From Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
Former minister of justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Kanu Agabi has described the presidential system of government as dictatorial.
He stated this on Monday at the maiden meeting of the 36 states attorney general of the federation organised by the Nigeria Governors Forum( NGF) in Abuja.
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Agabi who spoke on the subject: “insecurity at the sub national level the role of our attorneys general”,
I am called to address you on your role in ensuring security at a time of gross violence of and insecurity. This is indeed a proper subject to discourse.
It is an appropriate subject to discourse now, with nothing seems predicted. Now when virtually all the structures for accountability, erected by law have been knocked down, and no one seems accountable. It is true. The structures for accountability have been destroyed. And no one seems accountable.
In 1999, at the time of our return to civil rule, we’re ranked as the second most corrupt nation in the world. I do not know where we stand now in that ranking. But if we were to judge matters, by the standards of the security of life hardly anyone will believe that we have made any improvements at all.
Live as they say and if that is uncertain? If Life is uncertain, what can we boast of
Just as today in our country, wealth is everything, power is everything. And life is nothing. And this is at a time when you are the attorneys general of our states, a time when we don’t wrestle with life, we cannot acquire power by all means, we can acquire wealth by all means, and life is nothing.
Poor communities are wiped out. And no one cares, Is that not true? Is it not true that in many parts of our country, poorer communities are being wiped out?
God himself as ordained that we should oppose these evils without our hands. Some people are able to do so, they oppose it with their hands, others are able to oppose it by word of mouth and it is sufficient
We ought not to refuse to accept that poor communities are being wiped out in our country, people are being killed. All that is required of us at this moment is to agree that it is true. And if we do the Lord will record that we have done well. But if we keep silence we become implicated in that process. We cannot be silent now. If we are we are implicated please. We live in fear and the least we can do as I said is to discuss these matters.
According to him, the presidential system is dictatorial with a purpose to wield the nation together.
As for yourselves, attorneys general you are appointed by law to oppose these evils. You have no option. Once you accept office as Attorney General, you are bound by oath to distinguish yourselves as impeccable resolute and inflexible opponents of the evils that now oppose us. You attorneys general are at the frontline. You’re the generals in these states to uphold the law and order. The powers and duties of the Attorney General are provided by the constitution, it is you who ensure that you the rule of law is maintained and that government actions are legally unconstitutional valid. But you are supposed to be champions of liberty and justice.
The Governors must allow the attorneys general to advise them. The work of the attorney general is not easy. When you have to tell the truth to the governor at a time when flattery is rampant. There are no shortages of people who want to serve the governors. If your own attorney general lies to you, or flatters you, he is administering a poison to you. The Attorney General must not do that. His duty is to tell you the truth. Once he has done so, you must act upon it. Because even for you, the governors a time of accounting is coming. Listen to your attorney general. If you don’t, if you fail in the law as some have done, and some are still doing, you will create problems of insecurity that we are now discussing.
He said “the presidential system is adopted when a nation. It is a dictatorship with a purpose, used to wield the nation together.
“In Presidential system of government unity is not optional because all powers are vested in one man.
“There is a culture of dictatorship today, there are a lot of tendencies to divide the nation and not unite. We must unite across all regions because nothing will be gained by dividing the nation.
“We must unite to solve the problem confronting us, we can’t solve them by diving us.
“We need a national integration commission that can unite us so that someone from Plateau can work in Lagos. We must allow a situation where competent Nigerians can serve in a state in another state.
“The borders of the country must be open because these are the things that are militating against our nation.
Many of us in this country are proceeding on the false assumption that all will be well in our time. But it is not well in our time, it isn’t. We’re living in fear. People are being killed, poor communities are being wiped out. Nothing is predictable, in our own time, because the Lord is proving to us that the illusion that we had that we shall live in peace and then these atrocities the results will take place at another time. Is that correct.
The Attorney General is an independent officer responsible to the people and not to the governor. Let me repeat it. It’s true. The Attorney General is an independent officer responsible to the people and not to the governor. The Supreme Court had said so. And you know it. He guides us and opinions of the Attorney General prevail in the event of a conflict. You are so strong. But it calls for education. You must enlighten yourselves. Because if you don’t know the law, how can you advise your governor, you have the duty to know the law. It begins with know the law. You are not politicians. You may have been taken from the political pool, but the moment you are appointed attorney general, you no longer politicians, you become responsible to the people, whether those people belong to APC or PDP or whatever party.
We are at fault. We have to acknowledge that we are at fault that is where it starts. The examination works on conscience and the admission that we are at fault. It reached a point in this country, when corruption permeated every departments of our national life under the military. And it remains the same position till now. We are at fault. And every Nigerian must admit he is fault and repent and return.
Nigeria must arise and return to the law. If we don’t do that, and think that you attorneys general can perform some miracle it is impossible. Each and every one of us is guilty. And each and every one of us must repent
Because the laws are not self-enforcing. However good they are, they are not self enforced. They require good people to enforce
And the same thing is happening in society today. We multiply the laws .We have a state assembly to make laws, we have the Senate to make laws, we have the House of Representatives to make laws. The laws are so many, they are so voluminous. You can never know them all, however much you try.
The powers of attorney generals are limited. As great as those powers are, they are limited. They are not magicians. Why do we have the problems that we have?. Number one, we must respect the Constitution. In this country, very stigmatizing the Constitution as the product of the military and refusing to obey it. We must respect the cost. We must comply with the Constitution. If we don’t comply with the Constitution, and proceed on the basis that we don’t have the Constitution that’s spells anarchy. We have a constitution
The powers of attorney generals are limited. As great as those powers are, they are limited. They are not magicians. Why do we have the problems that we have?. Number one, we must respect the Constitution. In this country, very stigmatizing the Constitution as the product of the military and refusing to obey it. We must respect the constitution. We must comply with the Constitution. If we don’t comply with the Constitution, and proceed on the basis that we don’t have the Constitution that’s spells anarchy. We have a constitution it may not be a good constitution. But it’s our Constitution. It is the broken down vehicle but it is our vehicle. And we must repair it and managing until we get to our destination or until we are able to replace it. But if we proceed from the premise that we don’t have a constitution… the states were created by the military, can we reject them? The institutions, the National Assembly, the state assembles, the local government were created by the military can we reject them? We can’t. There were created under this Constitution. We have a Constitution. A nation cannot have a constitution that is you know valid for all generations because every generation when it comes along, will amend the Constitution to suit its needs and if we find difference the constitution and there are differences in the Constitution, our duty is amend it. Generations coming will amend the constitution to suit their own needs. Secondly, we must modify the laws to suit local circumstances.
The laws that govern our affairs are foreign. The system of government that we have adopted is foreign. It is our duty to adapt them to suit local circumstances, we must adapt the laws, if it don’t adopt them, we will continue to have the problems of insecurity, that that we are having right now. Lack of respects for the Constitution, the rule of law, we must keep within the confines of the law in the discharge of our duties. The rule of law means that the legislature will exercise its authority for the peace, order, good governance of the nation. I’m sorry to say this, there is always a contest for power between the executive and the legislature. In this country, that contest has been born by the legislature through the exercise of what is called oversight functions. Under the law, the power to investigate is incidental to legislation. In other words, when the legislature is conducting an exercise to make laws, it can conduct investigations for the purpose of making good laws. The legislature is not permitted to conduct investigations for the purpose of exposing corruption for its own sake. You can’t do that. So the exercise by the legislature as you know the separation of powers. These issues have been decided by the auto supreme court. The mercenaries of law enforcement is weak. Under the military law was enforced by the military. The police and judicial were relegated. Whenever the military found it convenient, then outsted the jurisdiction of the court, the court became weak, the police became weak and it’s going to take some time before we can rehabilitate those institutions so that you can meet the needs of the nation. There has been a lot of argument about having a state police or confining ourselves to the Nigerian Police. Of course states are agitating for state police because the problems of insecurity are so great. What’s wrong with having more people to look into this matters what’s wrong with that? We need more policemen.
The Police, like the judiciary is a limited institution. It is founded on the premise that crime would be limited that you both will be called upon to be limited, if it becomes unlimited, it will come indifferent and that is what has happened. And that is why I started by saying that, we must correct ourselves each and every one of us has a duty to correct ourselves. If we do that, we will limited the work of the judiciary but if we proceed on the premise that we need to increase the number of our policemen, the problem will not be solved even if each household has a policeman. So let us correct ourselves.
The presidential system is actually a dictatorship under the constitution. Because our power is vested in one man. Just as in the States all executive power is vested in one man the governor, executive power is not vested in two people, it is vested in one man. Why is that so? The presidential system is a system of government that a nation adopts, when there are divisive tendencies in that nation, and that president is expected to use that great power wield the nation together. It is a dictatorship but it is a dictatorship with a purpose. It is meant to be used wield the nation together. Forgive me for saying this please. It may be ignorance, forgive me beforehand. And what I say is this, a nation that has adopted the presidential system, unity is no longer optional. Because you have taken all that power to one man that he may bind you together. If we think that unity is optional, we should reconsider the presidential system. Because if all that power vested in one man, and if he doesn’t exercise it, or if he exercises it improperly, then the likelihood is that the nation will break down. You have to consider whether it is right that all power be vested in one man. There is in our country today, a culture of dictatorship. The nation must unite. You all know the various factions that exist in every state of this country, to divide the nation. Not unite but to divide. The nation must unite. The nation cannot survive, with weak institutions. We must unite from east to west, from north to south. Nothing is going to be gained from dividing the nation, but everything is going to be gained from uniting the nation. So we must unite whether we are Christians, whether we are Muslims, whether we come from the east, or from the west, we must unite. The nation must unite. I look forward to that day when the nations of Africa, the Cameroon, Gabon, Togo, Ghana, will come into this union. Why not? What’s wrong with unity? We must unite. We must solve the problems that are confronting us. We are not going to solve them by breaking up. We can solve them and move ahead that’s what I mean. And to this end, there is need for the nation to set up a national integration commission, a commission that will integrate the nation so that a man or woman from Plateau can work in Cross River. So that a man or woman from Taraba can work in Lagos. The reintegration is essential for progress.
The former AGF also attributed the rising insecurity to the lack of domestication of laws.
According to him” the constitution may not be good but it is ours. We must repair and manage it until we can replace it. The states were created by the military can we reject them? We can’t. A nation cannot have a constitution that is valid for all generations, every generation amends it to suit their needs.
“Secondly, we must modify the laws to suit local circumstances.
The laws that govern our affairs are foreign, the system of government adopted is foreign but we must adopt the law to suit our realities else we will continue to have the problem of insecurity.“
He further explained that the machinery of law enforcement is weak.
According to him, the military weakened the judiciary and the security agencies and it will take time to fix them.
“Why do we talk of state police? It is because the problem of insecurity has become huge. The police like the judiciary is a limitless institution.
“Even if we increase the number of policemen the problem will not abate until we correct ourselves. A divided nation will be insecure,” he added.
On corruption, he said “we must give up the issue of corruption. We must admit we have a problem with corruption.
“When we steal, bring home proceeds of corruption, we are feeding them with poison.
Contending that the states are weak, small, easily pocketable, he said where one man is dominated, they can easily be manipulated.
Agabi lamented that elections are not free nor fair saying “ the day this country will have free and fair elections, our problem will be solved.
“We are still in a dictatorship, this time dictatorship of individual, one who can rig himself to power.
“We don’t have opposition, National Assembly operates as an extension of executive, we must have opposition.”
He said the dominance of one political party weakens our federalism.
“The dominant role played by money, the government is run on level of patronage. It is not pleasant to talk about these things.”
He called on state attorney generals to carry out their duty without fear and order.
Agabi urged governors to allow the attorney generals to advise them.
“If your attorney general lie to you he is administering poison to you. If he advises you, you must listen and act become a times of accountability is coming.
“Governors that are violating the laws will create problem of insecurity like it is happening now.
“Many of us in this country and progressing in the false assumption that all will be well in our time but that is not happening. It is not correct to say
“The attorney generals are independent and responsible to the people and not the governor.
“I urge the attorney general to educate themselves because if you don’t know the law you cannot advise your governors. You are not politicians, you may have been taken from the political pool but the moment you are appointed, you belong to the people.
“The attorney general may not be able to give justice but must be able to give consolation,” he said.