African Monitor (AM): Our esteem reader will like to have a brief history about you, Sir?
Prof Yusufari: My name is Professor Muhammad Lawan Yusufari. I am the Head of Department of Islamic Law, Bayero University, Kano and also former chairman of Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Kano State Chapter.
As the NBA chairman, what are the achievements of your administration?
I came on board as the NBA chairman just in May. So we have not done much. But I was part of the former administration of NAGREB (National Delegate representing Kano State at the National NBA). We have had previous administrations that have done well for the association hoping to see that it is rubbing shoulders with other state counterparts.
What are the challenges so far, Sir?
There are always challenges. When you are running an association of learned people, it is easy to run, easy in the sense that they are educated. But it is sometimes very difficult because these people are very busy people making it difficult to move people around. They are sometimes in court or doing this thing or that. Sometimes you find it very difficult in trying to merge this things together, though we have try to tackle this through our monthly meetings which is an avenue for discussing issues of the association. But the biggest challenge is that we want to build our secretariat. A land had been since allocated to us and we have started building it and as of now it is at decking level, and we propose to build a three storey building. We have short time of only two years to serve.
About the Rotimi Williams episode, who is a man of high repute in the Nigerian law industry but you were able to defeat him in the court of law. How did it happen?
I have heard this rumour many times that I contested with Rotimi Williams and defeated him. This isn’t true completely. I have never contested any case with Rotimi Williams. I have had cases with senior members of the bar and senior advocates. You sometimes win and sometimes lose. This is the nature of legal practice.
You recently conducted a programme on security challenges, why security challenges instead of judicial challenges?
This is self explanatory. The greatest challenge of this country is of security. We have never had it so bad. We have had bomb blasts, kidnappings and all such kind of vices. Whenever we organize a public lecture, the security issue should be foremost. It is never too late, it never matters whether we conduct it next week or year. We are inviting busy men so convenience is our major concern, fixing a good time convenient to all for maximum attendance.
We have heard recently the United States of America is trying to militarise its police. How do you see it from judicial point of view?
As far as what I know, the military and police perform distinct function. The military protect the country from external aggression while the police deal with internal security matters like detecting of crimes, investigating them and finally prosecuting the culprits. The police has to do with law enforcement. Conjoining this together from my own point of view will not go well for a nation.
It was thought before that the court is the last hope for the common man. But recent cases of Justice Salami, Justice Ozeke and that of former CBN Governor have made people have less faith in the judicial system. What brings about this change?
Judiciary suppose to be the last hope of both the common and uncommon man. We are beginning to see the penetration of politics law as a whole and the judiciary in particular. That is the danger of bringing in politics into law, economy or culture. Politicians are using the judiciary to serve their own ends. Unfortunately, the judicial system is not as independent as it is constitutionally meant to be, the constitutions says the judiciary should be financially autonomous so that it can stand justice regardless of whose ox is gold. That is not the case present. Who pays the piper dictates the tune. If you are been paid by your master, you have to be loyal to him substantially. Even from the appointments they make sure it is given to someone that let them pursue their interest. It is obvious everywhere.
What is now the hope for the common man?
We have to wait and see. If they let democracy reign, then fine. All changes have to come from top of if they don’t change, we have to sensitize those at the bottom to pressure and initiate the change but through peaceful means. Then we could see changes.
In 2007, Justice Idris Kutugi dismissed the election case for the sake of peace. Is it in the law to dismiss a case despite reasonable evidences?
Normally courts take decision not based on the law procedure but look at the overriding purpose of the law that is to bring peace and tranquility. If you follow the black letter law, as a judge, if that will cause breach of peace and chaos in the scoeity, it means the aim is defeated. If there is a way you can manipulate the law to arrive at a decision that will ensure peace and tranquility in the society, some judges will go for that. It depends on how you see it as a judge, is it law according to justice or justice according to law. The verdict he passed showed that he use law to bring justice even if it means not following the law very properly.
Considering the Abubakar Talba judgement which brought shame to the judiciary, what do you think should be done to present this occurrence in the future?
It depends on the position you take on the matter but I don’t see any fault with that. The fault is with the law not with the decision. The judge decided according to the law. The judgement may not be acceptable to the generality of the people but it is according to the law. As far as we are concerned there was nothing wrong with the decision the judge took.
On the Cecelia Ibru case, the judge went on to specify that the convict have to serve the term in hospital which many people see as overstepping bounds, because the judge has no power to specify where a person is to serve his term. How do you view it Sir?
I wasn’t aware of that judgement, but if it is true that the judge did specify where the convict is to serve his/her jail term, then that will be overstepping bounds. If a convict is sick or has mental problem, there is a special way they have been treated as provided by the law. It is the prison authorities that are to decide that not the judge. What the judge is to do is pronounce judgement.
Do you have any message to convey to the public, Sir?
My only message is that they should always obey law and order. I am a lawyer and always advocate for law and order. It is better off to be law abiding.
Thank you, Sir. I am grateful