‘Blame the Political Class, Lawyers and the Judiciary for Conflicting Court Rulings’

Yusuf Ali
Hammed Shittu holds a discussion with  the former Chairman, Nigeria Bar Association Anti-corruption Crusade and Senior Advicoate of Nigeria,  on the state of nation

You are an advocate of a corrupt free society. recently, the Attorney General of the Federation wrote Mr President accusing the suspended  Chairman of the  Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC, Mr.Ibrahim Magu of insubordination, inability to account for proceeds of the recovered loots among other sundry allegations. Don’t you think there is a problem within knowing that one of the cardinal obejctives of this administration is anchored on fighting corruption?

This matter did not start yesterday. What was the main reason given by the Eight Senate for non-confirmation of (Ibrahim Magu)? It is because the DSS wrote a report that was negative on the same person. So, if you all knew where we were coming from, I’m not sure anybody will be too surprised about what was going on.

What would compel the Attorney General to put pen to paper to the President?  I think the Attorney General wouldn’t want to do anything that will tarnish his own image. So, I think we should just wait for the man, who has authority to tell us where we are going.

The AGF appeared not disposed to the trial of the killer-soldiers, who reportedly rescued the alleged kidnap kingpin in Taraba State, Bala Hamisu also known as Wadume from Policemen, who arrested him and shot dead three of the policemen. What would you say about this?

I think the best thing is for the media to ask him (Abubakar Malami) what informed his decision. When you want to prosecute, you have to look at a lot of things. I’m not holding forth for the Attorney General of the Federation but at the same time, I want to believe that he would have valid reasons. So, it is for the media to ask him what informed his decision to prosecute some people and not others.

But the fear that would be rapists would go scot free after they might have been handed over to the police has always been the problem.. (Cuts in)

They wouldn’t go scot free. I think the problem is that when you take them to courts, people start to mount pressure on the parents or the victims. So, if you don’t go to courts to give evidence, what would the courts do? The courts will let go. So, it is a very complicated issue. It is just because of the kind of people we are. There is no crime Nigerians cannot go and beg for. Even robbery, they will go to the victims and beg.

We must know that there must be some level of decency in life. How would somebody rape somebody and then you come that it just happened like that. By the time they kill you or cut your penis, then you know it also happens like that.

 If you should stand up and wage war against rape, what would you prescribe to stem it?

We should all just stand firmly against it, and that we should not listen to the African method of settlement of issues like that. Anybody who has committed rape must face the consequence and pay the price. We should not use our social system to embarrass, blackmail or cajole the victims and their families. We must bring up our children in proper ways either boys or girls.

And let them be exposed to some sort of self defence. It may be judo or karate so that the girls are in position to decapitate a man, who is mad enough to force his way on them. I think these things should be introduced in primary schools so that young girls would know how to disarm a man, who has his brain between his legs.

In recent times, High Courts of coordinate jurisdiction have given conflicting rulings on party politics. As a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, don’t you think the development is making mockery of the judiciary?

It takes two tto tango. Courts don’t just decide on issues if people don’t bring their problems there. If you want to appeal, especially in political matters that there should be no conflicting judgements, first of all, you beg the politicians. Lawyers don’t go to courts except somebody comes to brief them. So, let us start from the start. We are talking about court. You are going on top of the tree, what happens at the base? So, it is a whole lot of things.

One, let us appeal to Nigerian politicians. We are not playing honourable politics here, and in any endeavour when there is no honesty of purpose, you wouldn’t achieve anything. So, there is no honesty of purpose in our politics. I think that is the starting point.

Two, I appeal to our Police. We should not encourage politicians to do forum shopping. If you are quarreling about political positions in Kwara, why would you go and file case in Oyo State? Three, our judges should read the newpapers. If a political matter occurs in Zamfara and you are coming to Lagos to litigate about it, our judges should wash their hands off and ask the litigant to go back to his state.

So, it is an appeal to every person, not just to the courts or lawyers alone. As a matter of fact, it takes three to tango,  the political class, lawyers and then the judiciary.  I think it is the Nigerianess in us that is causing the problem.

While Nigeria has continued to grapple with COVID-19 pandemic, the rampant cases of rape have dominated the discourse. As a father, would you propose a severe penalty for would be rapist?

Anybody who rapes somebody else is like committing a murder, because you have technically killed the person you raped. That person can never be herself again in life. You have destroyed her dignity, self worth and humanity. Anybody who has been raped is like a walking corpse. For me, rape is running side by side with kidnapping on the scale of criminality. So, no punishment would be too much.

Let me also say this. It is possible that there is upsurge in the crime. But I have a feeling that this thing has been going on for long, it is because people are not bold enough to come out and say this thing. Now, people are finding their courage and voices, especially the victims. We should encourage the victims. Good neighbourliness should not be extended to condoning crime. That is inhuman.

How do you view the move by the DISCOs to increase electricity tarrif in spite of the endemic poverty in the land?

When people do business, they are there to make profit. Let me give an example. When NITEL was to be sold, there was so much problem in this country. When the telecommunication was liberalised, today, we are all better for it. I remember vividly, if your landline got spoilt those days, the guys who were working in NITEL were like demigods. But when GSM came, what do we have today? Nigerians like cheap things. But quality things don’t come cheaply, even quality life.

Electricity is not cheap anywhere, because the money that is used to generate and transport it, does not come cheap. Now, the DISCOs bought the power facilities, because they thought they could make money. The same thing with downstream sector of petroleum. People came to invest money. Private people don’t give subsidy. And if you see America, it does not subsidize consumption things like this. America subsidizes agriculture and mass public transport system.

If you want to have regular power, we must encourage people to come and invest money and people who invest money must make profit. We must also not forget that Nigerians are employed in all these places. I have heard the argument that they should cancel the DISCOs, if we do that, foreign direct investment in this country would come to almost zero almost immediately. It means you cannot abide by contractual agreement.

I think the DISCOs should be told in clear terms, all users must be metered. And it is so easy. Nobody quarrels with MTN or Glo now, you load your money, when you finish, you can’t make call again. They should do same with electricity. But from all the literature that I have read, without paying commensurate money for consumption of electricity, we would continue to have problem.

I’m a lawyer. Even though I do pro bono matters, I still have to make enough money to pay those who work for the office either lawyers or non-lawyers.

The issue of insecurity has continued unabated. Would you suggest a forward?

I’m a layman about the security and the others, and I’m equally affected by insecurity like others. Prayer is important but I think God has given us the brain to think out of the box. I have said this several times. When kidnapping was rampant, I said you can deploy technology to fight some of the crime if not all.

At that time, I said deploy drones that would have CCTV and cameras to all the troubled spots. And then, there can be control room somewhere. I also said let Rapid Response Helicopters be (in place). Once they sight something anywhere, within a twinkle of an eye, they would be there. Modern crime fighting is more technologically based and we are not reinventing the wheel. We are just to go and buy from those who already have these things (equipment).

But I have a sense that it is not impossible you have people whose duty was to go after these people (criminals), who are also beneficiaries of whatever happens in the things. And the unfolding drama in Taraba comes out clearly in support of that theory. If people are beneficiaries of a wrong system, they will want to perpetrate it for as long as it takes.

Due to the spate of insecurity, some eminent Nigerians have called for the removal of Service Chiefs. Would you also toe same path as a senior lawyer?

The President did not consult us when he was appointing these people (service chiefs). But we are entitled to make comments about their performance. Going by what is on ground in terms of the level of insecurity in the Northeast, kidnapping all over the country, banditry, cattle rustling…

Every time we are told Boko Haram has been degraded, they come back with venom. I think we have to overhaul our security architecture. It is beyond even removing people. We must overhaul our security architecture. Some things are not working right in our system. So, I think for me, it is more than just service chiefs. We should dig deeper to get to the bottom of all these, otherwise we would be moving in circles.