Princewill Akpakpan, Senior Principal Partner at Knights Law firm, Staff Attorney of the Civil Liberties Organization (CLO), Lagos, in this interview with STEPHANIE OSUNKWO, says that only a few ministers deserve appointment while some others do not.
WERE you satisfied with the screening process through which the Senate confirmed the new ministers?
Well, the way the Senate handled the ministerial screening was not satisfactory in anyway. Nigerians were not really satisfied with the process. Some of them were just putting some questions that were irrelevant. Some senators did not get to the nitty-gritty to extract what potentials the prospective minister was going to have on what portfolio to affect the economy. They were just throwing political questions, some irrelevant questions. Some of them were just making some peripheral cross-examining; questions that were not relevant for the purpose of extracting whatever a particular minister is supposed to get to build up into the economy. Only few of these ministers are good; people with good pedigree. The chaff should be separated from the grains so that by the time we remove those ministers who have high pedigree, who have achieved in different areas, we will leave those politicians who are not going to give any value to the country.
Would you consider the controversy the screening and confirmation of Rotimi Amaechi necessary?
It was actually not necessary because the Amaechi has some constitutional encumbrance to be made a minister by the provision of Section 66 of the Constitution which talks about qualification, disqualification of member to the House of Representatives. Why would the President forward such a person with such constitutional liability or such constitutional encumbrance? Why should they bring all those petitions and how does a President handle such issue. The senate did not even help matters. In the face of these constitutional encumbrances, they just want to bring Amaechi in because he was one of the sponsors of President Muhammadu Buhari and, therefore, Amaechi cannot do any wrong. This is not good for a fledgling democracy and also not good for the so-called anti-corruption stance that the President talks about. Anybody that even smells corruption should be kept aside. If all those allegations are discharged or at the end, cleared, the President can still forward Amaechi’s name for ministerial screening. They are just panel beating our constitution just to satisfy certain political interests.
There were also allegations against Fashola (wrong or right); those allegations were not investigated, does that tell there is genuine commitment to fight corruption?
There is no real commitment, the fight against corruption must be on equal pedestrian, must be without coloration; whether ethnic coloration, political coloration or ideological coloration. The government should fight corruption on good objective scale without sentiments. When corruption is being fought on political coloration, when APC former governors are not being invited or investigated by EFCC, PDP members are being investigated, even the objective standard cannot look at the government as being fair.
Do you agree with critics that President Buhari has not given direction to APC change mantra?
Well, I was hoping that APC would bring change because of the anti-corruption pedigree of President Buhari but anti-corruption, alone, cannot make Nigeria move forward. I was looking at a President who contested in 2003, 2007, 2011 before he won in 2015, that he had a blue print and as soon as he got into office, there will be no delay to hit the ground running. Unfortunately, I discovered a President who appears not to have an idea of what governance is all about. I see a President who does not have any understanding of the basic economy in Nigeria and how the country should be run. The same person is telling you that the ministers are noise makers. So, if you juxtapose it with the fact that most of the ministers who have ideas are noise makers, and the President does not have ideas on his own. Now, you look at a President who would have already made up his mind without listening to the advice and the quality of the advice of the ministers. If he says they noise makers, at the end, he will neglect most of the useful advice. A President must equally have knowledge of the economy because he will be able to make some good decisions. If a president does not have a good grasp or understand the basic economic policies of a country, he may not even know the advice to take and the one to neglect.
I have seen Professor Osibanjo, the Vice President but I don’t even know if the President is tapping from the knowledge of this man.
There are so many imbalances in the government of the country today. In the judiciary, the Chief Justice of Nigeria, the head of the judiciary, is a northerner; the head of the federal legislature, the Senate President, is a northerner; the Speaker, a northerner; the head of the executive, the President is a northerner.
The Governorship Elections Petitions Tribunal in Abuja nullified the election of Governor Nyesom Wike, do you perceive fairness in that judgment?
Well, I wouldn’t go into the issue of the Rivers Election Tribunal judgment so much because the matter is on appeal. On the judgment of the Supreme Court that the tribunal can sit outside Rivers State, the Supreme Court is right because when you look at the glaring case of insecurity. So, sitting in Abuja is not a big problem.
On the issue of the election situation, I haven’t really looked at. From what I got, I have not really studied the judgement in order to make a good decision. But if the judgement is based on card reader, it will appear contradictory. The card reader was an issue in Lagos State which was affirmed by the Supreme Court that card reader was not meant to be a full issue for determination of election. If the Rivers tribunal now yield to the card reader to annul election, then, it will be a contradictory judgement. The matter is equally on appeal, so, we will see how the Appeal Court will make distinction so that they will apply the law. In Akwa Ibom, most of the card readers were rejected. I don’t think that the card reader, itself, is sufficient for the nullification of the election. My understanding of card reader is that it is a measure portioned to electoral guideline which is made by INEC. The constitution provide rules for the Electoral Act, the Electoral Act now gives INEC the power to make guidelines, which is where the card reader comes in. that is complementary to the Electoral Act. It is a device for the purpose of making a free and fair election and therefore, should complement the Electoral Act.