Barrister Taiye Oniyide made impact in the Kwara State jurisdiction through his contributions in peace arbitrations and other areas. He is also an active member of Bayo Ojo (SAN) chambers in Ilorin, the state capital. In this interview with KAYODE ADEOTI, he speaks on the need to enforce execution of the existing law to halt some negative vices in the society, among other sundry issues. Excerpts:
How do you see the forfeiture of Deazani’s $7billion to the Federal Government coffer?
For the court to order forfeiture, it means it is satisfied that the precedence for ordering forfeiture has been met. It is easier to give an opinion from the other side, but when one studies what transpired at the four corners of the court, one would discover that law can’t be better interpreted by those who don’t know it. I praise the attempt and the efforts at curbing corruption in the country and I also concede that due process must be followed. The court has ordered forfeiture, I don’t have the facts before me and I don’t want to speculate but I will want to agree that court has done what the law says. If the defendant is not satisfied, there are procedures which he could take to appeal. The major problem we have with our democracy is corruption and it is pronounced among the public office holders. Unless drastic step is taken, we might not have headways. I salute the present government in the mechanism devised to fight it. It is pertinent that we join hands with the government to combat the menace.
Communal clash was renewed again recently following what happened in Oke-Ero LG of the state, some members of the public have said government should be blamed, can you put things in the right perspectives?
It is a dicey situation. There are lots of traditional institutions that feel aggrieved over their status thereby laying claims to superiority, seniority and the likes. A lot of care needs to be taken in this situation, particularly because of the current position of the law that says grading and upgrading of a traditional monarchs is the responsibility of the government and so there are criteria like the size of the community, history, good behaviour that must be put into consideration. But of what good would it be for a community to claim seniority in a manner that the government will not be able to reckon with? Government of Kwara from 1967 have had reasons to cancel grading system and start afresh usually for political reasons. If the current government upon resumption has discovered that the grading system has been altered for about six times, at what point would it take a lift from? That is why government cannot totally be held responsible.
(Cut in)…What is your position on this situation? Blaming government…?
I wouldn’t say government has not done the right thing, and at the same time, it is difficult for me to blame the institution because of the law that says it is entirely at the discretion of the government. That means even if it sees merit, it can overlook it for certain reasons or situations. Take for instance, in a community, where there are five Obas and all of them are of the same grade and there is a need to have paramount ruler among them, the government can choose any of the five and it may be possible that historically the one that is most senior is not chosen. Would you blame government in that regards? The issue is complex, though I will not exonerate government and at the same time, I won’t blame it.
The issue of ritual killings in our society, especially in Ilorin; do you think that certain laws should be implemented to prevent it?
It is unfortunate that we have such prevailing. In respect to what action can be taken, particularly if there are laws that could be made, I can tell you affirmatively that we have more than enough laws to curb crimes. Making laws is not what we need, rather the execution of these laws, more efforts need to be put in place by the law enforcement agencies and the government. It is also unfortunate that it has extended to cultism. The institutions of higher learning have role to play in this aspect too since cultism relates to students of higher institutions. The action has to start from within because a house that is divided against itself cannot hold.
The issue of police detaining suspect beyond 24 or 48 hours has been greatly condemned, what is your take on it?
On this issue, we lawyers believe that the law is an ass. This means that the law can be made to suit several purposes. The law is clear on the time frame a suspect can be detained, but the law also give rooms for exceptional cases, especially when the police are not through with their investigations. The fact that the kingpin kidnapper, Evans took government to court is funny, but as long as he is a human being and subject to law, would the law not avail him? And if that be the case, why are we having lawyers defending culpable homicide and the rest? What the law says is that within 24 or 48 hours, the police must charge the suspect to court. The beauty of it is that, the police had already gone to court to seek for extension of time. So, there are exceptions to the rules. It is on that basis I will agree that the police had done the right thing, because they went to court to seek for an extension of time. No matter the gravity of the offence, he is presumed innocent, until the court proves it otherwise. The nature of the offence appears usual to the layman, he is still innocent. Even if the suspect confesses to the crime, the court must record not guilty for him and allow the prosecution team to establish the case. For as long as that is the position of things, we are bound to follow it. Our society is guided by law and Nigeria is not a country that allows jungle justice. Law must still take its course. A suspect confessing before administrative authorities is not yet condemned as he/she must be condemned by the court of law. The suspect took government to court because he felt his fundamental human right has been infringed upon.