Interview by The Punch 30 September, 2018
A Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mr Olisa Agbakoba, in this interview with TOBI AWORINDE, faults the appointment of all heads of security agencies, who are mostly from the North
How do you feel about the appointment of heads of security agencies, who are mostly from the North?
Obviously, it is contradictory to the constitutional requirement that there will be a spread in appointments pursuant to provisions of Section 14 which embeds the federal character principle. Then it makes clear in the constitution that as far as possible, there must be a national spread to reflect appointments. So, for instance, if in the Supreme Court, every single judge comes from my town in Onitsha (Anambra State), there would be a problem. The reason for this is not that the best principle should not apply.
The appointment of senior advocates of Nigeria also follows the same process. You may have 20 of the top lawyers from Onitsha, but it just wouldn’t make sense if you appoint every single SAN in 2019 from one town. You will always find good people elsewhere. They may not be the best, but you will always find good people elsewhere.
So, in the security services, I think it would not give confidence if suddenly we see all the appointments coming from the North. People would say, ‘What about the South?’ So, that is the unconstitutionality of those appointments. I cannot comment on the professionalism of those appointed, but no matter how professional, what is lacking is the spread.
Is such a situation healthy as we approach an election year?
How can it be healthy? From what I have said, you know it is not healthy. It is not a good position to have in a country that is as volatile as Nigeria on ethnic issues and religious issues. It just creates unnecessary tension.
Do you propose that there should be a reshuffle of the security council of the Federal Government?
In fact, somebody should go to court and challenge it. It is just that I am tired of going to court to challenge things. I have over 20 cases in court. But clearly, it is the type of case that if you take to court, the court would declare it to be null and void and ineffective because it offends the provisions of the constitution on national spread and federal character.
So, I would suggest to the President that it is important that he has a rethink and makes the appointments in such a way that everybody in all parts of Nigeria will have confidence in the appointments.
How do you think the ethnic composition of the appointments of those in charge of the security agencies could affect the impartiality of the forthcoming elections?
It is possible because if the national security apparatus plays a very strong role in supervising the elections, then clearly — I don’t say that they will, but — they may be under orders to achieve a certain result.
That is why it is important to have a national spread, so that everybody will see that they have their own people in the system and then there will be confidence; so, no party can say, ‘It’s because all these guys are from one part of Nigeria and that, therefore, they tend to be in favour of a particular party’. That might have an impact on the outcome of the elections