‘It is the law that INEC must be joined in political cases’
here is a Federal High Court decision which gave Fresh Party judgment over it’s de-registration and Fresh Party is now saying that INEC is deliberately going against that judgment.
When there is a judgment against a party and the party now appeals and challenges that judgment, the judgment does not automatically become enforceable. The legal process should be allowed to take its course because INEC has challenged the judgment; we are in the Court of Appeal.
How prepared is INEC for the legal battle that would come before, during and after the 2015 general elections?
At the moment INEC is conducting training for its legal officers. INEC has recruited additional legal officers preparatory to the 2015 elections. So every state now has a minimum of two legal officers. The problem in INEC are not cases that affect INEC itself, they are cases that affect political parties that rub on INEC. The cases are not strictly INEC related cases but political parties related cases which INEC must be joined. If you look at political parties, if INEC conducted the best elections and once somebody is not satisfied, that party goes to court and it is the law that INEC must be joined, so we are doing our best within the limited resources of the commission. FG cannot fund every case so we do our best, the ones we can handle we handle and the others we farm out but it is a very herculean task.
What in your opinion is the ideal retirement age for judges, most of our judges after their retirement are still given one national assignment or another, would you suggest that the retirement age be extended?
You will have to look at this question from the perspective whether at the time the person
Ibrahim Bawa is the Acting Director Legal Services, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). In this interview, he speaks on INEC’s preparedness for the 2015 possible court cases against the commission, death penalty and other topical issues.
retired; he is still useful to the society or whether the society can still gain from his wealth of experience. That is an area where consideration should be given considering that not all persons who retire at that age can contribute meaningfully to national development. In fact a lot of points of law are referred back to them because of their wealth of experience. I believe that if judges are made to retire at the age of 70, they would still
on this or would you call for the abolition of the award of SAN?
Every profession has its rules and regulations and for you to be SAN, your credentials as a person must be looked atHow trustworthy are you? Will Nigerians trust you? Should every person trust you because you have handled the required number of cases without due considerations for your conduct?
For you to reach that highest profession is regulated so there is a guideline for the award of SAN which was drawn up by the privileges committee. So whoever tells you that he is not certain is probably because he has not read the guidelines. So there are guidelines such as we have in every aspect of life and if people want it they must meet the criteria.
So it is not possible that everybody must be a senior, so also in life we cannot all be rich, some must be poor because that is the rule of nature. The conferment of the rank of SAN is a privilege which is conferred on person who ought to be there. Apart from looking at the cases they do, they also consider integrity in the practice of law.
Some people are advocating that law should be read as a second degree course, do you support this?
It is the quality of education in Nigeria generally. Does the quality of education in Nigeria make you the best lawyer because you have read one discipline, does it make you the best lawyer because you have acquired degree in some other field? and what is the Legal Council doing to ensure that we get those things we need in a lawyer. Every person that is admitted to read law actually has those qualities that will make him to be a lawyer. The most brilliant lawyer must not necessarily be somebody that has already got a degree in any other field. He could have passed out with the highest degree elsewhere but he may not necessarily be a good lawyer. They have to do with human qualities, so it’s not an answer that you say one plus one is equals to two.
Should the minimum wage for junior lawyers be legislated?
It’s a business and in business you cannot say this is how much you pay. In my office I can afford to pay N100, 000 for instance but in other offices they may not. So we are looking generally at the problem of unemployment in the country which also rubs on the legal profession.
I am ready to employ five lawyers in my office and I now look at what is the income into that chamber, so it is possible you do a regulation and end up throwing people into the unemployment market. So you have not solved the problem but rather you have created more problems. You are creating a monster that you cannot curb, so that is the problem.
It is ordinarily not possible to say that you legislate minimum wage for every private sector. So why should you legislate minimum wage for the legal profession.
Should the death penalty be abolished?
I do not believe that death penalty should be abolished. When you take somebody’s life it does not pay for the society to compensate you by keeping you alive. You have deliberately decided to kill somebody, why must you live. You should also let him go. Look at the rate of crime in the society even when we still punish people with death penalty, I do not subscribe to the abolition of death penalty.