Mr. Andrew Wombo is a legal practitioner based in Makurdi, the Benue state capital. In this interview with The Next Edition’s, Dooshima Hir, he posited that the present government has failed in the fight against insurgents. He also declared the deradicalisation policy of the government as rubbish.
TNE: Considering the renewed insurgency, killings and other sundry crimes in the country, what is your take on the de-radicalisation and reintegration policy of the federal government?
That is rubbish. Are we really serious with ourselves? The insurgency is still ongoing and the insurgents are still fighting and killing people. When they (insurgents) get the military personnel, they kill them. When the military personnel see them, they bring them back, get them to repent. I mean, there is no sense in it. You can’t arrest insurgents and terrorists and want to make them part of your army. In fact, it is only a state that is prepared to destroy itself that could do that.
It’s like America fighting Iran and when they succeed in capturing some of the Iranian forces they will take them to America, take them to a mosque or church, force them to repent and change them to American army. I want to think there is a hidden agenda because the international community offered to help, Nigerian Government said no. This is like a man who is fighting a snake in his house and the snake is almost killing him and when a neighbour comes with a weapon that can kill the snake immediately and tells him I want to help you, he says no, let me continue fighting the snake. It means he wants to die.
And even without the international community coming, I have always asked; does it mean Nigeria does not have the capacity to quell an internal problem? What if Nigeria faces another country? If internally, we do not have the capacity to fight, do we have the capacity to fight another nation? Is it possible? It’s really a big insult on this country.
TNE: Do you have any suggestions as to what we can do as a nation to get out of this situation we are in?
I have two suggestions. One may sound very funny. One, it is clear and it is the fact that Nigerian government has proven to Nigerians and the outside world that they cannot or they are not willing to fight insurgents. So let them allow the international community to come in.
Two, it is also clear that Nigeria has failed as an independent nation. So my suggestion is that, we either allow the British to come back or may be, Americans should come and colonise us.
We shouldn’t call ourselves an independent country. When you go to some of these small countries, everything is organised but in Nigeria, everything is scattered. With what is going on, it just appears that one ethnic group is defeating the whole of Nigeria.
Whichever way you look at it, Nigerian government has failed. The day the insurgents kill people, the army will issue a statement that the insurgents have been wiped out. This is sad.
TNE: What is your take on the Supreme Court judgment on the governorship elections particularly in the case of Benue?
For the case between Emmanuel Jime of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the sitting Governor Samuel Ortom, I was not surprised because I was a member of the defence team that represented Ortom in the petition. I was not surprised because, when the petition was served on us, I went through it and having been seasoned in election petition, I discovered that the petition was dead on arrival.
Why am I saying this? This was a petition that the petitioner was complaining of non compliance with the provisions of the electoral act. Election was conducted in 626 polling units and he claimed the conduct of the election was not in compliance with the provisions of the electoral act. The law says, if you are complaining of the election not being conducted in compliance with the provisions of the electoral act, you have to call polling unit agents, your agents that represented you at the polling units you are complaining of, to come and testify.
If the tribunal agrees with their testimonies, then, you will succeed and the tribunal will cancel the election in that polling unit including your own votes. So for Jime to have succeeded, he would have called the agents in all the 626 polling units to come, then if they give acceptable evidence the tribunal will now cancel the election in those polling units. The danger there is that, in these 626 polling units, it was not that Jime got zero votes while Ortom got all the votes. Both of them got votes, so if Jime had succeeded in convincing the tribunal, votes of the two candidates would have been cancelled.
In the result declared by INEC, Ortom was leading Jime with 89,000 votes. It meant that these votes would have gone and what Jime got also.
Secondly, Jime called witnesses in respect of only 31 polling units. Assuming the entire results in the 31 polling units were cancelled, on average, the polling units have 500 votes going by the INEC Guidelines, multiply 500 by 31 votes, it would have been 15,500 votes. Remove these votes from Ortom’s 89,000 votes, Ortom would have still been leading Jime. But the evidence that his witnesses gave were not strong. In fact the tribunal disagreed with the evidence of all the witnesses. That is why I said the petition was dead on arrival.
That was why the tribunal dismissed the petition, the Court of Appeal did and then, the Supreme Court. The tribunal took 12 hours to deliver judgement, the court of appeal took three minutes to deliver the judgement while the Supreme court took 30 seconds to deliver the judgement. And that is why for us lawyers, we said Jime’s case suffered from acute evidential value both in quantity and in quality.
TNE: The day Governor Emeka Ihedioha of Imo State was removed by the Supreme Court, there was so much anxiety here (Benue). What went on in your minds, (the
Legal team). Did you at any point have any anxiety that Governor Ortom will also be removed?
If any lawyer had any anxiety that Imo case will affect the Benue case, I, personally, did not and I told the Governor before we went to Abuja that he should not allow any lawyer deceive him because Imo case had absolutely nothing to do with our case.
While in Imo case, elections were conducted in the 388 polling units, results collated but excluded from the final declaration, in Benue state, the complaint of Jime was that the election in 626 polling units were marred by irregularities. Now, the standard of proving complaint in the Imo case is different from the standard of proving complaint in the Benue case.
So there was no cause to worry.
TNE: It has become a recurrent decimal that after elections, the judiciary is inundated with cases here and there. What can be done to minimize these post election cases?
The constitution in section 40 and the rest gives people the right of fair hearing. If you feel that something happened and you are not satisfied, you can always approach the court to be heard.
Now, my problem is with the lawyers. You know, Politicians must be dissatisfied. No matter how perfectly an election is conducted, the person who lost will always be dissatisfied and will always approach a lawyer to go to court. The duty is the lawyer’s to look at the facts of the case and advice their clients that no, if you go to court, you won’t succeed so there is no need. Someone once approached me to challenge a Senatorial candidate from his place, I told him that he will not succeed but he said I shouldn’t bother; I should just prepare something and file. I simply told him I won’t put my name on it and that he should look for another lawyer.
Secondly, there are some legal issues that the court has settled up to the Supreme Court and when those issues come, if you are a lawyer that is seasoned, if your client brings a case that bothers on those issues, there is no need going against them. But the problem is, the moment elections are done and concluded the lawyers forget.