The brouhaha generated by the recent conflicting figures of the nation’s budget performance reached a peak last week with the finance minister defending her claims on the floor of the National Assembly. In this interview with TAIWO OGUNMOLA, frontline legal practitioner Chief Gabriel Giwa-Amu provides a legal insight into the controversy and speaks on other topical national issues
What is the implication of the unfolding controversy that greeted the minister of finance’s declaration on budget performance?
OkonjoIweala’s action was perfidious because this is a woman we all Nigerians trusted and her reputation knows no bounds. Her statement to the members of House of Representative is not only perfidious but fraudulent. It shows that in actual fact, there is no patriotism and no trust and love for the Nigeria people.
When we talk about implementation of budget, it is about providing services for the people. So her statement to the House is a slap to the integrity of Nigeria and if the House threatens to jail her, I doubt if they have such power. If it is so, she has to be arraigned first before convicted but I doubt if they have such power.
Do you agree with the notion that some ministers don’t have the same plan with the President?
What are the plans of president to Nigeria and what is the manifesto of PDP as a party? What is the direction of his government and has he given any clue to Nigerians on where he is driving this country to? The government of Peoples Democratic Party is directionless, purposeless and how do you expect the ministers in a purposeless government to act.
I watched with interest with what President Jonathan said about his body language during a media chat when one of the journalists said Jonathan’s body language is saying something different. A minister only acts based on the strong statement by the head of government.
When you delegate power to a minister, such person is bound to misuse the power. I personally said Jonathan’s government has no direction and it’s purposeless and I pray PDP should make another mistake to bring him in 2015.
The former military president, General Ibrahim Babaginda said military cannot hijack Jonathan’s government; do you agree with him, now that Nigerians are frustrated?
Babaginda sent a wrong signal because he is a man who says yes when he means no. For the fact that he said the military cannot take Jonathan’s government is a enough warning to the Presidency to tread cautiously. That means something is about to happen.
So if Jonathan’s government goes to sleep thinking that a limitary top shot has spoken, am sorry it may not end well. If these people raise alarm, it is a wrong signal. When the President came out to tell us that they should not expect him to behave as general - as a commander-in-chief how can you deny your role as a general.
What is your reaction to Nigerians who are imprisoned in China?
When that matter is ever brought up I always ask - what are the offences alleged against these people. The fact that the person is a Nigerian does not give him right to go to a country outside our shores to commit offences and hope to enjoy immunity. If they are 300 Nigerians imprisoned in China, the question to ask is what their offence was.
We have Chinese in our jail here too; also the British. So if you leave the shores of your country and you did not study their rules and regulations and you run foul of the law, then such person will pay for it. Most of the Chinese works around Nigeria without any check because we have irresponsible immigration service.
We have no policemen who will stop them on the road. It is not possible to work in the street of Britain without having your document. But you see these Chinese work around here loitering our street engaging in unlawful activity while immigration service look the other way. If the Chinese government decided not to look the other way and deal decisively with our people there, then we can’t blame them.
I have said it many times that we don’t have government. The only decisive government we had was Chief OlusegunObasanjo. When you do him, he does you back and people from outside know that Nigeria cannot be toyed with. Can Jonathan act the way Obasanjo did during his own time?
As a legal practitioner, can you advocate for somebody that found guilty in aboard?
In the first place, the person is not an indigent and I did not practice Chinese law. I cannot appear in their court in China and I wasn’t called to Chinese Bar. Even my foundation that advocates for the imprisoned will not do it for free.
The person should be indigent. The purpose of the foundation is to assist in decongesting the prison in Nigeria. If you ask me to do something about a person that is in custody in China, it shows you are no longer an indigent person. Yes, I can write petition on behalf of the person and make noise about it.
What can the government do to stop China from harassing Nigerians resident in their country?
What can I say to somebody that is deaf and dumb. If you ask me for my legal advice, the best thing is to take diplomatic channel; call for the repatriation of Nigerians to come and serve their jail term.
What may happen sometimes is once they arrive, the government will release them and that is the same thing the America do. If an American is commited in another prison, they will ask for such person to be repatriated to America.
They don’t believe in the Ghanaian system of law or Nigeria’s. So the best thing Nigeria can do is to ask for repatriation of Nigerians in China and tell them you are taking them to Kirikiri prison that is already over populated.
Do you think our government is capable of handling Chinese who go against the country’s law when we find it difficult to punish people who embezzle our money?
There is somebody who is in the prison custody now, a Philipino in Ikoyi awaiting trial; alleged to have had carnal knowledge of someone. He was one of the foreigners who are in custody. It is true that our judiciary stinks and absolutely decay and has gone to the edge of rot. It is a also a fact that a lot of our judges are corrupt and most of the investigative officers in this country are out rightly corrupt. Justice now is for a rich person, if you have your money, you are entitled to commit an offence.
All what you have to do is to pay for the colony of Senior Advocates of Nigeria and by the time they go to court, screaming and jumping, the man found guilty is out of court. The family of the defender found guilty in China will be given a freedom to buy a bullet to kill their loved ones who have been involved in that fraud. Fraud is not celebrated there like Nigeria. If EFCC invites you for alleged fraud, you are supreme thief. It is only policeman that investigate theft.
When you talk about embezzlement or fuel subsidy fraud, it falls into the purview of EFCC. What happens to the investigation of Farouk Lawal and Otedola? Farouk has not even been charged to court for it to be pronounced that he is not guilty. Otedola who said I gave who should have been also in the dock is walking around freely and I don’t know if our leaders know that the younger ones are watching us.
I said to my neighbour’s son one day - if you win a day Governor of Lagos, what will you request for. He answered I will ask for the checkbook of Lagos State. This boy is just 8 years old. His mind is set already that corruption is what makes the day. Why should somebody be granted bail; somebody alleged to have stolen 45billion? Meanwhile, we have lunatics and underage people in prison and I can give their names because that is what we do to give proper defense.
We have Rukayat Joe who is just 14 years, also nursing mothers. The youngest child in prison now is four months old because her mother was arraigned in court when she was pregnant; so she gave birth in prison. We have toddlers in prison as I speak with you and they will say the man that stole 45 billion is entitled to sleep at home.
The court and my colleagues have made the situation worse. Are you aware that since I started my foundation, we have gotten apathy and hostility from my colleagues; it shows that the decay is systemic. Do you believe that in Lagos, a magistrate calls for undisputed application for