Mr. Okoi Obono-Obla

The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Prosecution and the Chairman of the Panel on Recovery of Public Property, Chief Okoi Obono-Obla has voiced out his thoughts on the present method of the appointments of judges. He did not only speak on matters affecting the judiciary, he as well touched other aspects of the state of the Nation.

According to him: “Anybody or legal practitioner that accepts an appointment to be a judicial officer should know he or she has sacrificed or given his or her desire to be wealthy or rich. Such a legal practitioner who has accepted a judicial appointment must know from the beginning that he or she must not compete with business people or politician for accumulation or acquisition of property or earthy materials or properties. Self contentment, shunning of materialism, self discipline are important qualities a judge must possess in abundance. So from the beginning if legal practitioners that have strong characters, integrity, intelligent, industrious, hardworking, knowledgeable, strong moral principles and unblemished characters are appointed into the bench, it will go a long way to ending corruption in the bench.”

He also said:

“The present mode of appointment of judges gives room for those who do not have the qualities required of judges to be appointed into the bench and when they get there, they become very susceptible to compromise with corruption. The body responsible for the investigation of complaints against judges should be made up of people of unquestionable character and unblemished integrity drawn from the civil society (not necessarily judges or lawyers) who will never be protective or shield erring judges no matter what. Judges should not be too over familiar with legal practitioners that appear before them. Judges should be barred from accepting any form of gifts from the public and legal practitioners. Judges should be detached and remain aloof and independent from those in the executive branch of government.”

Speaking on the issue of judges and their corrupt acts,
“Under the present constitutional order prevailing in the country, it is not the responsible of the executive branch of government to flush out erring judges from the system. The responsible of identifying and recommending judges to be flushed from the bench squarely and absolutely lies on the National Judicial Council that is constitutionally empowered to discipline judges and recommend erring ones to the executive branch of government, whether at the federal or state levels to either the President or Governors as the case maybe. So it is not the constitutional sphere for government to flush out from the judicial branch, bad eggs.”

“The responsible is on the judiciary itself. The entire judicial system is rooted in confidence by members of the public in the system so to rekindle such the judiciary branch must never give the impression that it treat with kid gloves any complaint made against a judicial officer,” he said.

On the area of restructuring, the Senior Special Assistant stated the fact that it is not actually a new thing. In his words:

“Restructuring is not a new thing on this country despite the fact that some dishonest people want to use it to get back at this government. The country was restructured on 1st January 1914 when the Protectorate of Northern Nigeria and the Colony of Lagos and Protectorate of Southern Nigeria was amalgamated to form the Federation of Nigeria. In 1922 the country was divided into Northern, Western and Eastern provinces. Regionalism was introduced by the Richard Constitution of 1945. In 1954 there was another restructuring introduced by the Lyttelton Constitution which brought about federalism.”

He went on to speak on the previous restructuring Nigerians had. According to him: “In 1960 the independence Constitution was introduced which changed from a colonial outpost to an independent country. In 1963 there was a restructuring which imposed a republican constitution in the country which brought republicanism with a President elected by the Parliament and a Prime Minister elected from the party with the highest number of seats in the parliament. In 1963 a Region known as Mid Western Region was carved out of the old western region bringing the total number of regions in the country to four. The military took over power on the 15 January 1966 and repealed the republican constitution and replaced it with a military decree known as the Constitution (Suspension and Modification) Decree No 1 of 1966 otherwise known as Unitary Decree. The decree abolished the federal system and the regional structure respectively and replaced with Unitary system and provincialism. Another restructuring took place on the 27 May 1967, when the country was divided into 12 States. Restructuring took place in 1976; 1987 and 1991 in the form of States creation. So restructuring is not a novelty in Nigeria. Most of the restructuring was done through colonial regulations and military decrees. We have never had a democratic restructuring since 1963. How do we carry out restructuring in a democratic system? This is the knotty and nagging question.

However President Buhari as a constitutionalist has advanced us to pursue it legitimately and constitutional through the National and States Assemblies which are the only institutions empowered by the constitutional order prevailing in the country to restructure the country through the process of constitutional amendments. I challenge those who have a different perspective to tell us to restructure the country without carrying out a constitutional amendment. But some people expect or want the President to restructure the country through administrative fiat when he has no such power. This is crux of the matter.
Constitution was introduced which changed from a colonial outpost to an independent country . In 1963 there was a restructuring which imposed a republican constitution in the country which brought republicanism with a President elected by the Parliament and a Prime Minister elected from the party with the highest number of seats in the parliament.

Mr. Obono also spoke about IPOB proscription as a terrorism organization. According to him:

”Terrorism is global phenomenon. All countries are united in fighting it. There are United Nations Conventions against Terrorism. So the proscription of IPOB will surely affect its reputation and operations internationally. Nigeria can now seek to block it accounts, activities and operations internationally. It will have devastating consequences on IPOB, It is a death knell.”

Speaking on the relationship the between the EFCC and the Panel on Recovery of Public Property, he said that both bodies enjoy cordial and good relationship.

“We are serving the same government, the public, so I do not think we are enemies even though if we have different perspectives or approaches to doing our work sometimes. It is normal to have disagree or minor differences over procedures or directions to follow to arrive at the same destination or achieving the same goals. It is a normal thing in human relationship or social interactions. Surely we all cooperate, partner and work together by sharing intelligence and information,” he said.

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