning and make a declaration. But somebody went to court and he lost. He can appeal the ruling to a higher court of law.
What advice do you have for retired Chief Justice Idris Kutigi who is chairman of the confab?
They are the ones that are supposed to advise the president as they have the legal knowledge and some of the delegates are even Senior Advocates. Some people are saying this money, about N4 million every month for each delegate is really bad because 90 percent of the conference delegates are supposed to give back to Nigeria and not collect money for their deliberations. I commend the few that say they don’t want the allowance, that they are there to serve. People will respect them. The nation brought us to where we are and made us and this is the time for payback. The money can be used to repair schools, provide drugs in hospitals and improve power and reduce the use of generators. Polytechnic lecturers are on strike and nobody cares.
Is Nigerian Bar Association’s withdrawal okay with you?
They are withdrawing because they need more slots. My view on this is that they should not participate in any way. If they were given four or five they may go and collect the millions to be given to them.
What is your take on the appointment of a senior justice in favour of Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa as President of the Court of Appeal?
I think the case is being taken at the national level, but let’s wait and see. The said justice is not complaining. And the two ladies leading the judiciary now it is normal as they are experienced and respected.
President Jonathan suspended Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, Governor Sanusi Lamido Sanusi and now Godwin Emefiele is approved by the Senate before they finished their investigation?
A lot of rigmarole is contained in this saga. He will not resume until the expiration of Sanusi’s time probably. Sanusi’s appointment has not been terminated. I am not speaking on behalf of the government. As far as the Central Bank Act is concerned, it has to go to the Senate. They know what is on the ground.
What of the allegation of missing money and the image of the country?
Internationally, Nigeria is being ridiculed that it is not serious in regard to the issue of corruption. I advise the government to take decisive action by suspending AlisonMadueke and the GMD of NNPC, Andrew Yakubu, if there is going to be a forensic audit of the NNPC. The audit cannot take place with the minister on the seat. Definitely something fishy will take place.
GEJ was quoted as saying the missing money is 10 and not 20 billion dollars?
It is in the public domain in the international community. Just recently our young graduates died for immigration recruitment service, while 20 years back people didn’t go for immigration job. These youth died in their prime seeking for job and 10 billion dollars is missing from Nigeria coffers, and nothing is being done.
Does that mean that federalism is threatened by regional tendencies and demands by delegates?
No. It is just internal crises and a lot of people are saying we are not serious in resolving. In the North you have internal crises of Boko Haram and if you go to the Niger Delta you have the issue of armed robbery and kidnapping taking place and in the south armed robbery. The entire nation is in crisis and not just regional.
Is the role being played by the first lady constitutional?
The government has not given her any office. But as far as the constitution of Nigeria is concerned there is nothing like the office of the first lady. It is unconstitutional unless provided for in the constitution. If you want your wife to be seen at functions then make her a minister or an adviser.
Many legal analysts are of the opinion that since Nigeria’s constitutions were made by the military and not by civil democratic governments, we need a new one. What is your opinion on it?
Yes, we are supposed to amend the constitution. If they need an amendment we don’t need the confab. Technocrats, lawyers, legal advisers, Ministry of Justice are there, a small committee to do the proposed amendment and forward it to the president for onward presentation to the NASS. But many things are done wrongly in Nigeria. If NASS is inactive, no ordinary Nigerian can do anything about it. The confab is the fault of the NASS.