Government Has a Clear Agenda on Asset Recovery from Corrupt Politicians, Articles
Bolaji OwasanoyeThe present administration did not mince words when it declared that it would fight corruption to a standstill. It matched its words with action by setting up the Presidential Advisory Committee on Corruption made up of eminent Nigerians drawn largely from academia, and progress has been made in the crusade. May Agbamuche-Mbu, Jude Igbanoi and Tobi Soniyi sought the opinion of a member of the Committee, Professor Bolaji Owasanoye who gave deep insights into the committees work and his views on diverse national issues, including the controversial Social Media Censorship Bill currently in the National Assembly.You are a member of the seven-member Presidential Advisory Committee on corruption that was constituted by President Buhari to advise him on tackling corruption. What steps have been taken so far by the committee to deliver its mandate?Thank you very much for the opportunity to interact, a number of things have been done. First, I should say that the nature of an advisory committee is that it advises the principal and therefore an advisory committee should be a bit more reserved about public engagements before you have advised your principal. Secondly, you do not advise your principal on the pages of the newspaper but in spite of that, there are activities and steps that you would take in order to be able to properly advise your principal and some of the things we have done is to engage with all the anti-corruption agencies and some of the key institutions that have to do with anti-corruption. We made it clear in our engagements that we would like them not to be reported in the media because sometimes they are misreported, our job is to strengthen those agencies, our focus is not about individuals but to look at what those agencies ought to be doing, what they are doing, where they are succeeding, where they are not succeeding in order to be able to properly advise the President on what to do in order to strengthen them. We have engaged with all those anti-corruption agencies, institutions and as you are aware, we are engaging with the Nigerian Bar Association itself.These have been done very quietly in order to get a sense of what needs to be done and give it the seriousness that it deserves. Secondly, we have looked at the operational structures of those institutions, adequacy of capacity, adequacy of legal framework, and looking at what are the weak links that need to be strengthened and supported. We are engaging with our principal from time to time about what needs to be done. So clearly we are doing what we ought to do. We are trying and helping the government to look at asset recovery, designing the best strategy towards asset recovery and blocking loopholes that escalate corruption and diminish the public purse. The final thing to say here is that you also need to be careful about not being pre-emptive of what you want to do. As you are aware, the activity yesterday looking at the criminal justice administration was an initiative of the committee to look at those somewhat ambiguous components of the criminal justice administration and that was a minor part that we looked at given its topicality but there will be other things that will follow that. So that is what I will say, that we are already working very quietly and giving feedback to our principal.As the Executive Director of Human Development Initiatives (HDI) and Coordinator of the Stop Impunity Nigeria (S.I.N) Campaign, what is your assessment of the present anti-corruption campaign of the Buhari administration? What are the major setbacks being faced by this administration in the fight against corruption?Okay, let me start by clarifying that I am no longer the Executive Director of HDI given the fact that my engagement with this committee takes virtually all of my time, I remain a trustee of HDI but I was as you described the ED. What do I think of the present anti-corruption campaign of the administration? I think it is inevitable that any government that takes office and wants Nigeria to survive will really need to look at corruption. This government came to office promising three key things; corruption was one of them, looking at insecurity was another one and actually rebuilding the economy was the third (creating jobs). How do I assess it? Given the deeply endemic and systemic corruption that we have, it would appear that things will be slow in moving and in uptake but clearly the government has a clear agenda one of which is assets recovery, that is not hidden to anybody. The second is to improve sanctions and enforcement, let the laws take their course. The president had said look I am not going to interfere in any corruption matter or corruption case, let the institutions do their work. Before now, there had been some level of self-censorship by the anti-corruption agencies. Now, nobody is too influential to be approached by the government or its agencies and you can see that in the fact that Saraki (who is number three in this country) is being tried and having his day in court.It is not about securing a conviction but about having his day in court according to law and I think that itself indicates that the government is very serious about its anti-corruption campaign. There are other components of it, one of which is blocking leakages that the financial haemorrhage that the government has been suffering over the years with the implementation of the TSA policy, the policy itself as I have said in some other places is not new, it has been there since 2010 but there was no political will to implement and enforce it. The President has brought that political will and it is being implemented and enforced. The government has saved over what we are hearing in the media (about N1.4 trillion from TSA alone), that is not small money, it is a significant amount that has been moped up. So, I think the anti-corruption campaign is moving, I think given the depth of the rot we were in, there is a lot of impatience, people want quick wins, people want to see dramatic changes. Corruption is linked to criminal justice administration and it is tied to the rule of law, so clearly the government has a responsibility to make sure that the process goes through that and if we are going to follow that, there are steps that we cannot jump, so that is exactly what is happening and I would rate the anti-corruption agenda and the strategy as moving well. We would all like to see a sudden end to corruption but corruption is not going to be completely wiped out, there is no community or society where there is no level of corruption but it can be significantly diminished so that it is no longer systemic. In the best countries in the world, there are some levels of corruption but we do not want it to be a culture which seems to be the challenge that we have here and I think that the government is on that.The Executive Director of United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Yury Fedotov, has observed that corruption and bribery are serious impediments to sustainable development and the achievement of the 2030 Agenda throughout the world if left unchecked and has called for collaboration between governments, international organisations, academia, the private sector, civil society and professional associations, this is very similar to the recommendation you made in your paper titled Successful Anti-Corruption Campaigns: The Role of Government, Private Sector, Civil Society and Lawyers delivered at the NBA Anti-Corruption Commission conference. Could you suggest a possible roadmap to facilitate collaboration between these various stakeholders in the fight against corruption?I think that working together is very critical in tackling corruption, if you look at grand corruption in Nigeria for example or even if you look at retail corruption, you cannot succeed in any grand corruption without working with the private sector. You cannot succeed in retail corruption without the society or community keeping quiet, so for example if you want to diminish significantly the virus of corruption in Nigeria, you need to break the culture of silence, you know people have this attitude of see no evil, hear no evil. Most of us see wrong things that we ought to report but we do not, we hardly report, so again that is one component. If you have a government that is committed to challenging and fighting corruption but does not get the support of the people, how far can the government go? It is limited and that is why if you have a government that wants to fight corruption and the professional bodies; accountants, lawyers, bankers are not supporting that crusade, how far can the government go? It would slow down the campaign and that is why Fedotov said what he said that everybody needs to be on board. How far can you fight systemic corruption where the civil society is comatose or they do not talk? The government will not go far. How do you fight corruption when the press is complicit and would align with the criminals rather than with the people? How far would that campaign go? So you really need that synergy in order to fight corruption and one of the concerns is that it appears that hitherto, its only President Buhari and Vice President Osinbajo who are fighting corruption, who have made the public stance that we will not support corruption. Of course, happily the working class has come out to say that we do not want corruption and we do not just want it as rhetoric, we also want to see action. So, if you see evil report it, be ready to challenge it, refuse to pay a bribe, when you want a service and it is not delivered, you challenge it. So those are the ways by which we get the synergy. We want the press to do investigative reporting to expose corruption that is being carried out at different levels, not to be complicit, not to play the game of the highest bidder but to do the kind of reporting that the government cannot ignore. So, Fedotov was right, you cannot fight corruption from one side, you need everybody to be on board in order to fight corruption, it would be easier, there would be quicker wins, it would be less costly, it would be less cumbersome and the gains would be much more robust in my view.You raised the issue of the culture of silence, people do not want to talk because they are not protected but if there is a whistle blower law, maybe people will come out to talk, will you support that?Of course, we are supporting the whistle blower legislation. One of the things we have done is that we are advocating for those legislations that were passed in the dying days of the seventh assembly but so controversially that everybody thought that they were not properly done. We have already commenced initiatives to get them back within the system working with the Ministry of Justice. Now the reality is that there is a culture of silence, even if you have a whistle blower legislation, it would help, it would encourage some people to know that they are protected but generally many of us pretend as if we are not fully aware of what goes on so there is an endemic culture of silence but I agree that a whistle blower legislation well-advertised and publicised will encourage some people to come out. I must say that currently, the Freedom of Information Act contains some modest provisions to protect whistle blowers but it is not robust enough and a whistle blower law would help to close that gap.Also, in your paper you stated that in addition to other recommendations government should establish a National Council on Procurement in order to empower the Presidency to take action against endemic corruption in the public procurement process. Can you explain in more detail how this Council will aid transparency in the public procurement process?I think there is a misconception that is in the media generally which is that the National Procurement Council would have the responsibility for the award of final contracts, the law does not actually provide so. However, what the NCP would be able to do is to exercise oversight over the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) itself given the broad representation on the NCP, it is going to be able to further insulate and protect the BPP. The BPP already has a very robust framework that devolves to ministries, agencies, all of them required to have their own tenders board, the screening process, the publicity process, the transparency process and so on, it is all there so one of the things that the NCP helps to do is to make sure that that process is complied with and that that process is robust enough to deliver to Nigeria the intendment of the legislation so that gap was what I was recommending needed to be closed.There are reports that the 8th National Assembly is planning to design an immunity clause that will grant the Senate President and his deputy, the Speaker of the House of Representatives and his deputy immunity from prosecution for corruption and money laundering. Could you give us your opinion on this proposed amendment? Secondly how would this amended immunity clause affect the governments fight against corruption?Certainly any immunity for the leadership would be a mistake. Which model are we going to say we are using to give immunity to legislators? It would be ten steps backwards in the fight against corruption, it would be several steps backwards in shutting out transparency and accountability. Let us put the immunity in context, the reason the President and governors have immunity is because it is believed that if you file actions or cases against them, it will distract them from the act of governance. The fact that they have to be appearing in court defending themselves. Legislators do not sit everyday, the constitution in fact says that they are required to sit for not less than x number of days, so it gives them some other time and room to do other things. What sort of immunity are we talking about here? It is in my view totally uncalled for and if they push it through, it would be an abuse of the opportunity they have as lawmakers to begin to create this sort of silo of protection for themselves. Regrettably, that is what we have heard because there are talks about trying to also give themselves very generous pension packages for life for having served for four years or maybe a maximum of eight years in the case of governors and for legislators. These are not examples to be encouraged or to be copied. I think that it would set the fight against corruption back. You know, the truth of the matter is the constitutional framework that we run now expects the legislature to be a very solid pillar of transparency and accountability, when they appropriate money, the constitution gives them power of investigation over any ministry, department or agency for whom they have appropriated money. The constitution gives them power to receive reports from the Auditor- General on how agencies have performed and spent money so, if at the end of the day, instead of doing this and helping us fight corruption, they are giving themselves immunity, it means that it leaves the door open for compromise and corruption which we cannot challenge. I think it would be a step backward and it should be discouraged.President Muhammadu Buhari in a forum charged judges in the country to sanitise themselves of corruption in order to restore the trust in the judiciary and urged them to resist the trend of corruption. The Chief Justice of Nigeria Hon. Justice Mahmud Mohammed on his part, has reiterated that the lack of financial autonomy of the judiciary has affected the independence of the judiciary. There seems to be varying opinions as to the causes of corruption generally and in the judiciary specifically, going forward what do you see as the actual cause of the lack of synergy between the various arms of government in their approaches to the fight against corruption?First, let me say that I do not agree that it is the lack of independence that is responsible for corruption in the judiciary. Judicial independence is important, financial autonomy for the judiciary is important, I do not want to be misunderstood but that is not why there is corruption in the judiciary. Corruption in the judiciary is related to a number of factors including corruption in the Bar, and it is important to also underscore the fact that the way and manner in which we appoint judges is also a problem. So we have to look at this corruption in the judiciary holistically. However, I agree that judges need to be well paid, their welfare needs to be taken very seriously and we need to make sure that we do everything in order to make them independent but at the same time judges need to be accountable. When we appropriate funds for judges, the public has a right to know how the money has been spent, what did you spend money on? So, the judiciary also must audit and publish their audited account because some of the scandals that has bedevilled some arms of the judiciary in the past few years underscore the fact that the issue is not just about independence because they were scandals of mind boggling corruption in the judiciary and what has that got to do with independence? It is that people have funds in their hands which were misused so we need to separate the wheat from the chaff, I believe and support independence of the judiciary but there are other things that need to be done, the disciplinary measures, the appointments, the promotion, this idea of judges just marking time and automatically then getting into the next level, the system of performance evaluation is flawed and not international best practice. Those are things that we need to correct in order to get the kind of judiciary that we want and as I said also, we need to clean up the Bar because those appointed into the judiciary come from the Bar and if the Bar itself is not of the right quality, we are not going to get judges from the moon, they are not going to be imported, they are going to be taken from the rank and file and if these are the type that we have to put forward, then it is most unfortunate. So in order to get the best, I agree that welfare must be enhanced, remuneration must be enhanced, but there must be transparency and accountability, there must be a disciplinary process and of course, ethics and values must be strengthened.Stakeholders in the justice delivery sector have observed that outdated and badly drafted laws are at the root of several political and legal dilemmas we face as a nation, with its detrimental impact on our growth and economic development. Do you agree with this observation? What strategy can you suggest for a systematic reform of our current legal framework?I do not think that it is only poor legislations that are responsible for the challenges that we are talking about here, let us use the Administration of Criminal Justice Act as an example, that legislation is the response to the endemic challenges in criminal justice administration, delays, poor infrastructure and all manner of things but now that we have introduced the legislation, look at the way it is being approached. So, now you have a good law and the attitude of those that are supposed to operate it both lawyers and judges trying to subvert it and keep us in the past in criminal justice administration. Whereas, bad laws need to be cured and improved upon, they are not necessarily or totally responsible for the way things are. My view is that laws will always need to be improved on that is the truth, society is not static, we keep growing, yesterdays legislation would be inadequate for tomorrow, it is then left for us to be able to respond quickly to those changes that are necessary but we have an attitude whereby even the good legislations that are there now are not properly implemented and you know some people have said that the problem is not with our constitution but with those who operate the constitution. The problem is not with our laws but with those that refuse to give purposive interpretation to the legislation. So, yes we must cure bad legislations, we need to improve upon them but by and large if we do not improve on the attitude, on the understanding, on the capacity, the integrity and the quality of those who will interpret and apply those legislation, you can get the best laws from anywhere but it will not necessarily change things.The decision of the Supreme Court to grant a stay of proceedings in Sarakis case has led to a serious debate among members of the legal profession over the legal validity of that decision in the light of the provision of section 306 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015.Can you share your position on this debate?It was a big mistake for the Supreme Court to have stayed those proceedings. They ought to have sent the case back to the tribunal to finish it in accordance with the law. By accepting to take a look at it in whatever form or guise, they sent the wrong signal so my view is very straightforward, it is that the Supreme Court should not have agreed. They ought to have just sent it back. An appeal should not operate as stay of proceeding at the Court of Appeal or Supreme Court. It is very straightforward and I think it was an error.The balance and availability of Foreign Currency Reserves in the Nigerian Central Bank has come under scrutiny since the Naira began to struggle in the international foreign exchange markets because of a fall in the price of oil. Considering the delicate nature of artificially controlling the value of the Naira in the Forex Market by controlling the availability of foreign currency in Nigeria, is it a more economically sound policy to focus less on artificial currency value control and more on improving the real productivity of the Nigerian market? If it remains cheaper to import finished produce from Holland than to transport raw materials from Kaduna to Jos surely the Nairas valuation problem will persist. How do we create consistent economic policy to create ready transport mediums that allow us to increase the availability of Nigerian goods and services and their competitiveness in the global market for trade?First, let me say that the reason Nigerian goods are not competitive is not because of transportation issue, the problems are deeper than that. Secondly, let me say that no country in the world including the bastions and bulwarks of the free market economy and capitalism allow the economy a free reign, there is always some measure of regulation. It is the mode of regulation and how much regulation and how deep it goes that differs, so no economy allows things to run riot. The third point to quickly make is that the government also has a policy of backward integration and of making Nigerias goods competitive. Now, why is this policy of restriction needed? One, it is public knowledge that Nigerias main source of revenue is oil and income from there has gone down.Two, it is wide knowledge that during the last election, the economy was highly dollarised so much so that if the government did not take certain measures by restricting cash deposits, it was going to further damage the economy. Third is that when a country faces balance of payment problems, it has to take certain measures. The usual template of international financial development partners like IMF is to devalue your currency but we have enough experience in Nigeria and from elsewhere to tell us that devaluation always hurts the poor and the weak and we have them in the majority. So, no responsible government would take such a policy wholesale without proper articulation of what it needs to do and secondly, why do you want to adopt what appears like a permanent solution to fix a temporary problem? So, all of these needs to be looked at holistically. In my view, I agree that just restricting access to foreign currency for certain transactions would not necessarily improve the economy if you do not increase the competitiveness of our goods in terms of quality, improving the infrastructure under which they produce so that if there is no electricity for example, and to produce this biro costs ten naira and next door where all the variables are there, it costs five naira, naturally, everybody would prefer to buy that than to buy it for ten naira, so everything needs to be taken account of but my view is that the constitution in section 16 obliges the government to manage and operate the economy in the way that it is to the advantage of the majority of the people and it takes care of the welfare and I think that those policies are addressing those issues. You will always have divergent opinions amongst experts, amongst economists, amongst financial people as to should I devalue or should I fix? Those debates have been on forever and they are not going to go away tomorrow, it would always happen. Why didnt the UK join the Euro? It is because they do not want the strength of their economy to be subject to the vagaries of what is happening in other economies, so everybody takes measures that are beneficial to them so we should not be ashamed or shy away from taking them if we are convinced that this is the way to goSome law lecturers have explained that engaging in private practice is crucial for good research and teaching students the practical aspects of law. Being a Professor, former lecturer and member of the Nigerian Association of Law Teachers what are your views on the issue of whether law teachers should engage in private law practice?It is simply international best practice, you cannot teach or practice any profession in a vacuum and sit in the classroom and theorise about what has since changed out there on the field. So I think that having law lecturers practice is best practice, the important thing is the balance, do not rob Peter to pay Paul. The system must ensure consistently that people do not use the time that they ought to be using to develop the minds of students out there in private practice and this is a function of management and oversight and supervision and once that is robust enough, there is more to be gained by having those who have practical experience teaching students than those who have no practical experience and it is not only in law that we need this, you know of course that in a profession like medicine, virtually all is practice, same thing with Architecture and Accounting. So it is important that there is an opportunity for professionals who are teaching to practice in order that they keep abreast of developments in their own profession and they are not insulated or separated from those realities, that is why there is always the talk of the town and the gown interacting all the time.The Nigerian Law School runs a rigorous programme that attempts to significantly increase the standard of law practice in Nigeria. Remarkably though, this feat is almost entirely without reference to the current needs of the legal market and what employers and law firms are looking for in new lawyers. How can the Nigerian Law School begin to incorporate the present needs of the legal market in the training of young lawyers?I agree that there seems to be a disconnect between what are the required skills out there and what is being taught. One of the things I noticed very early is that generally it happened not just in the legal profession or the Nigerian Law School we seem to train our students to be employees, with a mind-set of going to get a job rather than with a mind-set of independence and how to create job themselves. That is the kind of thing that is also affecting the way that lawyers are being trained. Secondly there is no synergy, in my view in emerging areas of practice and what we are teaching sometimes in the law school or in the Universities. But there is some response in the constant review and evaluation of the curriculum that tends to elevate new subjects that were not there days back like Information Technology for example, like Dispute Resolution for example, these are emergent areas that are very critical to any economy that are being brought in. I agree that there is need for more synergy between how the law school trains and prepares lawyers and what the market demands. Certainly, some foundational subjects will forever remain relevant. It is also important that there is synergy between what is being taught now and what is expected.A remarkable fact about the Nigerian Law School is that Court Advocacy is not taught as a module. In fact the only exposure to formal Court Advocacy is during Court Attachment when Students visit Courts or volunteer in Moots. As to the actual teaching of Advocacy as a skill however, there is no such provision. In comparison to law schools in foreign jurisdictions where young lawyers finish law school ready for court does this not place Nigerian lawyers at a greater disadvantage?In my view, indeed you cannot teach advocacy in school. Advocacy is learnt out there in the field. I think that what we need to do is to create more opportunities for law clinics for students in the course of their study to enable them have more opportunity for interaction with law firms. In order to be able to do this, you must have the law firms that can absorb them. That is also a challenge because even though, Nigeria has so many lawyers, how many of those law firms have the capacity to even train them and to take them in, so we have a problem. Whereas, the method that we are using is not entirely adequate for the market, then the legal profession itself for which we are preparing students is not itself developed up to a level that it can assist in the training.That is why you find out that when students from law school are sent on attachment, the law school wants to be sure that they are sent to a place that can add value to their lives. That it is not an opportunity to take a short holiday. With regards to advocacy, my view is that to know whether or not you have a flair for it or you have the skill and capacity required is to throw you out into the field at an early age as a young person to try your hands at those things. I agree that we need to review our curriculum but we have to take into account the available infrastructure that will enable this to be done: the law firms and even the capacity and the types of law firms to support this sort of internship, so that when students come out, they are really prepared for this internship. Let me use a recent example: I am a visiting lecturer of the University of Pretoria, and I went to teach a course this year and one of my co-lecturers on the Masters programme is entirely in practice and is not a resident lecturer. He comes in with the practice experience to take one subject and for that period of the programme he will take the students out to the field. Give them an opportunity to learn hands on and when they come back they can be examined based on that. We need to introduce this sort of model a bit more. But for it to be successful, we need to identify those firms that can support such a review of approach to teaching law.You co-authored an authoritative publication on the internal deportation of Nigerians. Would you say that problem has subsided? What is your view on the law and compensation that should accrue to such victims?Internal deportation itself is a contradiction in terms because legally, to deport, you are taking someone out of their jurisdiction and since the constitution gives every Nigerian the right to be in any part of the country, internal deportation as a concept is not only quote and un quote, almost a legal impossibility. But a forced relocation is one of those things that have happened and we need to look at some of the issues that need to be addressed. It is about the balance between the right of the people to move freely which is constitutionally guaranteed, the duty of the government to make sure that people do not just move inordinately because if your state provides for all of your social welfare needs: there is housing, job, accommodation, why do you want to go to Lagos and stay under the bridge or stay on the street? Because you think that by leaving point A to go to Lagos, it will be better for you. And then the recipient government is saying I have a duty to also provide the security for everybody who is here and make sure that the society and the community is fit to live in. So how do I deal with the pre-dominance of the people on the streets? Now it does not justify the relocation the way that it was reported. The Lagos example actually underscores the kinds of measures that can be taken to deal with these issues. In Lagos for example, the reality is that the people were kept in rehabilitation for a period while their home states were contacted. All these have been proven by documentation. The home states agreed they be returned and the people said do not take us home, drop us here. That is where the whole thing flared up. But the real issue is that we need to improve on governance structures that diminish and defeat the needs for people to migrate. It is the same thing that you will find with Nigerians and people from developing countries migrating to Europe at great risk and costs, travelling through the Mediterranean Sea with many people dying and subjecting themselves to human trafficking because they feel that it is better on the other side. Recently we found that some Nigerians were deported from the UK to Nigeria. As to the issue of compensation, it is not very straightforward. There must be an infringement of a right, once you are able to prove that infringement you can begin to ask for compensation. If for example you moved from your natural location and come to camp by my gate and I insist that you need to move and one way or the other I enforce that movement, then you ask for compensation. We are going to have to state that where your right ends, somebody else's rights begin. It is that balance that we need to find. Compensation is not always automatic.Apparently Nigeria is in dire financial straits and states now rely on allocations from the federal government. Most states can no longer pay salaries and some have threatened to either retrench workers or cut the minimum wage by about 30%. What does this portend for this administration?This is a major challenge for any administration that cannot pay workers' salaries. It would be very grievous for state governments to begin to cut the N18,000 minimum wage. What can N18,000 do in the first place? What states government need to do is for the governors, politicians, the public office holders to begin to reduce their own privileges. To cut away waste, to reduce some of those areas in which they have unnecessarily benefited themselves to the detriment of the people. What we have seen in history is that the people are not always unreasonable. When the people see that their government is sacrificial, their government is not exploitative, the government is not feeding fat at the expense of the people, such a people will willingly make concessions even without the government asking for it. But we are in a situation where we still have governors who drive in x convoy, have x number of political aides and lining up civil servants to do the work while they pay themselves extra privileges, want some kind of mind boggling pensions, government agencies or people who have served in government for a few years want mind boggling severances packages as we are having in NERC. All these things are what we need to check. Any government that is suggesting a reduction in staff strength without justification beyond or suggesting a reduction in minimum wage, I think is simply wicked. This is not acceptable.December 10 is internationally acclaimed as Human Rights Day worldwide. How would you assess human rights regime in Nigeria since the second advent of democracy in 1999?Certainly we cannot compare death to sleep. There have been major improvements. The fact that we can talk, the fact that the media can publish as they deem fit, that in itself is significant as to the fact that things have changed. The fact that we can gather in association and groups. These are all indications that the human rights situation in the country has improved. Of course, there is always room to make it better, socio-economic rights for example, are not where we want them to be. Civil and Political Rights may be but not socio-economic rights. The right to housing, employment, to health to education, we are still far from those. If we focus on socio-economic rights we are definitely not doing well as we ought to do. But. With regard to civil and political rights, we have done much better than under military government.What is your opinion on the Sovereign Wealth Fund? Do you see it as a possible panacea to our developmental problems, especially in the area of infrastructure?I think the nature of the Sovereign Wealth Fund is not that it is created to deal with specific areas of infrastructure. The easiest way to explain it is saving for the raining day. If, for example, Nigeria had been more prudent under the past administration, even though the price of oil had dipped now we will not be where we are today. Sovereign Wealth Funds by their nature are usually as the name even suggests, supposed to be resources accumulated when the country is doing very well, even when it is not doing very well to tax itself, to keep something aside against for those days that may come or those challenges that are not anticipated that will ensure social and economic stability. If the SWF is robust enough and there is a particular sector of the economy that need critical attention such as infrastructure, of course the funds can be used to tackle such a sector. The belief is that repairing roads will improve the livelihood of the people and the opportunity to increase the wealth of the nation by improving infrastructure. Definitely SWF is a good idea. I know that many states government are challenging the Nigerian process and option because they, one, argue that it was not robustly debated, and the contribution into the SWF, they think is coming from the funds that ought to come back to them. I think there is a need for a lot more education that every country edges against the future and Nigeria should not be an exception in edging against the future especially when you recognise that oil which we depend on is a wasting asset and sooner than later it is going to finish. When it does finish, what will the generation after us say? That my father had a great opportunity but we have no provision for the future.There has been an outcry over the proposed Social Media Censorship Bill sponsored by Hon Ibn Nallah at the National Assembly. Although the Presidency has dissociated itself from it, many Nigerians allege it is a way of surreptitiously bringing back Decrees 2 and 4 of 1982. What is your assessment of this proposed bill?It is a very bad idea. Obviously the presidency has dissociated itself from it. By likening it to decrees 2 and 4 which were introduced when President Buhari was the military head of state that was just a mischievous opportunity for people to try to give the dog a bad name in order to hang it. It is clear from the body language of the presidency, it has got nothing to do with this repressive move by the Senate. It is most embarrassing that in this day and age somebody is embarking on a journey of no return because clearly even if they succeed in passing that legislation, I do not see how they are going to be able to enforce it given the nature of social media itself. Instead of an improvement in the way that they do things, they are trying to say look, you cannot talk about it, it is really out of concern that many years after decrees 2 and 4 which were roundly condemned, somebody under a democratic setting, an elected legislature is the one who should be defenders of this sort of right is the one coming out to say that you cannot say this about us, you cannot embarrass us. It simply underscores our political leaders understanding of power, privileges and positions. It is like when I am in power you cannot talk about me anyhow, you cannot challenge what I have done, you cannot embarrass me, if you embarrass me you have embarrassed the country. People sort of personify the state. It is the same way that governors and corrupt leaders use public resources. It is like saying that my needs are the needs of the state, my interest is the interest of the state. We need to separate the wheat from the chaff. This Bill is not about the country, it is not about our development, not about our security it should die a natural death. It is ill advised.