A Lagos–based legal practitioner, Mr Chuks Nnalugha, has advocated that the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice be held responsible for the controversy of the RUGA settlement project.
In an interview with Sunday Sun, Nnalugha who is the Legal Adviser to Anambra State Indigenes Lawyers Forum (ASILF) said that rather than advise the presidency on the legal implications of the project, the office of the Attorney General of the Federation is aiding and abetting the illegality by not speaking against it.
He also spoke on other burning national issues. Excerpt:
How do you see the controversy being generated by the RUGA settlement project?
The question that we should be concerned about is why should the Federal Government be particular about settling a particular tribe out of all the tribes that we have in Nigeria? Does it mean that all the other tribes are of no consequential value to the Federal Government? It is this issue of settling a particular tribe that is heating up the polity. Nigeria is a very peaceful country, where the majority wants to co-exist with one another and we have been doing that until 2015 when President Buhari came on board. In a country where it has been reported by competent sources that over 20,000 people have been murdered by Fulani herdsmen and we have not heard of arrest of any of the culprits, let alone prosecution. It is these people that everybody is pointing at as the culprits that the Federal Government wants to take people’s lands and settle.
As a lawyer, does the Federal Government has any power to take land from the state government?
It is elementary that since 1978 when the Federal Government itself promugulated the Land Use Decree and under the decree as it was called at the time, all the urban lands were vested in the governor of the state while the rural lands were vested in the local government. In other words, all the lands are vested in the state. So, in the present circumstance, it is illegal for the Federal Government to try to use its might to take over people’s land. Right now, most of the state governors have said that they are opposed to RUGA settlement project and the office of the Chief of Staff to the president is insisting that the project must be delivered either by hook or crook. I expect the Attorney General of the federation who is the number one attorney to advise the government against such illegality and if the government fails to take his advice, he should resign in protest. Dr Olu Onogaruwa has already set the precedent by quietly leaving government on issues bordering on non-compliance. That is how a true lawyer is supposed to behave. But we are in a situation whereby the office of the Attorney General appears to be unconcerned about the illegality being carried out by the government. That is not how the office of the Attorney General is supposed to function. In every ramification, like abuse of fundamental human rights, disrespect to court orders and the recent gagging of the press, the office of the Attorney General has been found wanting. This is certainly not the democracy that we fought for.
But is it right for the government to make private business national policy? A responsible Federal Government of any country can never take up private businesses of individuals as Federal Government project. If not, one may ask the Igbo that are into trading, what has the Federal Government done to enhance their business? The Ijaws that are into fishing, what has the Federal Government done to enhance their business? Why particularizing on the business of breeding and selling cows of the Fulanis. That is why the suspicion is coming in and that is why the whole country is suspicious of the Federal Government. In a federal state like Nigeria, you don’t make laws or policies that will favour a particular ethnic group. Chief Olusegun Obasanjo was there for eight years and all the time he was there, he did not do anything that would enhance the business that his tribe is known for. Goodluck Jonathan was there for six years, he did not do anything or pay particular attention to the individual business of the people of South-south. General Yakubu Gowon, Ibrahim Babangida and Abdusalami Abubakar have all been there as heads of state, they never played the bad card that the current presidency is trying to play. The Federal Government is supposed to reflect the state where it has authority and not a section of the country as is the case today.
What is your advice to the Federal Government?
The advice that I have for the Federal Government is to try to be law abiding because under the Land Use Act, all the land within a state is under the jurisdiction of the state government unless where the governor by way of consent give part of it to the Federal Government for general good and not for particular good. So, the state governors should maintain their stand. The worst scenario is they should go to court to contest it because I do not see how the Federal Government will come and seize land in a state and give it to a particular business group that has become notorious for dastardly acts.
What do you have to say about how Southeast lost out in the 9th National Assembly?
I am not surprised that Southeast lost out in the 9th National Assembly. The comments that the leadership in the Southeast made during the campaign were instrumental to that. The singular statement that the Igbo should not vote for APC carried a lot of weight. Politics is not done like that. In politics, we must create room for assumption, instead of putting all our eggs in a basket. Our Yoruba brothers play better politics. They are also in PDP and APC, but their leaders have never come out to say, don’t vote for party A or B. Again, in politics, it is always the winner takes all. It is only in constitutional appointments that federal character is reflected. Therefore, that Southeast lost out in the 9th Assembly is simply because they voted for a party that until the court decides otherwise lost at the centre.
What is your advice to Ndigbo, going forward?
The advice that I have for Ndigbo is that we should start playing politics in such a way that if ‘A’ does not work, ‘B’ would work. We should also have it at the back of our minds that we cannot take political power at the centre alone. We must align with other regions. We should try to be more friendly to the other regions than we are now. You can see the way the Yoruba are playing their politics. Our leaders should not be too emotional to the point of making statements that would backfire on us as we have seen under Buhari regime.