Barrister Sunday Joshua Wugira, though many see him as ‘’ controversial’’ until recently was one of the few legal icons in Adamawa that speak for the voiceless, devoid of primordial sentiments. In this exclusive interview with The West African Pilot News’s Regional Correspondent Ibrahim Abdul’ Aziz, Wugira opened the Pandora box on issues affecting his state Adamawa, COVID-19, and lockdown order been imposed.
WAP: Though you are not new in Adamawa struggle in the recent past, may we know little about Barrister Sunday Joshua Wugira?
WUGIRI: Sunday Joshua Wugira is from Mubi North LGA. Born on the 30th day of May 1976. Attended Wuro Bulude primary school Mubi, Government Secondary School Mubi, the University of Maiduguri and Nigerian Law School, Bwari Abuja. Served as Legal Assistant to the Hon. Speaker, Ogun State House of Assembly during the National Youth Service program. I have been in private legal practice and now the SSA on public affairs to the Governor of Adamawa State.
WAP: Before no you now, you have been in the casual political struggle in Adamawa but kept changing goal posts why is it so?
WUGIRI: Change is a constant variable in life. I always give politics a meaning but on a casual basis so as not to affect my job as a Lawyer and if I cannot find a meaning where I am and also cannot give it a meaning, I change my association to have a meaning hence the change in goalposts.
WAP: There was this episode ensued during CPC, when you represented the party at local government elections tribunal I think. Please can you share with us what really transpired and how you were short-changed at the last minute?
WUGIRI: Local government council elections were conducted in Adamawa State in 2012 and there were manifest irregularities and noncompliance with the electoral laws. I was engaged by the national secretariat of the CPC then to represent all local governments and file petitions against the outcome of the elections before the local government elections petition tribunal. I filed all the petitions on the 15th day of December 2012. Objections were raised by all the Respondents in all the petitions and we responded where the tribunal ruled in our favour, dismissing the objections and granting our applications for inspection of voting materials used in the council elections. Seeing the twist of events, some stakeholders of the party saw an opportunity to make money in the process and they approached the state where an idea to kill the petitions were muled. They received money and engaged a Counsel who filed a letter of change of Counsel before the tribunal dated 31st day of January, 2013 and I was served on the 1st day of February, 2013. Mind you, the Adamawa State Local Government Electoral Law 2002 has provided 60 days within which election petitions must be dispensed with but an application must be brought for an extension of the 60 days before the expiration of the 60 days. We were conscious of that and upon seeing the letter of change of counsel, (which is unethical anyway) I knew they were up to some mischief but I honestly underestimated reach reason being that I thought it was just some cash and carry desperados within the party with some merchants within government only. I never knew it was beyond just the two but it included others that were expected to be neutral no matter what. The tribunal asked us to address it on the propriety of our representation each as counsel with proof of engagement in writing on the 4th day of February, 2013 which we did and adopted on the 7th day of February, 2013. The tribunal gave us the 11th day of February, 2013 for ruling.
Conscious of the effusion of 60 day time for the petitions on the 14th day of February, 2013, I filed a motion for the extension of time for the hearing of the petition as provided by the law dated 7th February, 2013 and it was served on the Respondents on that same day with an affidavit of urgency. My reason was that at least before the 14th, the motion would be ripe for hearing and with the reasons adduced, even if opposed by the Respondents which certainly they would, the interest of justice would prevail since the law has even provided for that.
On the 11th of February, the tribunal could not sit, as we were told that one of the members was away from the state on official duty and not back while the chair was indisposed so there was no quorum! The amazing thing again was that none of the Respondents filed any process against my motion for extension of time. Now, give us a favorable date and you are giving us the 14th!
The day the petition would become statute-barred. The other issue was that we could not even conduct the inspection of the voting materials as the state electoral body wouldn’t allow us to do that as their defence was that we are not the true representatives of the Petitioners. I approached the Counsel of the side purporting to be the ‘party’ to come along so as not to waste time but to save the situation and he said it was not part of his brief to inspect voting materials! We missed that opportunity collectively. Again, the Court could not sit on the 14th but sit on the 15th of February, 2013.
I actually went to the Tribunal out of respect but I knew the battle was lost as, on that day, one of the Counsel to the Respondents moved that the Tribunal does not have the jurisdiction to entertain the petitions as 60 days had elapsed and there was no order extending the time! The tribunal concurred and that was that! It was a very painful situation seeing conspiracies everywhere including the bastion of justice and ministers therein!
I wrote my final report and sent to my Client. After about six months, other issues cropped up that tore the party apart from as some of the stakeholders were accused of denying others their share of the money for the hatchet job but that is always the end product of betrayal.
WAP: Could that be another defining moment for you?
WUGIRI: Indeed that was a defining moment for me. I became equip and prepared for any legal treachery and political gerrymandering. I was radicalized against injustice.
WAP: Now back to your present status as one of the governor Fintiri’s aides, how has it been with you there is –it a nasty or smooth ride?
WUGIRI: Well, being an aide comes with a lot of challenges and if I may say, privileges too. It is certainly not an easy ride particularly when my job schedule entails dealing with the public. I give my best and would continue to improve but thus far, there has never been a nasty experience though there were humbling moments. By and large, we glorify God for the opportunity to be of service to the Governor and the state
WAP: Now let’s talk on the dreaded monster Coronavirus, do you think the state is prepared? Because there are hushed complaints in some quarters that the Governor to some extent is not helping the war against COVID-19, following his refusal to obey the directive of NGF chairman that all governors should be tested due to their high exposure. What is your take?
WUGIRI: From the beginning, the government of Adamawa State is conscious of the consequences of a lockdown that was why the governor made it clear that lockdown would be the last undesirable step to be taken but it has come to that stage that the undesirable is certainly desirable.
Regarding preparedness, the government is adequately prepared as it was the first to reduce taxes and revenues by 50%, it asked workers to stay at home and people to observe the basic personal hygiene to stem the COVID-19 scourge. All these are economic stimulus actions. The government is equally not mindful of the need to provide palliatives to the weak and the poor.
It is bizarre for anyone to say the governor has not been helpful in the fight against the COVID-19. Adamawa State is the 2nd state to have an isolation center after Lagos. We have an all-encompassing steering committee against the pandemic chaired by the SSG. The state has acquired ventilators and kits in readiness for the pandemic. Regarding the issue of the test, you only hear of results if it is positive.
By the way, his excellency was in Abuja for the Leadership group award and inaugural meeting of the National Committee for rehabilitation and resettlement at the state house. He came back on the 20th and he is still here working tirelessly for the good people and government of the state. From 20th to date is about 13 days.
For those insinuating or wishing our governor any untoward ailment, he is alive and kicking. Today, you saw him condoling bereaved families in Yola and Jimeta as well as attending to state matters. It is imperative for people to know that diseases cannot be hidden forever and it could be anyone but it is distasteful for a nonexistent issue to be attributed to someone on whose shoulder lies the burden and the glory of the fight against pandemic like the one undermining same
His Excellency has directed ADSEMA to prepare a template for the provision of palliatives across the State. People must equally appreciate the fact that the government cannot do everything as it does not have the financial muscle to do that. The responsibility of being a brother’s keeper is not just on the government but on all of us. Let us lend a hand to each other and whatever the government would provide would be an added advantage.
We can never have enough of everything. The government did provide the basic sanitary equipment’s but it can never be enough. We call on well-meaning individuals and organizations to come in and assist. People at home now must equally keep observing the basic personal hygiene to stay safe
WAP: We have about 4.3 million people in Adamawa and the state government told us that there are only 4 ventilators and yet it said it has prepared adequately to tame COVID-19 how will you juxtapose the two scenarios?
WUGIRI: No nation has enough ventilators and we can never have enough of everything. Let us learn to appreciate the effort of government in providing the four ventilators. Some states don’t even have isolation centres not to talk of ventilators and in every human endeavour, there is room for improvement and government would assuredly acquire more ventilators and other essentials in the course of time.
Another approach to containing COVID-19 is in the area of providing basic sanitary equipments like provision of hand washing stations in public places we have not seen that up till now what will you say about the situation?
Like I said earlier, we can never have enough of everything. The government did provide the basic sanitary equipment’s but it can never be enough. We call on well-meaning individuals and organizations to come in and assist. People at home now must equally keep observing the basic personal hygiene to stay safe
WAP: Most hospitals across Adamawa without mincing words are mere consultation units and the only isolation center we have is in the state capital don’t you think this is a major cause for concern?
WUGIRI: We must admit that there are challenges in the health sector. However, it is noteworthy to say that as part of the 11 point agenda of his Excellency Ahmadu Umaru Fintiri, giant strides are being recorded in this sector. The government took delivery of some equipment that was negligently abandoned in the past at the port in Lagos.
Government fulfilled its obligations by paying the contractors and taking delivery of the medical equipment which is being distributed and fixed for use in our hospitals across the state. Yes, hitherto, we had mere consultation units but now we are gradually having health centres. Manpower is equally being increased and productivity being enhanced. We are definitely not where we ought to be but we shall there in the course of time.
My message to the populace is that we must see, appreciate, support and comply with the government’s lockdown order.
WAP: On this note, what message do you have for the populace?
WUGIRI: My message to the populace is that we must see, appreciate, support and comply with the government’s lockdown order. Let us all know that government has a duty to save lives and keep us safe from diseases. We must also help ourselves to stay safe and healthy. This scourge shall pass away and let us join hands together with the government to fight it here. There are difficulties for sure but with patience and faith, we shall overcome!
WAP: We really appreciate it, and thank for having your time.
WUGIRI: Thanks and good to see you again.
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