Banire, EFCC and Due Process


National Legal Adviser of the All Progressives Congress, Dr. Muiz Banire is a worthy example in promising leadership, writes Ade Shoyebo

It is a common saying that no one is above the law. For thoughtful Nigerians, the relationship of the law enforcement agencies to the citizens of the land ought to be a matter of major concern. In a civilised society, when a citizen is suspected to have committed a crime, the law enforcement agency will commence investigation stretching their investigative network widely. But the moment those interrogated were found to be innocent, they quickly discharged the suspect(s) and set them free from prosecution.

Everyone knows that great uneasiness existed a couple of weeks ago in respect of EFCC’s interrogation of Dr. Muiz Banire (SAN), who voluntarily approached the EFCC office having read an allegation from an online social media that he bribed a judge of the National Industrial Court (NIC), Justice Agbeda James Fishim. Language had been held also that about 50 lawyers including over 10 Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SANs) were involved in the solicitation of cash gift by the so-called Judge.

In Dr. Banire’s case, while admitting he gave the said judge a gift of N500,000 in 2013, in response to a request from the judge for financial assistance towards his mother’s burial ceremony, he also clarified in his statement that he never appeared before this said judge either as a lawyer or a litigant.

Dr. Muiz Banire, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, the National Legal Adviser of the All Progressives Congress and National Convener of United Action for Change, an NGO, is a strong advocate of anti-corruption campaign and will never indulge himself in any illegal act whatsoever.

Law and order on the other hand was discussed to a fare-thee-well in one of the NGO (UAC) round table conference held recently and which was widely publicised. A precipicious rise in the corruption rate and the accompany fear of crime, which had become so infectious that President Muhammadu Buhari described it as “a public malady” provided a ready opportunity for demagoguery. It was not lost. Dr. Muiz Banire’s UAC entire campaign was based on the issue and so was a large part of the APC-led federal government.

By the time the EFCC commenced the anti-corruption war in recent time, the contention had created in some Nigerians more fear of crime than crime itself, because they interpreted the fervent cry for law and order, without an equally fervent cry for justice, as heralding a move towards repression and tyranny
In their view, once the people were sufficiently aroused over the threat of being engulfed by criminality and public disorders they might be persuaded to set aside their own constitutional safeguards as the only way to preserve society, and thereby utterly destroy it.

For those who know Dr. Banire well, they will testify that he is an example of the psychologically mature man, extremely generous and thoroughly integrated round the highest relationship possible to man – always rendering moral and financial assistances to whosoever sought for same from him, be his colleagues, associations, students – many who are today benefitting from his scholarship largess, or clubs, religious bodies and humanity in general.

He knows too that doing good and preaching the truth will always attract persecution, but he is always sure that the blood of those he told the truth will not be demanded from him. The interesting part of this is the amazingly practical way his guidance works out.
If a man’s life is thoroughly integrated in God, he finds a dominant purpose in which everything fits. It does not mean rigidity, but being so flexible as to be responsive to unexpected opportunities giving further opportunities to serve God and mankind.

Dr. Banire is perfectly disciplined. He does not wander voluntarily in his spiritual life. He goes direct to the source all the time and expects the source to come directly to him. Whatever he does, he feels must be right, since he is doing what is the guided thing for him to do.

Dr. Muiz Banire has demonstrated through his action and reaction to this so-called bribery investigation and given example that citizens need not wait for invitation when one’s name is mentioned on an allegation of an unlawful deed before making a clarification to assist the investigators. In this case, he went through all protocol available to all people and didn’t protest. He did not attribute this to witch-hunting as may be said by some people.

The most outstanding of this act was when he went further than most modern minds are willing to follow him and wrote the National Chairman of his party, All Progressives Congress (APC) and offered to step aside on moral grounds from his position as the Party’s National Legal Adviser until investigation into the allegation is concluded, which is unprecedented. A template that is foreign or unknown in Africa. Similar letter was sent to the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami (SAN) about his decision to step aside, from the Electoral Reform Committee.

As a Senior Advocate, Dr. Banire, I believe, knows what our constitution allows in the 5th schedule part 1 of the Constitution Rule 6 (3) that a Public Officer shall only accept personal gifts or benefits from relatives or personal friends to such extent and on such occasions as are recognised by customs.

The effectiveness of any law, however, is the moral or physical sanction which underlies it. Physical sanctions are the common and prevailing means of law enforcement in view of the frailties of human nature. It is the physical might of government which prevents crime and protects the individual in the enjoyment of his natural rights and liberties. Moral sanctions are those imposed by an individual upon himself and depend on his sense of justice and duty to do what is right.

If all citizens, particularly those holding important positions in our society were moral and responsive to moral sensibilities as demonstrated by Dr. Muiz Banire, there might be something to the cry, “Follow Due Process” which has now attested to integrity and honour of Dr. Muiz Banire (SAN).

Every impulse of feeling is always guided by reason, and in this writer’s own opinion and as one of the beneficiaries of Dr. Muiz Banire’s generosity, I would like to conclude this article by pleading that exertion should be in proportion to what is required. The EFCC should do the needful, follow due process and let Dr. Banire off the hook in the interest of justice.

-Shoyebo, an author and publisher, wrote from Lagos