In this telephone interview with ACTING EDITOR, MUMINI ABDULKAREEM from Abuja, Barrister Salman Adelodun (SAN) shares his thoughts on the trial of suspended EFCC chairman, Ibrahim Magu, the leadership crisis rocking the NBA among other issues of interest. Excerpts:
How do you view the whole scenario playing out in the ongoing trial of the suspended EFCC chairman, Ibrahim Magu particularly as regards the accusation from the Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the federation, Abubakar Malami?
Quite frankly, all I see playing out on the issue of Magu’s trial is that we are moving on as a fledgling democracy and making progress, although the progress may be slow, confusing or scary, but we are making progress. It is out of all these confusion and lethargy that we will begin to find our way as a country. Hitherto, you can hardly see the executive fighting itself. What we use to have is one arm of the government having issue with another arm. But when you have the same arm of government in this case Magu and the Attorney General who are all part of the executive engaging themselves like this, it show we are moving. Perhaps what they are doing may not be for altruistic reason because we don’t know the motive behind all of this and people could read and infuse different meanings into it. But out of all of this, we will come out stronger and better and precedence will be made such that other people coming in the future will not do what those there now are doing. One of the problems that have put us where we are today is that in those days, they were no consequences and people just do whatever they like and nobody questions them. Now, we are having the courage to attack each other and bring out issues even if it is for what some of our people will call “bad belle” or vindictive reasons. The important thing is that we are having an opportunity to look into our public institution and public officials to see what they are doing and ask questions. This is all part of what democracy is all about that the people in government should be held accountable to the people that put them there. Today, Nigerians are being offered that opportunity. It is now for us to decide where and how to place the narrative. Let me tell you, even if this is not for altruistic reasons, we are not where we were yesteryears.
Some people have advocated for the appointment of someone outside the police as a way to strengthen the EFCC. Where do you stand on this debate?
From time, I have never believed that a policeman should be appointed, either serving or retired, as head of EFCC. I have never thought that was right and I still remain convinced that the constitution should be tinkered with such that the chairman of EFCC should not be a policeman.
What is your take on the leadership debate of who should be elected to lead the bar at the national level between members of the inner and outer bar?
I am one of those that subscribed very strongly to the leadership of the NBA being a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN). Attaining the position of SAN is the apogee that a lawyer can aspire to reach and when you are there it is assumed that you have gotten to the pinnacle as a lawyer. And so ordinarily, such person is not expected to be influenced by any consideration in the discharge of his duty. In the first place, as a SAN leading the bar, such individual will be talking at best to his peers, nobody is above him and it is easy for such person to command followership and regard of members of your association. He can call on anybody because no matter how high such a person who is been delegated may be, he/she is not more than a SAN. But when you have none SAN heading the bar, such scenario may not be easy for a junior counsel to delegate SAN as head of committee or to run any assignment. Though I am not saying it is impossible, no, but it just might be that we need someone who is at the top to run an organisation like the NBA. Secondly, don’t let anybody deceive you, every lawyer aspire to get to the highest in his profession just like doctors, engineers, accountants and architects. And when you are aspiring to get to the highest position in any of these fields, there is a limit to how one can attack the authorities because you want to be in the good books of the appointors. So if an aspirant for SAN has issue with judges and others that will have a hand in his appointment, he/she will be very careful in confronting the authorities. So either way, these are just some of the issues that are involved. I subscribed strongly that the presidency of NBA should be given to a senior advocate.
The EFCC has officially file charges against some persons that allegedly tinkered with the result of the election that brought in the current NBA President, Paul Usoro (SAN). What is your view about this extremely worrying situation from a body like NBA that should ordinarily be showing the way on aspect of leadership and what is your advice going forward?
First, I don’t want to on account of accusation begin to pass verdict because someone accused is not the same thing as being found guilty. So this is only an accusation. I don’t know who the EFCC has arraigned or those they have fingered, but what I am saying is that in Nigeria and any part of the world, there are thousands of instances where those accused of something were later discharged at the end of the day. So we cannot start damnifying or give verdict now when the people so accused have not been heard or found culpable. But if and I want you to underline the word if, it is discovered some people actually tampered with the result, then that is really bad and very sad for NBA leadership. As a bar, we are expected to give direction and show example to the society as an organisation that is always looked up to for direction. It cannot be us again doing something like this. The bar should take a very strong position on the matter, it is really a bad signal coming from bar.
What do you make of the ongoing probe of NDDC by the National Assembly?
Look, in a democracy and particularly in a presidential system that we are running in the country, the legislature has oversight functions in relation to the activities of the executive. To that extent, the national assembly is well within its realm of jurisdiction to probe the activities of the NDDC. But what has played out in the proceeding sincerely speaking is not a basis to conclude one way or the other and I would rather want to wait to let them come out with their report before we start making any serious comment. Yes, some dramas have played out and we could make insinuations. I have read and heard people saying there are pretences about the collapse of the Acting Managing Director of the NDDC, Kemebradikumo Pondei, but I am not a medical doctor and I don’t have any basis upon which to base a very strong comment on things like that. But honestly, I think we should just wait and allow NASS to finish their public hearing and come out with a report. If at the end of the day, we found out that the funds of the NDDC has been stolen and mismanaged, the law will take its course and then we can make comment. But as far as I am concern, the national assembly is doing a good job.