Olufemi Aduwo, President, Rights Monitoring Group (RMG) and Executive Director/CEO, Centre for Convention on Democratic lntegrity (CCDI), was in London as an observer of the recent referendum through which the UK pulled out of the EU. He speaks with DEPUTY EDITOR, DAPO FALADE, on the implications of the decision, among other issues. Excerpts:
What do see as the likely far-reaching negative impact of the Brexit on the economy of Greta Briatin economy and the people?
Over the past week, buyer’s remorse has begun to set in, as the hypothetical became very real: Pound Sterling plunged, Scotland threatened to break away and some of the working people who supported the “Leave” campaign started to realise the bleak future that both the country and they personally face. Even the champions of “Leave” are retracting their dishonest pre-referendum claims about Brexit. In a spontaneous response, over four million people petitioned the Parliament to hold a second referendum.
By the time the parliamentary debate on this petition took place, it was not inconceivable that more people would have signed the petition that voted for Brexit. Just as Brexit was a negative surprise, the spontaneous response to it was a positive. People on both sides of the referendum, and most importantly those who did not vote-particularly young people under 35 years old- had been mobilised. This is the kind of grass roots involvement that the EU has never been able to generate over the years.
How do you think it might affect the Nigerian economy, given the fact that UK is one of our major trading partners?
UK is the number one funder of IDA17 (the concessional borrowing window at the World Bank) with about a 13.20 per cent share, with a possible negative implications on the UK’s development initiatives in Sub-Sahara African countries. At a time when the process for IDA18 replenishment is underway, the Brexit may not be good news for aid recipients. Let us have a closer look at the impact of the Brexit on bilateral development assistance.
UK is one of the biggest contributors to the European Development Fund (EDF), the EU’s development assistance arm which provides funds to developing countries and regions. UK currently contributes between £409 million and $585 million-making up 14.8 per cent of contributions to the fund. The fund is one of the world’s largest providers of multilateral concessional aid, with disbursements exceeding the ones channeled through the World Bank’s International Development Association (IDA). While a Brexit would deprive the EDF of British resources for development assistance, the consequences are negatively numerous to sub-Saharan African countries, ECOWAS and AU.
How do you perceive the development in the light of the increasing agitations by some groups for self-rule in the country?
l don’t think we have anything like Biafrexit or NigDelexit in Nigeria. Anyway, our constitution doesn’t allow for such silly referendum that could propel either Briafrexit or NigDelexit to success. While the Brexit was precipitated by bigotry and long-time rivalry, the Nigerian copycats whose agitation is more about neglect and long-time suffering fail to understand that the EU referendum was more of a call for political dominance and identity, rather than disintegration. Many who voted for the UK exit from U does not understood the gains in union; it was after the election that they got to understand the implications.
As at today, four million people have signed for second referendum. The petition for a second EU referendum has also gathered far more names than one calling for the Meningitis B Vaccine to be given to all children, which was signed by more than 820,000 at the beginning of 2016 and the one seeking to block Donald Trump from the UK after he called for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States”, which had almost 600,000 supporters at the end of last year.The lgbos or my people from the Niger Delta are more protected within the confine of a just and egalitarian Nigeria.
Senate President Bukola Saraki, his deputy and four others are on trial for alleged forgery of the Senate Standing Rules. What is the implication of this?
Are they above the law? The answer is an emphatic no!.A former president of Egypt and many others were sent to jail. It must be established if indeed the document could be classified as forged under the practice of the Senate.
How will you describe the ongoing corruption war by the Federal Government through the EFCC?
I am in total support of the anti-corruption war. What l may not be comfortable with is when the Rule of Law is replaced with the Rule of Men. Rule of Law is the pillar of democracy; a democratic government should obey the court orders. A former EFCC chairman, Mr Ibrahim Larmode, is in a better position to confirm my assistance and support to the commission under him, unlike some paid agents, lawyers and jobless activists who believe that the best way to fight the anti-corruption war is through appearance on television. EFCC or President Muhammadu Buhari cannot fight corruption; the people are the real anti-corruption army. Trust and sincerity on the part of the leadership are needed.
The ongoing anti-corruption drive may look like one-sided because the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was in charge of affairs of this country for 16 years. I hope that very soon, President Buhari will drop three ministers presently serving in his cabinet on corruption-related matters in their past.
We are working on it and by the time the evidence would be made public, l don’t think EFCC will have any other choice than to pick up the affected three serving ministers.
What is your view on the court-ordered removal from office of Governor Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia State?
Section 188 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) stipulates how an elected governor can be removed. The key word under the section in reference is “gross misconduct.” Whatever the state House Assembly may consider as gross misconduct is misconduct, either in the pre-election or post-election period. The allegation of forgery leveled against the governor is weighty enough to be considered as gross misconduct but l doubt if the state legislature has the courage to demand for the governor’s removal.
Does this pre-election matter have any correlation with the false affidavit allegedly deposed to by President Buhari over his claim of having a WAEC Certificate?
On the part of Mr President, the allegation is not forgery but perjury. He did not submit any Secondary School Certificate to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). In the first place, he claimed the original certificate was submitted to the Nigerian Army during his recruitment and the Army came out to deny such claim. If this allegation is true namely, that Mr President did not possess a Secondary School Certificate and he swore to an affidavit that he has, then perjury has been committed.
Are you saying the National Assembly can still reopen the case, even after the court had struck out the one instituted by an Abuja-based lawyer over the issue?
Yes, the National Assembly can ask Mr President to produce the certificate and somebody may approach court tomorrow, regardless of whether the case was stuck out or that the lawyer who initially went to court withdrew because he was probably afraid. Section 318 of the Nigerian Constitution says, that a Secondary School Certificate is equivalent among others; a Primary School Leaving Certificate with minimum of 10years experience or ability to read, write, understand and communicate in English Language to the satisfaction of INEC. For God’s sake, l don’t think any honest Nigerian, who wants to contest any election in Nigeria, should have reason to forge certificate or lie on oath. By virtue of the fact that Mr President served the country as a military and retired as a Major General, that is enough qualification to contest. But what of the perjury issue? What did WAEC say on the subject matter? A million of confused SANs may line up to defend Mr President; it is all for patronage. Thank God, WAEC Headquarters is based in Accra, Ghana where public documents are relatively safe.
You just returned from Scotland where the UK pulled out of the EU through a referendum. What is the implication for the European economy?
It is a rare privilege to be invited by the United Kingdom Electoral Commission as an accredited observer. About 654 observers, made up governmental agencies, electoral bodies, inter governmental agencies and few NGOs were accredited for the exercise. l served as the coordinator of 104 observers in Scotland. Before the election (referendum), the observers saw it coming. Many of us were on ground a week to the election.
The European Union (EU) is set up with the aim of ending the frequent and bloody wars between neighbours, which culminated in the Second World War. As of 1950, the European Coal and Steel Community began to unite European countries economically and politically in order to secure a lasting peace. The six founding countries were Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands. In 1957, the Treaty of Rome created the European Economic Community (EEC) or ‘Common Market’. In 1993, the Maastricht Treaty was made. The treaty was designed to enhance European political and economic integration by creating a single currency (the Euro), a unified foreign and security policy and common citizenship rights and by advancing cooperation in the areas of immigration, asylum and judicial affairs. The EU was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace in 2012, in recognition of the organisation’s efforts to promote peace and democracy in Europe.
We need to dig into the past for us to think of how future will look like. Britain, I believe, had the best of all possible deals with the EU, being a member of the common market without belonging to the Euro and having secured a number of other opt-outs from the EU Rules. Yet, that was not enough to stop the United Kingdom’s electorate from voting to leave. Why? The answer could be seen in opinion polls in the months leading up to the “Brexit” referendum. The European migration crisis and the Brexit debate fed on each other. The “Leave” campaign exploited the deteriorating refugee situation-symbolised by frightening images of thousands of asylum-seekers. Now, the catastrophic scenario that many feared has materialised, making the disintegration of the EU practically irreversible.
Britain eventually may or may not be relatively better off than other countries by leaving the EU, but its economy and people stand to suffer significantly in the short to medium term. The Pound Sterling plunged to its lowest level in more than three decades immediately after the vote and the global financial markets are likely to remain in turmoil as the long, complicated process of political and economic divorce from the EU is negotiated. The consequences for the real economy will be comparable only to the financial crisis of 2007-2008.