Tunde Falola is a lawyer whose views on legal issues is greatly respected. In this interview with our Judiciary Reporter, KAYODE ADEOTI, he speaks on the danger inherent in the delay of 2018 budget passage among other issues. Excerpts:
There seems to be some moves by the National Assembly for the impeachment of Mr. President. What is your take on this?
The impeachment saga can be viewed from two different angles. First is the political perspective, it’s suppose to be the last weapon of the legislative arm of government if the President has committed an impeachable offence. Another aspect is that of constitution, it’s part of the duties of that arm of government to carry it out. We have diverse interests as far as the Senate and the House of Reps are concerned. Each lawmakers has different political purpose, they have members that cut across different political parties. But in the other hand, the impeachment is the role of the National Assembly and it must be sparingly carried out. Impeachment is a very sensitive issue that can later send wrong message if care is not taken. One needs to be very sure of his fact when raising an allegation of impeachable offence. The alleged offence is that the appropriation of the purchase of aircraft didn’t pass the floor of the House, that it is not in the budget. The challenges we are facing in the passage of budget, to me, is very complex and political in nature. If the budget presented has some amendments, for reason best know to the legislative arm of government, they will have to send it back to the executive. In the process of sending it, an error could also occur in which some items will be added to it, such development happened recently in which we now gave it a name, budget padding. This could be one of the major delays in the passage. Another political reason delaying the budget is ego. What is playing out now at the National Assembly testifies to this, we have cases in which president will present nominees for federal positions and they will be rejected by the NASS. The case of Ibrahim Magu is still very fresh in our memories. Till date, Magu is till being rejected, the National Assembly claimed that based on the reports of him submitted to the floor of the Senate, he’s not fit for the position of EFCC chairman. But the presidency insisted that it believes strongly in him. That scenario has however brought a kind of political struggle between the two arms. When two elephants fight, it’s the grass that suffers, we can now feel the impacts of their political struggle on common Nigerians. Practically, it’s like Nigerian economy is grounded. Federal ministries cannot release money for the execution of projects to contractors, they all claimed they are waiting for the passage of 2018 budget before money can be made available. The delay has lots of multiplier effect. It has been sent since November last year, and the time of passage supposed to be reasonable.
Since herdsmen killings has continued unabated, how do you think our government can stop it?
We need to first define who herdsmen are, are they terrorist branded as herdsmen? At a time, the president himself said it was those who fled Lybia who are fighting Nigeria. President should have summoned courage to tell us what we are really facing. In the case of Boko Haram, we know what we are fighting terrorist. Let president tell us who these people are, then we will know how to offer solutions. The irony of it is that our security apparatus are overwhelmed. They’ve not been able to address the issue. The Nigerian military men are trying their best but they’ve not been able to come up with lasting yardstick. Unless we get serious and deploy more powerful forces against them, the killings will go on and what that indicates is a failure on the part of government, security agencies and our leadership. Like what General T.Y Danjuma (retired) said when he indicted that the Nigeria military have compromised and because of that, he called for self defence, If such could be raised by him, it means there is a political undertone. There is a conspiracy of silence in the whole matter. People believe that the herdsmen are president’s kinsmen and as a result, he failed to take decisive action on it.