From Gyang Bere, Jos
Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) andformer member of the House of Representatives Hon. Edward Pwajok, in thisinterview speaks on the deteriorating security situation in the country amongother issues.
Do you think having death penalty for kidnappers would resolvethe reoccurring issues of criminality in the country?
Let me answer in this way bystarting with some questions to you who is a journalist and to the media ingeneral. For us to properly understand these issues, it is important to posesome of these questions to the relevant authorities. We should ask thegovernment and particularly the security agencies and the police, how manykidnap suspects they have, that is those suspected of being kidnappers? Howmany have they prosecuted, how many have been convicted? From there, you go tothe Ministry of Justice and find out how many suspected kidnappers they areprosecuting in various courts, and how many they have been able to convict. Iam starting from that angle because I just read a report that a US government’sagency found out that over 8600 Nigerians were killed during violent attackslast year. Now, how many persons are standing trial on account of thoseattacks. So, we need to be scientific in our approach; that is why I am sayingthat the media has a role to play; we need to know whether they have been ableto identify the kidnappers, whether they are with the Police, whether they arein prison or they are at large. If we just say let us slam death sentence onkidnappers, how many kidnappers are now standing trial; it may even be that somepeople are playing to the gallery, because if you don’t have persons that arestanding trial, so it is a cosmetic pronouncement; at the end of the day,nobody will be convicted and nobody will be executed. So, to me we have to putthe cart before the horse. That is to say, let us strengthen our intelligencegathering mechanism, let us strengthen our crime fighting mechanism. You and Iknow what is happening in today’s Nigeria; the Minister of defense saideverybody should go and defend himself. The implication of that is thatgovernment security has failed; if the security has failed and you are nowcoming with a death sentence for kidnappers, that shows that we are at themercy of kidnappers; it is only God that can save Nigerians. For me, the numberone thing that we ought to be doing is not just strengthening or tightening thepunishment, we need to strengthen intelligence gathering in Nigeria; by doingthis you will be able to know who the kidnappers are. For example, if you go tobeer parlours, brothels and super markets, you will see those who ordinarilyhave no visible means of income or livelihood but they spend outrageous amountsof money. That should raise some suspicions in the security agencies. Theyshould be able to investigate that this person is spending beyond his income,where is he getting his money from. We have had that kind of information beforeon account of kidnappers because the kidnappers when they kidnap their victimsand collect ransom, they spend the money either in beer parlours, brothels andsuper market by spending profligately, some of them even talk freely when theyget drunk, that will enable us get information. Are we doing that in Nigeriatoday? In our various communities, may be somebody was barely feeding butsuddenly you see him driving expensive cars, nobody in the community even thetraditional ruler will not raise eyebrows, do you know whether that person gothis money from ransom from kidnapping? I am raising these issues because thegovernment and security agencies ought to take them seriously and it is notjust an issue of strengthening the punishment. I told you that over 8600persons were killed in Nigeria and the punishment for murder is death; has itdiscouraged people from killing their fellow human beings; it has not and thereason is because there is no prosecution. You are a Journalist, find out, howmany people that have being killing Nigerians; they call them either bandits,insurgents, militants or Fulani criminal herders; find out how many of them arebeing prosecuted. For me, issues of insecurity should be taken seriously andlet government do the right thing, that is my take.
The Senate recently called for the declaration of state ofemergency on the security sector following the kidnapping of students ofGovernment Science Secondary school in Niger State, is that the way out?
That will not work. If you declarestate of emergency, it means you have the tools to do things extraordinarily.What is the strength of the Armed Forces? If you declare state of emergency, itmeans you are going to deploy and strengthen the Armed Forces to certain areasto overwhelm the criminals in that area to restore normalcy. Today, we all knowthat the Armed Forces and the police are over stretched, their man power is notenough. The Military are in all the states of the federation to the extent thatif there are attacks in some areas, even if you invite the military to gothere, they do not even have sufficient personnel, so how effective will thestate of emergency be? If you declared state of emergency, let us saythere are some forests where some kidnappers reside or criminal herders reside;they will go there in full force and take control. Do we have sufficient numberof the military to do that? To me, the Senate should have engaged firstwith the security agencies to find out what should be done to declarestate of emergency. State of emergency means you have to take some extraordinary measures to now go and overwhelm the criminals. But in Nigeria, it canbe abused because you now have some security personnel that will now use thestate of emergency to deny Nigerians their fundamental human rights; some mayeven take some people’s properties in the name of state of emergency. They shouldtell us what they exactly mean by state of emergency. Are you removing somebodyfrom office, that will be illegal, what are you going to do, let Nigerians knowpursuant to the state of emergency or what will the National Assembly invest inthe security sector to now say we are declaring state of emergency; they arenot very clear that is why I am afraid that it can be abused.
There has been a serious debate following a statement on theeviction of herdsmen from Ondo stage, how best do you think these issues can beresolved for Nigeria to remain as a country?
People don’t want to admit thatthese are all symptoms of state failure. When the state is failing, we now havewarlords issuing orders and there is no better example of state failure thanthe statement credited to the Minister of defense who said Nigerians shoulddefend themselves. In other words, he is saying that the defense of the statehas failed. Therefore, Nigerians take over and protect yourselves. In anotherbreadth, he is justifying the presence of warlords and if you have warlords,they will be dishing out orders. First, let us agree that there is systemfailure today in Nigeria. The other day, Garba Shehu said when those innocentfarmers were killed in their farm lands that they should have asked forpermission before going to their farms. Why should somebody in his own God-givenland seek permission to farm his land? This is another evidence of statefailure; we should not be deceiving ourselves; the problem of insecurity in Nigeriais very serious and the government is not doing what it ought to be doing andwhen you ask some questions, they will suspect one of committing treason. Dr.Obadiah Mailafiya granted an interview and said some home truths but he wasinvited by the Police, DSS and others but others have said the same thing andnobody has invited them. The governor of Bauchi State claimed that Fulaniare justified in carrying AK47 but the government is not seeing anythingunusual but if here, if an ordinary citizen says the same thing, because I am aminority that made the statement, the DSS will invite me.
But it appears he has apologized to Nigerians over thestatement?
I read what his spokesperson said;he even defended the initial statement of the governor, that is not an apology.You apologise by withdrawing and retracting the earlier statement that he madebefore making the apology.
Looking at the emerging security challenges in so many partsof the country and with the 2023 election coming nearer, do you think therewill be Nigeria in 2023 to conduct election?
Let me say this, I am a democrat,therefore I believe elections should be held as scheduled by the electoralagency as provided by the constitution and other laws of the Federal Republicof Nigeria, so I believe that when the time comes, Nigerians will go out tocast their votes. I urge Nigerians to cast their votes not based on sentimentsbut should know the ability of those they are voting for at all levels fromCouncillor, Local Government Chairman, governors or the President because thatwill determine the political health of our country. However, a lot has to bedone. Let us know our rights as Nigerians because most times, we vote based onsentiments and at the end of the day, we do not benefit. For instance, thepresent government at the Federal level, I am sure even Northerners are nothappy with President Buhari despite voting for him as their own. The people arebearing the brunt of the misrule of this government. I advise that there shouldbe enlightenment. Some people have also put the issue of restructuring Nigeriaon the front burner; that issue ought to be addressed before the next generalelection.