AMNESTY CONTROVERSY: There is no difference between N-Delta militants and Boko Haram Islamists – Yusuf Ali
*On corruption: We are wrongly applying ‘legal shield’
‘Nigeria not serious about probity and transparency’
Mallam Yusuf Olaolu Ali is a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN). In this interview, he advances reason why Boko Haram Islamists deserve amnesty like the Niger Delta militants. He also speaks on how the law can be strenghtened to curb corruption. Excerpts:
Insecurity in Nigeria seems to be on the increase. What is it that we aren’t getting it right to stem it?
Security is everybody’s business. We need people who will be paid by the state to give information. That’s the way it was in the police. The DPO had budget for informants to be paid.No matter how sophisticated your gadgets may be, you still need human elements; informants.
Security operatives should not be stereotyped in their investigative ability and performance. They must be dynamic. For example, if the Kwara commissioner of police had been killed in Kwara State, they could have said it was Boko Haram that did it. Many killings in the North may not have any thing to do with Boko Haram if properly investigated.
If a man is killed, look at his life one year before the incident, who he had been associating with, business dealings, etc. Government too will have to do more to save lives and property. Man submits to society with the understanding that security will be provided, under social contract theory.
Quality of personnel, gadgets should be improved upon. Forensic investigations should be encouraged and finger prints technology should be improved upon. We must all see security as our business and encourage security operatives in our different ways. Government should provide CCTV in public commercial buildings to be solar-powered in case of poor electricity.
Many have suggested that the anti-graft agencies should be merged to ensure harmonisation of cases. What do you think?
It is not the agencies but the character of the man on the seat. If a devil appoints an angel to take care of an affair, the result will be angelic. We should have standard for public moral behaviour. It’s lacking in this country. Nobody cares when they hear a governor has ten girlfriends.
In spite of our religiousity, we are godless. Some countries that are less religious have better fear of God. God saves an American governor who has an affair or having children out of wedlock. But it’s a common thing here. No one cares. We lack morality, that’s the problem.
No amount of gun can suppress the will of the people, IBB once said, people should put a stop to the mess. Journalists should ostracise those we know are corrupt and the dregs of the society who are drawing Nigeria down, no matter their offices. Unfortunately, we promote them.
That’s my grouse. In the good old days, ostracisation worked because you know you will be shunned when found guilty of bad social behaviour. Crooks are now the best people in the society. As churches and mosques are growing, so also is morality going down.
Tell me a church or mosque which rejects money from a person whose donation is far above his income? President of CAN says his private jet is a gift. From whom? We must know the person and what he does. Journalists should help us do that.
Should amnesty be granted to members of Boko Haram?
I think so. Why should they not be granted amnesty? My position is that we must do everything that will bring peace to this country and promote continued existence of Nigeria. I don’t see much difference between the Niger Delta militants and members of Boko Haram.
We’ll be playing the ostrich if we now say no because it’s Boko Haram. We say it’s Boko Haram because it’s happening in the predominant northern region. We should not politicise the issue. Has anyone said it’s the Christians sponsoring the Niger Delta militants?
Why is it that every time problem happens in Muslim predominant area, they say it’s religious? These are social problems. It does not matter the way they put it. When they say people should not go to school, it’s part of social problems. It means they have not seen the benefits of those who go to school.
It’s a social problem and not religious. The first thing ypu know about Islam is that it promotes knowledge. So, how can any serious Muslim say education is bad, haram or illegal to be educated? Mind you, this knowledge does not differentiate between mundane or spiritual.
It says it’s universal knowledge, unadulterated and no boundary. To me, there is no difference between the militants and Boko Haram. The Niger Delta militants had their leaders in Dokubo, Tompolo etc. The so-called Boko Haram has their leaders too as shown on YouTube, etc. How then can you say that they are ghosts? All the foot soldiers that worked with Dokubo, Tompolo etc, were they known to anybody until the amnesty was granted? We should not play ostrich and so they should be granted amnesty too.
What is your take on the state pardon granted to some Nigerians?
One must be objective on a matter of this nature. We have to separate the matter into two. Legally, the president and state governors possess the power under our Constitution to grant state pardon to anybody, even people who have been convicted for murder. And there is no offence that is excluded under the law for state pardon to be granted.
So, on the law, one can hardly state pardon granted to anybody. But one can look at the issue from the social and moral ground. In criminology, the prevalence of a particular kind of offence calls for a severer punishment. One of the problems we are battling with is kidnapping, and that’s why some states are passing laws that kidnappers should be killed because it’s getting too prevalent.
Corruption has become so endemic in our society. That’s why some people in the country, including me, have called for death penalty. But others say death penalty is too grievous and thus recommended life imprisonment. All these calls only point to one thing clearly, that most Nigerians agree that corruption has become too endemic, even to the corporate existence of the nation itself.
Now, in granting a pardon or exercising the prerogative of mercy, the president or governors must take a holistic view of the particular crime, the prevalence of the crime, the social fabric and the morals of the public because, all said, the state is the custodian of the morals of the public.
Given our situation, our circumstances and the fact that Nigeria had sunk so low on corruption index of Transparency International and all other objective organisations, you then want to ask yourself, should we grant pardon to somebody who had been convicted of any corruption-related offence at this point in our national life?
Given the battle cry of the president himself that he wants to battle corruption; given the fact that we are told everyday that all the anti-corruption agencies are free to pursue, go after, arrest and prosecute anybody who is found liable of any form of corruption, that is where we have to situate any pardon granted. Of course, the argument could be that if somebody who killed could be pardoned, why not somebody who was found guilty of corruption? But, it’s true that somebody’s life is very extreme.