- Ajibola Basiru is the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice- State of Osun. He holds a doctorate degree in law, from the University of Lagos. In this interview, he speaks on the administration of criminal justice/justice sector reform, Governor Rauf Aregbesola’s administration and how the state is curbing the menace of kidnapping and ritualists. Excerpts:
- By Dayo Benson
- WHAT are your visions for justice delivery system in the State of Osun? I, mean, do you have a justice sector plan?
The last compilation of the record of laws in State of Osun was documented in 2002. When we resumed office as a new administration, we commissioned a consultant to properly examine these laws. I’ve been involved in the development of the laws since 2011 when I was appointed. At present, we have been able to pass 44 new laws and we have 20 pending legislations before the State Assembly. The issue of the administration of criminal justice is one of such laws before the State House of Assembly. Of course, in the aspect of the criminal justice administration, we did not just regurgitate what the Federal Government has put in place because we discovered that some clauses were problematic and decided to improve on them.
Compilation of an unfinished project
I would say that the reason we have not come up with the compilation of the laws is because in the making of the law, either in the reforming or making it dynamic and responsive to social-economic development, is an on-going process. Therefore, to fix the process by making a compilation would result to a compilation of an unfinished project. However, the laws we’ve made among the 44 laws include Public Finance Management legislations, which comprises the insurance law, the Omoluabi conservation law etc.
These are the laws that enabled us access the capital market in order to raise our N30 billion facility Bond. This is because we realized that taking the facilities from the capital market is more beneficial to the state, both in terms of their tenure and terms. This procedure also allowed transparency among all of us. It is worthy to note that one of the laws, the Omoluabi conservation law, really helped us pull through when things became very tough and hard. This unique law stipulates that a percentage of the revenue of the state should be kept in a special account called ‘the Omoluabi Conservation Fund’. And the funds can only be removed with special resolution of the State Assembly.
There are also basically what we call the infrastructure fund, future generation fund and stabilisation funds. More so, money can only be withdrawn from the infrastructure fund when only the state cannot pursue infrastructural development; except at adverse interest rates as defined under the law. There is also future generation fund by which certain percentage of the state’s resources would be set aside for future generation. However, these funds started with N4.2 billion and grew over a period of time. But at a point, capital market became changed due to the fall in the price of oil and challenges in revenue allocation. We were able to draw with the resolution in the House of Assembly some more money and that is why it became possible for us to complete those projects.
It is believed that you are the brain box of the Aregbesola’s administration. Would you say this is the correct position?
The issue of being the brain box of Aregbesola’s administration, I don’t think that is true. I know that Rauf Aregbesola had his own vision, policies. Yes, there might be some occurring convergence in terms of ideological regulation. As a student, I belonged to the Marxist school of thought and adopted the socialist ideal. So, I believe that we both, at some point, share same values.
But I believe that Rauf is someone who has deep ideological inclinations and a clear cut vision of what he wants to do as a governor. Infact, even before he became a governor, he once told us that he would resign if within two years he does not make any tangible transformation. And you can witness for yourself, if you go to State of Osun today, there are lots of transformations in terms of social and physical infrastructures.
You would also observe that there are social protections or programmes like school feeding. Osun youth empowerment schemes are new models that have been adopted by the Federal Government in the social protection regime. So, at this point, I would say that I have been a contributor to the success of Aregbesola’s government. In my first time as Commissioner, I served as Commissioner for Special Duties which led me to undertake several assignments. My ministry was also in charge of policy coordination, but to say otherwise would simply suggest that I went beyond my responsibilities.
All I know of Rauf Aregbesola is that he is intellectual and ideological. Of course, I am committed to his vision of transforming our state. And if, in any way, I offended anybody as a political advisory, it’s simply because of my loyalty to him and I have no apologies for anybody. It’s a shared vision which I believe our goal isn’t just to the State of Osun but to depict how black people can rule themselves.
It’s saddening that anywhere you see the black people, you find poverty, squalor, lawlessness and underdevelopment. We must reverse that trend and cannot continue to make our society act like a community that strictly depend on food; for that is simply the business of animals and not humans. So our black race must not constrain itself to what I call ‘stomach infrastructure’. And yes, I am very determined in achieving our goal and of course, in that process, you will step on toes. There are also those who will be envious of your rising profile. But all I am saying is that irrespective of the adverse criticisms, I am committed to the success of Aregbesola’s administration.
What is the State of Osun doing to ensure the security of its residents against the activities of dreaded Badoo cult group, who the Lagos State police is cracking down on?
I would say that the state of Osun is a law and order territory, even before now. The state government under Rauf Aregbeshola has invested heavily in the security of the state. To that extent, I can boldly tell you that we have had success stories, not only in the apprehension of members of the Badoo group, also in their arraignment before a court of law. For instance, last month, I was at Ilesha High Court, where we got conviction for two kidnappers. I told the court that it should show mercy on the community by giving them maximum sentence because it appears that kidnapping has now become a more lucrative offence than armed robbery. Second, in terms of ritual related offence, I was also before an Osogbo Court where a syndicate was reported to have been mutilating human corpse and selling its parts. On that day, I remember vividly that we were able to successfully tender some of the deceased’s organs like hearts, head, hands, as exhibits. However, in terms of law enforcement and prosecution, State of Osun has a good record in that aspect.
I also remember that during the kidnapping event of the wife of the Speaker State of Osun- House of Assembly, the kidnappers were later successfully apprehended and arraigned before the court. And the state, as part of its investment in security matters, also introduced the use of surveillance helicopter. I believe this is really a good approach because any state that is truly security conscious should have at least four to five helicopters for area monitoring.
This is because once there is such Surveillance, then there would not be any hideout or evil creek for easy crimes or such offenders.
Offenders like the Badoo group actually hide under the cloak of secrecy by creating inaccessible hideouts. Hence, with this new approach of surveillance, they can be picked easily and security coordination would be tightened. The state has also invested in armour personnel carriers. The state also supports the police, the State Security Service (SSS), the civil defence and all other security agencies.
Hence, allowances are made official for all security operatives in the state as a form of motivation. This is the reason the government took over some cities in the state like Ejigbo, Ilesha and Ife under the siege of armed robbers which even resulted into the closure of banks. But I can confidently tell you now that those banks are successfully functional. Therefore, the idea of Badoo group invading the state would actually fall on dead grounds because the State of Osun cannot accommodate such devilish activity. We have invested strongly in the security of this state and we are a state that has the ability to bring such group to order in no distant time. Such group cannot suffice or penetrate freely.