Barrister Abdulwahab Bamidele is the principal counsel of Foyeke Chambers, Ilorin, the Kwara State capital. In this interview with KAYODE ADEOTI, he speaks on the proposed immunity for lawmakers, the need for Federal Government to fund Independent Electoral Commission (INEC) to conduct LG polls among other sundry issues. Excerpts:
What can you say about the proposed immunity for National Assembly member in the ongoing constitution amendment?
It’s a good development in the sense that the concept of immunity has to do with having good governance at the level of Legislative House of Assembly; the one that is well known is that of the Governors and the President. The whole idea behind it is to secure the office from distractions that may be associated with the office. There are lots of unnecessary, frivolous litigations that confront members of this chamber. But with the immunity, the tendency to drag public office holders to court on flimsy ground would be erased. If our National Assembly enjoys it, it is good. There is a law that give them the resemblance of immunity in the present time; you cannot serve them court process while they are still in power. But the one proposed for them now is a full flair one such that whatever they do now, you cannot sue them until they end their tenure
Do you think if given the immunity, it will not water down the fight against corruption?
Corruption, we all know, is a cankerworm and it has eaten so deep into the fabrics of our country, we should also know that this standard of governance we are witnessing, particularly from the advent of democracy till date, has been reducing perhaps, because of peoples’ awareness about their right to criticise government or agitate for certain things from government. And, as these agitations increase, the tendency that people will want to take undue advantage will be there. I think that is what informed the wisdom behind the judgement of the Assembly in the case of this immunity, abi ni tio, there is corruption in the society and we need to fight it head-long, the mechanism to fight it is not only by litigation, for it to have been completely hatched out, certain things must have been put in place. So, why not put those things in place first. The psyche of an average Nigerian is the problem; we tend to worship people for the volume of money they are able to squander. We failed to ask them questions. When we see a person driving millions of naira car, we don’t ask questions on his source of money. We have public complaint agency, we don’t use it.
Sir, members of the public want to know how long the President (Muhammed Buhari) can be away from office and duty on medical ground.
For every provision of the law to become applicable and enforceable, there must be surrounding facts. The law regulates how long the President can stay out of office. In the case of our President, it is no longer news to everybody that he’s sick and the kind of ailment, he is suffering from is not the type that will make NASS bring that law into application. Of course, the law recognises that if a President or Governor suffers any infirmity of the body, he could be a ground for his resignation. But the person to take that decision is the occupier of that position. Only NASS can set up team of medical expert that will access the President’s health and later come up with report on whether he is capable to continue in office or not. There are agitations for and against on whether he should resign or not, but the agitations against him is not strong. This means, people still have strong hope in his recovery. They want him to continue in his fight against corruption, and they believe that will lead the country to a better height some day.
What is your view on the proposed eradication of the states’ owned electoral commission?
Largely, National Assembly is empowered to make laws for the country and whatever law they will make will promote the welfare, happiness, goodness prosperity and the development of the country. There have been complaints here and there against states owned electoral commissions, specifically in the conduct of their social responsibilities, for instance, the conduct of the local government elections across the country. It has also been argued that most of these states owned electoral bodies are under the state governments’ control. Though, this doesn’t mean the commission is not working well in some states. Members of the public have posited that the composition of the commission and it processes are nothing to write home about. Because of these ugly allegations, the National Assembly might be scrapping the system in order to promote true democracy, and INEC that appears to be improving successively should take over, this is to promote democracy particularly at the local government level. I will also want to add that it may be too much of responsibility on INEC, we are talking of elections in the 774 local governments we have in the country. In the state and Federal, elections they conduct, it has not been easy for INEC because of the logistic, money and the rest. By the time you add local government elections to their portfolio, it becomes herculean task, but if INEC is well funded, it will take care of the logistic for the LG poll. The first one they will conduct will be used as yardstick on whether they should continue or not.