Joseph Daudu, SAN, is a former President of the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA. In this interview, he spoke on the position of the law on grazing routes and how the issue should be tackled. He also spoke on Nnamdi Kanu’s arrest, proposed Press Council Law, judiciary autonomy, and other sundry matters.
What would you say has been responsible for the growing agitations in most parts of the country and how should these agitations be handled by the government?
The growing agitations by and among the constituent ethnic groups that make up Nigeria is as a result of manifest injustice, inequitable distribution of the national resources among competing groups, marginalisation of some identified groups and individuals based on ethnic and other extraneous considerations, the use of the vast powers of the central government to favour the agenda of the minority cattle breeding community and use of government power for vendetta and other revenge agenda.
As to how the agitations should be handled, I think the Central Government itself knows that it is incidental and ancillary to peace and good governance that it relates to all constituent parts of this great nation in a fair, just, and equitable manner. There is, therefore, no need to lecture the personalities involved on the necessity of suppressing their primordial instincts of bias, nepotism, favouritism, partiality, religious bigotry, and other negatives. A word in the circumstances is usually enough for the wise and a stitch in time saves nine.
IPOB leader, Nnamdi Kanu was recently arrested and returned to Nigeria. How important was it for Nigeria to have complied with international standards in his extradition?
It is important to note that the extradition of a Nigerian from another country, particularly a country that is a member of the Commonwealth of Nations is a matter of due process and the Rule of law. It is indeed a beautiful but cumbersome process to undertake.
Consequently, nations desirous of bringing to justice their fugitive offenders are at times impatient with the slow grinding wheel of the due process of law.
Extradition of one’s citizen involves three key elements: (a) The existence of an extradition treaty or agreement between the requesting nation and the surrender or host nation, (b) The existence of domestic legislation in the country requesting for extradition, and (c) The existence of a statute governing the process of extradition in the surrender nation. Now, coming to the case of Nnamdi Kanu’s ‘extradition’ from a third-party nation and no one is categorical about the exact manner of his entry into Nigeria but snippets allude to the fact that he was escorted back to Nigeria from Kenya. Now, without clear facts from the participants, stakeholders, or even Kanu, anyone commenting on the legality or otherwise of this exercise would be engaged in outright speculation.
One thing is clear and it is that self-help is not permitted in these circumstances and when a nation engages in it, it will indeed amount to a gross violation of the sanctity of public international law and the harmony that exists between the comity of nations.
Any country that enters another country and pounces on its citizen in the name of retrieving its errant citizen in utter disregard of the applicable laws on this matter (local and international) commits an offence in breach of international law. Such breaches can lead to severe sanctions from the Security Council of the United Nations, the external nation affected, and other international agencies.
There appears to be a face-off between the federal and state governments over the grazing route. What are your thoughts on the matter?
Again, this is a rather simple and indeed uncomplicated issue. The Nigerian Constitution puts the issue of control of land under the state governors. In reality, it is a residual matter, whose legislation is strictly guided and guarded by the Nigerian Constitution. Consequently, the Federal Government cannot ride rough-shod over communities in possession of prime land just because kinsmen of those in power would like to use their land. The wise thing to do in the circumstance is to accelerate the formal education of all the parties concerned in this matter.
Exposing the children of herdsmen to formal education will instill into them the knowledge that living in this world and the good life does not come from the barrel of an AK-47 rifle. No matter how people are brainwashed to pursue other people’s agenda of hate, divisiveness, bitterness, prevarication, and anarchy, it will only last a short time. All that is happening at the moment is very unfortunate particularly the attitude of the government while these atrocities are committed in broad daylight.
Also, what do you make of the President’s directive to the AGF to recover lands across the country under the grazing route for herders?
It is an empty unenforceable order not backed by any existing law. The President is sworn on the Holy Book to uphold Nigerian laws and implement the same faithfully. Incidentally and this is the truth, his word, directive, or instructions is not law and does not bind any person except it is located within the four walls of existing law.
Be it known that this country does not operate a dictatorship or a totalitarian or fascist government, whatever may be our affinity to or antecedents from military rule. There is no need to go into the legality or otherwise of the colonial grazing routes, if they exist, vis a vis the prevailing law and the provisions of the Land Use Act. What is important is that the 1999 Constitution has drawn the boundaries in respect of governmental powers over land.
Do you think it is right for the FG to suggest a review of the Land Use Act without recourse to the National Assembly?
No. It is not possible to review any law in Nigeria without the initiation by or input of the National Assembly.
A bill seeking to whittle down the constitutional powers of the media is presently before the National Assembly. In the light of various laws that regulate media practice, do you see the need for such a bill that allows the government to fully control the media?
Flowing from your question, if the effect of the Bill is to whittle down the constitutional powers of the media then by the provisions of section 1-(3) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), such a law will be unconstitutional, null, and void. Consequently, Nigerians have two options, (i) wait for the Bill to be passed and challenge the excessive and conflicted parts in court so as to have them annulled or (ii) mount a sustained campaign and lobby against the passage of the Bill at the National Assembly and other relevant fora.
However, charity must begin at home. Members of this estate, i.e., the media, must themselves be at the forefront of the campaign against the proposed Press Council Law, which is rightly seen as a gag on press freedom. It is ironic that a government that rode into power on the wings of the activities of a free press will now be the one seeking to muzzle the press due to ultra-sensitivity to negative press. However, I really do not have any sympathy for the formal media (print and electronic) in respect of their current predicament.
They were adept at hunting with the hounds and running with the hare. It was difficult since the advent of politics to associate the Nigerian media with the yearnings and aspirations of the people. That is why it appears as if a majority of Nigerians do not care if the Press goes under as a result of this current assault. The Press has been far detached from the sufferings of the masses. Consequently, the Press must retrace its steps and become people-friendly, else, it will go under.
JUSUN recently called off its two months-long strike to demand judiciary autonomy. Do you see any seriousness on the part of governors to grant the judiciary true autonomy?
Respectfully, I take a fundamentally different view on the issue of judicial autonomy when it is inextricably linked to the financial purse strings of the state government. With humility, it is not independent or autonomous access to funding that enhances the independence of the judiciary. What makes a judiciary independent is (i) the purity and thoroughness of the appointing procedure of superior court Judges, (ii) courage and integrity of the serving Judges, (iii) judicial accountability, respect for the Constitution, and the rule of law and due process, etc. Governors will no doubt behave like the politicians that they are. It is for the judiciary to beget the respect of the entire populace by living up to their respective oaths of office. Funding is critical but the system has almost solved the problem. This is because, by a unique constitutional arrangement, all salaries and emoluments of Judges are paid as a first-line charge on the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Federation
That is why no judge is owed any money by way of salaries and allowances.
As for the capital expenditure of the federal and state judiciaries, there is no complaint from the courts that make up the federal judiciary because funds for the development and construction of the court system, purchase of vehicles, and other expenses are released promptly to Heads of Federal Courts for use as budgeted. That brings us to 75 percent compliance. The remaining 25 percent is in respect of State Courts and it is limited to the release of capital funds for the development, construction, and maintenance of their respective courtrooms and judge’s residence.
They are at the moment items budgeted for in the respective States’ Appropriation Laws and disbursed in a majority of cases through the Commissioners of Finance to the Chief Registrars’ of the various courts in the states’. Some states claim that they release appropriated funds directly to their Heads of Court.
At the moment, only Rivers, Lagos and Delta claim to be compliant. Consequently, it is not that the state judiciaries do not receive what is due to them, their grouse is that for the majority of states, capital expenditure is not released directly to the Heads of Court. If one is to score, you would probably score the compliance level at 10 percent out of 25 percent. It means, therefore, that the funding compliance of the executive to the judiciary as analysed above is 85 percent. The question, therefore, begging for a rational answer is why any person in his right frame of mind will shut an entire and indeed, the most important arm of government on an issue that already possesses an 85 percent compliance rate. The damage from the last JUSUN strike is still unquantified but I can assure you that it will take us at least five years to recover from the ill-effects of the said misguided and injudicious strike action.
There is a suggestion for a moratorium on SAN conferment. What are your thoughts on the issue?
I do not subscribe to that view. There is a corresponding increase in the population of lawyers and the growth of courts that Advocate-Legal Practitioners can ply their trade. The only caveat is that only the best and most qualified candidates should be selected or preferred.