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Sunday, 6 September 2015

We'll revisit all lost cases of corruption-Prof Sagay


By Eniola Oluwasanmi Ashaolu & Abdullateef Aliyu, Lagos | Publish Date: Sep 6 2015 3:56AM | Updated Date: Sep 6 2015 2:48PMProfessor Itse Sagay, a lawyer and human rights activist known to detest corruption with all his might, was recently appointed by President Muhammadu Buhari as the Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee on Anti-Corruption. Speaking in an interview with Daily Trust on Sunday in his chamber in Surulere, Lagos, Sagay gave a broad view of the task ahead of the anti-corruption committee and added that his committee will give such direction as will rid Nigeria of corruption.
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We'll revisit all lost cases of corruption-Prof Sagay
Professor Sagay

How did you feel when you were appointed to chair the Presidential Advisory Committee on Anti-Corruption?
 I was pleasantly surprised; surprised because I had no hint until then, that even this committee was being planned. It was later they told me they had been working on it for some months but I was not a member of the planning team. So, I had no hint. The appointment was a surprise. It was a pleasant surprise because this is exactly the manner in which I would like to serve this country; because I think, apart from the issue of security, the elimination of corruption is probably the biggest challenge facing Nigeria today.
 But some people believe that you got the appointment because you were one of the elder statesmen who campaigned for Muhammadu Buhari during the 2015 general elections…
We cannot control people’s thoughts. All I know is that I am never neutral because between good and evil, a neutral is someone who is shirking his responsibility to the society. You should take a stand and I took a stand during the elections. When I studied Buhari over the years, I am sure that he had this programme, he had this belief, he had consistent attitude towards the elimination of corruption. I thought that he is a man who deserved the support of all Nigerians, particularly at a time when we were living in the midst of much rottenness in the country. So, if Buhari is going to appoint somebody to drive his anti-corruption crusade, obviously it has to be somebody who shares the belief with him; that if we do not kill corruption, corruption will kill this country. So I am not surprised he chose me. If he didn’t choose me, he would choose another person like me. He is not going to choose those who have rendered the country prostrate by looting.
 Have you talked to him since the appointment on what he expects from you?
 No. I’ve not talked to him one-on-one. You know the presidency is one and I have had several discussions with Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo who is very much involved and very passionate about what we are doing. So through him, we clearly receive an understanding of what the President intends that we should do. Of course, we have terms of reference too.
 Have you started work?
 Yes, we have.
 But you have not been formally inaugurated and members are scattered all over the federation.   How do you meet and where do you meet?
 We meet in Abuja. It is a committee; it is not an executive body. We have a secretariat in the Ministry of Justice in Abuja. We have an Executive Secretary, a full-time Professor doing a full-time job; he has a very solid background in this area. Operational staff and a website have also been set up.
 Is there remuneration for the committee members?
 So far there is nothing like that. Definitely, there would be no salary. It is possible there could be allowances for the time one leaves his base to go and have meetings and so on because there are so many things we are going to do. Apart from our meetings, we are going to see people in various offices, including the judiciary. During that period, one could be away for a week or so. I assume there would be allowances paid but this has not been discussed.
 Against the backdrop that corruption has eaten deep into the fabric of the nation, what are the tasks and challenges involved in the committee’s work and how do you intend to tackle the challenges?
 You are right. In fact, it is a frightening scenario because every day when you wake up, something new has happened, another example of corruption has been revealed. It is as if we are just surrounded by corruption. It is like when a city is taken over by refuse, it is a terrible thing. We have been set up to take a systematic look and approach to the problem. We are not an executive agency, we are not going to identify somebody and arrest and prosecute. No. Our job is one of reflection, of deliberation, in fact, of coordination; to coordinate the struggle to wipe out corruption. This is going to involve intensive and very thorough intervention in the various actions that are going on and also in trying to make the administration of justice, as it affects corruption, more effective. So, we are going to look at the administration of criminal justice bill and try to make it as effective as possible. We are going to bring support for the anti-corruption agencies. For example, we are going to interact with them to find out what challenges they are having; be it equipment, so that if it is detection equipment or interrogation equipment that they need and things like that, we then recommend that they should have them. Is it in terms of technical quality and skills of their personnel? In which case they need training in special areas, we are going to look at that. Is it financial challenge? If it is, we may recommend to the government that it should be looked into. Or is it a question of the integrity of the people who are working there?  I am not even talking of the leadership, I am talking of those who actually do the routine work, interrogation and investigation; whether there are some who have been compromised or who may not have integrity, in which case we may need fresh hands that can do the job in an uncompromising manner. So it is a wide-ranging thing and our job is to interface with them: EFCC, ICPC, Code of Conduct Bureau, Code of Conduct Tribunal and find out what problems they have and seek solution for them.
 Some people have actually criticised the setting up of your committee, saying that the anti-corruption agencies like EFCC and ICPC are there to take care of corruption issues in the country. How do you view this?
 As I have said, we are not there to do the work of the agencies  but to examine the state of the struggle, look at the challenges, look at the drawbacks and try to find solutions. I will give you a few examples. At times, the agencies don’t cooperate with each other, they behave like rivals; we want to eliminate that. They should share information. They should cooperate so that where one is weak, the other would provide support; where the other is strong, the second would enjoy that cover. We would also be looking into lost cases. Some major cases have been lost by the agencies in the past, we would look into all that. We would be able to look at the case files, find out what was inadequate in the prosecution so that we can then ensure that whatever it is, it is taken care of so that such does not repeat itself in the future. Not for the purpose of retrial because once an accused has been discharged, you cannot go back. But at least against the future, we would be able to guide against that. So generally, I think this committee is very, very essential at this time because it is doing coordination work, it is doing research work, it is doing mediation work and it is going to do a major work in the area of administration of criminal justice, looking at the efficiency of prosecution, looking at the integrity of the prosecution process, looking at the length of time it takes to complete a case and looking at how prosecution can proceed without being frustrated. It is looking at quite a lot of things.
 Do you think Nigeria needs a special court to prosecute corruption cases as being canvassed by the presidency?
 Yes, a special anti-corruption court will certainly enhance the fight against corruption. It would create speed and also possibly ensure the integrity of the process. But an anti-corruption court cannot be decreed by presidential order. It can only be created through an amendment of the constitution and that takes time. Meanwhile, what we are hoping to see, because it has been done before, is that some judges and justices would be identified because of their reputation and record who would operate from the criminal division of the high courts all over the country and they are the ones who would be handling these cases because they have an established reputation for integrity, for discipline, for industry and for their courage and indeed passion for justice.
 If those who allegedly embezzled money under the last administration come to you secretly to say they want to return part of the stolen funds, would you welcome and protect them?
 Yes, they are very much welcome. If anybody can do that, we would certainly direct them to the appropriate agency where they should return the money and then I assume that there would be some legal processes involved. Since we are not an executive agency, we don’t have familiarity with this but there would be a process through which the money would be returned and what the consequences will be, but I can say confidently that any person who does that is saving the government a lot of cost in terms of cost of prosecution which could be very expensive. Such a person would probably get favourable treatment of some sort. That’s why the new law has a provision for plea bargaining.
 Some have criticised the president on the way he has been governing the country since his inauguration. They say he is just sacking and appointing people at will, trying to set up special courts the way he set up  special tribunals when he was military head of state, and that he has not shed the toga of the military man in him. What is your take on this?
 I don’t think it is fair to say the president is behaving as if we are in a military regime. He is a stickler to the democratic traditions and demands. He has not done anything undemocratic so far. For example, talking of special courts, he has not set up any special court. If he did that, it would be illegal and anti-democratic. That is why the whole idea of special courts has not taken off because as I explained, another arm of government, the legislature, is going to be seriously involved. So, the fact that somebody wants to fight corruption and he is dedicated to that struggle because that is the bane of this country, I don’t see that as something anyone should be unhappy about unless that person is one of those who have bled this country dry. So if I hear anybody saying things like that, I feel like checking his background to see what he is trying to defend.   
 Recently, Rev. Father Mathew Kukah, member of the National Peace Committee led by former head of state retired General Abdulsalam Abubakar, appealed to President Buhari to slow down on the war against corruption so as not to distract his government. Do you subscribe to this?
 I was shocked to hear Kukah say that. I was thoroughly shocked that somebody so eminent, in that high position and holding that type of vocation should advocate the abandoning of the struggle to eradicate corruption in the society. If he is saying that, what does the church stand for? So, it was shocking because if his advice is taken, it means that this country is going to go down because if corruption takes away our economy, then we are going to face disintegration because we would have a failed state. So, I was a bit taken aback by that advice when I heard him say it on Channels TV, that we should abandon the struggle to eliminate corruption, that it is a distraction. It is absolutely no distraction.
 Government is going on; Buhari is not the one investigating. He just gives directives and carries on with his work. So, government is going on but we want to be able to fight corruption to achieve two aims; one to recover as much stolen resources as possible so that we can now pump these into areas of the country that require it because this country is broke as we all know; infrastructure, health, labour, employment are in dire need of rescue. Number two is, to establish a culture in which people in government will not engage in impunity and will allow clean process and good governance to prevail so that the country can develop, so that our resources would be directed solely towards the need of the state rather than into private pockets.
 The EFCC chairman, Ibrahim Lamorde is currently being probed by the Senate for alleged diversion of money and property seized from some corrupt individuals. Is this a case of corruption fighting back as some people in the Senate and their close associates have been accused of corruption and under the probe of EFCC?
 I must confess that the timing of the accusation against Lamorde is a little bit suspicious but having said that, I believe that the anti-corruption agency must be like Caesar’s wife, totally and absolutely above suspicion. So once anybody has mouthed any accusation against them or any of their officials, they must come out and clear themselves because if they don’t, they would have no moral or legal basis to entertain reports of corruption and act on them. So there is a very heavy burden on the EFCC now that the chairman and his staff should go and clear themselves so that we can be sure that when taking matters to them, you are not taking matters of one type of people to the same type of people to investigate. In which case we would just be going round in circles, deceiving ourselves, promoting corruption and thinking we are fighting it. So, they have to clear themselves. Without doing that, there is no moving forward for the EFCC. For me, it is a very sad situation.
 The Presidency announced some appointments penultimate Thursday and there is hullaballoo everywhere that the president’s appointments so far have been tilted to the northern part of the country where he hails from. What do you say to this?
 I noticed too that the President’s appointments have been lopsided, that 80 per cent of the people he has appointed are from northern part of the country but I want to give him the benefit of the doubt because these are early days and the first set of appointments are usually people with whom he is going to work closely with. I know he would be conscious of this perception and he must have gone ahead to do it because probably in future, he is going to make more appointments which would reflect more federal character. For the appointment of close aides and those for sensitive offices, he really needs to appoint people he is absolutely certain of; in terms of confidentiality, competence, integrity and so on. I mean those he can vouch for. That’s my own explanation for these appointments because if you look at them, we have Chief of Staff which is somebody who can even operate from your bedroom, he is very close. Then, if you talk of the case of Customs, that is where there are so many problems of corruption. I understand the person he has appointed there is not even a member of the Customs. That shows you immediately that it is not a normal appointment, it is like a task force type of appointment. The only appointment that I would have probably preferred some other name is that of Secretary to the Government of the Federation. But again, the president may have his reasons. So, I would want us to give him the benefit of the doubt. Maybe we should be more critical as time goes on.
 The South-easterners (Ndigbo) particularly feel short-changed about these appointments, especially that of the SGF which they had ‘claimed’ was theirs to balance the equation and they are now crying foul. What do you think?
 They have no right to feel short-changed at all for two reasons. One, if you look at the proportion of those who were elected during the last general elections, hardly was the APC able to get a single person from the South East and what was the reason? It is not that the people there didn’t want to vote. If you have analysed the election in South-South and South-East as I have done, there was a lot of terrible rigging there by the PDP. So, the South-East rigged itself out of influence by putting all its eggs in one basket, the PDP basket. They rigged; there was no question about it. I have done the analysis and what happened there was a great abnormality; it has nothing to do with any election. Those were the areas where they did not use card readers and so on. So they shot themselves in the foot and I think they need to accept that they should have allowed the people to vote naturally and then there would have been distribution of votes between both parties. Number two, my own personal experience as someone who has lived relatively long in this country is that there is no advantage in having somebody who is your next-door neighbour or your village boy in office; there is no advantage there at all. It doesn’t help you. The people of Bayelsa (where former President Goodluck Jonathan come from) today are crying that they don’t have water; Jonathan’s hometown people are complaining that they don’t have water, they have appealed to the Buhari government to provide them with water. Look at Obasanjo’s Ota, the road there is bad, the conditions there are pitiable. So, I think the easterners should just forget about the issue of, ‘appoint one of us’. Rather, they should look at what programmes are going to be planned and implemented in favour of the east. That is what they should be looking at. Forget about the individuals. I am not interested in whether anybody is coming from my area. What is this government going to do in my area? That is what they should be looking for. Is the government going to build the second Niger Bridge? Is the government going to tackle erosion? Is the government going to build roads in the East? Those are the questions they should be asking, not moaning over non-appointment of their people into positions.
 Do they not have the right to feel that they are now being “victimised” for not voting for Buhari in the last elections?
 They are not victimised, and they should not feel victimised. Not giving them political appointments is not victimisation. Nobody is entitled to political appointment; that’s the discretion of the government in power.
 Are you not worried that months after the inauguration, the president is yet to form his cabinet?
 I am not worried. The president is trying to bring people such as himself and the vice president into the cabinet. So you should not have on one side of the table clean men of integrity and another side calculating locusts who are thinking on how much they can eat out of national resources. He wants to have like-minded people, so a lot of screening is going on. He doesn’t want a situation where within one month of the cabinet getting on board, we start hearing of people being sacked. It is true that we cannot get 100 per cent cabinet of angels but there is nothing wrong in trying to get the best we can so that once they take off, the rest of us can relax a little bit and know that these people are working for Nigeria. He said September and I am sure he would keep his word. The cabinet would be announced and I believe when he does that, the wait would be justified.
 More than five hundred days after, the Chibok girls are still in captivity. What do you think is wrong with the case of these girls?
 It is very worrying and I am getting frightened because as somebody noted, our soldiers are clearing out so many areas occupied by these Boko Haram insurgents and the expectation has always been that each time communities of hostages are released, we would see the girls; but all the people coming out have been different types of people, hundreds of thousands of them and none of the girls was there. So what has happened to them? Those of us that are outside government may not know what is going on but I am disturbed. Maybe those in government know where they are, I don’t know. But it is worrying, disturbing and frustrating but I pray to God that those girls would be found so that their parents can at least find joy at the end of the day and not frustration and mystery. So, it is worrying that so far, we have not seen the girls. Even if they have been split, we should expect that when the soldiers liberate a particular area, they would say, ‘oh, we find 30 Chibok girls’ and at least we would rejoice and say, ‘oh, that is part of victory in this great struggle’, but not a single one has been found and that is discouraging.
 Are you worried that the girls might be among the young female suicide bombers?
 I don’t think so because the description of the suicide bombers shows that they are very young girls, 11, 13, not more than 15 but the Chibok girls are about 15, 16, 17. I don’t think they are.
 The president has set a target of three to four months to end the Boko Haram insurgency which points to the fact that he wants to employ military tactics to quell the problem while some people are advocating for dialogue as well. What is your take on this?
 I subscribe to dialogue provided the dialogue is directed towards the release of the Chibok girls, not of the war generally. If it is towards the Chibok girls, yes, because to me that is a very, very sensitive and trying matter to which one is ready to stoop in order to conquer. But if it is just dialogue generally without that condition, it is not acceptable to me. The Chibok girls must be a factor in the issue of dialogue.
 The deadline given by the president to crush the insurgents: do you think it is achievable?
 It is baffling to me as a layman but I respect his military background and as I always say, these people in positions like that have information flowing in to them from all directions; from Chad, Niger, Cameroon, from our military chiefs, from the DSS. So by the time he collates all these, he probably found or he could plot a graph showing that December is a possible date. So I don’t want to question that. But for me as a layman, I would have been sceptical because the Boko Haram insurgents have proved far more difficult than we ever anticipated.
 You recently took a position on the situation in Osun State by condemning the lady judge that submitted a petition to the State House of Assembly calling for the impeachment of the governor. Why did you take that position, as some people are saying it is because you have a soft spot for the APC and the governor is of the APC?
 I have heard about that, and I felt a bit sad. There is so much scepticism, cynicism in the land. Nobody trusts another anymore in this country. Everybody thinks everybody has a motive; you won’t do anything unless you are getting something back. That is how bad we have degenerated and I don’t blame them for saying that. But there are still quite a number of Nigerians who, out of principle, have a belief, have a cause and speak out of conviction, not out of benefit or anything. Yes, I think the APC is a much better entity and organisation than the PDP. I think so but that is not the reason I spoke out against the judge.
 Are you a card-carrying member of APC?
 I am not going to answer that question.
 Why?
 Because it is my own private right and so I am not going to answer it. But I certainly prefer APC to the PDP, there is no question about that.
 So, what is your reason for speaking out against the judge?
 I was shocked that she did all those things she did and the state Judicial Service Commission did nothing, the National Judiciary Commission did nothing, they just allowed her free reign, to be going on a rampage all over the state, and a judge for that matter. I don’t know what word to use with regard to a judge; it is the most disgraceful and embarrassing sort of image that somebody at that level could project to the world. Judges from time immemorial are people of dignity, decorum and respect, who make statement only in their judgments and in the courts and when they leave the courts, you do not hear anything from them, they keep themselves detached from the public, they don’t take part in the rough and tumble of politics. So, they are placed in that pedestal which compels us to respect them. So when you see us bowing and saying, ‘My Lord’, taking orders from them and taking directives and so on without being able to challenge them directly except by way of appeal, it is because of that type of level of dignity and respect and the importance of their job in society. But when that lady decided to become a politician and decided to politically and publicly attack the head of the government of her state, government that appointed her in office, she completely discarded all the respect, dignity and decorum associated with that office. She turned it into, as I said in another forum, she became a street fighter which is a thing that we should never ever expect from a judge. So, as far as I am concerned, the minute she issued that statement and got it published as emanating from her, she has lost the right to continue to be a judge, she has lost that right and she brought the whole judiciary into shame and odium and she should no longer be in that office. I think she should be queried, disciplined and removed as a lesson to all other people that, ‘if you want to be a politician, you be a politician, if you want to be a judge, then know that there is decorum and respect in it’. Who will appear in her court now and not feel uncomfortable? She’s like any other person in the street, not one of those people that we respect very much. I think she desecrated her oath of office.
 we have terms of reference too.
 Have you started work?
 Yes, we have.
 But you have not been formally inaugurated and members are scattered all over the federation.   How do you meet and where do you meet?
 We meet in Abuja. It is a committee; it is not an executive body. We have a secretariat in the Ministry of Justice in Abuja. We have an Executive Secretary, a full-time Professor doing a full-time job; he has a very solid background in this area. Operational staff and a website have also been set up.
 Is there remuneration for the committee members?
 So far there is nothing like that. Definitely, there would be no salary. It is possible there could be allowances for the time one leaves his base to go and have meetings and so on because there are so many things we are going to do. Apart from our meetings, we are going to see people in various offices, including the judiciary. During that period, one could be away for a week or so. I assume there would be allowances paid but this has not been discussed.
 Against the backdrop that corruption has eaten deep into the fabric of the nation, what are the tasks and challenges involved in the committee’s work and how do you intend to tackle the challenges?
 You are right. In fact, it is a frightening scenario because every day when you wake up, something new has happened, another example of corruption has been revealed. It is as if we are just surrounded by corruption. It is like when a city is taken over by refuse, it is a terrible thing. We have been set up to take a systematic look and approach to the problem. We are not an executive agency, we are not going to identify somebody and arrest and prosecute. No. Our job is one of reflection, of deliberation, in fact, of coordination; to coordinate the struggle to wipe out corruption. This is going to involve intensive and very thorough intervention in the various actions that are going on and also in trying to make the administration of justice, as it affects corruption, more effective. So, we are going to look at the administration of criminal justice bill and try to make it as effective as possible. We are going to bring support for the anti-corruption agencies. For example, we are going to interact with them to find out what challenges they are having; be it equipment, so that if it is detection equipment or interrogation equipment that they need and things like that, we then recommend that they should have them. Is it in terms of technical quality and skills of their personnel? In which case they need training in special areas, we are going to look at that. Is it financial challenge? If it is, we may recommend to the government that it should be looked into. Or is it a question of the integrity of the people who are working there?  I am not even talking of the leadership, I am talking of those who actually do the routine work, interrogation and investigation; whether there are some who have been compromised or who may not have integrity, in which case we may need fresh hands that can do the job in an uncompromising manner. So it is a wide-ranging thing and our job is to interface with them: EFCC, ICPC, Code of Conduct Bureau, Code of Conduct Tribunal and find out what problems they have and seek solution for them.
 Some people have actually criticised the setting up of your committee, saying that the anti-corruption agencies like EFCC and ICPC are there to take care of corruption issues in the country. How do you view this?
 As I have said, we are not there to do the work of the agencies  but to examine the state of the struggle, look at the challenges, look at the drawbacks and try to find solutions. I will give you a few examples. At times, the agencies don’t cooperate with each other, they behave like rivals; we want to eliminate that. They should share information. They should cooperate so that where one is weak, the other would provide support; where the other is strong, the second would enjoy that cover. We would also be looking into lost cases. Some major cases have been lost by the agencies in the past, we would look into all that. We would be able to look at the case files, find out what was inadequate in the prosecution so that we can then ensure that whatever it is, it is taken care of so that such does not repeat itself in the future. Not for the purpose of retrial because once an accused has been discharged, you cannot go back. But at least against the future, we would be able to guide against that. So generally, I think this committee is very, very essential at this time because it is doing coordination work, it is doing research work, it is doing mediation work and it is going to do a major work in the area of administration of criminal justice, looking at the efficiency of prosecution, looking at the integrity of the prosecution process, looking at the length of time it takes to complete a case and looking at how prosecution can proceed without being frustrated. It is looking at quite a lot of things.
 Do you think Nigeria needs a special court to prosecute corruption cases as being canvassed by the presidency?
 Yes, a special anti-corruption court will certainly enhance the fight against corruption. It would create speed and also possibly ensure the integrity of the process. But an anti-corruption court cannot be decreed by presidential order. It can only be created through an amendment of the constitution and that takes time. Meanwhile, what we are hoping to see, because it has been done before, is that some judges and justices would be identified because of their reputation and record who would operate from the criminal division of the high courts all over the country and they are the ones who would be handling these cases because they have an established reputation for integrity, for discipline, for industry and for their courage and indeed passion for justice.
 If those who allegedly embezzled money under the last administration come to you secretly to say they want to return part of the stolen funds, would you welcome and protect them?
 Yes, they are very much welcome. If anybody can do that, we would certainly direct them to the appropriate agency where they should return the money and then I assume that there would be some legal processes involved. Since we are not an executive agency, we don’t have familiarity with this but there would be a process through which the money would be returned and what the consequences will be, but I can say confidently that any person who does that is saving the government a lot of cost in terms of cost of prosecution which could be very expensive. Such a person would probably get favourable treatment of some sort. That’s why the new law has a provision for plea bargaining.
 Some have criticised the president on the way he has been governing the country since his inauguration. They say he is just sacking and appointing people at will, trying to set up special courts the way he set up  special tribunals when he was military head of state, and that he has not shed the toga of the military man in him. What is your take on this?
 I don’t think it is fair to say the president is behaving as if we are in a military regime. He is a stickler to the democratic traditions and demands. He has not done anything undemocratic so far. For example, talking of special courts, he has not set up any special court. If he did that, it would be illegal and anti-democratic. That is why the whole idea of special courts has not taken off because as I explained, another arm of government, the legislature, is going to be seriously involved. So, the fact that somebody wants to fight corruption and he is dedicated to that struggle because that is the bane of this country, I don’t see that as something anyone should be unhappy about unless that person is one of those who have bled this country dry. So if I hear anybody saying things like that, I feel like checking his background to see what he is trying to defend.   
 Recently, Rev. Father Mathew Kukah, member of the National Peace Committee led by former head of state retired General Abdulsalam Abubakar, appealed to President Buhari to slow down on the war against corruption so as not to distract his government. Do you subscribe to this?
 I was shocked to hear Kukah say that. I was thoroughly shocked that somebody so eminent, in that high position and holding that type of vocation should advocate the abandoning of the struggle to eradicate corruption in the society. If he is saying that, what does the church stand for? So, it was shocking because if his advice is taken, it means that this country is going to go down because if corruption takes away our economy, then we are going to face disintegration because we would have a failed state. So, I was a bit taken aback by that advice when I heard him say it on Channels TV, that we should abandon the struggle to eliminate corruption, that it is a distraction. It is absolutely no distraction.
 Government is going on; Buhari is not the one investigating. He just gives directives and carries on with his work. So, government is going on but we want to be able to fight corruption to achieve two aims; one to recover as much stolen resources as possible so that we can now pump these into areas of the country that require it because this country is broke as we all know; infrastructure, health, labour, employment are in dire need of rescue. Number two is, to establish a culture in which people in government will not engage in impunity and will allow clean process and good governance to prevail so that the country can develop, so that our resources would be directed solely towards the need of the state rather than into private pockets.
 The EFCC chairman, Ibrahim Lamorde is currently being probed by the Senate for alleged diversion of money and property seized from some corrupt individuals. Is this a case of corruption fighting back as some people in the Senate and their close associates have been accused of corruption and under the probe of EFCC?
 I must confess that the timing of the accusation against Lamorde is a little bit suspicious but having said that, I believe that the anti-corruption agency must be like Caesar’s wife, totally and absolutely above suspicion. So once anybody has mouthed any accusation against them or any of their officials, they must come out and clear themselves because if they don’t, they would have no moral or legal basis to entertain reports of corruption and act on them. So there is a very heavy burden on the EFCC now that the chairman and his staff should go and clear themselves so that we can be sure that when taking matters to them, you are not taking matters of one type of people to the same type of people to investigate. In which case we would just be going round in circles, deceiving ourselves, promoting corruption and thinking we are fighting it. So, they have to clear themselves. Without doing that, there is no moving forward for the EFCC. For me, it is a very sad situation.
 The Presidency announced some appointments penultimate Thursday and there is hullaballoo everywhere that the president’s appointments so far have been tilted to the northern part of the country where he hails from. What do you say to this?
 I noticed too that the President’s appointments have been lopsided, that 80 per cent of the people he has appointed are from northern part of the country but I want to give him the benefit of the doubt because these are early days and the first set of appointments are usually people with whom he is going to work closely with. I know he would be conscious of this perception and he must have gone ahead to do it because probably in future, he is going to make more appointments which would reflect more federal character. For the appointment of close aides and those for sensitive offices, he really needs to appoint people he is absolutely certain of; in terms of confidentiality, competence, integrity and so on. I mean those he can vouch for. That’s my own explanation for these appointments because if you look at them, we have Chief of Staff which is somebody who can even operate from your bedroom, he is very close. Then, if you talk of the case of Customs, that is where there are so many problems of corruption. I understand the person he has appointed there is not even a member of the Customs. That shows you immediately that it is not a normal appointment, it is like a task force type of appointment. The only appointment that I would have probably preferred some other name is that of Secretary to the Government of the Federation. But again, the president may have his reasons. So, I would want us to give him the benefit of the doubt. Maybe we should be more critical as time goes on.
 The South-easterners (Ndigbo) particularly feel short-changed about these appointments, especially that of the SGF which they had ‘claimed’ was theirs to balance the equation and they are now crying foul. What do you think?
 They have no right to feel short-changed at all for two reasons. One, if you look at the proportion of those who were elected during the last general elections, hardly was the APC able to get a single person from the South East and what was the reason? It is not that the people there didn’t want to vote. If you have analysed the election in South-South and South-East as I have done, there was a lot of terrible rigging there by the PDP. So, the South-East rigged itself out of influence by putting all its eggs in one basket, the PDP basket. They rigged; there was no question about it. I have done the analysis and what happened there was a great abnormality; it has nothing to do with any election. Those were the areas where they did not use card readers and so on. So they shot themselves in the foot and I think they need to accept that they should have allowed the people to vote naturally and then there would have been distribution of votes between both parties. Number two, my own personal experience as someone who has lived relatively long in this country is that there is no advantage in having somebody who is your next-door neighbour or your village boy in office; there is no advantage there at all. It doesn’t help you. The people of Bayelsa (where former President Goodluck Jonathan come from) today are crying that they don’t have water; Jonathan’s hometown people are complaining that they don’t have water, they have appealed to the Buhari government to provide them with water. Look at Obasanjo’s Ota, the road there is bad, the conditions there are pitiable. So, I think the easterners should just forget about the issue of, ‘appoint one of us’. Rather, they should look at what programmes are going to be planned and implemented in favour of the east. That is what they should be looking at. Forget about the individuals. I am not interested in whether anybody is coming from my area. What is this government going to do in my area? That is what they should be looking for. Is the government going to build the second Niger Bridge? Is the government going to tackle erosion? Is the government going to build roads in the East? Those are the questions they should be asking, not moaning over non-appointment of their people into positions.
 Do they not have the right to feel that they are now being “victimised” for not voting for Buhari in the last elections?
 They are not victimised, and they should not feel victimised. Not giving them political appointments is not victimisation. Nobody is entitled to political appointment; that’s the discretion of the government in power.
 Are you not worried that months after the inauguration, the president is yet to form his cabinet?
 I am not worried. The president is trying to bring people such as himself and the vice president into the cabinet. So you should not have on one side of the table clean men of integrity and another side calculating locusts who are thinking on how much they can eat out of national resources. He wants to have like-minded people, so a lot of screening is going on. He doesn’t want a situation where within one month of the cabinet getting on board, we start hearing of people being sacked. It is true that we cannot get 100 per cent cabinet of angels but there is nothing wrong in trying to get the best we can so that once they take off, the rest of us can relax a little bit and know that these people are working for Nigeria. He said September and I am sure he would keep his word. The cabinet would be announced and I believe when he does that, the wait would be justified.
 More than five hundred days after, the Chibok girls are still in captivity. What do you think is wrong with the case of these girls?
 It is very worrying and I am getting frightened because as somebody noted, our soldiers are clearing out so many areas occupied by these Boko Haram insurgents and the expectation has always been that each time communities of hostages are released, we would see the girls; but all the people coming out have been different types of people, hundreds of thousands of them and none of the girls was there. So what has happened to them? Those of us that are outside government may not know what is going on but I am disturbed. Maybe those in government know where they are, I don’t know. But it is worrying, disturbing and frustrating but I pray to God that those girls would be found so that their parents can at least find joy at the end of the day and not frustration and mystery. So, it is worrying that so far, we have not seen the girls. Even if they have been split, we should expect that when the soldiers liberate a particular area, they would say, ‘oh, we find 30 Chibok girls’ and at least we would rejoice and say, ‘oh, that is part of victory in this great struggle’, but not a single one has been found and that is discouraging.
 Are you worried that the girls might be among the young female suicide bombers?
 I don’t think so because the description of the suicide bombers shows that they are very young girls, 11, 13, not more than 15 but the Chibok girls are about 15, 16, 17. I don’t think they are.
 The president has set a target of three to four months to end the Boko Haram insurgency which points to the fact that he wants to employ military tactics to quell the problem while some people are advocating for dialogue as well. What is your take on this?
 I subscribe to dialogue provided the dialogue is directed towards the release of the Chibok girls, not of the war generally. If it is towards the Chibok girls, yes, because to me that is a very, very sensitive and trying matter to which one is ready to stoop in order to conquer. But if it is just dialogue generally without that condition, it is not acceptable to me. The Chibok girls must be a factor in the issue of dialogue.
 The deadline given by the president to crush the insurgents: do you think it is achievable?
 It is baffling to me as a layman but I respect his military background and as I always say, these people in positions like that have information flowing in to them from all directions; from Chad, Niger, Cameroon, from our military chiefs, from the DSS. So by the time he collates all these, he probably found or he could plot a graph showing that December is a possible date. So I don’t want to question that. But for me as a layman, I would have been sceptical because the Boko Haram insurgents have proved far more difficult than we ever anticipated.
 You recently took a position on the situation in Osun State by condemning the lady judge that submitted a petition to the State House of Assembly calling for the impeachment of the governor. Why did you take that position, as some people are saying it is because you have a soft spot for the APC and the governor is of the APC?
 I have heard about that, and I felt a bit sad. There is so much scepticism, cynicism in the land. Nobody trusts another anymore in this country. Everybody thinks everybody has a motive; you won’t do anything unless you are getting something back. That is how bad we have degenerated and I don’t blame them for saying that. But there are still quite a number of Nigerians who, out of principle, have a belief, have a cause and speak out of conviction, not out of benefit or anything. Yes, I think the APC is a much better entity and organisation than the PDP. I think so but that is not the reason I spoke out against the judge.
 Are you a card-carrying member of APC?
 I am not going to answer that question.
 Why?
 Because it is my own private right and so I am not going to answer it. But I certainly prefer APC to the PDP, there is no question about that.
 So, what is your reason for speaking out against the judge?
 I was shocked that she did all those things she did and the state Judicial Service Commission did nothing, the National Judiciary Commission did nothing, they just allowed her free reign, to be going on a rampage all over the state, and a judge for that matter. I don’t know what word to use with regard to a judge; it is the most disgraceful and embarrassing sort of image that somebody at that level could project to the world. Judges from time immemorial are people of dignity, decorum and respect, who make statement only in their judgments and in the courts and when they leave the courts, you do not hear anything from them, they keep themselves detached from the public, they don’t take part in the rough and tumble of politics. So, they are placed in that pedestal which compels us to respect them. So when you see us bowing and saying, ‘My Lord’, taking orders from them and taking directives and so on without being able to challenge them directly except by way of appeal, it is because of that type of level of dignity and respect and the importance of their job in society. But when that lady decided to become a politician and decided to politically and publicly attack the head of the government of her state, government that appointed her in office, she completely discarded all the respect, dignity and decorum associated with that office. She turned it into, as I said in another forum, she became a street fighter which is a thing that we should never ever expect from a judge. So, as far as I am concerned, the minute she issued that statement and got it published as emanating from her, she has lost the right to continue to be a judge, she has lost that right and she brought the whole judiciary into shame and odium and she should no longer be in that office. I think she should be queried, disciplined and removed as a lesson to all other people that, ‘if you want to be a politician, you be a politician, if you want to be a judge, then know that there is decorum and respect in it’. Who will appear in her court now and not feel uncomfortable? She’s like any other person in the street, not one of those people that we respect very much. I think she desecrated her oath of office.

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