A former Chief Whip of the Senate, Prof. Sola Adeyeye, has said that the 8th Senate under Bukola Saraki failed Nigerians by confirming Abubakar Malami as a minister in 2015 despite his mediocre performance during his screening.
Speaking with Daily Independent in Abuja, Adeyeye, a professor of Biology, who was in the Senate for eight years (2011 -2019), said Nigeria would have been spared some of the incompetence and anomalies being witnessed in the Ministry of Justice today under Malami’s watch.
While sharing his views on the request by Igbo leaders to President Muhammadu Buhari to release Nnamdi Kanu, leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), who is currently facing treasonous charges at the Federal High Court in Abuja, Adeyeye said due course in Nigerian judiciary is too slow and protracted because of the incompetence of lawyers in the Ministry of Justice.
“Honestly, I don’t know what they (Igbo leaders) discussed with the president. Personally, I’ve learnt that until you have the facts of a situation, you should be very careful. Yes, the president is correct. When a matter is within the judiciary, the executive should not preempt it.
“Having said that, we must also remember that even when a court has sentenced a person or pronounced him guilty, the prerogative of mercy resides with the president. He can still pardon whoever is convicted. But at least, he would have established the fact of conviction and he would have said ‘look, we don’t want trouble, we want peace in all parts of Nigeria. But let the process take due course’.
“What I think is that the so-called due course has been too protracted. Cases are run too slowly in this country. I do not know whether it is because the Ministry of Justice is filled with incompetent people or it is that some people have just decided to let things snowball into whatever direction of incompetency.
“Look at the number of people against whom very egregious allegations have been made concerning corruption. Few people have been convicted and we are grateful for that. But see how long it took to convict Abdulrasheed Maina. A level 14 person who has been shown to own so much. It took forever to get him convicted.
“Part of quite frankly I believe is that if you look at the Ministry of Justice, most of the lawyers who work there are not among the best in the country. The minister is just one senior advocate of Nigeria. Is he going to appear in every case in which the Federal Government has very serious cases to prosecute? Is he going to face Wole Olanipekun here today, Olisa Agbakoba there tomorrow, Falana in another place tomorrow? He is just one person”.
Speaking on Malami’s appearance before the Senate on October 14, 2015, Adeyeye said despite his rank as a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), the responses given by Malami to the questions asked him were so mediocre that he strongly believed he shouldn’t have been confirmed.
According to him, among the 37 ministerial nominees that appeared before the Senate, he believed that Malami and Professor Claudius Daramola from Ondo State failed the screening exercise.
He said he raised the issue among his colleagues but many of them said President Muhammadu Buhari who did not attach portfolios to the names of the then ministerial nominees will not make Malami the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice when there are other Senior Advocates on the list such as Babatunde Fashola and the late James Ocholi.
“In any case, when Malami appeared before the Senate in 2015, I didn’t think he passed. I didn’t think he should have been confirmed. In the 8th Senate when Malami appeared, he was among two nominees who I thought did not do well. At that point, I brought it up in executive session. I also brought it up at principal officers meeting that two of the nominees did not do well and one of them was Malami. The other was a Yoruba man.
“I argued passionately that the president sent us a list of 37 people from 36 states and the FCT. Thirty-five of them were adjudged to have done well but two of them did not do well. They should not have been confirmed”.
“If we had done that, we would have been spared the incompetency that we now see in the Ministry of Justice. Of course, some of them at that time were arguing that Malami was not likely to be made the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice. Ocholi, who had done very brilliantly at confirmation, should have been made the Attorney-General and Malami would have been the Minister of State for Labour. But that was not what happened.
“Instead, Malami became the Attorney-General and it is the prerogative of the president to choose who he wants. That also depends on the level of confidence he has in the person. Once the Senate says this person has scaled the fence, then you cannot blame the president again. But quite frankly, I believe the Senate failed the nation at that point”.
Adeyeye said he took the issue of Malami and Daramola to Saraki, the then Senate President. He, however, said Saraki who agreed with him couldn’t act on it because he didn’t want to be seen as opposed to President Buhari.
“Fortunately for Bukola Saraki, I went to him on the issue. But Saraki was afraid that if he should reject Malami and not allow him to scale through, it will be seen that he went to double cross the president. Hell no!
“The interview session at the Senate was public, shown on live television. Everybody saw that questions were asked and for a senior advocate of Nigeria, the responses we got from Malami in my own opinion were so mediocre that he should not have been confirmed. Same with Professor Daramola from Ondo State. Both of them shouldn’t have been confirmed. But the rest is history. A nation is like a man or woman; you will sleep on the bed you have laid”, he said.