Barrister Ayodele Musibau Kusamotu is the Principal Counsel at KUSAMOTU & KUSAMOTU, an international legal firm in Lagos, with offices in Abuja and Onitsha. In this interview with CHINWENDU OBIOHA, he speaks on sundry national issues, including the advantages of Nigeria’s bilateral relationship with China, ways to get out of recession and what can be done to facilitate the anti corruption crusade of President Muhammadu Buhari.Nigeria is officially in recession. How did we get to this low level especially economically?
We failed to plan for the Rainy day and unfortunately, the oil industry is cyclical so the price rises and falls and it now it has gone so down yet this is the main income of our country. So we don’t have enough money we are earning right now and yes we are in a serious situation and as it stands now, the economy should be the biggest priority of the government. Right now, it doesn’t seem like we have a particular economic team because they keep having flip flops. One policy today, reversal tomorrow. One day they say you can pay dollars into your domiciliary account, the next day they say they would not receive cash and that you can’t pay. Business people are afraid.
They are afraid of investing or bringing their businesses here because there is no certainty. Right now, what Nigerians really want is a fix on the economy. Yes, we need to tackle corruption and I know fighting corruption is so important to President Muhammadu Buhari but the economy is critical to many people. For instance, companies, banks and other enterprises are laying off people though in my own business, we constantly have to increase salaries because of the way naira is falling and there is increase in price of everything so it is a real concern for everyone.
What in your opinion is the way forward?
This is a situation of emergency. The President needs to bring in the best brains regardless of political parties or political leanings. Diversification is also another way forward but unfortunately people and government tends to think or assume that Agriculture is the only alternative. No. There are other things and areas like technology. They are so important. Government also has to encourage the private sector and reach out to the Nigerian business community, interact well with them and they would proffer solutions on how best to revamp the economy. Sometimes, you find out that civil servants just sit down in their offices making policies which are not even practicable or even meet up with what is happening in the field. So there need to be a connection between government policy makers and those in the field who are doing the business.
The bilateral business relationship with the Chinese government is of serious concern to many Nigerians and they think that in no time, Nigeria will be flooded with sub standard products. What is your take on this considering the fact that your firm has numerous clients from that part of the world and other African countries?
In my own law firm, we focus on trade with China. We have been at the forefront encouraging these businesses and I have seen thousands become rich because of China. Why is that so? Because a man who is uneducated and a trader is sitting in front of his computer chatting and he runs into a Chinese man online and he tells him that he wants a container of sewing machines and the Chinese man says Ok, I will send you a container of sewing machines which will cost a 100,000 dollars and he puts on 10,000 dollars and the man in China sent him the machines, he sells it and if he I a good businessman, he sends his money back and if he is a bad businessman, he will not send it back and KUSAMOTU KUSAMOTU will come after you and get the money back.
What I am saying in essence is that China has brought a lot of wealth creation opportunities to people Africa. I want you to compare it to other continents like Europe or America, what International business will you do without opening a letter of credit? Who is going to give you that opportunity? Or that you want a loan from the bank and they would ask you to go and bring the head of a lizard that had an egg at 12 midnight. You see I don’t have a problem with it but I think we have to also scrutinize the agreements that we sign because business people take advantages of themselves so there is need for proper scrutiny so that whatever is agreed to be delivered would be what will be delivered. However, when it comes to substandard goods, we have the Standard Organisation of Nigeria (SON) who are meant to fish out the less standard items from entering. We also have to regulate our own market.
The Niger Delta militants are crying of marginalization and as such they are continuing in their vandalisation spree. Do you think there is a justification for their actions and what do you advise the federal government to do?
Any situation where you find most of the wealth being produced by a section or a region and one part of the country not producing much and that part of the country being damaged either by exploration or pollution making it impossible for them to leave a normal life, you are going to have problems. They need to listen to the Niger Delta agitators and dialogue with them. Some days ago, I was reading about them destroying illegal refineries. But to me, what should be more important should be how to make good use of them rather than destroying them. Perhaps, they may be using it to refine oil. It would be a course of wisdom to approach them and think of how to maximize its usage instead of pulling them down.
Last week, the Presidency launched a campaign ‘Change Begins With Me’. What is your take on the concept or the ideology behind the campaign?
(Laughs) Everybody needs to change and it’s not just us. Even the way they are governing us need to change. A lot of things are not going on well, so both the government and we the governed need to embrace positive change that will be envied by the international community. It will improve our image as a nation and it will make things to be more functional. It’s all about our attitude and disposition. If we get it right, all of us will benefit.
The United States of America would be going to the polls to elect its president prominently between the Republican candidate, Donald Trump and his Democratic opponent, Secretary Hilary Clinton. There also seems to be tension everywhere. What are your expectations?
It’s really really worrying the way election is going though Trump seems to be a bit extreme but if you look at the polls, it look like his rating is increasing but it will be a frightening scenario if Americans chose Donald Trump as their President. I for instance, if I have a choice, I will pick Hilary Clinton and in the event that he emerges and he carries out a lot of his threats, it means many of us won’t be able to travel to America again.
President Buhari once said that the judiciary is making his anti corruption fight difficult. As a legal icon, do you think it is true?
I think to an extent, he does have a point because that there lots of clogs and delays in the judiciary and in the system but they know what to do. They need to carry out some reforms so that this things can move faster. We don’t expect the judiciary to be a rubber stamp in the hands of the President, because the law is that an accused is innocent until proven guilty by a court of competent jurisdiction. So even if he say that someone is a thief or is corrupt and he or she is arraigned, that does not mean that he is guilty. They have to do their jobs but I think some reforms and rules should be amended to make prosecution faster.
There are also cases of alleged corruption against some Judges and even Senior Advocates. Don’t you think that also portend danger for the anti corruption fight?
When it comes to the legal profession, the legal profession is regulated by the legal practitioners disciplinary committee. So it’s the bar itself that disciplines its own Lawyers. When it comes to the judiciary, it is the National Judicial Council that disciplines Judges. As you can see, the Lawyers who are accused are are facing the normal process and I also think the NJC is doing its own part but I don’t think they are doing enough in terms of disciplining themselves within their own spheres.
Do you think the independence of the judiciary is possible without interference from the executive arm?
Its going to be difficult because of the way the thing is set up now. There is a real problem with the appointment of the judges. Unless that is tackled, there is going to be a lot more external influences. The other day, the Chief Justice was talking of its funding and its very important if it is going to be truly independent. If you visit some magistrates’ court, you will be shocked at what you would see. They are short of facilities which make the whole thing look so horrendous.
Culled from: http://leadership.ng/features/551825/bilateral-business-relations-with-china-good-for-nigerians-kusamotu