By Innocent Anaba
Chief Solo Akuma, Senior Advocate of Nigeria, is a former Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Abia State. In this interview, he spoke on the Jos, Plateau State crisis, noting that since the problem borders mostly on  disagreement between “indigenes” and “settlers” in a state, it may be resolved when issue of “state of origin” is  adressed by the constitution, especially as it affects “indigenes” and “settlers” in a state.”

On how to ensure that officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, do not abuse their office by supporting a political party or a contestant at the general elections, he said “not until sanctions are applied against those who transgress the law, there will be no change of attitude on our culture of impunity.”

He also called on politicians to learn how to accept defeat in elections.

Excerpt:

Chief Solo Akuma,SAN

Some members of the Joint Task Force deployed to Jos, have been arrested, for failing to stop the killings at one of the areas in the town. It was even reported  that the identity card belonging to a member of task force was found at the spot were some people were killed.

How will this effect the ordinary citizens, who looks up to the military to bring the situation in the town under control?

I will not vilify any member of the Joint Task Force for now. But whatever allegations levelled against any member of the Joint Task Force should be thorough investigated by the military High Command and the outcome of the investigation made public. And any person found culpable as a result of the investigation should be punished accordingly.

The military authorities should re-assure ordinary citizens of this country of the neutrality of the members of the Joint Task Force in the discharge of their duties. The activities of the members of the Joint Task Force should be strictly monitored. The military authorities should not hesitate to remove or redeploy any member of the Joint Task Force who shows any sign of partiality.

What does the recurring Jos crisis portends for the future of the country?

The Jos crisis has become intractable . It makes every well meaning Nigerian uncomfortable. The crisis in Jos portrays Nigeria in very bad light. The state of insecurity witnessed in Jos portrays the future of this country as unsafe. It will scare aware inhabitants and investors.

Does it appear to you that the Federal Government is handling the Jos crisis well?

The Federal Government is doing its best to the extent it can get involved in state affairs, Nigeria being a federation. Since the problem borders mostly on “indigenes” and “settlers” in a state, the problem may be solved when the issue of “state of origin” is constitutionally defined to cover “indigenes” and “settlers” in the state.

The Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, recently insisted, relying on the amended constitution, that any sacked Governor, who wins a re-run, he will only serve out his tenure. In view of the fact that the Amended Constitution just came into effect, can it have retroactive effect?

This matter is before a Federal High Court in Abuja. I would refrain from commenting on the matter. It is subjudice.

The concerns now about re-run elections are that they are scientifically rigged, as the electoral body may decide not to supply voting materials to areas considered the strong hold of an opposition party or violence could be  instigated in the areas where an opposition is sure to do well, so that the results in those areas would be cancelled for a preferred candidate to win an election. How can this development be checked?

It has become a phenomenon in this country that whoever loses an election will blame INEC for his or her defeat. Nigerian politicians do not accept defeat. Where there is obvious and genuine evidence of bias by INEC officers such allegation should be taken up by the appropriated authorities.

Any INEC official who has taken Oath of neutrality and allows himself to be compromised should be made to face the full wrath of the law. Not until sanctions are applied against those who transgress the law, there will be no change of attitude on our culture of impunity.

Can the votes of Nigerians ever count, despite the much noise about one man one vote?

I am optimistic that votes of Nigerians will count this time. This can be possible when eligible voters are registered in the on going voters registration exercise. Every registered voter irrespective of his status or standing in the society should come out and vote and wait for the votes to be counted in the presence of voters and party agents. No candidate or influential personalities should be allowed to go to polling booths with their orderlies or policemen attached to them or use such policemen to harass innocent civilians who have come to cast their votes. INEC should make public what voters are not expected to come to polling booths with.

The office of the Inspector General of Police should ensure that there is regular police patrol from one polling both to another in order to ensure that any person who goes contrary to election guidelines is apprehended and immediately handed over to the police.

Elections will hold later this year and petitions will surely arise from the elections. Though the Electoral Act has been amended to ensure that election petitions are determined timeously, what can be done to make sure that politicians and lawyers do not circumvent this?

The handling of Election Petition a serious and strenuous business. For parties and counsel not to circumvent the provisions of the law, I will with respect suggest that if possible all the chairmen of the Election Petition Tribunal must be judges who have had experience in the handling election petition matters so that they can keep in check excesses of litigants and their council. The Election Petition Tribunals should ensure that litigants and their counsel are made to comply with the provisions of the Electoral Act and whatever practice direction that will be issued.

What are your expectations for the judiciary in 2011?

My expectation is that judiciary will do better in 2011. The delay in the administration of justice should be eliminate by the various heads of courts by ensuring that all vacant judicial appointments existing at the various High Courts, Court of Appeal and Supreme Court are filled up before the end of first quarter of 2011. I expect a judiciary that will be more conscientious in the discharge of its duties in 2011.

Do you support a military intervention in Cote d’Ivoire to oust Laurent Gbagbo for failing to respect the results of an election he organised?

I don’t not support military intervention in Cote d’Ivoire to oust Laurent Gbagbo. I will rather suggest they use economic blockade and other diplomatic measures to compel Laurent Gbagbo to vacate the office.

What is your reaction to the emergence of Jonathan for PDP, Ribadu for ACN, Buhari for CPC among others?

I congratulate all the political parties on the emergence of their Presidential candidate for the forthcoming April 2011 General Election. I wish also to congratulate all the aspirants that have emerged from their various political parties. I would urge them to mount campaigns based on issues so that they can convince Nigerians to vote for them.

The South East for some time now experience an upsurge in kidnapping and other criminal activities. Despite the criminalization  of the offence of kidnapping, it only took the intervention of the military for the matter to be brought under control in Aba particularly, while in places like Onitsha, we still have cases of kidnapping reported every other day. What is the way out. How can this be permanently addressed?

I will thank Mr. President as Commander-in-Chief of the Arm Forces for allowing the use of officers and men of the Nigerian Armed Forces to check incessant cases in Aba and other South East towns. I would want that effort to be sustained and other proactive steps to be taken by the officers and men of the Nigerian Army to bring this kidnapping saga to a permanent stop.

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