Chief Mike Ahamba, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), in this interview with AKEEM NAFIU of Newtelegraph, speaks on special court for corruption cases, AGF’s power to manage assets recovered by anti-graft agencies, Hate Speech Bill, life jail for kidnappers and sundry issues.
Do you share the view that the new rule issued by the Ministry of Justice, empowering the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami (SAN), to manage all assets recovered by anti-graft agencies will promote corruption?
Who will do it and there will not be thinking about corruption? There’s nobody who will take charge that will not be suspected of engaging in corruption. Now, if you look at the Constitution, the president has the power to assign any responsibility given to him as the Chief Executive of this country to any of his ministers. So, if this is an assignment from the president, I think it is constitutional. We can only hope and pray that the Attorney-General will do the right thing with the recovered assets.
However, if it is the Ministry of Justice that came up with the rule, it has no such powers. But, the implementation of such rule must be with the authority of the president.
If the president has asked the Attorney-General of the Federation to take charge, we should allow him to carry out the assignment before criticizing him.
Do you support establishment of Special Courts for speedy dispensation of justice as being canvassed by President Muhammadu Buhari?
I have always been against the creation of Special Court to enhance speedy dispensation of justice. I spoke against it at the National Conference and even in my book which will soon be published.
One problem that we have in this country is that we usually fail to examine why a negative issue is persisting before making attempt to address it.
How will the creation of Special Courts solve the problem of slow pace of justice delivery? By creating more courts, we cannot solve the problem. I think we should focus on the procedure of adjudication in the country as a way out of the problem rather than creating Special Courts.
We should look among other things at what rules are to be amended to enhance quick dispensation of justice. Necessary equipment should also be supplied to existing judges to work with. Why won’t cases be delayed when judges are still writing in long hands? Why are there no recorders for proceedings? These are some of the issues to be addressed. Let’s find the cause of a problem before we look for a solution.
For instance, has the changing of the name of National Electricity Power Authority (NEPA) to Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) help us in solving the electricity problem in this country? How much positive impact has the changing of Nigerian Prison Service (NPS) to Nigerian Correctional Service (NCS) brought on inmates?
As far as I am concerned, it is the human management of a place that matters and not the change of name or something else. The important thing is for those in charge to know their responsibilities and carry them out.
Besides, the absence of sanctions in appropriate areas is the bane of our society. People must be appropriately sanctioned for failing to carry out responsibilities assigned to them under the law.
What I am saying, in essence, is that creating more courts in the name of Special Courts will only add to the existing problems. People who are directly involved in adjudication should be involved in charting a course for the way out of the problem of justice delay.
The sponsor of the Hate Speech Bill, Senator Aliyu Abdullahi, said he had to come up with the Bill because hate speech is the root of violence in Nigeria. Do you share his view?
I can’t agree with him. It’s not true. Sometimes what is regarded as hate speech could have emanated as a result of what has been done to an individual.
I am against the Bill. It is unconstitutional. That man who came up with the Bill might be the first victim. There must be a proper definition of what constitutes hate speech. If people are complaining because a government is underperforming, we cannot term that as hate speech.
If an issue is affecting me and my people and I decided to air my views, you cannot accuse me of propagating hate speech. If your cattle are destroying my crops and I stand up against it by saying one thing or the other, you cannot accuse me of hate speech.
So, in essence, there must be a proper definition of what constitutes hate speech before coming up with any law to curb it, in order to prevent any infringement on constitutional provisions.
As far as I am concerned, anything that prevents people from expressing their views is against the Constitution of Nigeria. Besides, this Hate Speech Bill is even an issue of misplaced priority by the Senators. It is not in pursuit of peace, order and good government in Nigeria, which is what is suppose to be the main concern of the lawmakers. Anything to the contrary is unconstitutional.
So, any attempt by anyone to gag me not to say my mind on any issue is unconstitutional. Members of the National Assembly are expected to work in line with the dictates of the Constitution and if the lawmakers succeeded in passing the Bill, I, Mike Ahamba, will go to court to test its validity.
Senators are now pushing for life imprisonment for anyone engaging in kidnapping. How far would this measure help in curbing the menace?
Well, I think it’s a step in the right direction. But, the punishment being suggested is not even the issue but I am more concerned about the implementation.
Anyone who involved in kidnapping should be kept in jail to serve as a deterrent to others and also prevent him from continuing in the illicit business.
The problem we are having is the implementation of the laws and not the laws themselves. The failure of institutions to perform their functions under the law is a major problem. This is why we are faced with diverse problems in this country.
Do you think the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is right to have returned anyone as the winner of the last governorship election in Kogi State with the reported violence that characterized the polls?
Well, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has already declared a winner and it is now left for the judiciary to look at the proper conduct or otherwise of the whole exercise.
If INEC has failed, there’s a remedy called the judiciary. It is the failure of the judiciary that is more dangerous to Nigeria than the perpetrators of the violence. So, judiciary should try not to fail Nigerians.
If it is true that there were widespread violence so that it could not be said that an election has taken place, the judiciary is expected to void it. If on the hand, it was found out that the conduct of the election had complied substantially with the law, then its result should be validated by the court.
The ball is now in judiciary’s court to make proper findings about the conduct of the election and make appropriate declaration.
What do you think can be done to have elections devoid of violence in this country?
Well, I have always been saying that being just and honest is a choice. One day, we shall have an INEC Chairman and others working with him, who will say I will not be part of any irregularity and that would be the end of the problem.
Besides, those at the National Assembly should sit up and come up with a brand new Electoral Act that will be used for the next general election. It’s no longer a matter of amending the existing one.
There should be serious brainstorming by people who are familiar with the contents of all the Electoral Acts used so far for elections in this country and from there, a brand new Electoral Act to be used for future elections will emerged.
In 2003, I identified five safeguard provisions in our Electoral Act and by 2007, those safeguard provisions have been removed to allow rigging. When we attacked this in 2007, more safeguard provisions were removed from the Electoral Act to allow rigging in 2011. The same thing has continued till date.
Therefore, the process of getting a brand new Electoral Act should commence immediately before preparations for the next general election begins. The National Assembly should organize a seminar and invite notable election petition lawyers to speak on what have gone wrong and chart the way forward.
How do you view a statement credited to the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, that fake policemen perpetrated violence in the recently conducted Kogi governorship election? Is the statement enough to exonerate the police of complicity?
In a civilized and decent clime, the IGP ought to have resigned by now. How can IGP say fake policemen operated among his own men? I am not even sure any of those so-called fake policemen have been arrested till date. That’s why violence has continued to trail our elections. You can be rest assured that in 2023, the same thing will repeat itself. Repeatedly, we have failed to take decisive action against perpetrators of violence during elections.
So, the assertion by the IGP cannot exonerate the police of any complicity. In fact, the first police officer that should go now is the Inspector General of Police for coming up with such assertion. I am very surprised that all these are happening under the watch of President Muhammadu Buhari in whom I had absolute belief.