‘Politicians, aides misinforming president about insecurity ’
Prior to that, he had obtained a Bachelor’s degree in Philosophy and Sociology in 1984, from the University of Ife, now Obafemi Awolowo University.
After a robust legal experience in land matters, he opened Kayode Bankole & Associates (Legal Practitioners) in 1993 which still operates till date. He is a member of Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) and has had the privilege of having both personal and corporate clientele. He has been an external Solicitor to MC Royal Finance Company Ltd, Nigerian Football Supporters Club, Guinea Insurance Plc, Confidence Insurance Plc and Globe Re-insurance Plc.
A member of the Governing Council of Bowen University Iwo, Kayode is a member of the Baptist Schools Board of the Nigerian Baptist Convention; member of the hospital Management Board of the Nigerian Baptist Convention; member, Pension Board of the Nigerian Baptist Convention, Legal adviser to the Nigeria Baptist Convention as well as Solicitor to Ajah’Ile Lagos.
He carved a niche for himself in the area of land and property laws where he stands shoulder high among his colleagues. He opened the floodgate and blazed the trail by challenging the Land Use Decree of the military government and created a precedent, which has adorned law reference materials in Nigeria. Over the years, Bankole has also successfully handled many human rights matters against the Economic and Financial Crimes Commissions (EFCC) and the Nigerian Police Force, especially matters dealing with unlawful detention by these bodies. He is also an authority in Labour law.
Vocal Lagos lawyer, Bankole Kayode, in this interview with Assistant Editor, Law and Foreign Affairs, JOSEPH ONYEKWERE, charges President Muhammadu Buhari to tackle the challenge of pervasive insecurity across the country and ignore the counsel of his aides and politicians, who are misinforming him about the true state of things. He also assessed the performance of the judiciary and the immediate past government of Lagos State among other issues.
What is your assessment of the judiciary in the last four years of the government of President Muhammadu Buhari?
The judiciary has improved tremendously from what we had in the outset of this republic. It keeps improving. We are not there yet, but we are moving towards a very credible and excellent judiciary that Nigeria desires.
But people have criticized the government for its highhandedness against the judiciary, climaxing in the sudden suspension of the former CJN?
What happened to the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) is a high-wired chain of events. He went before the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) and the matter went to the normal courts on a number of occasions, but eventually the National Judicial Council (NJC) gave its verdict and it is the execution of the verdict of the NJC that we are waiting for now.
The NJC gave its verdict and for over two months that it was submitted to the presidency, no action was taken?
Democracy does not run like a military dictatorship. We are used to the speed of military dictatorship, where soldiers would make a decree and it would be implemented with immediate effect. It does not operate like that in a democracy. They have to look at various issues. The opinion of even the NJC has to be studied by experts and presidential consultants so that he would act in consonance with the recommendation of the NJC. If the president misses a word when he declares his position while carrying out the recommendations of the NJC, it could lead to court action too. So, we need to learn to move cautiously. It is a politically wired environment; hence everybody needs to be cautious of what he does.
What do you think about the verdict in Zamfara State that resulted in the Supreme Court awarding the victory of the candidates of the All Progressives Congress (APC) to those of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)?
The Supreme Court has spoken. It is unfortunate to see Prof. Itse Sagay (SAN) saying that the apex court should retake the matter. The court did not speak Greek when it made its pronouncement. There must be an end to litigation. Even the Supreme Court itself is not perfect and no human being is. The court has decided and so be it.
At least, we now have the situation whereby the internal democratic process must be carefully adhered to, unlike the situation where one influential man will just be calling the shots because he is a godfather. Whatever the rules and regulations of a political party are, you are bound to follow then. That is one of the improvements we are having in judicial pronouncements. Everybody will now be more careful next time.
The lesson of that verdict borders on internal democracy of political parties. It is simply saying – if you make some rules for yourselves, follow the rules. Don’t circumvent the rules. I believe among armed robbers, there are rules and regulations. So, why should people who aspire to lead us not follow the rules they made by themselves? If they cannot do that, how can they follow the rules made by the generality of Nigerians? Democracy is solidly evolving in Nigeria. If the Supreme Court can continue in this manner, in another 20 years, most of the gray areas would have been settled.
In the areas of insecurity across the country, what do you think should be the way out?
The president and commander in chief of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari should read the newspapers and listen to the news. He should stop listening to those people close to him. He should after listening to the news, listen to his wife. His wife is our mouthpiece in his bedroom. That lady is in fact the mother of the nation. She has a heart of gold. He should not listen to those service chiefs and the kitchen cabinet members that would be lying to him. He should not even listen to the governors from the South West, who are lying to him that the insecurity situations are being exaggerated. Those people are misleading him and feeding him with wrong information. He should rather listen to his wife. The security situation in the country is really bad. He has the reputation of dealing with insecurity during his time as a soldier, so he should replicate it now.
How do you rate the performance of the immediate past Chief Judge (CJ) of Lagos in terms of judicial reforms since you live and practise here?
Unfortunately, the flipside of the last CJ of Lagos State in terms of performance is more than the positive side. The rules of court dictate everything that happens in the court. Ever before the new rules became effective February this year, arbitrariness had taken over in Lagos judiciary. All the fees chargeable on every process filed are contained in the rules of court, but since last year, it has changed. You walk into the registry and the clerk will look up and say you should go and pay a humongous amount for filing your process. And you check the rules of court, it is saying something else. It happened under her. It is not good. I cannot give her pass mark there.
Again, when the new rules of court were being challenged in court, it was expected of her to suspend the contentious aspect, which borders on cost against lawyers, but they went on as if nothing happened. What is more? The person that went to challenge it was fined some ridiculous amount of money, saying that he had no locus standi for a public interest matter.
Don’t forget, the situation about locus standi has changed from the time of Adesanya Vs Shagari to that of Akilu Vs Fawehinmi. It has changed to say that you are your brothers’ keeper. So the issue of locus standi that they used to bandy about then has changed. What is more? The rule of court on the fundamental human right enforcement procedure has said that when you know that the right of a citizen is likely or is being infringed upon, you can go to court on behalf of that person. But I am surprised at the kind of thing we are seeing now. We are no longer in 1980’s. This is 2019.
She also said the NBA was there when the committee that reviewed the rules did its work. Was it that the NBA slept over its right to make recommendations at that time?
The recommendations were made but were not considered. Even immediately the rules of court were published, the NBA still went to meet the CJ and told the CJ our indignation about the rules that they could stifle the process of justice administration.The rules affect people’s right of fair hearing. We really had a rough time under her.
What actually was the grouse of the Bar against the new rules?
Our grouse is that the cost should be reasonable. According to the new rules, failure to file your process within time attracts default fee of N1000 per day, whereas it used to be N200. Again, if the court feels that your reason for not allowing a matter to go on is unreasonable, the lawyer would be fined N100,000.
The worst part of it is that justice is supposed to be for the lawyer, litigant and the judge but that is not the case here. Justice administration is a system where the court, judges, lawyers and all the court officials participate, but she decided to go after one party. There are instances where you prepare and go to court and the judge comes out to say you should all go and pick a date. The judge under the new rules has no consequences for adjourning proceedings unnecessarily. How do you want to implement such rules and want us to keep quiet?
So, what are the positives from her administration?
There are parts of the rules that have further enhanced administration of justice wherein some frivolous applications would not be tolerated again.
In fact, the overall objective of the new rules is to expedite justice delivery, which I have no problem with, but it must not be to the extent that you punish a party and when the other party infringes on the same law, you cloth it with immunity and there are no consequences. That is not right! Under her too, corruption has gone down unlike before when if you want to file a process, you encounter a situation where clerks would be demanding extra payments. She has checked the situation in those areas.
Also, there are interactions among judges that make them to be more careful now. There was a time when in Lagos some particular judges would do whatever they like. It no longer happens. Those days, some judges would be banging the table, yelling that it is their court, that they would administer justice the way they like. So, their composure has changed considerably. They are more temperate, circumspect and exhibit the tendency to listen more patiently to all parties now.
Do you think you will get justice at the Lagos high court since you are in court over the matter and the applicant has been slammed with a high cost according to you?
Of course, we will get justice. At the end of the day, the matter is not going to end at the Lagos high court. It will ascend to the appeal court and finally at the Supreme Court. So we believe that the process of justice administration would correct whatever imbalance we noticed. We are not saying it should be perfect, but when the imperfections were pointed out to her, we believe there ought to have been adjustments and not being too rigid like in the Merchant of Venice that pound of flesh was demanded.
What is your assessment of the immediate past government in Lagos state in the area of land reforms?
Unfortunately, ex governor Akinwunmi Ambode disappointed so many people. What we have known in Lagos state, was a chain of government of continuity, but when he came, he abandoned most of the projects being executed by his predecessor. For instance, in the area of housing, can you see the number of uncompleted housing projects that dotted the landscape of Lagos? Look at Lekki-Epe expressway, it was where Babatunde Fashola stopped that it stopped.
Instead, he went to develop Epe. What of the roads that lead to Epe? Is Epe an Island? The other area of land administration, it has always been the policy of successive governments of Lagos state to put a human face to the implementation of the Land Use Act. They know that they have devolved the land of ordinary landowners without paying compensation. So, they devised a process of excision to mitigate it, even though that is alien to the law. But it is a human angle to the whole thing.
When Ambode came, all the excision granted by Fashola, he discontinued. There are so many litigations in court now, challenging revocation of rights.
Bola Tinubu did not do that and even Fashola who happens to be a senior advocate did not do that. But he came in and put up this stubborn attitude by trying to undo what his predecessors had done. That was very wrong. So, my advice to the new governor is that he should not abandon the projects that Ambode left unfinished, otherwise, there would be so many uncompleted projects in Lagos.
On the area of land administration, he should ensure that he applies the human face aspect of the law like Tinubu and Fashola did. He should respect what his predecessors in office had done by perfecting those excisions. Don’t forget, when Tinubu was a governor in Lagos, there was a worldwide recession but it was not felt in Lagos. That was because of the little human face that he applied in governing the state. But during Ambode, the little recession that happened to just Nigeria alone was so much felt that people were committing suicide, some marriages broke up and others driven to the edge. Unfortunately, the projects that he started are okay, but the areas that are left undone made him to be so unpopular with the masses.
Was that what caused him the second term?
I believe so because if he had gotten second term, most people would have packed out of Lagos.
Nigerian government is working to revive the economy through foreign direct investment. Do you think we can succeed in getting such investments when the licences of media houses are being suspended?
Press freedom is circumscribed under certain laws like defamation and publications that are likely to cause public disorder. That is when publications are fabricated and cannot be proven. So such publications can lead to public disorder. Of course, the law would take its place. The only thing is: whenever the press is to be sanctioned, it must be done according to the extant laws. The press is not above the law.
We agree that the press is not above the law, but due process must be followed in sanctioning them. So, what do you have to say about the suspension of the licence of AIT?
The media outfit was only suspended. Suspension is different from revocation. Where the law suspends a media outfit pending further action, then it would be a breach of the law, if no further action is taken on the part of the authority suspending the operational licence of the outfit. If suspension was in accordance with the provisions of a statute, which has not been declared void, until such statute is declared null and void, the suspension persists.
I am of the opinion that when a licence is suspended and the concerned institution believe it was unjust, instead of demonstrating and whipping up sentiments, they should approach the law court for an order to lift and declare the suspension null and void. They can go to court to ask that that suspension be lifted pending the determination of the case and that is exactly what AIT did.
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