Monday, June 19, 2017

Efunsetan Aniwura and other Evans stories by Lasisi Olagunju

 “The first operation I went with the gang was at Uguruta Junction on the Port-Harcourt International Airport Road. We attacked some vehicles conveying a huge sum of money in foreign currency. We killed all the policemen escorting them including a man the police identified as the Regional Manager of the bank where the money came from. After that operation, I was given N3 million as my share…” The person who made that statement was a man nicknamed White Witch, who had participated in 15 bank and bullion van robberies and made millions. His ambition was to retire from robbery into politics. And he almost realised that ambition but for nemesis. He was arrested around this time last year shortly before his swearing in as a cabinet member by a state governor: “Two weeks before my arrest, I was shortlisted as a Special Adviser to the Governor, and we were waiting for him to return from his trip abroad so that he would swear us into our various offices. I did not know that the police had got to know about my activities.” If he had not been bursted, one day, he probably would have become the governor of his state, appointing his gang members as commissioners.

I wonder how many White Witches and how many of the now very popular kidnap don, Evans, we willingly elect every four years into our lives. A former senator who is a retired Deputy Inspector General of Police once declared that the National Assembly was a tank of confirmed criminals. He got elected into the Senate, looked around and the faces he saw were those of his former suspects in violent crimes. He famously declared that there were armed robbers in the chambers. Shocked Nigerians, as usual, gasped but moved on to the next drama. That was in the legislature. Among the more audacious executive, how many felons do you think could have been laundered into Government Houses? Some people are heirs to the throne of Satan but society celebrates and venerates them. Some have come and gone with crowns of life leadership on their heads. At their exit from power, they keep the chain unbroken, handing over to their gang members. The results have been reigning dynasties of criminals. Imagine if Evans, the doyen of kidnapping business in Nigeria, had contested the last elections, he would have won and would have escaped into real heroism, especially if he built dubious bridges and distributed cash and rice to all who caught his fancy. His 40th birthday would have been marked with lectures delivered by the brightest professors around with a honorary doctoral degree as the icing on the cake.

And getting into government would not have prevented the felon from continuing his bloody business. Indeed, it would have enhanced and sustained it. He could kidnap anyone, including his Accountant General and then collect ransom from his state. A whole month’s statutory allocation may go into that. No EFCC would harass him for paying it out. It is a humanitarian gesture. As a governor, he would have immunity from suspicions, from investigations and from prosecution. He would have deeper insights into how to restructure his business for greater efficiency. He wouldn’t have issues on how to hide the billions from the ransoms. As a governor, he would have several options. He could own a bank or banks, give loans and kidnap the loanee. He could own and license a bureau de change to legally handle his dollars and convert his government naira to euro and pound sterling. He could  even start selling dollars back to his victims who may need to pay ransom in hard currency. That is one very viable option. Governors do it with government funds. Or who do you think own many of these dollar-dealing companies around? Put a trusted ally in charge of the bureau and you win all the time. He could also build and stock a one-in-town shopping mall. Install a trusted soul in charge of the business and all dirty cash can then daily go in there, bear the stamp of that legit business and move into banks.

But because Evans lacked wisdom to diversify into government and politics, he is now begging for mercy. What mercy again? One victim paid you a ransom of N100 million and was still not released. Another was coldly told to hold a thanksgiving service for surviving a gunshot. You, the source of his affliction, assured him you would attend the event. After reading the several accounts of the victims, are we wrong to be surprised that the kingpin seeks pardon? At least that is what we have been reading in the last couple of days. It has been either he is burying his head in the Books of Job and Lamentations or he is weeping, seeking a second chance or the wife is pleading for pardon. Evans won’t be the first iron to melt after arrest. There was a very notorious armed robber in the mid 80s who almost became a legend. He would rob, throw some of his stolen funds at the people and vanish. He was invincible and enigmatic. His name sent shivers down the spines of even the best of security operatives. At a point, the then president, Ibrahim Babangida, had to publicly ask his Inspector General of Police: “My friend, where is Aninih?” Eventually, he was bursted and caught. He turned out to be a cowardly felon, fearful of death, begging for mercy. Why won’t these fellows think about the consequences of their actions? Or did they just assume that they wouldn’t ever get caught? Or they did not know that the wages of sin is damnation?

You can be evil for a very long time. Sometimes what nails the vampire may not even be the bloodiest of his actions. When the time is up, something just gives way. And it is because justice does not just stalk the evil doer, it catches up with him. Efunsetan Aniwura was the very rich 19th century Iyalode of Ibadan who was deposed on May 1, 1874. She was not exactly a criminal but she was wicked and lacking in mercy for her slaves. There is a play about her life written by Professor Akinwumi Ishola. There is a film too adapted from that book by Ishola Ogunsola (I-Show Pepper). In the book and the film, she is the totality of what a blood thirsty witch does to foul the community. She had to die because she was evil. That is her eternal reputation promoted actively through popular drama. The image of evil associated with her stuck like the leopard’s spots. Every wicked woman next door is an Efunsetan. But recorded history says she was killed not because she killed her pregnant slaves. She really did that routinely and society looked away. History says she had to die because she had become too big for her king to handle. Someone can be rich. Someone can become a chief and a person of means and power. But when riches increase and powers multiply, and the head swells and someone wears the babanriga of impunity, the end moves near. Even if you are the sovereign, the eyes of justice will soon be on you. The charges against Efunsetan were: That she didn’t accompany her sovereign, Aare Latoosa to that year’s war against Ado Ekiti; that she didn’t send supplies to her lord during the war; and, that she did not come in person to meet the Aare outside the town wall to congratulate him on the successful campaign. Those were the recorded reasons for her death now lost in the maze of perception across centuries. And what was the reaction of the rich, tough woman to the dawn of justice? She pleaded and pleaded for mercy and pardon. She paid out most of her riches to escape death. She was sober. Samuel Johnson said of her last moments: “The Iyalode spent miserable days and nights suspicious of every sound and movement. She changed her sleeping place from night to night as she could not trust any of her domestics. She prepared her food herself, could not go out of doors, received no visitors, as she did not know from what quarter the fatal blow would fall. At length, on the night of June 30, 1874, knowing where she slept, two slaves entered the room from the ceiling and dashed out her brains.” Her pleas, her riches, her safety measures could not save her. Nemesis always trumps such measures.

So, we plead with the Evanses and White Witches in our Government Houses to reduce the monthly ransoms they collect from us. We ask them for freedom for the kidnapped salaries and pensions. We urge them to remember that, like the Evans of Magodo, Lagos, their surveillance cameras will one day fail them; that an Abba Kyari will one day break their front doors; and that on that day, even though they read the Psalms, the Lord would not be their Shepherd.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Osinbajo yet to be truly tested - Idowu Akinlotan

FOR the unspecified period Vice President Yemi Osinbajo will hold the fort for the ailing President Muhammadu Buhari, he will walk a tightrope in the most gingerly and exasperating fashion possible. The president left many knots entangled before travelling abroad for medical attention; there is very little Professor Osinbajo can do to disentangle them. The president didn’t assemble the most inspiring of cabinets, especially his fairly insular kitchen cabinet; the vice president can do nothing about that.

No matter how much he pretends, it will gall the vice president to have to embrace the status quo with smiles for the duration of the president’s uncertain absence. He will see and feel how urgently he needs to take action concerning deep and fundamental problems assailing the country, but he will be constrained by the straitjacket bequeathed him by the president.

When he first acted for the president last year, Prof Osinbajo dazzled the country with his placatory visits to areas of discontent. For a country on tenterhooks before the president travelled, it warmed the cockles of the people’s hearts that the acting president spoke peace and helped establish peace. But beyond superficialities, Prof Osinbajo was unable to do much else.

Even the little he accomplished in tinkering with the system drew the ire of vested interests and caused tremors to pulsate through the ranks of the president’s diehard aides. It took some special efforts to douse the enthusiastic comparisons — some of them sarcastic, and others quite morbid — which commentators launched into before the president made an abrupt and premature return to the country. It is therefore not surprising that this time around, the vice president has been more muted and more philosophical about the country’s many ills.

Should the president stay away for much longer than seems logically and constitutionally tolerable, Prof Osinbajo will face real and far more troubling tests that will compel him to deploy and project powers the president’s aides may be unwilling to yield. On the surface, there will of course be no attempt to circumscribe the acting president’s powers, whether in acting or in substantive capacity.

But behind the presidential villa’s oak doors, President Buhari and his formal and informal kitchen cabinets have structured the reins of power in such a manner that any other person, no matter how constitutionally empowered, is an outsider.

One of those fiery tests is already manifesting. The separatist ferment poisoning interethnic and interreligious relationships in the country was of course evident even before the president took gravely ill. His style of tackling it was to dismiss it contemptuously with both a wave of the hand and the platitudinous talk about the unity of Nigeria being non-negotiable.

Prof Osinbajo himself, perhaps more out of caution and dread than conviction, has parroted that impractical and futile line. Whether his fond wish for Nigerian unity will prove strong enough to resolve a problem that is seething and festering beyond any remedy can assuage remains to be seen. And whether that wish and the various meetings he scheduled with stakeholders can translate into something more positive in the face of the bellicose utterances of separatist campaigners is also uncertain.

Nigeria is perching dangerously on the edge of a cliff. The deep fissures in the country require the intervention and innovation of a president enjoying and deploying his full powers and exuding such knowledge and brilliance that it is impossible for anyone to gainsay. Not only was President Buhari almost wholly without such amenities, even as he preferred to live in denial, the acting president is obviously unable to project such powers, assuming he has them, not to say deploy them.

What is certain is that one day, the separatist clamour, herdsmen rampage, and other dangerous fuses could trigger a wider revolt. With the president unable to anticipate these troubles and thus prepare against them, and the acting president barred by circumstances and strictures from dealing with them proactively, it will be difficult to put out the fire when it is finally lit.

Presidential aides, the kitchen cabinet, and the vice president’s men may deny it all they want, it is however unlikely that Prof Osinbajo can do more than just breath salubrious air in the rarefied and forested precincts of the villa, placate angry groups as best as he can on an ad hoc basis, paper over the social, religious and political cracks gnawing at the heart of the country, tiptoe around the controversial issues of regional and ethnic power dynamics, and moralise in general but ineffective terms about the virtues of nation-building.

He cannot appoint anyone of substance into any high position, and cannot on his own sack anyone of substance, as indicated by the unlawful violation of the PenCom Act which he permitted. The president’s kitchen cabinet, divided even in the best of times, will continue to hold the fort, even as the acting president gives the impression of being in office and in power. Indeed, there is nothing the acting president can do about the dichotomised power structure that is evident in Aso Villa. It is the structure he met; and it is a structure he cannot change.

If Prof Osinbajo faces a test bigger and more severe than he has faced so far, he will have to resolve, one way or the other, the conundrums stymieing the progress of the country, especially the change the All Progressives Congress (APC) promised without a clue regarding how to implement or energise it.

There is nothing to suggest that with the president staying away for much longer than a few more months, the genial and eloquent but apparently apolitical professor will not finally confront the dilemma of being in office but not in power, surrounded by general and kitchen cabinet misfits, and shackled by parochial forces who view the country and its security structures through ethnic and religious prisms. Would to God the auguries were less alarming than they really are.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017




*Urges leaders to speak out loud and clear at moments like this


“The reason why it cannot be tolerated is that the very many innocent men, women, children and the vulnerable amongst us deserve safety and security and our own emotions must not be allowed to run wild in such a way as to endanger the lives of so many”.


Let me first say how deeply grateful I am that you have responded so well and so quickly at very very short notice to this invitation.

Yesterday I kicked off a series of consultations and engagements with Leaders of Thought from the Northern States of Nigeria. It was a very useful meeting and today’s meeting is the second in the series with you, the Leaders of Thought from the Southeast. 

After this, I will meet with Religious and Traditional Leaders again from the Southeast and on Monday I will be meeting with Religious Leaders also from the North. And then in the final consultations next week, I will be meeting both with state Governors and finally with all of the groups that I have met with from the North, the South and we’ll be joined I hope then, by the Governors also and we all hopefully be in the same room for further engagement and consultations.

I want to say again a very very big thank you for your making the time to come to this particular meeting.

These consultations are extremely necessary, and important, especially because of the recent events in our country and I’m sure that most of us have followed this quite closely. 

You are all aware that there have been loud and sometimes hostile agitations by young people in the Southeast calling for secession from Nigeria. And then there was the recent ultimatum issued by a group of young people also from the North, asking all persons of Southeast origin living in the North to leave by October 1 this year.

Both of these expressions and agitations from both sides, have been attended with some controversial and very hateful approach including patently illegal and violence-inducing remarks.

I firmly believe that we ought to address these agitations and proclamations urgently and decisively. Burying our heads in the sand and expecting the storm to blow over of their own accord is not an option.

But equally not reasonable is falling for the temptation for any kind of tit-for-tat whether it is in the language used or it is in the kinds of gestures that have been expressed. This has never worked or moved anyone closer to a peaceful or sensible resolution.

And so it’s in our bid, as government, to deal with these pressing issues and grievances, that we’ve convened these series of consultations, with various groups. It’s the right and responsible thing I think for us as leaders not to shy away from the responsibility to ensure and uphold peace and security in our country.

And it’s my view that the responsible role of those of us who are privileged to be leaders in our society is to chart progressive and lofty courses for our people, for the ordinary people. As leaders, we carry the burden to secure the peace, progress and prosperity of our people. And that is why our voices ought to be heard and heard loud and clear at moments like this in the defense and articulation of what is truly beneficial to the nation and the people, and what is right and patriotic.

Our dear nation has gone through very m any difficult times. We’ve survived bloody coups, several rounds of ethno-religious violence, we’ve emerged even from a long and bloody Civil War. All of us here have seen close-up what violence can do to a country. I believe I speak for us all when I say that no one here is keen to see Nigeria embroiled in violence or bloodshed of any kind. Especially not when we are only just emerging from a brutal insurgency that has consumed more than 20,000 of our brothers, sisters and children, as well as the better part of a decade in the Northeast of Nigeria.  

One thing is clear – violence and war are not going to do anyone any good. They are terrible and they mean no good. They are easy to start but near impossible to end. 

In fact, history has shown us especially contemporary history that wars today hardly ever end. They just simply go on. Indeed, you’re all aware of the Igbo proverb that says that “aman who rushes into battle does not realize that battle entails death.” We are witnesses to the unspeakable devastation that war continues to inflict across the world. No one who has seen the horrors of war – even merely on television – would wish it on their worst enemy.

It is also clear that wars sometimes start, not with bullets, but with words. Hateful, incendiary speech, opening floodgates of blood. The tongue, like the pen, is often mightier than the sword – because it is what pushes the sword into action. When we throw words like stones in a marketplace we do not know who or what it will hit.

Knowing this, under no conditions whatsoever should we tolerate or excuse or justify hate speech or hateful conduct of any kind, especially where such is illegal. Let me of course acknowledge that as part of living together in this space called Nigeria, misunderstandings and frustrations are inevitable. Because resources are limited there will always be a striving to get what is perceived as the best seat at the table.

All of that is normal and to be expected, especially in a democracy, like ours. A healthy democracy ought to be a theatre of energetic striving by all parties and stakeholders. But things should never descend to a level where mutual suspicions override the desire to live together in peace and harmony.

Yesterday I made it clear, very clear that hate or divisive speech, or divisive behaviour, where it is illegal, will be met with the full force of the law. And I want to say it again today that let there be no doubt whatsoever of the resolve of government to ensure that no one will be allowed to get away with making speeches that can cause division especially violence. We will take very seriously any attempts to cause violence or to disrupt the peace of Nigeria and it will certainly not be tolerated.

And the reason why it cannot be tolerated is that the very many innocent men, women, children and the vulnerable amongst us deserves safety and security and our own emotions must not be allowed to run wild in such a way as to endanger the lives of so many. And I believe that all are clear that we’re resolute in our determination as government to protect every Nigerian, everywhere in the country. Everywhere in this country, it is the primary duty of government to ensure the security of lives and property and we take that duty very seriously indeed.

We will do everything within our power to defend and uphold the terms of our constitution, which declares that we are one nation under God.

It also guarantees the free mobility of people, goods and services throughout the country, as well as full residence rights for every citizen in all and any parts of the land of their choice. It is also the aspiration of the Constitution to ensure a country in which, and I quote, “loyalty to the nation shall override sectional loyalties.”

And it is the responsibility of the Government to create the conditions for the attainment of these ideals. There is something that President Buhari is fond of saying, and he’s repeated it am sure so many of us have heard it: that without peace and security there can be no development. That the first obligation that we owe if we want to develop, is to ensure peace and security. We cannot develop a country that is not in the first place safe and secure for all people. For this reason we take extremely seriously our constitutional responsibilities as your government.

Those responsibilities also include listening to, consulting, and engaging with you; giving every citizen and every part of the Federation a sense of belonging and significance. And that is why we are here today.

I expect that our conversations here today will be frank and constructive, open and that all our deliberations will go towards ensuring that our country is a better place, a more peaceful place to live in. This is an important moment for all of us and for our country, and I hope that at the end of it we will all be satisfied that we have accomplished something significant not just for ourselves but for the future.

By the grace of God we will leave to coming generations a peaceful, secure and prosperous nation; a nation in which all citizens, regardless of their ethnic, religious affiliations, or their ages or gender will feel deep and enduring pride.

Thank you very much again for making out time to come and I hope that our deliberations will be very fruitful and like I said, please let us be as frank as possible

God bless you.

Released by 
Laolu Akande
Senior Special Assistant to the President
Media and Publicity
Office of the Vice President
June 14, 2017

Monday, June 12, 2017









I must say how extremely pleased I am to be here in the company of friends and colleagues of many years, and those who have come into this exceptional vocation of ours, after us.

Since I became a law teacher in 1981, I have always looked forward to the law teachers conference for various reasons some less noble than others.

First, it was the only conference that the University felt obliged to pay for, so we did not have to spend our meager resources to attend.

Secondly, it was a chance to meet friends and colleagues from across the country and have a good time in each other's company.

But the third reason and perhaps the most important, was that it was a time to discover in the course of the sessions, what the latest thoughts and opinions were on the jurisprudence of a wide range of subjects. 

The sessions were important because we were not just legal practitioners as many of our colleagues in the profession were. We were and remain the purveyors, custodians and creators of the underlying concepts and foundational premises of legal thought. We are the thinkers for our system of law and justice, and our profession.

We often contended then about the usefulness of law to society which its liberal origins ensured that it supported and we talked a lot about the influence of capitalism on law and justice.

We understood that because teaching was not, to paraphrase Faust, merely to transmit knowledge but how to imagine, adapt, assess, interpret, change, and create, we needed to rigorously interrogate the fundaments of our jurisprudence and system of law and justice.

So the law teachers conference has always been our forum for the free and yet deep interrogation of the fundamental ideas and issues that held society together, the trajectory of the rule of law and law and order, and their current interpretations and efficacy.

So, we have always believed and rightly in my view, that the enormously important task of thinking through and designing legal policy, and guiding legal thought  rested upon us. The law teachers conference was a time to step back and reflect, in order to come back to the problems with boldness and innovation.

I believe that today more than ever in our national journey,  we law teachers must again step back from the confusing and sometimes overwhelming noises of the moment to craft,  through legal thought and innovation, a  future that is not hobbled by, but, takes advantage of the past and the present.

Where, as is sometimes the case, those charged with thinking do not think or abdicate that responsibility, then those ill-equipped to do so will and we must all bear the consequences.

The theme of this conference I believe is to compel us to play our role as thinkers for our nation and system. Permit me therefore in what will follow to play the role of an 'agent provocateur', to provoke some thoughts and ideas.

Let me say that perhaps the greatest challenge to national development today is insecurity. But we must define security correctly.

Security cannot merely be State-centric or military i.e.  security of lives and livelihoods from internal and external threats. This focuses solely on the role of the State in the maintenance of law and order. 

I think it was Kofi Annan, the former UN Secretary General who defined security with a broader and more contemporary description when he said, "human security can no longer be understood in purely military terms. Rather, it must encompass economic development, social justice, environmental protection, democratization, disarmament, and respect for human rights and the rule of law,’’ to which we must add as a distinct category, governance.

The most important subtext in this definition is the growing influence and power of non-state actors, including big business, socio-cultural groups, ethnic nationalities, terrorist organizations and tendencies, religious organizations and criminal networks. Because of the more pervasive roles of those non -State actors, often acting on legitimacies not necessarily conferred by formal laws, the robustness of the state's response to its primary role of maintaining security is often called to question.

The measure of security within a nation is therefore a function of the state’s capacity to maintain this broad definition of security, on the other hand, the degree of lack of capacity is an index of where the State is in the spectrum of State failure. 

Consequently, our definition of the role of the State in maintenance of security in contemporary jurisprudence must change. Our laws and jurisprudence must recognize this as such. Take corruption as an example and corruption of course is an issue of governance which is part of our definition of security.

Grand corruption has led our country to terrible depths of misery. In the past two years we have unearthed cases of embezzlement of public funds that show that if we could recover all that was stolen we could easily double our external reserves. That level of corruption is an existential threat to any nation.

The abject poverty of millions in every zone of our nation, the absence of good roads, schools, hospitals, is largely because some have pocketed the common wealth.

Boko Haram for example could have cost us less-loss of lives of our brave soldiers and over 20,000 civilians- if the government and military authorities had not corruptly enriched themselves with the funds to purchase platforms, equipment, uniforms, and pay allowances. 

About 2.3 million persons in the North East are displaced from their homes and their livelihoods today, thousands of children cannot find their parents.

This is why the vast majority of our people are confused about our system of justice especially in its response to the stealing of public resources. How, for example, does it take so long to prove in court that a man earning a civil servants salary has billions in his bank accounts? The gradual loss of confidence in our administration of justice system is a real threat to social cohesion.

Almost daily you hear on radio and read on social media how easy it is to jail a man who stole a goat or a phone within months and how difficult it is to prosecute a public officer who has stolen billions of public funds.

Consequently we must redefine the offence of corruption and our approach to its prosecution, taking into account its profoundly destructive impact on lives and property. Such an offence is worse than homicide; it is a crime against humanity. The approach of the trials must be time bound. 

In many judicial systems more often than not in serious cases part of the reason why bail is not easily granted is because the trials are time bound and usually not longer than six weeks. Dilatory tactics on the part of lawyers is sternly viewed, adjournments are usually not allowed or if so at great financial and professional cost to the lawyers on either side.

Today the most obvious cases of corruption are interminably delayed; indeed the strategy of many defence counsels is delay. In a recent UNODC study, about 43% of judicial officers surveyed reported that the main causes of excessive delay in our courts were “ploy by parties”, “requests for unnecessary adjournments” and “interlocutory applications to protract proceedings” and it was similarly found that most adjournments were caused by the absence of the accused, the defendant, their lawyers or of a witness.

This suggests that the stakeholders in the justice sector are mostly responsible for the problem of delay in the administration of justice. The delays in our system of justice are becoming a source of derision of our trial system by judges in other jurisdictions.

In 2014 for example, an English Court of Appeal decision- IPCO (Nigeria) Limited v. Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation [2014] EWHC 576 (Comm), the Court ruled that a pending challenge in a Nigerian court to a US$340 million award should not be a bar to enforcement in London, because the Nigerian proceedings could take “up to a generation” to be resolved. The Court also described the Nigerian judicial system as being bedeviled by “catastrophic” delays.

Our system of justice is clearly under siege; most of it is self-inflicted - delays by counsel, weak control of proceedings by courts, and corrupt practices, a subject which in and of itself is a matter of serious concern.

We as law teachers must ask ourselves whether our legal system can survive and serve its purposes to society without a serious and incisive rethink and reconsideration.

So, how should the state react to our other security challenges, the Boko Haram terrorist activities in the North East, tensions in the Niger Delta, herdsmen and farmer clashes, and threats of secession and counter threats of forced excision. In addition are the overarching issues of poverty, unemployment and corruption.    

First we must recognize that a lot of these agitations center around the alleged failures of the state to create an inclusive society under existing constitutional arrangements, to guarantee the security of lives, livelihoods and liberties by the agencies charged with maintaining law and order and to build trust around the rule of law and the system of administration of justice.

First, on the matter of inclusion and inequalities, there is little doubt in my mind that the provision of the basics of life to the largest number of our people remains the greatest source of tension in the polity.

The daily struggles of many, for healthcare, a means of livelihood and the absence of a socially just means of ensuring that many, especially young people, have access to education and jobs  provides a constantly replenished pool of young malcontents, ready to be recruited into any sort of Army, whether it be of kidnappers, terrorists, or violent or antisocial  agitation for one cause or the other.

Besides, the constant agitation for share of national resources, is a product of individual-elite- deprivation, taken up by ethnic nationalities and socio-cultural groups. Each group views the other with suspicion when it comes to matters of resources, and government appointments.

As it is at the Federal level, so it is at the State level. In my state for example, the Egba and Ijebus in Ogun State are constantly arguing over who is getting a better deal in government appointments or infrastructural development.

Unfortunately, in order to give our campaigns greater acceptability and resonance, we often characterize them as ethnic or religious agitation. The right to a decent existence, to education, healthcare or jobs must not depend on how loudly my ethnic or religious group agitates; no, these are my rights as a citizen of Nigeria.

It is the failure of the State to deliver on these essentials of life and livelihood that compels our people to run to their tribal and religious camps to seek succour by way of agitation for basic rights and services. 

Unfortunately, it is the same elite especially the political elite, who fail the people by the wastage and embezzlement of their funds who are at the forefront of pretending that their deprivations are caused by other ethnic nationalities.

Having gone round this nation to its villages and settlements, everywhere in the course of the campaigns, and after, there is no doubt in my mind that poverty has the same character in Bodinga Local Government in Sokoto State as in Ayanmelum Local Government here in Anambra state; poverty on an Ibo man is not more dignified than on a Hausa Fulani man. Hunger is neither a tribal or religious issue. 

So the question for us is how to resolve these issues. First is to place responsibility where it rightly belongs.

It is the business of government, by that I mean the executive, legislature and judiciary to provide the enabling environment for the quality of life that people expect.

Indeed the constitutional obligation to do so is clear. Section 14(2 ) (a) says that sovereignty belongs to the people of Nigeria from whom government through the Constitution derives all its powers and authority ; and assures that (b) the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government. This is crucial.

Whereas the classic overriding obligation of the State is Security our constitution places Security and Welfare on the same pedestal as the primary purposes of government.

Coming from this perspective, the fundamental objective must become the founding principle for legislation, executive action and the observance and enforcement of the rule of law. 

For example, the provision of section 16(1) (b), 16(2)(b) and (d) which provide respectively as follows: "the control of  the national economy(shall be) in such manner as to secure the maximum welfare, freedom and happiness of every citizen on the basis of social justice, equality of status and opportunity; (b) that the material resources of the Nation are harnessed and distributed as best as possible to serve the common good; (d) that suitable and adequate shelter, suitable and adequate food, reasonable national minimum living wage, old age care and pensions, and unemployment, sick benefits and welfare for the disabled are provided for all citizens."

These directive principles must be regarded as justiciable in order to realize the Nigerian dream.

It is the duty of our association to champion this important pillar of our national development. Governments must be compelled to show by budgetary provision and executive action how they have complied with this constitutional imperative. Often in government, the issue of how to adequately provide for the poor, create jobs and welfare for those who cannot work becomes an ideological debate.

The classical view had always won the argument namely that when you enable private commerce and industry, jobs will be created and that direct job creation and social welfare schemes are wasteful and achieve little. This is the so called trickle down approach.

However in the current Federal Government the argument is being won by those who believe that government has a central role to play in the provision of social welfare. That extreme poverty is not only immoral, it should be illegal.

This has led to the largest single provision in our history for social welfare. In the 2017 budget we are providing N500 billion for social investment alone; N100 billion of that is for part of our social housing fund and the total value of that fund is N1 trillion; the provision for cash transfers which is for the poorest and vulnerable is 1 million Nigerians; the N-Power, which is the provision of direct jobs to young graduates for two years is 500,000 and 200, 000 jobs have been created already but certainly we can do more.

It is important that our budgets are crafted in such a way that we take into account the aspect of social welfare.

Like I said, it is an ideological battle. It is a battle that must be contended for and must be contended by all of us especially law teachers. I was speaking to a group of law teachers and I was telling them that we have not engaged government, we have to engage government.

It is also true that we do not engage the judiciary anymore. In the past; we had journals about all manners of judgements from all of our courts, in fact there were journals that even analyzed high court cases and even exceptional articles by some of our colleagues that drew the attention of judges. There was an article by Prof Amos Utuama titled Crocodile tears by the Supreme Court and he was talking in particular about Certificate of Occupancy and all that; and the Supreme Court in one of its sittings contended that its tears were not crocodile at all. 

I believe that today we must pay more attention to what is going on in our court system, what is going on in the executive, it is our business as law teachers to critique everything that is going on. That is why we have been entrusted with this great duty to teach the would-be lawyers and be the thinkers of our profession and our justice system.

It is also probably true that our corporate existence and security have been put at risk by the failures in the enforcement of law and order but also our failure especially we as legal intellectuals to correctly dimension the problem. Our contributions to the various disputes in our society must be to properly dimension the problem so that we are not just joining argument. We have the tools, the training to present the problems to society along the lines of the constitution, public law and our different disciplines. 

Take the herdsmen and farmer conflicts. As justice Amina Augie just said, it is first and foremost a struggle for food security, land and water resources. The context of environment and environmental justice sets the stage for meaningful engagement and arbitration. 

We must also admit that these conflicts are not new. But engagement and law enforcement had kept things in check. Law enforcement must move apace with engagement. The President for example had issued a directive to the police to arrest and prosecute anyone found with weapons. This is important not only to assure the citizenry of safety of their lives and property but to prevent resort to self-help. There is a long way to go.

Just last week, I was meeting with our security agencies to sharpen our response to this problem. Our discussions centered on the robustness of law enforcement. There is no half-way house in maintaining law and order and the safety of the citizen. It is the very core of government.

So, we must creatively and innovatively provide for maintenance of law and order.

Let me close with a brief comment which touches on the questions of victim justice and transitional justice alluded to by the deputy governor of Ebonyi State, but I would want to leave this matter for fuller consideration by this very august body.

But the issue of what happens to victims of conflict within society; victims of the Herdsmen clashes with farmers, victims of the insurgency in the North-East, victims of environmental degradation in the Niger Delta; the question of what happens to them is certainly captured in transitional justice. 

I think that these are aspects of law that are developing and are developing very rapidly because people are asking all sorts of questions. What happens to me when my property is destroyed by insurgents or herdsmen or what happens to me when the only source of fishing for me and entire environment is damaged by activities unrelated to me in anyway.

I think the most important thing is to start from analyzing, but first government must take responsibility because government is expected to maintain the rule of law and it is the failure of the rule of law and the failure of the administration of justice that is usually the first culprit when there is any kind of victimization.

To go beyond that, there is also the question of communal responsibility, what are the responsibilities for communities, civil society, and non-state actors. 

For example, in the North-East, hundreds of people have been killed, children have seen horrible violence, some have seen their parents killed and have faced severe hunger, and all kinds of situations that you would not wish for your enemy; how do you reconcile these people to society? 

There are all of these transitional justice vehicles such as truth and reconciliation commission and all of that. There are all sorts of international compensation models that could be adopted to resolve these issues because societies in conflict issues are becoming part of our lives and it is not just in Nigeria, it is across our continent and the globe.

I think the issues that call for our attention today are so many. These are challenging times for us but also times of great opportunities because our society rely a great deal on our law teachers to find solutions to these issues and to teach a new generation of students the types of problems and issues that are relevant to our own time. And I believe it your responsibility and I believe at some time it will be mine too.

Finally, let me congratulate all of us on this 50th anniversary, it is a wonderful thing to be able to celebrate 50 years and I pray that our next 50 years would be even greater and we will be blessed with all of the good things that our nation deserves.

I therefore have the pleasure to declare this conference open.

Released by
Laolu Akande
Senior Special Assistant on Media & Publicity to the President
Office of the Vice President
June 12, 2017