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If we must restructure, we must begin with local government adminstration, says Akingbolu

By Yetunde Ayobami Ojo
28 September 2021   |   2:40 am
Kabir Akingbolu is a lawyer, human rights activist and member of Ekiti State Judicial Service Commission. In this interview with YETUNDE AYOBAMI OJO, he spoke on restructuring, insecurity and other issues.

Kabir Akingbolu

Kabir Akingbolu is a lawyer, human rights activist and member of Ekiti State Judicial Service Commission. In this interview with YETUNDE AYOBAMI OJO, he spoke on restructuring, insecurity and other issues.

Despite persistent demand for restructuring, the Federal Government appears unmoved. How can Nigeria embark on this process?
When you look at it critically, the issue of restructuring is not a one-man business. Powers are shared between the federal and state governments in the kind of federation we operate. State governments are component part of the federation, so also the local governments. Therefore, we have three tiers of government, but unfortunately, governors have tactically deleted or obliterated the local government councils. They do not even reckon with it as part of the three tiers of government, to the extent that one member of the House of Representatives sponsored a bill to scrap the local government, although the bill failed.

Governors in Nigeria today wield a lot of powers to the extent that they almost get everything they want. Funny enough, they have also established what they called Governor’s Forum. I don’t want to say it is an illegal or an unconstitutional body, because there is nowhere in the 1999 Constitution, where the office of Governors’ Forum is established.

Unfortunately, a sitting governor still chairs that organisation. Anyway, that is a discussion for another day. But then, the governors in their wisdom, power and influence are pushing the issue of restructuring to the public, as if they are interested in restructuring. They tried to sell it to the public that it is the President of the Federal Government that doesn’t like restructuring. But this is not the case. It is the governors that don’t want it. In those days when we were growing up, all trunk C roads and track roads were the duty of the local governments to fix. Now state governments have taken over all the constitutional responsibilities of the local governments. They perform the function of the local government. Unfortunately, the House of Assembly in each state is populated by governors’ loyalists, who cannot do anything against the wish of their masters.

Recently the President claimed that when they (FG) give N300 million to a local government, a governor would take N200 million and give the council N100 million to operate with. There are governors that don’t even give the councils up to N5 million to run the local government. After payment of salaries, governors take everything from the council chairman. The way governors achieved this is that they put touts, thugs and illiterates in all the local governments.
But, it appears governors are showing interest in local government autonomy now
They are not. It was when the President hit them that they began to claim they wanted autonomy for local governments. They are just saying it. They have not implemented it. Don’t forget the President even signed executive Order 10 for the autonomy of state legislature and the judiciary, but most states have not implemented it up till today. Another strike may come soon. They are only deceiving Nigerians.

In fact, we don’t have a serious Federal Government ready to fight corruption, otherwise, virtually all the governors in Nigeria will go to life jail after their tenures, especially with what they did with local government funds. There is no state where they don’t take this money. It is only in Lagos you see the similarity of freedom for the local government. Though there is a huge interference, at least they still give the councils some powers to function. If we must restructure, we must start from local government administration.

Do you think southern governors can enforce the ban on open cattle grazing as proclaimed after their Asaba and Lagos summits?

It is not possible and do you know why? Most of the governors have abandoned the act of governance. They are only concerned about 2023. The President knows he is going, this is his second term, so he may not be concerned. But most of the governors are not concerned about anything governance and most of what they do is for political reasons or political permutations, they are not serious about governance. When they make noise about banning open grazing, they don’t mean it. Ekiti is the first state in Nigeria to make open grazing an offence. How many people have been convicted after then? They are just making noise because some of them believe if they don’t do it, they might not get what they want.

I have always been an advocate of cattle ranching or Ruga. We have it in Lagos. How many times do you see cattle herders moving around Lagos? It is rare, except in the suburbs like Badagry or Ikorodu. People think that it is only Fulani that does cattle business. Our politicians own most of these cattle you see around. They give the cattle to the Fulani people, pay them salaries or feeding allowance to feed the cattle, and keep for them. Also, the grazing routes cannot work in view of the provision of the Land Use Act.

The Act vests all the land in governors, so the President cannot sit in Abuja and tell us there must be an open grazing route in Lagos, Kano, or in Ondo state. He must have the cooperation of the state government. But I think the time has come when the business of cattle rearing must be well structured to avoid a crisis with farmers. Cattle grazing is one of the oldest professions apart from harlotry. Most of the prophets came from cattle rearing families. They are shepherds. If in the 21st century we are talking about cattle straining, entering people’s houses, causing accidents on the roads, I think we are not being fair.

The worsening state of security has become such a big challenge that Governor Masari recently called for self-defence. How do you view this?
The call by Governor Masari for self-defence is an unfortunate one and an admission of failure, that government is not able to provide security for the people. The essence of government is to provide what the people cannot provide for themselves and one of those things is security. Now, everybody is the minister of defence in his or her house because the government is doing nothing. Schools are no longer safe and to worsen the situation, they attacked Nigeria Defence Academy (NDA) in Kaduna. Kaduna, which was supposed to be the safest state, where we have Command and Staff College, NDA, Police Training College, and the First Mechanised Division. In fact, the barracks in Kaduna are more than five. Most of the security apparatus is in Kaduna, yet the bandits are still attacking the people there. If somebody could enter NDA and perpetuate that dastardly act successfully without any hindrance then, you should know that something is wrong with our security architecture. If institutions are no longer safe in Kaduna I don’t know where we can run.

How do you view controversies surrounding sponsors of Boko Haram and why the government lacks the courage to fish them out for trial?
This government is not serious. Buhari’s government has been highly nepotistic. Nepotism is ruling because he doesn’t want to call armed herders terrorists and he is even playing with Boko Haram terrorists. I can’t understand why the government should reabsorb repentant members of Boko Haram into the society, knowing full well that the insurgents have killed over 40, 000 Nigerians in the last 10 years.

The same government went after IPOB leader, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, and the Yoruba freedom fighter, Sunday Adeyemo, aka Sunday Igboho, declaring them enemies of the country, although, I don’t support the call for dismemberment because Nigeria is better together as one. But at the same time, I don’t want a fraudulent unity where one ethnic group feels superior to the others. The present state of governance in Nigeria is fraudulent. In a situation whereby 80 per cent of appointments go to a particular section of a country and others share 20 per cent is not fair and just. It is not equitable. If you do equitable justice, you find out that you share things rationally; it will make sense to people. If you have to release or assimilate Boko Haram terrorists into the society because they have surrendered, then you must free all the Igboho supporters and IPOB supporters. If you don’t do that, it is discrimination of the highest order. You cannot treat two cases differently; you cannot apply different laws to the same case. It is unfair.
There are fears that the election may not hold in 2023 due to insecurity?

All those insinuations are just the imagination of mischief-makers. Government is a continuous process. Whether we like it or not, the election will hold. Look at 2015, when people said the election will not hold because as at that time, Boko Haram had captured six states in the country, but when the election was around the corner they rejigged the security apparatus. They sent the military to the states and the election was conducted in a free and fair environment. That is why you cannot rule out the issue that the government knows the sponsors of Boko Haram. A retired military intelligence officer recently disclosed that this government knows the sponsors of Boko Haram, but that he didn’t want to mention their names. I don’t know why he refrained from mentioning names. If the sponsors are not fished out, there is no how we can end the insurgency.

There are people who are making money from this brigandage and banditry. When it comes to criminality, Nigeria’s government now separated them by nomenclature. All these criminals have gone to the extent of terrorising the people daily. Government is not serious about fighting criminalities because those who are making money from them don’t want it to end. Whichever means, the government is also complicit. They are also guilty.

Last year, the Federal Government asked states to set up Judicial Panels to look into police brutality and related infractions across the 36 states. Some states have submitted their reports. Lagos has even extended the time frame of its panel twice due to the volume of cases before it. Do you think the outcome of the panel’s works will engender a better police force?

It will never be because police harassment is getting worse by the day. I was thinking the Police have learned their lessons, but they haven’t. The panels of inquiry have been sitting, but I don’t see anything cheery coming out of it. In most cases, it would just be business as usual. Some states have submitted reports and nothing has been done, though Lagos is trying, the governor has paid some people and the panel is doing well. But in other states, not much has happened concerning the recommendations made by the panels.