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Pensioners to sue FG, Ondo govt over unpaid gratuities, pensions

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Pensioners in their hundreds yesterday threatened to institute legal action against the Federal Government and the 36 state governors over their failure to pay accumulated arrears of gratuities and pension in the country.

The pensioners under the auspices of the Nigeria Union of Pensioners (NUP) gave the two tiers of governments two months within to pay their outstanding arrears or face legal action.

NUP South-West Zonal Chairman, Chief Ayo Kumapayi and its spokesman, Olusegun Abatan handed down the threat while speaking with journalists at the end of their zonal meeting held in Akure, the Ondo state capital.

The NUP spokesperson said the legal action became imperative in view of the rising cases of sick and dead pensioners unceremoniously as a result of unpaid entitlements by the state governments of Ondo, Ogun, Lagos, Ekiti, Oyo and Osun as well as other parts of the country.

Kumapayi, who was flanked by the Ondo state Chairman of NUP, Chief Raphael Adetuwo and other chairmen and Secretaries of the union from the six states, blamed failure of the state governors to pay their gratuities and pension regularly on reckless spending on humongous salaries and allowances of political office holders.

The NUP Zonal leaders also demanded a review of law setting up the Revenue Mobilisations, Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) to empower it to place all the political office holders including the President, governors, ministers, Federal and state lawmakers on the same salary scale with civil servants from Grade Level-18 to Grade Level-25 in the country.

The step, the pensioners said, would save the country’s economy from collapse and enable government to have more money to take care of the needs of the less privileged Nigerians who wallowed in abject poverty and deprivation.
Kumapayi said: He said: “Humongous salaries and allowances of public office holders especially senators and the House Representatives members who take home #13million and #14million monthly need to be reviewed, how can those people will be collecting such huge money in a country where 80% are battling to meet daily meal?

“President Buhari should use his second term in office to do something about such take home by our federal lawmakers; they should be placed on same salary scale with the civil servants to reduce pressure on the nation’s economy. Those who want to genuinely serve will take, political offices have been turn to money making and no longer for service for humanity.

 

“Let the President be on GL 25, Vice President will be on GL 24, governors on GL 23 downward like that, this will save our nation from reckless and killing salaries and allowances.”

However, the South-West NUP commended President Muhammadu Buhari for huge step taken recently to grant local government financial autonomy, saying the decision would prevent many state governors from spending local governments’ funds nationwide as a pocket money.
Also speaking, the National Deputy General Secretary of NUP, Chief Joseph Okunade said the national leadership of the Pensioners was in full support of the legal action against the state governors.

Okunade said “we at the nation like our south west zone call for the inclusion of retirees in the new #30,000 minimum wage to be known as the National Minimum Pension. We advise governors who grumbling over the payment of the new wage to shun frivolous spending to enable them meet workers and pensioners’ needs.”

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Why insecurity worsened under Buhari, by West-Idahosa

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Why insecurity worsened under Buhari, by West-Idahosa

Ehiogie West-Idahosa holds a Ph.D in law. West-Idahosa, Principal Partner of West-Idahosa & Co., in this interview with TUNDE OYESINA speaks on insecurity, corruption, Edo House of Assembly crisis and sundry issues

 

 

Going by the events unfolding in Edo State House of Assembly, do you think the House Representatives has the constitutional powers to enforce shut down directive?

 

 

Under Section 11(4) and (5), what the house is empowered to do is that where it becomes impossible for the House Assembly of a state to conduct its business, principally for two reasons. First, if there is so much breach of the peace in that state and the house cannot be reasonably be expected to conduct its business in a rancorous environment or secondly where from all indication, it is clear that the house itself is unable to sit for other extraneous reason in which case, the House of Representatives can then invoke its constitutional powers to take over the conduct of the business of that house and in order to do that it can order the house to be shut down.

 

 

But, I think in the present scenario whether those two conditions have been met is something that needs to be thoroughly examined. As at today, can it be said that Edo state House of Assembly is so much in rancour cannot be reasonably expected to sit? I think in my humble opinion from what I have read and observed, the answer is No. The second point is can it be said that for any reason whatsoever, that house cannot sit? Again from what I have heard and observed, the answer is No. The house is sitting, screening commissioners and doing all sort of things which appeared to be apparent legislative duties. So, what exactly is the House of Representatives trying to do?  I think they are trying to solve a political problem by using legislative instrument. And I am not too sure that it can address the problem in Edo.

 

 

I think the problem in Edo is intra-party crisis within a political party, and it is now clear that one side is led by the national chairman of the party and the other side being led by the governor of the state.

 

 

So, there is no way to regard that problem apart from describing it as a political one. And in choosing to use legislative instrument, the house has made a number of decisions. A big question is does the house has legislative oversight over the work of governors? There is no provision of the Constitution that allows a House to supervise the proclamation exercise made by any governor. So, to that effect, I am not sure there is legal backing to that recommendation that Governor Obaseki should make another proclamation. It is purely a political advice.

 

 

The Constitution does not make provision for double proclamation. As we speak, the condition for take over did not arise. If the house did, it will be an abuse of the provision of the Constitution and a misunderstanding of the process of a takeover.

 

 

On inviting the police, can an arm of the government invite agencies of the executive arm of government to shut down another arm when there is no threat to peace and tranquility?

 

 

No breakdown of law and order, no threat to life and property, I am not sure that was a correct advice.

 

 

Moreover, the issue is before the court. The house should not interfere with a matter that is before the court. Could it be that Speaker did not realize that his order will affect the case before the court? For example, one of the reliefs the lawmakers are praying for is to stop any one from shutting down the house.  But you say police to go there and shut the house. That will invariably affect the proceedings of the court because you are rendering the proceedings nugatory. I think if there is any arm of government which should protect the judiciary more than any other arm  is the legislature .

 

 

What do you think is the way out of unending killing in the country?

 

 

First of all, my greatest regret as a Nigerian citizen is that I witness this era. I could never have believed growing up as a young man even while serving at the National Assembly some years ago, that we can reach the point we are now with respect to insecurity. I could never believe that a day will come in this country when people will be killed in this manner outside the frame work of law. I could never have believed that a day will come when the police and the security agencies can be easily overwhelmed over compromise that they can abandon their primary duty of protecting lives and property.

 

I am so disappointed with the government of Nigeria with respect to its performance of its fundamental duty of protecting the lives of her citizens. It is so clear to me that what is happening, we are a little mile away from state of nature as described by Hub as brutal, shut and nasty. You will see a man today, and tomorrow, he is gone. Not because he is sick; not accident , but he was on  his way from one place to another, exercising his fundamental right of movement and that some people will storm out of the bush and kill such a man. And we have a government unable to respond, to overhaul the security outfit but what we keep hearing is a repeat of promises and promises; re-assuring us that all will be well even when we see that you are doing the same thing over and over and expect a different result. I think something is basically wrong with the appraisal strategy of this government as far as the performance in security sector is concerned. To those who man the sector, I have nothing but shame for them. How will I be Chief of Army Staff and allow the army to get to the point of expressing a loss of confidence in themselves and moral? And who is even telling us that? No other person than the Chief of Army Staff himself that his troops are dejected and lost their morale. And these are the same troops that we are counting on to deal with Boko Haram insurgency and banditry. We rely on safety by prayers to God. Government has been sidelined. In place of government we should rely on God for our safety. So, why then do you ask us to pay taxes, tenement rate and to fulfil our civic duties if you as government cannot perform your duties by protecting the individual sovereignty? That is my view and I am in tears.

 

 

 

What is your assessment of the anti-corruption fight of this present government?

 

 

Well, I can say that with respect to improving the consciousness of corruption and the ills of corruption, i think they have tried. This government has placed corruption on the table and not under the table. Corruption has become a major decimal in the discussion that goes on in Nigeria. But in terms of indices of corruption fight, the perception is that corruption fight is targeted at a given community. And those in the community include leading members of the opposition, prominent and vocal lawyers and rights activists, business people who are unwilling to support the ruling party financially and not on the side of government and other prominent citizens who called a spade a spade and not agricultural tool. Now, this is the perception. That is not to say that a few of the people in the corridor of power themselves have not been visited with corruption charges.

 

 

But when you compare the statistics, you will find out that the probability that you will be visited with corruption charge if you belong to the camp is very  low. You will remember what it took Nigerians to get Babachir Lawal to be tried. You will recall that even that trial has gone underground, nobody knows where we are after that has played the politics of it. We found out recently that Danjuma Goje was asked to come and strike a deal. Renounce your ambition for Senate President and we will talk to you. And the talk was simple, EFCC withdraw the suit and send it to the AGF. And the next we heard was that it appeared that a nolle had been entered. I am not quite sure. I want to believe that the purpose of the withdrawal is to file a fresh charge against him. I am not too sure whether they can take the risk of nolle to chagrin of the charge against him. Nigerians are already upset at the lopsided nature of the corruption fight .My prayer for them is to get it right that even in the fight against corruption, there should be no selection.

 

 

Transparency International in a recent report named police, politicians and judges as most corrupt. What is your take on that?

 

 

Well, I have no question that the police is the unchallenged champion of the Nigeria corruption space. No question at all. I have always argued that had I the chance of being the President of Nigeria, I will spend a minimum of two years of my first tenure re-hauling the police. In fact, I  may even have to scrap the police and allow the civil defense as a standby police until the police is re-structured.  A big state in Mexico was ashamed to contract that out for a man. If a huge country like Mexico can contract out police to reform it and today, they are better for it, so I am not sure the structure of police is curable.

 

 

I think the structure of police is defective and too difficult to cure it. The quality of our politicians is degenerating. In those days, we have men of timber and caliber, like Awolowo, Azikiwe and Ahmadu Bello, even if they slant into ethnicity, at a time, they were always ahead of their contemporaries. They talked Nigeians, dreamt Nigerians and worked Nigerians. Today, we don’t have ideological leaders. Our manifestoes are similar, they are copycat of others with moderation of language and semantically difference. Like the NBA for example has its own disciplinary committee, the political party has ombudsman. The only ombudsman is when they claim that you commit anti-party activities, and they send you to one disciplinary committee and they suspend you or expel you.

 

 

How many politicians have been   suspended or expelled for corruption or malpractice? Political parties don’t call their leaders to order for corruption practices. They don’t do that. They don’t even have the time. Although the political class is not as dangerous as the police with time more modern people will get into the class and things will become better. Political parties should mind the type of people they elect as national chairman because they are vision bearers. If the leader does not have the vision, the party is gone. Now, significantly, you talk about the judiciary.

 

The judiciary is part of the Nigeria community. Like other components of Nigeria, it is also degenerating there is no doubt about that. It is still the last hope of the common man.

 

It is now the duty of the community to save the judiciary from itself. If you do not, when you need the judiciary, it will not be available for you. We must therefore work hard to save the judiciary by ensuring that we as community members stopped trying to influence the judges; stop bribing judges, stop trying to reach them, stop influencing them. Learn to shame this that you know are arbitrarily involved in bribing judges. Name them, shame them, bring them to public ridicule.

 

Three, do not hesitate to petition judges with verifiable fact to the appropriate body. Do not be afraid. But do not accuse a judge of corruption mainly because you lost a case in the court and not because a judge made a mistake on the point of law.

 

 

Remember, the judge is a human being. If a judge makes a mistake in law, it is not corruption. But if a judge asks you for money in order to go in a particular direction, that is corruption. If we agree to fight judicial corruption, it is easier to fight. The biggest one is the police corruption.

 

The Senate just confirmed Justice Tanko Muhammad as the CJN, what agenda will you like to set for him?

 

 

He should decongest the matters in the Supreme Court. I expect a minimum of three courts to be computed and a minimum of three panels should be sitting .I think that they are working in that direction. The President himself has called nomination of more Justices. It is an indication that Supreme Court is getting to alleviate the pains of litigants in respect to congestion of matters.

 

Secondly, a number of the Practice Direction should be reviewed. It will take time to review the laws, but I think the practice direction will do. This should be in line with the effect that certain cases should be concluded within a given time. There should be practice direction with respect to matrimonial matters.

 

 

 

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NBA kicks against special court for corrupt politicians

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NBA kicks against special court for corrupt politicians

 

The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Ikere, Ekiti State chapter has told the federal government to embrace the much touted proposed community policing as a mechanism to rescue the nation out of unending senseless killings being experienced in the country.

 

The body insisted that it would be difficult for the country to get out of the messy situation being witnessed should the federal government refuse to review the nation’s security architecture. Besides, NBA kicked against special courts to try corruption cases, saying the present judicial arrangement was enough to handle cases bordering on graft.

 

NBA chairman, Oludayo Olorunfemi, spoke in Ikere Ekiti at the weekend during a press conference heralding the maiden edition of the branch’s law week commencing from today.

 

Olorunfemi regretted how traditional rulers had allowed their domains to become safe havens for criminals, describing them as the closest political organs to the grassroots.

 

He said: “We believe the community policing is the best option against these killings that are affecting everybody. Most of those who ought to attend our programme have declined because of the killing of Mrs. Funke Olakunrin, which makes Ekiti and Ondo axis looked unsafe.

 

“Two members of NBA in Ekiti have been killed by bandits when we lost the Secretary of this branch last year December. It was tragic to us. The family is yet to recover from it. “0ur traditional rulers should not allow criminals to use their towns as dens for evil doing.

 

It seems our traditional rulers are folding their arms. Apart from the state security apparatuses, they are the closest to the people. Ekiti is known as land of Omoluabi and honour. It should not be a comfortable area for criminals.

 

“Community policing is the best option, You don’t expect the police or soldiers who don’t understand the terrain or who were brought from outside to fish out criminals. What are the local hunters doing?” “All we need to do is to enforce the laws.

 

The laws are there and once it is interpreted by the judiciary, we must over them. So, the judiciary as constituted is okay to handle corruption cases.” Olorunfemi stated that part of the programme would be Wole Olanipekun Public lecture which would be delivered by the Ekiti State’s Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr. Wale Fapohunda. She added that lawyers from the branch will also give free legal and health services to residents as part of the five days event.

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Supreme Court orders Stanbic IBTC Bank to pay N2.5bn judgement sum

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Supreme Court orders Stanbic IBTC Bank to pay N2.5bn judgement sum

Effort by Stanbic IBTC Bank Plc., to have the Supreme Court, Abuja, set aside a judgement of N2.5 billion in damages delivered against it has hit the rocks.

 

A five-man panel comprising Justices Musa Dattijo Muhammad, John Inyang Okoro, Amiru Sanusi, Paul Adamu Galinje and Uwani Musa Abba Aji, unanimously agreed that the bank’s application to set aside the judgment of the court lacked merit.

 

The apex court subsequently awarded a cost of N500, 000 against the bank.

 

The bank’s lawyers, Mr. O. Ayanlaja (SAN) and Mr. Tayo Oyetibo (SAN), had both approached the apex court on 18th January, 2019, asking that the Supreme Court five – man panel– former Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Samuel Onnoghen, Justices Musa Dattijo Muhammad, John Inyang Okoro, Amiru Sanusi and Sidi Dauda Bage, which dismissed a suit, Appeal No SC/535/2013 Stanbic IBTC Bank Plc., against Longterm Global Capital Ltd. and Mr. Patrick Akinkuotu, be set aside on the basis that it be set down for rehearing on its merits.

 

In its arguments, the bank alleged the judgement against it was made without a consideration of its brief of argument at the lower court on September 10, 2011 on the ground that the brief was not the exact replica of exhibit “AA1” as ordered by the lower court on September 14, 2011.

 

“The decision of the court that the applicant did not seek leave of the lower court to file another brief of argument different from exhibit AA1 was based on the oversight by this court of the order of the court below dated October 8, 2012 contained at pages  1675 – 1676 of the records of appeal.

 

“This court reached its decision based on its conclusion that the applicant did not seek leave of the court below to file the additional grounds 4 and 5 of the appellant’s amended notice of appeal.

 

“The decision of the court that the applicant did not seek leave of the court below to file additional grounds 4 and 5 was reached in oversight of the order of the court below granted on July 5, 2011”, the bank argued.

 

 

But, the respondents through their lawyer, Chief Felix Fagbohungbe (SAN), filed their written address on April 23, 2019.

 

 

Certain issues were raised for court’s determination. These includes; whether the applicant has established that there are special or exceptional circumstances warranting the setting aside of the judgment delivered by this court on January 18, 2019 in Appeal No SC/535/2013.

 

 

“By Order 2 Rule 29 (1) of the Supreme Court Rules, the applicant’s application is incompetent and an abuse of court’s process”, the respondents argued.

 

 

However, delivering the lead judgement, Justice Uwani Musa Abba Aji, said: “I cannot but fully agree with the submission of the learned counsel to the respondents that this application is frivolous, baseless, scandalous and contemptuous to be dismissed.

 

 

“There is a synergy of concurrence in reasonings and decisions from the trial court upward that this case was decided on its merits and smacks of any oversight or miscarriage of justice, thus cannot be reviewed and therefore does not fall within the genre and the circumstances of judgments to be set aside.

 

 

“In a proceeding which is ‘ab initio’ a nullity, nothing can be set aside out of it as there is nothing legally binding in it. One cannot build something on nothing and expect it to stand; it will certainly collapse.”

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Court jails lawyer 9 months for stealing client’s N6m

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Court jails lawyer 9 months for stealing client’s N6m

A 67-year-old lawyer, Mr. Olukayoke Folayan has been sentenced to 9 months in prison by an Ikeja Special offences Court, Lagos for stealing N6 million belonging to his client. Folayan, who has spent 43 years at the Bar, was convicted on a one-count charge of stealing by Justice O.A. Williams.

 

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, had arraigned Folayan for converting the sum of N6 million meant for the purchase of a property on behalf of his client, Edna Falase.

 

According to the EFCC prosecutor, S. O Daji, the convict committed the offence on 24th March, 2016 in Lagos. Daji, who had called four witnesses to testify in the matter, said that the complaint, Falase paid the sum of N7 million to Folayan to perfect some documentation and make part-payment for a property she wanted to buy.

 

Daji said: “On her instruction the defendant paid the sum of N1 million to the lawyer of the vendor but diverted the balance sum of N6 million.

 

“On March 27, 2014, the sum of N7 million was paid into the account of the law firm of Olukayode Afolayan & Co. The defendant kept withdrawing the balance of N6 million by making payment transfers to various people like his wife and one Kazeem Olamilekan, who received the sum of N700, 000.

 

“The defendant, during interrogation by the commission, confessed that he used part of the money to buy encyclopedia of forms and precedents for his law firm.

 

He also confessed using part of the money to service his personal debts and also buying personal effect. “The defendant said that he also deposited the sum of N700, 000 for a vehicle – Mercedes Benz he intended to buy.

 

He also said that he lent N200, 000 to his daughter, which she paid back.” However, while delivering her judgement, Justice Williams held that the prosecution has proven both the actus rens and mens rea of the offence of stealing against the defendant beyond reasonable doubts. “The defence proffered by the defendant is that he had the intention to repay the money and that the sum of N1. 5 million was due to him as professional fees. But that defence doesn’t avail him.

 

“The mere promise to pay is not promise that the defendant truly intended to repay the money, since he has had three years to do so but didn’t. The evidence in this case shows that a person in our noble profession who was entrusted with funds breached that trust. It is most fortunate. In my final analysis, I pronounce the defendant guilty as charged,”

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Fawehinmi: Withdrawal of fraud charge against Goje’ll step up graft

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Fawehinmi: Withdrawal of fraud charge against Goje’ll step up graft

Mohammed Fawehinmi speaks on governors’ penchant for dissolving local councils, FG’s withdrawal of fraud charge against ex-Gombe Governor, Danjuma Goje, Shi’ite movement’s protest and sundry issues. AKEEM NAFIU reports

 

What is your view on the withdrawal by the federal government of N25 billion alleged fraud charge slammed on former governor of Gombe State, Senator Danjuma Goje?

 

It was obvious that the case was dropped for political reasons. There was horse trading at the highest level. The man that both the president and his party approved as the Senate President finally got to the position after the election was conducted and he was sworn-in.

 

However, it is worthy to note that there are so many other issues that touche on corruption which also seemed to have been swept under the carpet. One of such is the issue of Maina upon which nothing serious have been done till date.

 

So, all I can say regarding the issue of Goje is that there are lots of horse trading and politics in play. It is then left for Nigerians to agitate and insist on the prosecution of people like Goje.

 

This is because if people like Goje are allowed to get away just like that, then, government is encouraging more corruption.

 

What implication will this kind of government’s action has on the war against corruption?

 

That shows that the fight against corruption is partial. It seems certain individuals are beyond prosecution in this country. If corruption charge against former Governor Danjuma Goje is withdrawn because he is a viable option for horse trading, it means Gombe State people will have to suffer for any financial crime allegedly committed by Goje while in office. The action of government leaves much to be desired. It is not right at all.

 

The Senate is pushing for death penalty as a way of punishing anyone involved in raping. How far could this measure help in stemming the rising tide of the menace?

 

If the rapists the Senators are talking are those raping minors, I am in full support. They should be killed immediately. Just like it’s being done in Dubai. But, for those who rapes adult, I want to suggest that those individuals should be flogged openly with about 50 strokes of cane and then sent to prison for a lengthy period so that they can realize the magnitude of the crime they have committed.

 

It is very disheartening that rape cases involving infants are now becoming rampant in our society and something urgent should be done about it. Some infants that are raped have been made to suffer emotional pain and aside this, they cannot even give birth again owing to a damage or the other done to their reproductive systems. So, it is a very serious societal problem that should tackled headlong by government.

 

When a rapist is executed, it will surely serve as a deterrent to others like him. Once, they are being killed, there will definitely be a reduction in the crime rate. There can be no justification for anyone to be engaging in such a crime.

 

 

We must forget about the clamour for the abolition of capital punishment by some foreign bodies. This is because if rapists are not made to face capital punishment, it will be difficult to nip the crime in the bud.

 

I remember during the Buhari/Idiagbon regime when drug pushers were being killed, the measure really helped in tackling the menace at the time. It effectively deterred many people from going into the crime.

 

State governors are now being backed by their various Houses of Assembly to dissolve local councils headed by democratically elected chairmen. Is this action constitutional?

 

It is not constitutional and the dictates of the Constitution must be enforced. If we fail to do this, the governors and their collaborators will continue to flout the law.

 

In actual fact, aside this issue of dissolution of local council, the funds meant for local governments should no longer pass through these governors, otherwise no local government will develop in this country. For instance, if a governor discovered that people in a particular local government did not vote for him, he can punish the people in the area by starving them of funds. The only way local governments can develop if for those in charge to have direct access to their funds.

 

It is very wrong and illegal for governors to order dissolution of any council, but more unfortunate is the decision of State Houses of Assembly to ratify the governors’ decision. Anyway, this should not even come as a surprise because many of these lawmakers have been pocketed by these governors. They no longer have the interest of the masses at heart. As long as the governors can massage their egos, the citizens are of no use to them.

 

This is absolutely illegal and unconstitutional. The local government chairmen concerned should go to court and I am very certain that justice will be done on the matter by the court.

 

Will you be in support of the National Assembly invoking the provisions of Section 11 (4) of the Constitution over the raging crisis in the Edo State House of Assembly?

 

Why should the National Assembly invoke that constitutional provisions and take over the operations of the Edo State House of Assembly? I don’t think that is necessary. The Edo State House of Assembly lawmakers should be allowed to resolve the crisis by themselves. Any aggrieved member can go to court to ventilate his or her grievances.

 

The National Assembly needs not to always be interfering in the affairs of State Houses of Assembly. The Edo State House of Assembly members are representatives of Edo people and I think they should resolve their differences themselves.

 

Many Nigerians are worried that the leadership crisis rocking the House of Representatives may negatively affect its performance. Do you share this view?

 

There were so many incriminating issues that we saw live on television while members were doing the voting to elect their leaders.

 

This shows many of them were not matured enough and I don’t think with the way they were acting, they will have the opportunity to represent the interest of their constituents. However, I might be wrong, but, this is my personal opinion. Their beginning was a bit disgraceful.

 

Are you worried that President Muhammadu Buhari is yet to come out with the list of his ministers about two months after his inauguration for another four years in office?

 

 

Of course, I am worried. I don’t know why he is yet to come up with the list of his ministers. The Prime Minister of India chose 58 ministers on the day he was elected. So, I don’t know what is responsible for the delay in the Nigeria president announcing his ministers.

 

This is July and I think by now we ought to have known the ministers that the president want to use to fulfill his campaign promises to Nigerians. I think the president is taking too much time on this issue. He should make up his mind as soon as possible to avoid unnecessary assumptions. He should be firm in his decisions, otherwise we are all in problem in this country and nothing will move.

 

The delay in announcing the ministers will also give room for permanent secretaries to perpetrate all kinds of fraud. This is because there is no one to checkmate them. Of course, civil servants are the richest set of people in this country.

 

If I am a civil servant today, whether I am a permanent secretary or not, I can guarantee how much I will make in the next six months. This is because there is no scrutiny.

 

 

How do you view the recent public disturbance within the National Assembly complex occasioned by the violent protests embarked upon by members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) over the continued incarceration of their leader, Sheik Ibrahim El-Zakzaky?

 

There are two sides to this Shi’ite issue. First, at what point in time did the Shi’ite movement gone beyond control showing lack of respect for the nation’s law?

 

I remember there was a time when they engaged a former governor whom they said could not pass through an area because they were having a procession and the man obliged them and took another route.

 

They later tried the same thing with the Chief of Army Staff, Gen. Buratai, and we all knew what happened thereafter.

 

These people must understand that they are not the only religious group in Nigeria. Therefore, they must have respect for our laws. There is freedom of association and everyone is also free to form a religious group. But, when a group fails to control its members to act in line with the dictates of the law, particularly when on a procession, there is a problem.

 

Secondly, on the incarceration of their leader, I understand there is a case in court now. So, the Federal Government must look into that case and whatever order is given by the court must be obeyed.

 

However, it is very paramount for members of the Shi’ite movement to also know that they are not above the laws of the land. They must show regard for our laws. I believed that if they had shown enough respect for the law, it is possible that there would have been no friction between them and the army in the first place and as such there may not have been any cause for their leader to be taken into custody.

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Pushing death penalty for rapists

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Pushing death penalty for rapists
  • Lawyers: Rapist don’t deserve pardon

 

Worried by upsurge in rape cases across the country, members of the Red Chamber are pushing for death penalty for offenders. Will this measure stem the ugly tide of the menace? Lawyers say yes, no. AKEEM NAFIU reports

 

A   68-year-old man, Yisah Showunmi was recently paraded by the Lagos State Police Command for allegedly raping his 15-year-old daughter and her friends.

 

Police spokesperson, Bala Elkana, informed journalists at the parade that Showumi’s daughter (named withheld) reported the incident at Imota Police Station in Ikorodu, on 27th June, 2019.

 

Elkana said the young girl revealed that apart from her last outing with her dad on 23rd June, 2019, he has been having sexual intercourse with her for the past three years, while her two friends (names withheld) ages 15 and 16 were also not spared when they came to stay in their house.

 

Another pathetic case was the story of one, Pastor Popo Paul, who was also paraded for allegedly impregnating an underage girl put under his care by her mother.

 

The girl’s mother, who was said to have reported the incident at Igando Police Station claimed that her daughter was sexually assaulted by her guardian while residing with him in his residence at 10/11 Aminu Street, Ishuti road, Egan Igando, Lagos.

 

Addressing journalists, the woman, an indigene of Akure in Ondo State, who revealed that she brought her daughter to Lagos sometimes in 2017 to live with the pastor’s wife said she noticed that her daughter was pregnant sometimes in June 2018 and that upon an enquiry about the person responsible from her, she mentioned the pastor’s name.

 

The woman further revealed that her daughter told her that Paul has been sleeping with her since January 2018. The girl was said to have given birth to a baby girl in April 2019.

The two suspects have since been charged to court by the police.

 

Cases like that of Showunmi and Paul are now a common phase across the country and this has raised serious concerns among Nigerians.

 

It was in a bid to address these concerns that members of the Red Chamber, on Tuesday, last week, called for a review of the law regarding rape cases. They wanted rapists to face death sentence.

 

The lawmakers made the call while contributing to a motion of urgent public importance tagged, “Sexual abuse in Nigeria: a growing scourge”, sponsored by Senator Rose Oko (PDP, Cross River North) and ten others.

In raising a point of order to present the motion which bordered on the increasing rate of reported rape cases and sexual assault especially on children across the country, Oko noted that rape is a “dastardly act” which is perpetrated on children as young as six months.

 

The senator also decried the unserious attitude of relevant agencies towards rape crimes, saying failure of states to implement laws protecting children against such violence does not help matter.

 

She however commended recent reactions by the public especially Interest Groups as well as Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) against perpetrators of all forms of rape and violence.

 

“Authorities have been accused of treating child molesters with levity. Nigerians have complained of the lackadaisical attitude of government agencies towards the fight against child sexual abuse.

 

“In most cases, prisoners, rapists inclusive, get released because of overcrowding. The lack of training of security officers on how to deal with victims of sexual abuse is also a problem.

 

“Despite international agreement, laws aimed at protecting minors such as the Criminal Code Act, Penal code act, Trafficking in Persons Prohibition Law Enforcement and administration Act 2003, Violence Against Persons Prohibition Act 2015, and the Child Rights Act have not been fully implemented.

 

“The Child Rights Act has been adopted by only 23 states as state laws. While Violence Against Persons Prohibition Act 2015 adopted by three states.

 

“State and non-state institutions have failed in their duty to protect children from sexual abuse and exploitation”, she said.

 

In her contribution, Senator Oluremi Tinubu (APC, Lagos Central) disclosed that it is regrettable that despite the fact that the most vulnerable groups of the crime are children who don’t even understand the meaning of sex, there has been no concrete effort at tackling the menace.

 

She said: “It is very criminal and I think it will warrant a death sentence at this point in time.

 

“Most of these acts are done by people living with the victims. They are mostly relatives. It is time we do the right thing to curb this menace.

 

“Parents should be given the orientation how to raise their children. They should sensitise their children on sex education too”.

 

In his contribution, Senator George Sekibo (PDP, Rivers East) censored governments at all levels for not being decisive on rapists. He also threw his weight behind the call for rapists to face death sentence.

 

“If a man commits sexual abuse on a six-month old baby, it is criminal. That person ought to be killed not to be sentenced. It has been happening in this country and perpetrators are not punished. Are there no laws? don’t we have departments of governments that are handling these laws?

 

“No religions accepts that. We should either review our laws and make it a death penalty and by the time we kill one or two persons, those who are raping will control that thing that is making them to rape.

 

“The problem is, when issues are reported, people take it for granted. Parents may be poor people who may not be able to  push the matter to a higher level and then the matter will die there.

 

“My appeal is, when an abuse takes place, let the parents report and if they can, run to the Senate. If the police cannot handle it, I’m sure the Senate through its committees will address the issue,” he said.

 

Contributing to the motion, Senator Dino Melaye (PDP, Kogi West) said it is necessary that stiffer punishment is prescribed for rape offence to address its ugly rising trend.

 

According to him, the issue was not only evil but “satanic, nefarious, barbaric and outrageously wicked”.

 

He added: “It is an evil that if we do not propose stiffer punishment, people will continue to exhibit it and get away with it.

 

“Unfortunately, because of the corruption that is endemic in our system, many rapists get away with it. You report a case of rape to the police, it is treated as a minor offence.

 

“The National Orientation Agency and other relevant agencies must take sensitisation programmes concerning this issue seriously”.

 

Deputy Senate President, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege (APC, Delta Central) was concerned about sentencing guidelines which he said must be reviewed in line with the endemic nature of rape cases across the country.

 

He said: “There should be a minimum sentencing timeline, it will help. We need to look at the status regulating the prerogative of mercy.

“We have governors and state chief judges setting free prisoners. I believe we should focus on these areas. We should have the sex offenders register.”

 

To the Senate President, Dr. Ahmad Lawan (APC, Yobe North), rape should not be tolerated. He urged his colleagues  to review and make laws that will deter people from committing the crime.

 

Following a heated debate on the motion, the Senate directed its Committees on Judiciary, Police Affairs, Women and Social Development (when constituted) to seek ways of improving implementation of all legislation and policies aimed at protecting minors from rapists and other forms of violence.

 

It also directed the committees to undertake a review of relevant legislations to provide stiffer penalties against sexual abuse, especially against infants and minors.

 

The lawmakers also called on the police and other law enforcement agencies to conduct mandatory training for its officers on ways of handling rape cases.

 

The Senate while also urging the judiciary to establish a National Sentencing Framework for child sexual abuse cases, pleaded with judicial officers to impose the heaviest penalties prescribed by law on perpetrators of all forms of abuses against minors to serve as deterrent.

 

The Senate also asked the Federal Government to ensure nationwide domestication and implementation of the Child Rights Act and the Violence Against Persons Prohibition Act 2015 in order to curb sexual abuse against minors.

 

Lawyers speak

 

Will the imposition of death penalty stem the growing trend of rape cases across the country? Lawyers say yes, no.

 

Unlike the Senators, some members of the wig and gown could not speak with one voice on the need for death penalty as a way of ending the menace of rape in the country.

 

The lawyers while baring the minds on the issue at the weekend were split on the desirability of applying capital punishment to tackle the menace.

 

While some of them believed that death penalty for offenders is the way out of the problem as being canvassed by the Senate, others differ saying as long as rape cannot be equated with murder, it will be inappropriate for anyone to be calling for outright execution of rapists.

 

In his view on the issue, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Chief Niyi Akintola, threw his weight behind the Senate’s call for execution of rapists. He suggested that same punishment should also be meted out to kidnappers.

 

He said: “I am in total support of the Senate’s action. In fact, I will want us to go further by prescribing death penalty for kidnappers.

 

“The issue of kidnapping should be handled by a Tribunal and not the regular court. Once the Tribunal passed death sentence, it should be executed immediately with no option of any appeal. Anyone caught for kidnapping should be summarily tried and executed summarily.

 

“The same thing should apply on the issue of rape. Anyone caught for rape should also be summarily tried by a Tribunal and executed summarily if found guilty. There should be no option for any appeal. This is a drastic problem that requires drastic solution.

 

“The Tribunal can comprise of an High Court judge as its Chairman, as well as a military officer and a police officer. It can also be expanded to include members of the civil society groups and probably a lawyer”.

 

Akintola was supported by Mohammed Fawehinmi, who also subscribed to the call for the killing of rapists.

 

“If the rapists the Senators are talking about are those raping minors, I am in full support. They should be killed immediately. Just like it’s being done in Dubai.

 

“But, for those who rapes adult, I want to suggest that these ones should be flogged openly with about 50 strokes of cain and then sent to prison for a lengthy period so that they can realize the magnitude of the crime they have committed.

 

“It is very disheartening that rape cases involving infants and minors are now becoming rampant in our society and something urgent should be done about it. Some minors that are raped have been made to suffer emotional pain and aside this, they cannot even give birth again owing one damage or the other done to their reproductive systems. So, it is a very serious societal problem that should be tackled headlong by government.

 

“When a rapist is executed, it will surely serve as a deterrent to others like him. Once, they are being killed, there will definitely be a reduction in the crime rate. There can be no justification for anyone to be engaging in such a crime.

 

“We must forget about the clamour for the abolition of capital punishment by some foreign bodies. This is because if rapists are not made to face capital punishment, it will be difficult to nip the menace in the bud”, he said.

 

 

However, expressing a different opinion, Chief Mike Ahamba (SAN), said death penalty is not the best solution to addressing the menace.

 

He said: “I am not one of those who said that death penalty should be abolished. But, I am not one of those who believed that death penalty is the best solution to the rising cases of rape in Nigeria.

 

“This is because it is a very tricky part of the law. It could either be true or false. So, I believe in very strict penalty for offenders not death penalty. Rape should not be equally to murder.

 

“I want to suggest that there should be no pardon for anyone convicted of rape. Let the individual spend a very long time in prison and come out with the shame.

 

“I am recommending 21 years imprisonment for anyone found guilty of rape. Whenever, the offender comes out of prison, he will not be the same person and must have learnt his lessons.

 

“Capital punishment will not necessarily serve as any deterrent. What will serve as a deterrent is the suffering that an offender passed through.

 

“But, life imprisonment can also be considered to put the offender away from the society. This will make the offender to always remember what he has done till his last day on earth”.

 

Ahamba was corroborated by another silk, Dr. Biodun Layonu, who believed life sentence for rapists is better than death sentence.

 

“Nonsense. Death penalty won’t make any difference.  The entire globe is trying to abolish or reduce capital punishment. We are trying to increase its use. Life sentence for rape is good enough”, the silk said.

 

A Lagos-based lawyer, Mr. Destiny Takon, also think life imprisonment is sufficient punishment for rape offence.

 

He said: “I agree with the Senate that rape is a heinous crime and should be punished with a severe sentence. In my view the sentence of life imprisonment which already exists is sufficient punishment for rape.

 

“I seriously think that the offence or punishment for rape is not a serious national issue as corruption, nepotism and abuse of office by public office holders, as we see with the current President. These are the offences which, like in Korea, should be punishable with death penalty, so as to reposition public office holding and accountability.”

 

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Court determines driver’s fate July 24 for killing 2 doctors

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Court determines driver’s fate July 24 for killing 2 doctors

Four years after they were gruesomely murdered in a car accident in Ondo/Ore road, an alleged killer of two medical doctors, Taiwo Suberu will know his fate on July 24.

 

 

A Chief Magistrate’s Court sitting in Ore, in Odigbo Local Government Area of Ondo State has fixed July 24 for Suberu’s definite trial.

 

Suberu was accused of killing the two medical doctors–Femi Ogunbodede and Olukoju Oluwaseyi Abdulrasaq in an accident that occurred over four years ago.

 

The court presided over by Mrs. A.B.T. Oyedele fixed the date after she expressed disappointment over continued delay of the trial of the case filed before the court since 2016.

 

Suberu had on 29th June, 2015, along Ondo/Ore road had an accident which led to the death of the two medical doctors.

 

However, the case had suffered many adjournments since charges were preferred against the accused, prompting the Magistrate to express worry over the incessant adjournments on the part of the defence counsel, Mr. Yinka Adeyosoye.

 

Magistrate Oyedele had said that she was ready with the matter on July 24 whether the accused was represented by a lawyer or not.

 

She, however, counseled the accused person to pay the lawyer his bill if that had been responsible for the absence of the defence lawyer in court.

 

Suberu was accused by the office of the State Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice of reckless driving which led to the death of the 32-year old medical doctors.

 

The charge filed by Mr Wale Bamisile, a Principal Legal Officer in the Ministry of Justice reads “That you Taiwo Suberu on or about the 29th day of June 2015 at about 9.45a.m. along Ondo/Ore highway at Omifon Ore in Ore Magisterial district being a driver in charge of one Golf car with registration No Ondo NND 506 XA did drive same recklessly and dangerously without having regard to all circumstances of the case, including the nature, condition, and use of the highway and to the amount of traffic thus causing the death of one Dr. Ogunbodede Femi ’m’  aged 32 years and thereby committed an offence contrary to and punishable under Section 18(1) of the Road Traffic Law of Ondo State cap 136 Vol 3 laws of Ondo State of Nigeria, 2006.

 

Also, “that you Taiwo Suberu on or about the 29th day of June 2015 at about 9;45 am along Ondo/Ore highway at Omifon Ore in Ore Magisterial district being a driver in charge of one Golf car with registration No Ondo NND 506 XA did drive same recklessly and dangerously having regard to all circumstances of the case, including the nature, condition, and use of the highway and to the amount of traffic thus causing the death of one Dr. Olukoju Oluwaseyi Abdulrasaq ’m’  aged 32 years and thereby committed an offence contrary to and punishable under Section 18(1) of the Road Traffic Law of Ondo State cap 136 Vol 3 laws of Ondo State of Nigeria, 2006.”

 

The charge stated that Suberu dangerously overtook a Toyota Camry car with Registration Lagos LND 417 CU; Dr. Ogunbodede was traveling with causing a fatal accident that led to the death of the two medical doctors who were occupants of the car.

 

When the case came up for hearing at the weekend, the defence counsel wrote a letter to the court requesting for another date for the hearing of the case.

 

But prosecution counsel, Bamisile expressed worry that the defence counsel had been coming with one excuse or the other since the hearing of the case started over four years ago.

 

He said Adeyosoye should have sent a junior in his chamber instead of delaying the trial of the accused person.

 

The Chief Magistrate in adjourning the case said “since the case started, it has been one story after the other. The counsel supposed to have sent his junior. With or without your lawyer, we will proceed on July 24.

 

 

“The defence counsel has been delaying the case. If you have not paid him, go and pay. I won’t tolerate any further adjournment in this case.”

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YOUNG LAWYERS’ FORUM: ‘Pupilage key to successful law practice’

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YOUNG LAWYERS’ FORUM: ‘Pupilage key to successful law practice’

Jibola Salvador read Law at the Lagos State University, Ojo where he obtained his LL.B. He was called to Bar in December 2017. Salvador shares his foray into the law profession with JOHN CHIKEZIE

 

 

Background

 

My name is Jibola Salvador and I am an indigene of Lagos Island Local Government Area of Lagos State. I had my elementary education at Phiomena Nursery & Primary School, Yaba, Lagos State. Also, I attended Igbobi College, Yaba, Lagos for my Secondary School education.

 

 

I obtained a Bachelor of Law Degree (LL.B) from the Lagos State University. Thereafter, I proceeded to the Nigerian Law School, Kano Campus, where I was called to the Nigerian Bar on 13th December, 2017.

I’m also a member of the Institute of Chartered Mediators and Conciliators (ICMC). My areas of professional competence and practice include but not limited to Dispute Resolution, Maritime Law, Aviation Law, Oil & Gas, Corporate & Commercial Practice and Real Estate Practice.

 

Choice of career

 

My desire to study law and become a legal practitioner was borne out of my interest to provide legal services to the voiceless and vulnerable persons. Also, my admiration for late Chief Ganiyu Oyesola Fawehinmi SAN, SAM, propelled my interest to study law.

 

However, with years of legal education, I developed further interest to provide viable solutions to complex legal issues and giving clients value for their money.

 

The profession has given me a platform to become a socio-political commentator and political analyst, thereby advocating socio-political changes in the society.

 

 

Judiciary of my dream

 

The dispensation of justice has not been satisfactory. To be honest, I can say that the Justice system in Nigeria makes legal practice very difficult particularly for young lawyers.

 

The legal system is unduly inadequate and slow. The average life span of a case in a court of first instance being a court of record is four years; an exception would only occur with judges who are extremely diligent, that go as far as paying their staff for efficiency.

 

I have handled cases where the matter didn’t come up more than four times in a legal year, I wouldn’t want to put the blame solely on the court because of the burden of cases before them.  The Supreme Court late last year adjourned several matters for hearing to as far as 2021 on the basis that, that is the earliest available date. There are a plethora of cases like that.

 

I also believe that it’s high time we explored other alternatives to our legal system. We can also leverage on technology as a tool for effectiveness.  For instance, the Lagos State Judiciary can be commended for its initiatives of creating Small Claims Court and legal mail for filing of cases. Effective use of technology can assist the court, counsel and litigants with expedient dispensation of justice.

 

Also, I believe that the Judiciary should hold its judges responsible for not sitting without valid or justified grounds.

 

The lack of independence of the Judiciary continues to be a cog in the wheel of judicial progress.

 

RUGA

 

Public policies are made in the public and collective interest. Where any policy is contrived to advance sectional or vested interests, that policy ceases to be in the common interest. And that is exactly where Nigeria finds itself with the controversial Rural Grazing Areas (RUGA) herdsmen settlement. The folly and falsities of that policy are deep-seated and very polarizing.

 

What is perhaps ever more disconcerting is the proclamation attributed to presidential spokesman, Mallam Garba Shehu, that “it is true that government at the centre has gazetted land in all the states of the federation.”

 

The ensuing pushback has been correctly strident; and criticisms of the policy trenchant. That is as it should be.

 

Across board, ethnicity and across party lines, governors are repudiating the policy. They were not consulted and they did not acquiesce. Neither did the Ninth Assembly give its legislative imprimatur. It seems the executive branch seized on the twilight and gray zone created by the transition from the Eight to the Ninth National Assembly to insinuate the controversial policy into the realm of extant laws. Such subterfuge is condemnable in every regard.

 

In theory and practice, every public policy ought to meet one of three definitional premises or a combination of two or all three to be efficacious. Hence public policies are essentially regulatory, distributive, or redistributive. The Ruga policy does not in any sense meet any of these parameters.

 

First, the Ruga settlement programme serves only those engaged in the business of cattle rearing. There is no indication of how it would dovetail into the needs of farmers, who have for long been in conflict with herders. It does not cater to any other sector or trade in the commerce or organized private sector. Shockingly, it does not have the buy-in of states and local communities where the settlements will be domiciled.

 

Essentially, the Ruga scheme is a preferential policy contrived by executive fiat, which will only serve marginal and sectional interests at public expense. No adjectival qualification defines such a policy slant better than the word “folly.”

 

Furthermore, Nigerians who are engaged on the matter now appreciate that the grounding premise, which is being masked as public interest is equally false. The way the policy is couched, hosting a Ruga settlement is not voluntary; it is decreed.

 

Also, in proposing to set up Ruga settlement, the “eminent domain” clause cannot apply. Neither can the provisions of the Land Use Act be contrived as applicable. The pertinent proviso, stipulates that the use of any land so acquired, must be for “public purposes,” which may include housing development, road and bridges, schools, hospitals, police and military barracks and recreation parks. Private land cannot be acquired in the public interest and devolved to private profit making enterprises. Ruga should be like the fiscal bailout. Only those states that need or want it should get it.

 

The Ruga policy is fraught with folly and falsities. Its processes are bereft of full disclosure. Indubitably, Ruga is not your quixotic think-outside-the-box solution. It is a bad policy that, in the short to long term, will do more harm than good. From the pushback so far, the Federal Government of Nigeria ought to know by now that it must resile itself and rescind the policy – in the public and national interest.

 

Pupilage

 

 

Technically, I’m still undergoing pupilage and I can say it’s been eye-opening for me. There is a huge gap between what we learnt in law school and practice. In law practice there is no end to learning, you learn every day.

 

I am also grateful for different platforms available to young lawyers. These platforms make learning easier.

 

I’ve had the privilege to serve in firms and organisations such as Grace Infotech Ltd (Law Pavilion – Ibadan Branch) as a Legal Officer from January 2016 to October 2016; Also I served at Abayomi Disu & Co. From September 2017 to November 2017; December 2017 to March 2018 as Graduate Intern and Associate respectively. I currently work at Probitas Partners LLP as an Associate (April 2018 till date)

 

Plea bargain agreement as a tool for prison decongestion

 

Plea bargain is an essential tool in our criminal law jurisprudence and I think it is a welcome initiative in solving the problem of prison congestion in Nigeria. It is even more desirable where the offence committed is a simple offence or misdemeanor.

 

 

 

However, I do not support the use of plea bargain for certain offences such as murder, rape, armed robbery.

 

Ambition

 

Ultimately, I desire to contribute my quota to the development of the legal practice in Nigeria as well as our legal system.

 

I also aspire to either own a law firm or partner with other colleagues to establish a law firm.

 

I also aspire to be a Senior Advocate of Nigeria someday, God willing.

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Unease over forfeited funds

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Unease over forfeited funds

There is a growing unease over how much of looted funds already forfeited to the Federal Government in the last four years of President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration. Are there accounts created for these funds? If yes, why has the agency acting on behalf of the federal government, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) finds it difficult to supply the court? AKEEM NAFIU reports

 

Monday, last week, Justice Mojisola Olatoregun of a Federal High Court in Lagos in an encounter with a prosecutor of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mr. Rotimi Oyedepo raised an alarm over the safety of various funds already forfeited to the Federal Government since the beginning of President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration.

The judge was, however, concerned about the inability of the EFCC’s lawyer to furnish the court with an account where forfeited funds had been kept despite repeated demands.

Looted funds running into trillions in both local and foreign currency have been forfeited to the Federal Government through various court orders.

This, however, became a subject of a diatribe in an open court as Justice Olatoregun raised the concern while delivering judgement in a suit filed by the anti-graft agency seeking forfeiture of $8.4 million and N9.2 billion belonging to a former First Lady, Dame Patience Jonathan.

In the judgement, the judge granted EFCC’s request for final forfeiture of the funds to the Federal Government on the premise that oral evidence presented by the respondents’ witnesses failed to dispel EFCC’s suspicion that the funds were proceeds of unlawful activities.

The respondents in the suit are Dame Patience Jonathan, Globus Integrated Services Ltd, Finchley Top Homes Ltd, AM PM Global Network Ltd, Pagmat Oil and Gas Nigeria Ltd, Magel Resort Ltd and Esther Oba. They have since gone to the Court of Appeal to upturn the lower court’s verdict.

The need for transparency in the handling of the forfeited funds cannot be overemphasized and as such the concerns of Justice Olatoregun was being shared by a section of Nigerians, who believe there was the need for transparency and accountability in ways and manner the forfeited looted funds were being handled by the EFCC on behalf of the federal government.

An indication that all may not be well with the handling of the forfeited funds emerged in February, 2018, when the Ministry of Finance disputed claims by the Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Magu, that his agency recovered N739 billion between 2016 and 2017.

In faulting Magu’s claims, the Ministry of Finance disclosed that its calculation of recovered funds within the period was just N91.3 billion.

The N91.3 billion was said to have also included assets under final and interim forfeitures and funds recovered in foreign currencies.

 

EFCC’s recovery of looted funds

Despite the dispute regarding the actual amount recovered by the EFCC at a particular period, the anti-graft agency under Ibrahim Magu has continued to secure court orders forfeiting large sums of money to the Federal Government.

Funds suspected to be proceeds of unlawful activities by the anti-graft agency which are traced to certain individuals have been forfeited to government by various courts across the country.

 

Notable forfeitures

Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) could be said to have made the biggest recoveries in terms of cash and assets from the former Minister of Petroleum Resources.

The anti-graft agency had so far recovered $84.964 million and N11.325 billion from the former minister through various forfeiture orders secured at the Federal High Court in Lagos.

 

The latest of such feat by the anti-graft agency was an interim forfeiture of 2,149 pieces of jewelries and a customised gold iPhone, valued at $40 million allegedly belonging to Diezani to the Federal Government.

Arguing a motion to back up the forfeiture request, EFCC’s lawyer, Rotimi Oyedepo, told Justice Nicholas Oweibo of a Federal High Court in Lagos that the items which were recovered within the premises of the former minister were suspected to be proceeds of unlawful activities.

 

The commission had earlier on August 1, 2019 secured the permanent forfeiture of Diezani’s $37.5million mansion in Banana Island to the Federal Government, via an order of Justice Chuka Obiozor.

The property designated as Building 3, Block B, Bella Vista Plot 1, Zone N, Federal Government Layout, Banana Island Foreshore Estate containing 24 apartments, 18 flats and 6 penthouses was said to have been paid for in cash by Mrs. Diezani in 2013.

On 11th October, 2017, Justice Abdul-Azeez Anka also ordered the permanent forfeiture of 56 houses situated in Lagos, Port Harcourt and Abuja valued at $21, 982, 224 (about N3.3 billion) allegedly linked to Mrs. Diezani to the Federal Government.

The houses were allegedly bought between 2011 and 2013 by the former minister from proceeds of suspected unlawful activity during her tenure in office

 

The forfeited property included: 21 mixed housing units of 8 numbers of four bedroom penthouse apartment; six numbers of three bedroom apartments; two numbers of three bedroom apartment and one number of four bedroom apartment, all ensuit and located at 7, Thurnburn Street and 5 Raymond Street, Yaba, valued at N937 million and bought through Chapel Properties Ltd.

 

Others are: 16 numbers of four bedroom terrace, located at Heritage Court Estate, Omerelu Street, Diobu GRA, Port Harcourt, River States, valued at N928    million and bought through Blue Nile Estate Ltd; 13 numbers of 3 bedroom with one room maid’s quarter, situated at Mabushi Gardens Estate, Plot 1205, Cadastral Zone B06, Mabushi, Abuja, valued at N650 million and bought through Azinga Meadows Ltd and six flats of three bedroom and one boys quarter, located at Plot 808 (135) Awolowo Road, Ikoyi, Lagos, valued at N805 million and bought through Vistapoint property Development Ltd.

Similarly on 28th February, 2018, Justice Mojisola Olatoregun also ordered permanent forfeiture of two penthouses valued at $4.764 million belonging to Mrs Diezani to the Federal Government.

The buildings were described as Penthouse 22, Block B, 8, Gerrard Road, Ikoyi, and Penthouse 21, Building 5, Block C, 11 floor, Plot1, Zone N, FGN layout, Banana Island, Ikoyi.

On 27th June, 2018, Justice Babs Kuewumi also ordered interim forfeiture of a property worth N325.4 million belonging to Mrs. Allison-Madueke to the Federal Government.

The property, a vacant plot of land situated at Plot 13, Block II, Oniru Chieftaincy Family Private Estate, Lekki, Lagos, was said to have been acquired in 2010 with proceeds of unlawful activity.

On April 14, 2019, a property located at Plot 9, Azikiwe Road, Old GRA, Port-Harcourt, Rivers State, allegedly linked to the former minister was also forfeited to the Federal Government.

Justice Chuka Obiozor ordered the interim forfeiture of the property after granting an ex-parte motion filed by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

Dame Patience Jonathan

Another VIP in the eye of the storm is former First Lady, Dame Patience Jonathan. So far, the sum of $24 million and N12.64 billion allegedly linked to the former first lady has been forfeited to the Federal Government.

Out of the amount, the EFCC has already secured permanent forfeiture of the sums of $8.4 million and N9.2 billion, while the rest were temporarily forfeited to the Federal Government.

Osborne Towers

On 6th June, 2017, Justice Sule Hassan of a Federal High Court in Lagos ordered the permanent forfeiture of the sums of $43,449,947, £27,800 and N23, 218,000 (about N13billion) recovered by the EFCC at a private apartment in Ikoyi, to the Federal Government.

The money was recovered by the anti-graft agency on 12th April, 2017, in Flat 7B, Osborne Towers, 16, Osborne Road, Ikoyi, Lagos.

The National Intelligence Agency (NIA) through its then Director General, Ambassador Ayo Oke, has laid claim to the funds. However, an investigation was launched into the recovery by the Federal Government following which Ambassador Oke was suspended.

About 21 months after Oke’s suspension, the EFCC slammed a 4-count charge of alleged $205.9 million fraud on him and his wife, Mrs. Folashade Ayodele Oke, at a Federal High Court in Lagos. Their arraignment over the alleged offence has since been stalled following the failure to appear in court.

Lawyers speak

Some members of the wig and gown have equally expressed displeasure at the way and manner funds forfeited to the Federal Government are being handled by those in charge.

The lawyers, both of inner and outer Bar, while speaking on the issue at the weekend feared that management of these funds have been shrouded in secrecy.

They want the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to ensure proper accounts of the recovered funds are rendered to avoid unnecessary speculation and suspicion by members of the public.

Speaking on the issue, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Mr. Seyi Sowemimo, want the EFCC to religiously keep to the tenets of the law by ensuring that it presents annual report about how forfeited funds are kept and expended to the National Assembly.

He said: “I think it is a legitimate thing for Nigerians to know where the forfeited funds are kept and how they are being utilized. The EFCC is by law expected to annually present a report to the National Assembly about how these recovered funds are kept and expended. I am not aware that the anti-graft agency has religiously complied with this requirement of law.

“It is also worthy of note that some persons have gone to court demanding explanations about how these funds are managed. I am even surprised that all these are happening during Buhari’s administration when people expect a lot of transparency.

“So, I am equally concerned about the fact that information concerning these forfeited funds are scare or even non-existent. This will surely give rise to suspicion by people that recovered looted funds might have been relooted by some individuals”.

In his submissions, a former Vice-President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Mr. Adekunle Ojo, was worried that Nigerians were usually kept in the dark when it comes to government’s policies.

“Basically, we have problems in this country when it comes to transparency and accountability. It’s my own sincere belief that the current president should be able to take us out of the woods.

“Much of government businesses are shrouded in secrecy and it shouldn’t be. Everything should be open to members of the public. When anti-graft agencies recover funds from people, nothing should be hidden about how much was recovered. Even, Nigerians should be told about how the money is to be expended.

 

“I am one of those advocating that part of every funds recovered should be given to the anti-graft agencies because they need a lot of money to carry out their functions.

“Beyond that, every other fund that were recovered must be judiciously spent. This is because these recovered funds might not have been included in government’s budget.

“Therefore, my suggestion is that when fund was recovered, there should be an account specifically meant for it. Federal Government can later present a supplementary budget which will capture how the fund was realized and how it will be utilized.

“So, it is disheartening that government business is being run like a secret cult. It is not enough that the anti-graft agencies are telling us they are recovering money. We must know where the funds are being kept. This is because these kinds of funds cannot be lodged together with every other money,” Ojo said.

A former General Secretary of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Mazi Afam Osigwe, advocated for the establishment of a body to manage all funds forfeited to the Federal Government.

He said: “By law, the EFCC is expected to present yearly report to the National Assembly. Has the anti-graft agency been doing that? If the answer is in the affirmative, does the report contain a breakdown of funds recovered and where they are kept? How are these funds being managed?

“This is part of the reason why some of us have been clamouring for the establishment of a body to manage these recoveries. Whether funds are temporarily or permanently forfeited to the Federal Government, there must be an account for them.

“Nigerians should be concerned about how these forfeited funds are kept and there should be proper account of how they are expended. The same thing goes for forfeited property and assets. We should also know how they are being managed, whether they have been sold off or kept somewhere rotten away while litigation goes on. These are critical questions that must be answered in the fight against corruption”.

The National President of the Campaign For the Defence of Human Rights (CDHR) Mr. Malachy Ugwummadu, asked Nigerians to exploit the window provided by the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act to get the needed facts about how forfeited funds are being managed.

“With the FOI Act, it’s hardly heard these days that such information are not accessible. The media houses or practitioners should make a direct request for such information. In any case, the content and details of the orders and judgements of courts directing interim or final forfeitures are public documents and accessible.

“Forfeited funds should be ploughed back to the society and should be used to empower the weak and vulnerable through provision of social services and supports. Provision of infrastructure and Creation of enabling environment for job creation and infrastructure development”, he said.

To the Editor of Nigerian Weekly Law Reports, Mr. Oluwole Kehinde, no information on how forfeited funds are being managed should be kept away from the public.

He said: “I believe the EFCC said they have been paying into an account domiciled in the CBN. That being the case, the money would have to be appropriated by the National Assembly before it could be spent. Nevertheless, the EFCC is expected to make full disclosure to the public”.

Mr. Mohammed Fawehinmi asked the Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mr. Ibrahim Magu, to pass the necessary information regarding management of the forfeited funds to the public.

“I agree with you that it is not right for Nigerians to be kept in the dark as to how these forfeited funds are being managed. The public indeed deserve to know where the funds are being kept.

“But, actually the funds ought to be kept in a special account with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), not even in the federation account.

“I think the Acting Chairman of the EFCC need to throw more light on some of these issues in order to avoid unnecessary speculations or misrepresentation of facts by Nigerians,” Fawehinmi said.

 

 

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YOUNG LAWYERS’ FORUM: ‘Poor justice delivery system hampering law development’

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Lucky Chima-Cole, an indigene of Abia State, obtained his LL.B from the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Osun State. He was called to Bar in 2017. Chima-Cole shares his post call experience, pupilage, career and sundry issues with JOHN CHIKEZIE

 

Background

My name is Lucky Chima-Cole and I am from Abia State, who was born in Ajegunle, Lagos.

I attended Ajeromi Ifelodun High School, Olodi-Apapa Lagos. I obtained a Bachelor of Laws (LL.B) degree from Obafemi Awolowo University in 2016. I am a legal practitioner, who was called to the Nigerian Bar in 2017.

Why law?

I saw the legal profession as a profession I can learn how to and actually make impact on lives within my immediate community.

I have a strong desire for social and economic welfare and development; and I always feel that my knowledge of law would be very instrumental in these respects.

I also love human rights activities. During my childhood, I had a feeling that by becoming a lawyer, I could change some of the anti-social vices prevalent in my immediate community; like Gender-based violence, Women and Children’s (Girls’) rights.

 

What aspect of law interests you and why?

Although I presently major in Corporate Commercial law and work for a law firm that provides company secretarial and advisory services to major clients in and outside Nigeria, my greatest love is still International Law, Development and Social Policy.

I am presently pursuing a Masters’ Degree in Gender and Development in a bid to further my career in International Law and Development.

I also have interest in FinTech (Financial Technology). I love corporate financial transactions and how they play a huge role in determining the level of growth and decline of an economy.

The main aim of FinTech is to ensure a very wider spectrum of financial inclusion at all levels of the economy. So, I love studying how it works and how much positive social policies can help in making this possible.

Pupilage
It has been great thus far, I have worked under lawyers at different levels, and I must say at those times, I remained humble and cultivated the spirit to learn more and not judge.

My pupilage has been wonderful and still on because as lawyers, our knowledge of the law is influenced by who we are and where or what we have been through.

I’ve been privileged to serve in firms like: Benjamin Odeh and Associates, Surulere, Lagos from September to November 2017 as a Graduate Intern and as a Full Associate in November 2018 to January 2019; Ministry of Justice, Jos, Plateau State from December 2017 to March 2018; Christopher Obuh & Co., Jos, Nigeria from March 2018 to May 2018; and Logistix Solicitors, Lekki, Lagos from May, 2019 till date.

Challenges facing young lawyers

It has not been easy. For me, having to keep up with the trend of law in this fast paced system seems to be a challenge every day.

It is even more compounded in a place like Lagos, where there are many young lawyers with the zeal for excellence just like me. I see this as a t challenge to be better.

The legal profession isn’t as conventional as it used to be. There are many aspects of law that have gained relevance and prominence recently because of the nature of businesses springing up as a result of the encouragement on financial inclusion at every level.
This means that at every step of the way, a lawyer needs to constantly think of solutions to meet up the needs of his clients.

Also, having to deliver on every job I am entrusted with. Most people, senior lawyers and clients alike find it hard to believe that young lawyers can deliver on a job. So, it is a constant challenge to deliver very well on any job given.

 

Justice delivery system and prolonged trial of suspects

I would say the system of justice in Nigeria is relatively poor.

As regards trial, it is the saying that justice delayed, is justice denied. We find instances where cases stay for years before being decided, that is even if it ever happens.

The disadvantage in this kind of situation is that over time, the relevant facts or evidence needed to ensure justice might be tampered with, altered or even lost in some cases. This becomes more of a disadvantage to the defendant or accused person in a criminal matter.

Over time, the administration of Justice also changes; and then it becomes difficult to know which law to apply in trying suspects after prolonged trial. In some other cases, the matters are transferred to other courts. All this in no way favour the suspect, who is also supposed to be a major consideration in ensuring justice is reached as he is still a suspect until proven guilty.

Police and parade of suspects

I feel this has become a normal procedure in the dispensation of criminal justice by the Nigerian police, which ought not to be so. A suspect is only a suspect until he is actually tried in court and proven guilty.

Therefore, I believe that it is utterly wrong. It is a breach of their fundamental human rights. They are only suspects and have not been proven guilty. And even after the arraignment, if the court has not pronounced them guilty of the offence, after trial, then they should not be paraded as criminals.

Article 7 1 (b) of the African Charter says “every individual shall have… the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty by a competent court or tribunal. This is also in line with Section 36 (5) of the Constitution.

Pre-trial media parade of criminal suspects is a violation of the suspects’ right to being presumed innocent until proven guilty.

Future ambition

For the short term, I want to become a well-grounded corporate lawyer while I try to build my portfolio for the long term.

For the long term, I want to be an International development lawyer that would be consulting for international organizations on developmental issues and social policy.

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