Monday, October 15, 2007

Attorney General’s Power-Grab & Misplaced Priorities?

By Paul I. Adujie
Wednesday, 22 August 2007

Whose agenda would it be to cripple the EFCC and ICPC? Who would benefit? Why would the first major outing by Nigeria’s Minister for Justice have created the impression, that he was set to give corrupt public officials, some sorts of get-out-of-jail cards?

There have been spate of conflicting messages from key cabinet officials. It is understandable that our new president, Umaru YarAdua has been taking tentative steps in forays into national issues. Any new president probably would. This is why t is quite understandable as well, that Nigerians, despite our long-suffering, have offered a sorts of honeymoon to President Yar’Adua since his inauguration on May 29, 2007.

However, our president should be careful not to allow mischief makers with ulterior motives, to misrepresent him on crucial public policy issues or hijack his government.

President Yar’Adua must stem the discordant and cacophonous voices emanating from our federal government, courtesy of some of his appointees, who are, it seems, to be acting at cross-purposes, with the president, misstating his set agenda. Recent comments and pronouncements by presidential appointees are baffling; further unnecessary goofs and gaffes must be avoided or minimized.

Careless public statement by senior presidential appointees can quickly undermine a president, even a president with good intentions and good plans for Nigeria. Some of us are beginning to wonder about certain appointees. Presidential appointees must create the appearance, in words and actions, that they are focused on Nigeria’s national interests

It was humbling to watch the general uproarious reactions from Nigerians that greeted the comments by the attorney general regarding the EFCC. A newspaper editorial went further to question the judgment and ethics, which informed the attorney general’s comments regarding the EFCC. There will be no castrating and manacling of the EFCC.

Personally, in view of recent presidential actions, I also have had to wonder aloud, whether the attorney general gave good legal advice to our president regarding his well-publicized meeting with ex-governors, ex-governors, who are indicted and currently facing trial for pillaging, plundering and looting Nigeria’s public wealth. Corrupt enrichments for the selfish benefits of the ex-governors. It is unwise and ill-advised for our president to have met with those who are awaiting criminal trials. Why meet with ex-governors who are facing trial? What is the benefit of these sorts of meeting? Why meet with the indicted?

Amnesty International recently released a report in connection with the appalling conditions in Nigeria’s prisons and detention centers. Nigerians actually did not need Amnesty International to remind us of the decrepit and fetid conditions of prisons and detention centers in Nigeria. Former President Olusegun Obasanjo had a direct personal experience in the abject and squalid conditions in which detainees in Nigeria must live. As a result, as president of Nigeria, he established a prison decongestion commission. And now, we must ask, where are the recommendations or report of that commission? When will these reports and recommendations be implemented to ameliorate and alleviate the pungent conditions in which detainees in Nigeria are compelled to live?

It seems to me that the appalling squalid and pungent conditions endured by detainees in Nigeria, should concern Nigeria’s new attorney general and minister for justice. Further, it would seem that the attorney general and minister for justice would need to establish his self-proclaimed avowal as champion of the rule of law, with policies that will improve the conditions in prisons and detention centers in Nigeria.

Additionally, the attorney general must seek to establish his credentials as a rule of law champion, by establishing rules that would prevent needless detentions of persons in Nigeria. Currently, there are tens of thousands of Nigerians in prison cells and detention centers, and an overwhelming majority of these detainees are, “Awaiting Trials” most of these persons, are clearly innocents, who have been picked up by law enforcement agencies without justifications, if at all, for flimsy “reasons”

The attorney general and minister of justice, appears self-interested in the well-being of the upper class Nigerians. As he is obviously fixated on welfare of the ex-governors who are currently facing trials, and how longer, than 48 hours these looters may be detained by the EFCC. He is, in doing so, reaffirming Nigeria as a class conscious society with attendant social stratifications, in the most negative ways. The poor are punished for being poor!

How is it that the self-proclaimed champion for the rule of law, the new attorney general, has not publicly placed his prison decongestion policies for national debate?

How is it that the attorney general has not bothered to articulate his thoughts and policy responses, to the well publicized appalling conditions in Nigerian prisons and detention centers?

Why has the attorney general and minister of justice not asked himself and supply the reasons why the average detainee in Nigeria spends more than 48 hours in detention?
Why has the attorney general and minister of justice not asked why Nigeria has so many “Awaiting Trials” detainees? Why does the attorney general seem to reserve his tears for looters and their prospects of being in prisons or detention centers for more than 48 hours? Why is he not similarly verbose and garrulous in worries about poor detainees?


Is the concern for rich thieves, rich criminals, rich treasury looters the AG’s motivation?
Is the protection of the corruptly rich, the attorney general’s rule of law postulations?
Is this, the concern that is driving the attorney general’s botched attempt to cripple the EFCC? Nigerians should inform the attorney general that we have No Tears for Looters!

There were newspaper reports a few days ago, to the effect, that some presidential aides were meeting privately, in far away London, churning out deals, that would revive the business empires of the Chagouri brothers in Nigeria. All this, without the approval or knowledge of the president! If these press reports are true, we will have to ask; What sorts of cabals surround our president?

While it will be unfair to blame President Yar’Adua for the transgressions of his errant appointees, it must be clear to our president, that the buck stops with him. As the successes and challenges of his administration will be his legacy and his legacy alone.

President Yar’Adua must therefore be mindful of who he appoints, what his appointees stands for ideologically, politically and what their general dispositions are.

So far, some presidential appointees in these first few months of President Yar’Adua’s administration, seem to be creating first impressions that lasts. Negative first impressions could imperil the image and reputation of President Yar’Adua. The president must therefore assert his presidential authority, unfettered. He must put his stamp of authority on public policies. Loyalty to the nation, Nigeria’s national interests in the agenda or script of our current president must be the guiding principle of presidential appointees in their utterances.

Presidential image makers must actively seek to properly present our president and his agenda on the issues. Public presentations, pronouncements and utterances must be rigorously coordinated. Cabinet officers, presidential appointees and presidential aides must all stay on the message. Everyone must observe restraints and avoid gaffes and goofs that do not serve this president well and invariably, Nigeria’s national interests.

Anyone in the presidency, who chose to disregard coordinated and cohesive public presentations of presidential policies and programs, should be yanked from their position.
Those who are incapable of necessary and requisite restraints, incapable, either out of indiscipline, greed or mischief, must be removed from their positions now; such removal must be undertaken, in this early stage of the presidency of President Yar’Adua.

The time to create good first impressions is now, lasting positive impressions in these early stages, would help to establish President Yar’Adua’s image and reputation. Any appointee whose actions and words, in public pronouncements or utterances, are inconsistent with this, must be compelled to depart from President Yar’Adua’s team. President Yar’Adua needs our support to succeed, as does Nigeria.

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