Q: Barrister can we meet you?
My name is Pius, Pius Danba. I am a Barrister and Solicitor of the Supreme Court of Nigeria by the grace of God. I have been in active legal practice. Few years ago I was serving in JK Gadzama, LLP but I thank God for making me the Managing Associate of P. D. Pius & Associates, a firm of legal practitioners.
Q: What do you think of the tussle between the executive and legislature?
The law requires all arms of the government to work together for the common good of all men. The good of the ordinary man in the street. The three arms are, by legal design, suppose to collaborate and work together in union as one corpus or body of government. It is for this reason that you have clear provisions in sections 4, 5, and 6 and chapters 5, 6, and 7 of the Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (As Amended) for the legislature, executive and judiciary respectively. This is the ideal situation and I don’t think maintaining a cordial relationship between the legislature and executive is a rocket science.
The current bickering, the standoff, the sheer antagonistic approach between the two arms is most unfortunate. It is completely unnecessary. It is against us and against our interest, we the people and in overall analyses against the interest of the whole country including the actors. Why? This is because the strained relationship is taking toll on smooth administration of policies, government now finds it difficult to approve and fund budget and the multiplier effect is the general poverty and hardship you feel all over the land. The two arms should just sheath their swords in the interest of Nigerians.
Q: Are there impeachable offenses President Buhari had committed?
This is a question of fact that requires overwhelming evidence. You can not just speak off your head that the President has committed impeachable offence. Under the constitution there are laborious procedures that must be followed before arriving at a conclusion that the President has committed impeachable offence. The findings of a panel of investigators, made of men of proven integrity who are non partisan is sine quo non or key requirement to arrived at this conclusion.
On my own part, I acknowledge that Mr. President is not perfect on the job. However, that doesn’t translate to the gross misconduct that the constitution requires or contemplates. I’m not unmindful of certain allegations of unauthorized spending from the national treasury. These are allegations that you and I can’t glorify to the position of evidence. Note also that the Constitution has provisions for the President to authorize spending when budget is delayed and pending ratification by subsequent appropriation. That’s the necessity doctrine that is enshrined in the constitution.
Q: Under the law does it matter for the Senate President to come from the party with the majority in the house?
In my candid view, once you are a senator then you qualify to be Senate President. This is my understanding of the requirements of the Constitution. Generally, under our election laws, the question of qualification to hold an office is a strict matter of Constitutional interpretation. In this case, no other law can successfully provide otherwise. This is because if there is any such law, then the provisions of the constitution will be used as barometer to police its constitutionality and thereby be rendered null and void.
You see, under our laws, no other law competes with the Constitution. I am therefore of the strong view that the issue of senate president coming from a majority or minority party is non starter in law. It is better left to political gerrymandering.
Q: What do you think of the just concluded NBA election?
Well, I think NBA is making progress although we can do better. This is the second election to be conducted since our return to the universal suffrage. It will not be easy getting it right. This is more so, because we chose to go with internet voting. There is a world of difference between internet voting and electronic voting. Even in technologically advanced countries, internet voting is not safe. It is usually done concurrently with other e-voting devices so as to serve as backup and hanger to adjudge the credibility of the process. In our own case, as a voter who successfully voted, I didn’t see such integrity backup check mechanism deployed during the NBA election. However, Rome was not built in a day. We can improve.
Q: Do you think that Paul Uzoro can improve the lot of lawyers, especially the young ones who are less than five years at the bar?
To my mind, this is not the task for NBA President alone. We have to confront this evil together. The problem began a long time ago. Paul has just two years to solve a generational problem. This will be too big a task for one man.
I will rather suggest a more communal approach to phasing out the plight of young Lawyers. The young lawyers themselves should have an internal sense of value and not price themselves cheap. They should know their worth. There is so much undercutting in terms of professional fees. This is even a professional misconduct. Lawyers should charge with some air of dignity of labour in the profession.
The various regulatory bodies, the Bar Council, the Body of Benchers, the Council of Legal Education, the Attorney-General should all begin to make deliberate policies that should save the young Lawyers and thereby protect the profession from extinction. The young lawyers are the future. We must take care of young Lawyers to protect the future. I call on the NBA President elect to take the issue of welfare of young Lawyers primost and declare a state of emergency as such.
Q: What are the loopholes in the electoral law that lawyers would make use of in 2019 elections from primaries to the General Election?
Many times, it’s been said that the law is an ass. Well, I am not contesting that but I must say that we are fortunate to have the present set of electoral laws. There are adequate provisions for democratic primaries as well as transparent, free, fair and credible elections. What I am not comfortable with is the reluctance of the judiciary to sanction the use of e-accreditation by use of card reader machine. Unless the Electoral Act is now amended to capture the use of card readers, then 2019 elections might be worse than 2015 elections. It might not even come close to it. What brought sanity to the 2015 elections was the card reader. With the decision of the Supreme Court jettisoning it, we are in for the worse unless there is a legislative rescue.
On dispute resolution of election matters, I am home and dry with the radical changes brought in by the amendment to the constitution particularly the 14 days rule and other time stipulations. I will only throw a word of caution to politicians to be familiar with the new time stipulations especially the 14 days rule.
Another important aspect of the law that I will like to call for (a) change is on the issue of locus to challenge the outcome of primaries. We will do a better job protecting our democracy if we open the doors to all aspirants irrespective of party affiliations to challenge any illegal primaries.