Chief Willy Ezugwu is the Convener and National Coordinator of the South East Revival Group (SERG) and the Secretary General of the Conference of Nigeria Political Parties (CNPP). He is also a member of the Board of Trustees of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) and the Convener of Save Enugu Group (SEG).He spoke with PAUL UWADIMA.
What is your take on the continued detention of Dr Ifeanyi Ubah by the DSS despite the court order that he be produced in court?
Clearly, the incarceration of Ifeanyi Ubah by the DSS is unlawful and a complete disregard for the rule of law and tenets of democracy. What is happening now in the country can only happen under a military
dictatorship, not in a civilian democracy. We are seeing uncommon violation of the fundamental human rights of citizens. Today, Ifeanyi Ubah represents the image of the Nigerian business men in a country seeking foreign investors. How can foreign investors invest in a country where there is no regard to the rule of law? How can a foreigner invest in Nigeria where all you need to detain people indefinitely is to go to a magistrate court at night and obtain a holding charge? The DSS has shown that to do business in Nigeria is very risky because any commercial transaction can be criminalised by the government of the day. I don’t think this was the change Nigerians voted for. No, I don’t believe that the government that detains its citizens without trial for months is a government of change. The DSS seems not to understand the difference between a simple commercial dispute and a criminal act.
As a law abiding citizen, Ifeanyi Ubah has been honouring invitations extended to him by the DSS. I learnt that he was in DSS office in March this year only to be detained for over two weeks. Now, they have detained him indefinitely and when the court ordered that they should produce him, the DSS refused. They prefer to engage in media propaganda in a bid to criminalise a simple commercial dispute between a private company and a government owned corporation. It is not right.
But Dr Ubah has been accused of economic sabotage, which is a serious offence. As someone who knows him pretty close, does Ubah seem like someone who can work against his country’s interest?
As you rightly said, the Ifeanyi Ubah that I know is a very patriotic Nigerian and cannot engage in any form of economic sabotage. In case we have forgotten, Capital Oil has on many occasions intervened in rescuing Nigerian economy from total collapse as a result of incessant scarcity of petroleum products. He has intervened in many occasions to end kerosene scarcity in Nigeria by selling at government controlled price when others were selling at exorbitant prices. He was selling kerosene at N50 in the north at a time the product was selling for over N200. We are all living witnesses. As a journalist, you can investigate that.
Also, at a time this President Muhammadu Buhari administration did not know what to do to end fuel scarcity when it came into office, it was Ifeanyi Ubah that released products that ended the hording of petrol by marketers and broke the strike by the tanker drivers’ union. You can also investigate that. So, how can such a patriotic Nigerian turn around in few months and become an economic saboteur in the life of a government he helped to save from mess during fuel scarcity it inherited from the previous administration? It is not possible. I know Ifeanyi Ubah too well to predict him. He loves Nigeria and has always acted as a pan-Nigerian business man. I can tell you that the economic sabotage allegation by the DSS does not hold water, and they know it.
What is your assessment of the President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration in the area of rule of law and respect to court orders?
Your guess is as good as mine. This government is not interested in the rule of law and separation of powers. They want to run a unitary structure, not a federal government. Do you talk of rule of law in a country where the DSS can arrest Judges, and security agents detain people for years without trial? Remember that Sambo Dasuki has been detained for about two years despite that four courts have granted him bail. Ibrahim Zakzaky of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria has been detained for over a year. Only recently, IPOB leader, Nnamdi Kanu was released after two years of detention for no reason. The case of the National Youth Council of Nigeria President, Barr. Ugochinyere Ikenga is even more worrisome as no one knows his whereabouts since the day the DSS broke into his office in Garki area of Abuja. EFCC will arrest a citizen, detain the person for months and start looking for evidence. What we have is a kind of rule of arms, not rule of law.
The administration of Buhari is two years old this month, what is your assessment of the government’s performance?
The government is doing well in detaining citizens without trial. It is performing in the area of propaganda and media trial. For now, we are waiting for change.
In Enugu State, the governor has recently been endorsed for second term by some senatorial zones, do you think he deserves the endorsement?
The Enugu Governor, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi has done well to deserve a second term. The people have seen what he has done and they have been endorsing him based on his performance in the last two years. Enugu State government is building solid infrastructure, including rural roads and bridges that have opened up local communities. The Managing Director of Peace Airline has also declared Ugwuanyi as the best governor in the country. So, I enjoin all state governors to emulate the Enugu State Government in terms of delivery of dividends of democracy because in two years, he has achieved what some governors could not achieve in eight years.