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26 YRS AFTER LEAVING SERVICE, THEY HAVE NOT PAID MY ENTITLEMENTS -JUSTICE OBAYAN LAMENTS

By NBF News
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Retired Justice Gilbert Obayan, a former High Court Judge of Kwara State, took the state government to court to challenge the circumstance he was made to leave the judiciary. The case was resolved out of court.

Justice Obayan who was chairman, Reform Committee on the Nigeria Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), however, told Daily Sun in Ilorin: 'You will be surprised that up till now, the state government is yet to pay my retirement benefits.' Excerpts:

'I am a retired High Court Judge of Kwara State. Luckily, people who were around that time know the circumstance I was asked to leave the judiciary. I took the government to court and eventually the matter was settled out of court. You will be surprised that up till now the state government is yet to pay my retirement benefits. Thank God, I had to go to The Gambia on the recommendation of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and I was employed there for some time. We thank God that I am alive. I pray for the Kwara State judiciary but up till now they are yet to have a substantive Chief Judge. I hope they are going to settle that too very soon.

Your benefits have not been paid for over 26 years, what steps have you taken to ensure you get your money?

I took a lot of steps. I applied and petitioned various agencies of government responsible for the payment. The recent being the sixth state House of Assembly, which in turn advised the erstwhile governor to pay me. He never did till he left office I don't know the position of things now. The application I wrote to him was routed through the Office of Head of Service (HOS) and he told me that it was before the governor. I am yet to see the HOS since there is a change of government.

Don't you see the need to seek redress in the court?

In fact, that is the next step I will take once I hear from the HOS and his reply is negative.

Is the judiciary corrupt?
I am sorry to say it gives me bad taste. The judiciary before was quite different from what it used to be. In order words, what made the judiciary tick in those days, you would not just employ anybody to the Bench. Inquiry is made of the person. Who is to blame? Well, I don't know. Is it because of covetousness, greed? The judiciary allowed itself to be whittled down by playing into the hands of the politicians, especially after the regime of the army men.

Reform Committee on NDLEA
It was in 2006 that I was privileged to be appointed with four eminent persons to investigate the agency. We had our terms of reference. The reform was necessitated by the submission of the Chairman/Chief Executive of NDLEA, Mallam Ahmadu Giade who felt the need to look on the rot at the agency such as disappearance of money exhibits, seized drugs and so on. We thank God with all the journeys into many parts of the country and receiving reports from people within and outside, we were able to submit our report. Unfortunately, I don't know the outcome of the report since 2007 we submitted the report. It was in 2007 we submitted it and up till now, nothing!

Dumping reports of investigations
What worries me is that this is not the first interview I am granting to the press on this matter. I have since been waiting thinking that the succeeding government would have sat on the report. But it is unfortunate it is not so. I knew that when we submitted the report, Olusegun Obasanjo's government had few months to leave office but I don't know what importance the government has given to it. I thought the government should have done something before its time was up. When the late President Yar'Adua came in, unfortunately you know he did not stay long before he died. I don't know why he also did not do anything. Recently, the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) Mohammed Bello Adoke, and who has been reappointed even sent one of his boys to collect a copy of the report and I had to call the secretary to make a copy available. In fact, Adoke asked the boy to stay with me till I was able to get him a copy thinking that this matter was going to be settled up till now, I have not heard anything. But I was reading the excerpts of the chairman of the agency now trying to whittle down the content of the report.

Petition on favouritism
Our report we read in the papers how the man heading the place started to implement parts of our report. Then people were writing series of petitions because they were not favoured. I also know that out of our report the chairman dismissed two persons whom we recommended for sack. While we were collating the data and writing our reports and about finishing, they appointed somebody from the ministry as secretary of the agency. I don't know how he got the report but just suddenly saw him with a copy. Upon inquiry, I discovered the former secretary gave him a copy of our report. He told me this mark you, the former secretary was one of the people we recommended for sack, so in the process he left and another one was appointed. When he knew we got him, he was getting in touch with me and I found out he cut off communication.

This was what he did, so they put him under the Permanent Secretary.

We were starved of fund and even denied office accommodation. We had to sit at the Ministry of Justice throughout the four months we spent. So you can see that some people felt threatened, thinking  perhaps we wanted to take over their jobs knowing fully well we had our terms of references. In my personal opinion, if somebody is not playing the devil, that report should have been released. The issues raised are for the continued existence and progress of NDLEA and the good image of this country internationally.

Secondly, it will be difficult to encourage good people to take up similar assignment in future. To move this nation forward, it is high time those in government treat report from committees, investigation panels very serious.