Ifeanyichukwu Okonkwo is a trained Micro-biologist. He is a businessman and Human Right and Environmental Conservation Activist, a founder, Movement of Voice for Democracy (MVERS NIGERIA). He is not a lawyer but has taken the title of ‘legal engineer’. He is the only Nigerian that challenged the Justices of Supreme Court when they passed uncomplimentary remark on his person. In this interview with Ogbonna Casmir he said Nigeria legal education is in trouble because best brain best brains went to study medicine and engineering and left law for those who didn’t know trigonometry and who cannot solve quadratic equation. He spoke on President Buhari’s N6.8trillion Budget proposal for 2016.
Do you see conspiracy in the detention IPOB leader, Citizen Nnamdi Kanu?
With federal government, that there is an unwritten conspiracy or tacit support for his continued incarceration by Igbo elite because the minute Nnamdi Kanu is released from federal persecution there will be a change in political chemistry in Igboland. That is what my mind tells me.
What makes you think so?
First of all look the movement whether you support it or not of the agitation project Biafra, a specific generation are majority of those born after 1970, there medium of mobilization is highly technical through the internet and social media. Their loyalty to their cause is not something that you can say somebody received gratification, is not like hiring a crowed and most of their communication has being argumentative which the elite in Igboland have not tried to give them answer which they are agitating for because every agitation for Biafra is an indictment of the collective leadership in Igboland in the last 20yrs. Our political elite have not been able to stand up to demand full citizenship, they compromise group interest for personal success and that is the only issue that is firing Nnamdi Kanu’s movement. Eighty percent (80%) of the support group of that movement are resident outside Nigeria. Federal government will have serious issue trying him anyway, on issue of law if you asked that the man have committed treason; opinion can never amount to treasonable felony. Section 39 of our constitution will come to his rescue.
An American frayed Nigeria Bar Association for the conspiracy of silence over the continued detention of IPOB leader despite the unconditional release order of a court of competent jurisdiction. Do you thinking there is a conspiracy on the part of NBA?
Nigeria Bar Association is an elitist Bar. Is a bar of the same political class that is in government, not a bar built on any philosophy? So I don’t want to compare Nigeria Bar with other commonwealth country bar because our bar is not build on philosophy of emancipation of good governance or equal justice. Remember that corruption in an election in Nigeria is purely something that you will say that Nigeria bar has not being able to absorb themselves of corruption. Is just recently that they are trying to give vote to ordinary members of the bar to vote in an election. It has being an occultist, and elitist group that have aligned itself with the government from the day one. No one arrived to be president of the NBA without the influence of those in power. They are not the type of proactive bar that is independent that one will see social justice. So you may be asking too much because myself I am a victim, when the Supreme Court of Nigeria called me a crook when I have no pending matter before the court. I took the Supreme Court justices to court and not even one member of the NBA stood up to condemn what happened on 29th January, 2009. So you have to learn how to fight, I have to fight to get justice. So you don’t be expecting anything too from NBA, because is an elitist bar, a bar that made up of the same class of politicians that are dominating the polities of Nigeria. You cannot expect them to fight their co-traveler.
What is your opinion about the rule of law, as it regard the subsequent disobedient to court orders by the federal government?
First of all you must remember that before 1979 constitution that the Nigeria judiciary was part of the executive arm. It was the 1979 constitution that gave the judiciary its first independent and if you look at the headship of that institution, there have been people who some of them have never fought any case in court, they rose through the rank some their name have never been reported in any law case that they have fought, they rose through the rank. So the issue of rule of law in Nigeria you need more activists not more lawyers to get into government so that we can respect the separation of power.
How do you reconcile that court gave order for unconditional release of Nnamdi Kanu from over two months detention by DSS, and the federal government refused to obey the order. Instead in its try and error methods slams treasonable charge and arraign him before the same court it refuses to obey its order. Do the court have jurisdiction to entertain the case when its previous orders have not been obeyed?
The issue of jurisdiction is hinged on the constitution. Is not an issue that is hinged on the charge alone, the personality, the crime and who have the power to prosecute the crime. There is no judgment in favour of Kanu that he should not be arraign in any court yet, but what is happening will tell you about the death of the Nigeria lawyer this understanding of the rule of law, remember the office of the Attorney General of the Federation is the office that is prosecuting Kanu. That office is made up of very incompetent lawyers because if they are not incompetent from day one they will know why Kanu is being held and why he has to be brought to court. They cannot be forum shopping, they cannot be try and error you file this charge today you withdraw you now want to come back with another one. So, but the only issue they are enjoying is there is no court that ban them arraigning Nnamdi Kanu yet. What I am saying is shame to Nigeria lawyers because the ordinary people may not be able to understand what I am saying but the lawyers themselves know what I am saying because I know the workings of the law. What is happening is an indictment on the ministry of justice including the AGF. This is a shame that they cannot seat down, study a case, formulate charges and go to court. That is each time they said that they have charge so, so and so person to court by EFCC, I am laughing because I know that is the beginning of the man gaining his freedom. They will come with 1000 charges and non will hold. They don’t even know the limit of arraigning charges on accuse people. I challenge Nigerian lawyers let them come out and argue with me because individually all the charges, if you pick-up the average Nigeria law report you will see the porosity of the intellectual emptiness of the legal profession in Nigeria. I say it without prevarication the porosity of mistakes. No lawyer have ever lost a case, it is the clients that lose cases. Remember the case a lawyer went and filed a criminal notice of appeal for our brother Uwazurike and it was struck out and is a Senior Advocate of Nigeria and he is still working in the street parading self learned in law. Is it not enough for his name to be strike out from the list of lawyers?
So what we are seen is that Nigerians must be more proactive, don’t leave the law for the lawyers. I keep saying it every Nigeria must learn to read the constitution and I have been telling people that the greatest undoing in Nigeria is that people who fail mathematic became lawyers. Kanu have no judgment in his favour that he should not be arraigned but all this trial and error will tell that legal education in Nigeria is very serious in need of reconstruction because lawyers that cannot even understand a charge and all the ingredient of a charge and wants to arraign somebody in the court and all you hear is ‘as court pleases’ and we come back. The judge is not there to fight your case. Who tell you that under the constitution you cannot defend yourself? There is no rule of law that is not base on facts and facts must be presented before the court. You don’t place law before facts and if you know the facts you don’t need to know the law because the facts will resolve 80% of the issue. So, this is every serious dilemma in Nigeria. The judiciary in Nigeria has to attract the best brain because the best brain in Nigeria didn’t study law that is why we are having problem. Some of best brains went to study medicine and engineering and left law for those who didn’t know trigonometry and who cannot solve quadratic equation. They were not the best mind and this is the problem the country will continue to have until we change that stance.
You said that you are a legal engineer in an interview published in one of the national daily. What do you mean?
It is after thinking that you apply up. Nigeria lawyers apply up before thinking from my science background resolution of problem start with understanding the formula and there approach, signs of disease before you can deal with the chemistry and chromatography of resolving issue. That is why we need brilliant ones should be lawyers, so that you don’t suffer people who are in the court. If you go to court you see judgment that will be 30pages full of rubbish and issues are not resolved. How can a judge be seating down reading judgment for 2hours, are you telling me that all issues in the case contesting in that court cannot be resolved and find out within five to ten minutes judgment is delivered on the core issues that are in dispute between the parties, this is the problem. We don’t even criticize them but I criticize them because I know the law.
What is the possible prospect we are going to get in 2016 considering the economic downturn as the oil price continue to fall at the international market?
There is no hope. You cannot be doing the same thing over and over again and expect different result even though the architect might not be different. The basic issue of problem solving is to eliminate obstacles. President Buhari says he is fighting corruption I am asking him, is corruption he is fighting is just $2.1 billion allocated to the security adviser to the president, an office not known to Nigeria law, is it the fight for corruption? It cannot be the fight for corruption. The road map to fight for corruption is the distribution and enjoyment of the wealth Nigerians cannot justify and how to repatriate and punish those people. You will be seating down hearing a judge of a court making an order that the person who will be the sponsor of a bail for an accuse person will be a civil servant serving or retired who own property not less than N200 million in Abuja. If any person will qualify to come to do that, that person should be in jail because there is no civil servant in Nigeria that earn N20 million annually, how can you own a house without a mortgage and you call that justice and you are clapping. We have a serious issue is fundamental and political class in Nigeria are brink of architectural engineering to achieve social equilibrium in Nigeria is difficult. We have a culture of praying; that is why you can see Rev. Mbaka have to go and embrace Buhari in the presidency. What is his constituency? All these are part of the rubbish that is going on in Nigeria. What is his constituency that he was partisan and has gone to embrace him? These are issues that are going to confront us in 2016, if you want to be a priest you will be a priest and if you want to be a politician you will be a politician.
What is your take on the N6.8 trillion budget estimates for 2016 fiscal year?
The president said that 2016 budget is non-oil budget that is that the targeting of money would not be based only on oil export but they are going to look internally to tax and rest of them. I want the president to tell Nigerians who in Abuja have paid property tax for a city that is developing faster than Texas. It is when you collect property taxes in Abuja you should be able to fund education in Nigeria. The only tax the federal government collects is for the uniformed troops, other uniform services and civil servants in Abuja, but other than that who else will pay tax rather than to the states. FIRS cannot collect personal income tax for the state, so if we are looking for money and federal government on the road network which the federal government is controlling in the south-east; Onitsha – Enugu, Enugu – Port-Harcourt and Port-Harcourt – Owerri roads, they are owing the contractors not less than N600 billion and budget of the ministry of work is something above N300 billion and they are telling us they are doing zero budgeting. How many amount have they allocated to clear the debts on these roads for a how many years and what percentage of work will be done on these roads if we are expecting anything new. Already the minister for work has told us that we are going back to tollgate. Since British left us, we have not reclassified roads in Nigeria, why should federal government be in-charge of interstate roads. Nothing new and nothing will happen, is just like owing a contractor N30 billion and you give him N2 billion, he will go back and paid interest in his bank and continue to buy new cars and nothing will happen. I don’t know what anybody is expected. We should look inside; the members of national assembly don’t have the dexterity to even criticize this budget. We need people to now begin to ask question this is why our budget has become a yearly ritual. The last government budget in Nigeria was not implemented up to 30% while are we deceiving ourselves before you know it professors in economics is telling me that it is a beautiful budget when you are talking that we want the country restructured why are we creating big government.
Most of the network roads and other existing infrastructures were constructed by the military regime. What is happening under our democracy?
There were new roads, they had money and during the regime they plan those roads one of the roads was paid for. It was on proactive bases that government will plan, but now they want zero budgeting; so for zero budgeting in every year you look at what you can accomplished and put money into it, but they have not been able to tell us: for example I tell people that nothing will happen in the south-east roads for this yuletide, did you see any construction work in any of our roads to make it motorable, nothing because the government don’t have the vision. The political parties are not centered or hinges for development, our politicians are not thinking all these budgets are being drawn by people in the planning department in the ministry. President Buhari was government in seven months for seven months; he couldn’t draw up a budget.