One of the foremost Senior Advocates of Nigeria, Mallam Yusuf Olaolu Ali, in this interview with Judiciary Correspondent, KAYODE ADEOTI speaks on the spate of corruption in the Nigerian public service among other sundry issues. Excerpts:
Corruption seems to be eating deeper into fabric of Nigeria as over N36m was reportedly swallowed up by snake in JAMB office, how would you react to this development?
It is symptomatic of the total rot in our public service and it only underpins my view that we’ve not started any battle against corruption. For us to be able to do anything about this menace in Nigeria, we have to be systemic, methodical, thorough, and be patriotic, we must not be partisan about it but transparent, if we don’t have all these in place, what we are doing so far will amount to dancing round the fringes. I’ve not seen any war against corruption; I’ve seen only some efforts.
(Cut in…) What is your position on the issue?
This matter didn’t just happened but way back, before Prince Ishiaq Oloyede became the registrar. I’m aware that the lady whom the issue of the money revolved round has been paying it back. But, my view on this issue of corruption, when a public officer is caught in the web, he should not just be dismissed and sent home, but he should be tried in the court of Law and let the consequences follow.
On the issue of an High Court judge who was recently given compulsory retirement, there are lot of controversies surrounding the matter, can you put things in the right perspectives?
Don’t forget that he was taken to court, he was tried and later discharged unacquainted. The issue of misconduct is different from criminal allegations. If the NJC still feels that what he did amounted to the breach of code of conduct of judges which is not a criminal thing, as a professional, one can be liable under the rules of professional ethics and may not be liable in criminal liability and that is what happened.
Our prison system is reportedly becoming where inmate’s life get worsened, Federal Government is however proposing a rehabilitation, what would you say about this development and what aspect would you suggest should be area of focus?
It’s better late than never, at least something is coming, let them put it on the table, because you cannot abolish the prison. It should be a rehabilitation centre not where people go as petty thieves and come out as hardened criminals. To get it in a better form, no effort is little nor late.
Recently, former President Olusegun Obasanjo wrote a letter to the sitting President asking him not to seek re-election in 2019, this action is followed by a formulation of a Coalition Movement, what do you consider as legal implications of this on our polity?
We should thank God for having somebody like Obasanjo in Nigeria, for him to say his mind, it will be wrong of us to think that every former president of Nigeria should behave like former American presidents. Former American presidents will hardly criticise their successors openly and reason is because they have systems that are working, here, our systems are not working. We need more of Obasanjo who will tell those leaders of today, the truth, who will not fear any intimidation, harassment or whatever. How many Nigerians will say what Obasanjo said and there won’t be reprisals, unlike in America where their system is on autopilot, they have strong institutions, we only have strong men in Nigeria, no institution. We need more of Obasanjo who will address people in power, to me, I’m not saying all what he said was true or false but we need people who can stand up, who have the credibility that will make people listen to them.
The controversy surrounding the confirmation of Ibrahim Magu as the EFCC boss seems to be resurfacing, what do you consider could be done in order to put the issue to rest?
It’s the constitutional duties of the Senate to confirm, not to confirm certain appointments of the Federal Government. If a name has not been submitted to the Senate, they cannot reject or approve but once it is submitted and invariably rejected, it is morally and conditionally wrong to insist that the person rejected should continue to act in that position. If a name is submitted for nomination as a Minister and if it’s rejected, can the person be performing as an acting Minister? This is common sense, are we saying there is only one honest man who could head that office in Nigeria?