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Falade: Flawed appointments of judges fuelling corruption in judiciary

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Falade: Flawed appointments of judges fuelling corruption in judiciary

Samuel Falade is the Ado-Ekiti, Ekiti State Chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA). In this interview with ADEWUMI ADEMIJU, he speaks on challenges bedeviling practice of law, renewed insecurity and sundry issues

 

NBA unlike other professional bodies has more than a chairman in Ekiti, is it like this in all other states?

There are some states that have one Chairman. The more we grow, the more we spread our branches. We have three branches in Ekiti–Ado, Ikere and Ikole branches. Ado branch is the oldest and has the largest members. The net of our business is in Ado-Ekiti.

 

How has the NBA as an association benefit members particularly young lawyers in the state?

NBA has made numerous impacts on members and young lawyers. During Law week last year, we gave out a car (Pencil Camry) to a young lawyer and cash prize. This year, it’s going to be different, we are giving tablets to each lawyer and the tablets will comprise Law Pavilion software. We have over 300 lawyers in Ekiti and they are all going to benefit. It’s first of its kind!

I appreciate Governor Kayode Fayemi and Aare Afe Babalola for their support. We are where we are because of their assistance. Lawyers in Ekiti have been able to benefit from the programme -Knowledge Economy, an initiative of Fayemi’s administration.

 

How would you describe the prospect of upcoming lawyers, considering the feelings that the profession is becoming overcrowded?

The profession is not overcrowded at all. There are so many places lawyers are going to work in the country. It supposed to be a lawyer to a person in Nigeria, the country has not developed to that extent. In America, each district has an Attorney-General; this is yet to happen in Nigeria. We are still coming up .Each area should have a lawyer handling different cases .We still need more lawyers. How many are we in Ekiti? So, many lawyers are still going to work in the country.

 

There is constant disobedience to court orders by the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration, what is your take?

Continuous detention of citizens is wrong but one thing is that all these things would become history tomorrow. It is wrong for any government after court has given an order to flagrantly disobey the order, someday, an order would be given in your step too, and someone would disobey it, wondering how you would feel then! This is not the first time.When former President Obasanjo was in government, injunction was given in favour of Lagos state, he refused to pay the money, today, he’s no longer the President, but we can say about him that when he was in government, he didn’t do well.

Today, Buhari is there, he won’t be there forever. The important thing is that when you leave, what will they say about you? It’s very wrong when the executive arm of government disobeys court order.

Do you share the view that the Constitution needs a holistic amendment?

The Constitution needs to be amended, a lot of amendment to go very well, that’s why in the past administration there were rancours between the legislative and the executive arm of government.

Legislative arm should be on part-time basis to cut wastages. People that know about Constitution like lawyers should be in the legislative arms as the money being wasted would be diverted to create more industries, build refineries. We are not growing in this country. No refinery. They are wasting our time! We need people who are ready to work to change things.

 

What is your view on the process which led to the arraignment, suspension and eventual resignation of former Chief Justice of Nigeria, Walter Onnoghen?

The process is still in court and I must be very careful not to talk about it but the point is that the case against the former CJN was more his alleged refusal to declare his assets.

 

How would you describe the nation’s justice system compare to other commonwealth nations of the world? What’s the future of judiciary in Nigeria?

The future of judiciary in Nigeria is that we are still growing. Things are not supposed to be how it is but the future is very bright; there are things to be put in place like appointment of Judges. Judges shouldn’t be appointed anyhow. If appointment of Judges is being done in the right way we would have men of value there.

For example, in Ekiti State, our Judges are men of value and integrity. They are rigorously appointed. Appointment shouldn’t be selective or based on favouritism but value and competence. Also, Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) shouldn’t be on who you know. For instance, there are lawyers who I know should have been SAN; well qualified, but yet to be. The way it’s going, it’s like if you don’t know anybody, you won’t get there. If we are honest to ourselves, judiciary in our country would be better if we give the right job to the right man.

Tribal and religious sentiments would take us nowhere. Recently, some judges were appointed. 47 of them and 24 were from the North; where are we going to? We have a long way to go, the future is bright. Things would change.

In Oyo state now, a 33-year-old is the speaker of the house and very soon 32 would be governor.

With due respect, the present leaders have messed up the whole thing, they cannot do more than what they are doing. It has been the same people there coordinating themselves. When they leave the scene, things would change for the better.

 

What are the challenges facing NBA in Ekiti and what are you doing to meet up?

NBA in Ekiti has so many challenges. Fund is the first one. We don’t have money and being the voice of the voiceless, we are supposed to be independent, to talk to anybody who is not doing well; we just talked about government’s support now, if someone is funding you, can you talk to him anyhow? No. But I want to leave good legacy while in office. I want to put up Micro Industry for NBA that would bring money for the association. We have started building halls and we are going to build hotels which I would ensure their completion before I leave the office as we are generating business ventures of all sorts.

 

Justice appears to be for the highest bidder in view of judgements being churned by the courts in which the rich have become beneficiaries. What is your view?

I won’t dispute that. For instance, somebody who stole N7.6billion was given option of a fine of N350.000 recently while somebody who was involved in land matters on forceful entry was given six month imprisonment. Those who give this kind of judgements, someday, their families would be involved in cases like that. It’s wrong when you, for instance, sue government and a judge cannot call against the government, the same government would call against them and disgrace them out of office. If we are honest and we put the right man on the right job, we will get good results.

The governor that appoints you is your friend, you cannot convict him even if you convict him, it must be with mercy but those who don’t know anybody received punishment. People who give this kind of judgements have children and their children would reap what they sow.

It’s unfortunate that people who have been given bail are still in prison and someone who stole N5 is in prison, while somebody who stole N5million is in his house. The generation that will change the whole system is coming soon.

 

What has NBA under your leadership has done to give adequate protection in view of insecurity since some of your members in Ekiti became victim of kidnapping?

One of our members in Ikole Branch was recently kidnapped. Money was raised, they collected ransom but unfortunately he was killed.

First of all I want to thank the Commissioner of Police in Ekiti State, Asuquo Amba. The man is doing a very good job in the state. Kidnapping has seriously reduced in Ekiti. When he came it was very hot but since his assumption of office, the menace has drastically reduced.

For us in NBA in Ekiti, lawyers travel outside the state every day for cases. For instance, I use NBA vehicle, but if I am travelling outside the state, I use my personal car so they won’t put eyes on me as a measure to ward off kidnappers and banditry.

We have urged lawyers in the state, who have cases in far places to leave a day before, informed their clients and stayed in hotel. We have also met with the Police Commissioner and the governor and discussed with them over the menace. Presently in Ekiti, no lawyer handles kidnapped cases as we have stopped our lawyers from handling such cases also a measure.

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Akingbolu: Rule of law dead under Buhari’s govt

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Akingbolu: Rule of law dead under Buhari’s govt

Mr. Kabir Akingbolu is a rights activist. In this interview with AKEEM NAFIU, he speaks on Hate Speech Bill, Federal Government’s plan to regulate social media, rule of law and sundry issues

 

 

The Hate Speech Bill which prescribes death by hanging for hate speech offenders has passed the first reading at the Senate. What is your take on the controversial Bill?

 

 

The issue there is that the nation is heading to anarchy. This is because when those in government want to start censoring people’s opinion, gag the press and ensure that all oppositions are silenced, then the nation is heading for a banana republic.

I don’t also see this as part of democratic experience because as far as I am concerned, we are not yet in a democracy but in a civil rule and sadly for us, the civil rule is fast turning into a dictatorial regime.

 

 

There’s no way people will not express criticism of any government that is not performing to their expectations. However, what government labelled as hate speeches, most times, are only criticism of bad government policies.

 

 

As long as government takes decisions which one way or the other will affect people’s lives, criticism should be expected. If the economy is bad, if education is going comatose and people are disgruntled, there is no way they will not talk. They will not keep quiet.

Nigerians will be happier if the Senate has come up with a law which prescribes death sentence for anyone that has stolen public funds. People will jubilate and clap for them. But, for the lawmakers to leave serious issues and start chasing shadows, it will only lead to creation of more problems for the people.

 

 

Instead of solving problems, the National Assembly is trying to create more problems for Nigerians. This is not the kind of law that we want, we desire a better law that will impact meaningfully on citizens’ lives.

 

 

When they are talking about hate speech, I have my fears that by the time the law is passed, every actions of the people will be categorised as hate speech. This is because everything will boiled down to who is in charge or who is interpreting what people are saying.

It means nobody will be free to express him or herself again. By then, newspaper editorials will be categorized as hate speech, a teacher that speaks in the classroom will be seen as propagating hate speech and so on. So, as far as I am concerned, the Bill when it becomes law will seriously infringe on people’s rights to express themselves. The lawmakers approach to the issue is very wrong.

 

 

What do you think should be the right approach to tackle the menace of hate speech in the society?

If the lawmakers are interested in curbing the incidence of hate speech in the society, there are better ways to do it.

 

 

The term ‘hate speech’ used in the Bill is the first problem. This is inappropriate because the presumption of innocence is no longer there for any offender.

 

 

Since the law is aimed at curbing unethical use of information, then it is wrong for the lawmakers to brand it hate speech Bill. There should be a better way to describe the Bill other than using the word ‘hate speech’.

 

 

Of course, I do not subscribe to the way lies are being peddled by people, particularly on the social media, but I will not be in support of any plan to demonize people through the use of the word ‘hate speech’.

 

 

We all know that that those in authority are always interested in protecting their interest to the detriment of the citizens. It does not even lie in the mouth of the lawmakers to categorize an action as hate speech. It is only the court that can so declare.

The Federal Government’s plan to regulate social media activities is also generating reactions. Are you in support of the plan?

 

 

I am in support of Federal Government’s plan to regulate activities on the social media. But, I have my doubt as to the sincerity of government to follow its words with action.

 

 

A way of regulating the social media is to put a law in place that check people’s excesses on the various platforms. A lot of atrocities are being committed by people on the internet and these must be checked.

So, I totally agreed with the Federal Government that activities on the social media should be regulated in order to have a decent and sane society.

 

 

Senate is pushing for special funding for judiciary. What is your take on this and how far do you think it will help in combating judicial corruption?

The proposal is long overdue. It does not augur well for the third arm of government to continue to go cap in hand begging for money from the Executive all the time because this will create undue influence on the judiciary.

The judiciary should have direct access to its fund in the budget and I am hopeful that in pursuant of this, the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) will one day appear before the Senate to defend judiciary’s budget. Likewise, the Chief Judges of each state should equally appear before the various Houses of Assembly.

 

 

When the judiciary has direct access to its fund, it will be able to plan its own agenda in a way to carry out its functions effectively. This will go a long way in helping to curb judicial corruption.

However to achieve all these, there must be an amendment to the Constitution mandating the independence of the judiciary, particularly in the area of funding.

A situation whereby the Executive will have to approve money for the judiciary at both states and federal level to undertake a task is inappropriate.

 

 

The underfunding of the judiciary makes it prone to the whims and caprices of other arms of government, particularly the Executive. It is also an indirect way of stifling the functions of the judiciary.

Concerns have been mounting on Buhari’s government’s penchant for disobedience to court orders as could be seen lately in the case of the Convener of #RevolutionNowgroup, Mr. Omoyele Sowore, who has remained in DSS custody despite a court order granting him bail. What are your thoughts on this?

 

 

When you talk of the rule of law in this country, it is completely dead under this government. There’s no regard for the rule of law in whatever form.

What I noticed is that if a court’s order is in government’s favour, it will be quickly obeyed but if it against government, it would not be obeyed.

Apart from Sowore, there are several other Nigerians who are in detention even when there are court orders freeing them. El-Zakzaky and his wife have been released many times by court orders. The same thing with the former National Security Adviser (NSA), Col. Sambo Dasuki, who was also released on bail by court but government has been adamant in obeying the order.

The Department of State Services (DSS) is becoming an albatross on Nigeria. I have continued to ask myself, how do we found ourselves in this mess?

 

This government has perpetually disobeyed court orders and the court has no instrument or weapon to enforce its orders. In fact, judges are helpless when court orders are not obeyed. But, lawyers have a big role to play in this area.

For instance, in the case of Sowore, his lawyers should return to the court and file contempt proceedings against the Director General of the DSS to commit him to prison for flouting court’s order for Sowore’s release.

 

 

The DG of DSS will be summoned to justify his agency’s action and in the absence of any justification, he should be jailed. When this is done, every other agencies of government will sit up and treat court orders seriously.

 

 

I also want to say that the on-going protest over DSS’ refusal to release Sowore is unnecessary. The lawyers should do the needful and everything will be resolved. To me, those protesting are just seeking unnecessary attention.

 

 

Besides, many people will be wondering why the Buhari’s administration has been persistently disobeying court orders despite the presence of so many senior lawyers in the government. But, I want to tell you that the moment your friend becomes a politician, he is no longer the friend you use to know.

 

 

Most lawyers in politics are no longer what they use to be before they became politicians. Once they are in government, they become something else. It then becomes an issue of if you can’t beat them, join them. The Vice-President is no longer thinking as a lawyer. The same thing goes for other senior lawyers in Buhari’s government. All of them are afraid to rock the boat. They will not want to criticize government’s policies because they are also involved.

 

 

Look at what happened during the screening ministerial nominees by the Senate. The AGF’s designate, Abubakar Malami, was there to justify government disobedience to court orders and the Senators did not even hesitate to ratify his nomination by the president.

The question is why should such an individual be confirmed by the Senate? There was no justification for his confirmation.

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In defence of special funding for judiciary

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In defence of special funding for judiciary

 

 

Lawyers: Special funding’ll free judiciary from executive’s grip

 

 

Senate’s push for a special intervention fund for the judiciary has been seen by lawyers as a step in the right direction. This, they said would relieve the third arm of government of inadequate funding which has continually hampered its independence. AKEEM NAFIU writes

 

 

L

awyers at the weekend spoke with a voice and commended a call by the Senate for a special intervention fund to rescue the judiciary from the abyss of paucity of fund.

For the first time in a long while, the issue of autonomy and financial independence of the judiciary which has been under siege was a fortnight ago brought to the fore at the Senate.

 

Concerns had mounted over the problem of paucity of fund bedeviling the third arm of government which had been taken its toll negatively on its operations.

However, as a way out of the dearth of fund for the judiciary, the red Chambers is advocating special funding which it said will allow judicial functions to be carried out effectively.

 

This was raised by Chairman, Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters, Senator Michael Bamidele, who made the call during the screening of Justices John Tsoho and Benedict Kanyip as Chief Judge of the Federal High Court and President of the Court of Appeal, respectively.

 

Bamidele’s request was hinged on the Committee’s belief that underfunding had negatively affected judiciary’s operations while also fuelling corruption in the third arm of government.

 

While noting that underfunding had made judiciary vulnerable to compromise, the Senator emphasized that democracy could not grow or survive in any country with a compromised judiciary.

 

“The problem at hand is that the judiciary is corrupt and it is time for Nigeria and Nigerians to rise and rescue the judiciary with adequate funding.

 

“As it is with the nation’s judiciary today, even if saints are appointed from heaven to serve as justices and judges in our courts, it is only strength of character that can prevent them from being corrupt and dispense justice as required. Extra-budgetary provisions will help the judiciary to function properly.

 

“I believe this will be an issue for both the legislative and executive arms of government to address most speedily, beyond the current budgetary provision, a special intervention fund.

 

“As elected representatives of the people, it is not yet uhuru. A lot still needs to be done.

“And for us to be able to catch up, there is need for special intervention fund, details of which we believe the leadership of the legislature will have to work out with the executive arm of government.

 

“After the special intervention fund, we can then agree on how there can be consistent increase on an annual basis in the annual budget of the nation as far as the judiciary is concerned.

 

 

“Something urgently needs to be done about the plight of the Nigerian Judiciary.

 

“For so long, has the story dominated our political space that our judiciary is corrupt?

“As far as we are concerned, it is time for Nigeria to change the narrative, it is time for Nigeria to show that we are serious and we understand the full and true meaning of the independence of the judiciary, a cardinal aspect of it is financial independence,’’ Bamidele said.

Executive’s intervention

 

Prior to the Senators’ call for a special intervention fund for the judiciary, the executive has equally demonstrated its resolve to ensure that the third arm of government gets what rightly belong to it in terms of fund.

A Bill granting financial autonomy to States Judiciary and Legislature was on 8th June, 2018, signed into law by President Muhammadu Buhari. The move was seen by many as a way of halting   the activities of state governors who have been observing Section 121(3) of the Constitution which clearly spelt out how funds due to the third arm of government should be disbursed in breach.

 

 

Section 121(3) of the Constitution states: “Any amount standing to the credit of the judiciary in the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the State shall be paid directly to the heads of the court concerned”.

 

 

Implementation Committee

 

 

About 9 months after signing the Bill granting financial autonomy to States Judiciary into law, President Muhammadu Buhari inaugurated a Committee to fashion out strategies and modalities for implementing the law in line with the dictates of Section 121 (3) of the Constitution.

 

 

After about 3 months of carrying out its assignment, the Committee which was chaired by the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN) submitted its report to the president.

Highlight of their recommendations was the need for President Buhari to sign an Executive Order for the immediate take-off of the implementation of the autonomy for states judiciary.

 

 

Addressing journalists, Malami said: “Well, substantially, arising from the position of the president relating to the deepening of democracy relating to upholding the provisions of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended, within the context of governance, Mr. President had sometimes back in March, 2019, precisely, put in place a Committee.

 

“So, today, the committee has concluded its assignment substantially by way of making available to the President, an interim report indicating the modalities this should follow with due observance of the provisions of the Section 121 and due observance of the sustenance of the independence of the States Legislature and Judiciary.

 

“It is about the Constitutional order, it is about the sustenance of the requirements of the Constitution as it relates to the independence of the Legislature and the Judiciary and the Committee has presented its report to Mr. President.

 

 

“The independence has already been established by the Constitution so, it is now about the implementation of the modalities and amongst the recommendations made to Mr. President is an Executive Order by the President designed to give effect to the implementation of Section 121 which Constitutionally establishes the independence of the two arms of government.

 

 

“The recommendations clearly spelt out that if uniform modules for implementation of financial autonomy for the state legislature and state judiciary are approved for implementation across 36 states, it will no doubt strengthen Nigeria’s democratic principles, practices and public governance.

 

 

“So, it is about the application, operation and enforcement of the provisions of the Constitution and with the signing of the Executive Order, l believe the necessary formalities of the wholehearted implementation of this provisions will come into effect”.

Lawyers speak

 

 

 

Some senior lawyers have thumbed up the Senate over its pursuit of special intervention fund for the judiciary.

 

 

The lawyers while speaking on the issue with New Telegraph Law at the weekend, however, opined that more funding for the judiciary does not guarantee an end to corruption in the third arm of government.

In his submissions, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Chief Mike Ahamba, said the judiciary is in desperate need of special intervention fund to cater for many things that were left undone.

 

 

He said: “I think the need to fund the judiciary for efficiency should not be mixed with corruption in the third arm of government.

“However, I agreed with the Senators that judiciary is underfunded. I am in total support of the idea of special funding for the judiciary. It is unfortunate that in this times and age, our judges are still writing court proceedings in long hands. Recording of proceedings at the various courts should be done electronically.

 

 

“Issue like this and several others needs to be urgently addressed and in doing so, funding is desirable. This may not however in anyway affect corruption in the judiciary. Corruption is a matter of the mind, conscience and honour”.

In his own views, Mr. Seyi Sowemimo (SAN) also threw his weight behind the Senate’s call for the judiciary to enjoy special funding.

 

“It is a welcome development and will help if properly applied. l have no knowledge of what is being proposed,” the silk said.

 

To Chief Emeka Okpoko (SAN), underfunding has remained a cog in the wheel of judiciary’s independence. He called for a legislation to back up Senate’s demand for the special funding.

He said: “Special funding is a welcome development. Lack of Financial independence remains a major albatross to the independence of the Judiciary.

 

“When Heads of our courts almost go cap in hands before securing funds from the executive arm is a clog to the independent of the judiciary. For me, much as this is a step in the right direction, one still hopes it will be codified and be made a part of our law. Indeed, there is still a need for a constitutional amendment so as to enshrine it in our constitution”.

 

A former President of the Campaign For the Defence of Human Rights (CDHR), Mr. Malachy Ugwummadu, believed judiciary’s independence is a factor of how well it is funded.

“I think that the issue of underfunding is a recurrent decimal with respect to most institutions of government. This is understandable because the budgetary process in Nigeria is completely anihiliated from not just the beneficiaries but the operators of those institutions.

 

“But, I do think that the independence largely touted for the judiciary can only be measured or sustainable by the funding of that institution. Funding is ever relevant and necessary.

 

“However, it will not completely erase the issue of corruption because anyone who is corrupt becomes more corrupt with more money. If there were still incidents of theft and corrupt practices when there are little fund, it will magnified when there are bigger fund.

“Therefore, I would be advocating for a stringent applications of the code of conduct for judicial officers and the strengthening of our prosecutorial institutions, including the self-regulatory body within the judiciary, which is the National Judicial Council (NJC). This will make it possible to unravel, not just the cause but the dimension and implication of corrupt activities in the judiciary.

 

“What I am saying in essence is that other factors aside funding must be considered in order to tackle corruption in the judiciary”, he said.

A Lagos-based lawyer, Mr. Destiny Takon, was of the view that proper funding of the judiciary will free the third arm of government from the grip of the executive.

 

He said: “It is good that the Senate is moving for financial autonomy for the judiciary. If that is done, it would be one step away from the issues that have made the judiciary an appendage of the Executive but beyond how the judiciary is funded are other disturbing issues like the mode of appointment and discipline of perceived errant judges.

 

“The NJC needs to be reconstituted and given immunity from arrest or prosecution/persecution by any sitting regime. The envisaged protection should be throughout the tenure as a member and for life.  This is to ensure that persons who are recommended for appointment as Judges, can be disqualified where necessary by the NJC without any fear of arrest or persecution of any sort.

 

“Same would apply where Judges are referred to it for discipline of any sort. A fearless and dispassionate NJC would ensure that misfits or half baked persons, do not end up on the bench and grow up to the appellate courts, like we have today.

“There should also be a legal bar against the arrest or prosecution of any serving Judge except recommended by the envisaged reconstituted and legally protected NJC.

 

“This would embolden upright Judges to make declarations and orders against any serving government that acts against the letters of the constitution, without the fear of being removed or persecuted.

“The issue on the table if dealt with alone, would be typical of seeking a cure for a leprous hand, you do not heal one finger and suppose that the whole hand would therefore become healed. Truth is that the healed finger would relapse or probably get infected by another finger’s peculiar ailment. That is why the approach must be wholistic, as I have herein opined”.

 

To Mr. Mohammed Fawehinmi, the Senate’s demand should be captured in a Bill sponsored by both the Senate President and Speaker of House of Representatives.

 

“The proper thing to do is to sponsor a Bill known as the Adjudicature Act which involves the funding of the entire judiciary. The Bill should be sponsored by the Senate President and the Speaker of the Federal House of Representatives jointly in both Houses.

“In the Act, the Revenue Mobilisation and Fiscal Commission would be duly notified for the necessary disbursements into a special account. This is the first step to the judiciary of this great nation being independent”, he said.

 

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YOUNG LAWYERS’ FORUM: ‘Immunity for judges’ll boost justice system’

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YOUNG LAWYERS’ FORUM:  ‘Immunity for judges’ll boost justice system’

Ayomide Sanya, an indigene of Odogbolu Local Government of Ogun State, attended Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago Iwoye, Ogun State. He was called to Bar on 12th December, 2017. She shares her experience, pupilage, others with JOHN CHIKEZIE

 

 

Background

Sanya, Ayomide hails from Odogbolu Local Government of Ogun state. She attended Anglican Primary School, Isawo, Ikorodu and also obtained her O’ levels degree at Topville College, Isawo, Ikorodu, Lagos.

She obtained her Bachelor at Law Certification (LL.B.) from Olabisi Onabanjo University in 2016 and thereafter attended the Nigerian Law School, Lagos Campus. She was called to Bar on 12th December, 2017.

 

 

Ayomide has also obtained other professional certifications from notable institutions like the World Intellectual Property organization academy where she obtained a General Course on Intellectual Property Certification in the year 2018.

 

Pupilage

 

She has worked with the Nigerian Copyright Commission, Ibadan as an Intern at the High Court of Justice, Ikorodu as a law school extern under the Pupilage of Hon. Justice Lawal Akapo.

She was also at L’Tulip Solicitors as a law school extern under the supervision of Mr. Levi Adikwaone, the Chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Ikorodu branch as he then was and then Sterling Bank Plc.

Ayomide is presently under the pupilage of Olukayode Enitan SAN at Enitan Associates.

 

Besides, she also worked in some leadership positions like being the Vice-President of the Litigation Group in the National Youth Service Corp (NYSC) Legal Aid Community Development Service in the year 2018, Assistant Coordinator of the Planning and Logistics Department and the Sisters’ Coordinator at the place of worship (OOU Ago Iwoye, Ogun State).

 

 

In 2018, she emerged as the 1st Runner-Up in the Business Idea Competition initiated by Sigma Pensions at the NYSC orientation camp, Iyana Paja, Lagos.

 

 

Career

The legal profession has been my most desired profession from childhood. The attire, wig and gown were the initial thing that got me inspired as a kid.

And as I grew much older, I observed I was exhibiting a certain level of inquisitive and analytical skills, and that made me so determined in becoming a judge.

 

My parents and siblings were fascinated to see me with such keen interest and enthusiasm; a unique and first of its kind in my family, hence, their support and encouragement from day one.

 

My interest and determination to study law was further deepened after I studied  the biographies of some judges such as Rtd. Justice Ishola Olorunnimbe, alongside some female judges. I was resolved and inspired to get to the Bench to administer justice.

Specialization

 

I have a keen interest for Criminology, Administration of Estates law and Civil practices.

 

Criminal law is my major interest in the study of law. This is because I love investigations and the idea of being a detective. I like to detect the main perpetrators of evil and ensure that they don’t go unpunished, rather than punishing those who know nothing about a crime.

 

I’m very much aware that this aspect of law is faint-hearted but I like the truth and always stand for the truth

 

However, I’m presently into general practice of law, where I handle all civil matters. And I trust God that the vision will soon get clearer.

 

Judiciary and justice delivery system

I believe the judiciary as an arm of government is trying its best to ensure that justice prevails but the other arms of government are restricting them in the name of checks and balances; the hands of the judiciary are tied!

 

It has over time turned out that the Judiciary could not ensure justice against the government, especially on the parameters of “you cannot bite the hands that feeds you.”

And if the independence of the judiciary can be ascertained, then there is hope for justice to prevail over all.

 

Judicial independence does, however, mean that judges must be free to exercise their judicial powers without fear or favor, without interference from litigants, the State, the media or powerful individuals or entities.

 

The aim of this is to ensure the supremacy of the rule of law.

The following are some of the points I think will assist in ensuring an independent judiciary:

Fair and independent appointment – I think only persons with integrity, who are qualified, with the capacity and an outstanding active practice should be appointed as judges.

 

Guaranteed tenure until retirement or expiry of office – judges should only be removed or suspended from office for reasons of incapacity or if their behavior renders them unfit to perform their duties or official functions.

The principle of separation of power – I see this as the most important way of ensuring judicial independence. There must be limited contact with the Executive arm of government to security, financial and administrative powers.

Judicial independence serves as a safeguard for the rights and privileges provided by the Constitution to prevent executive and legislative encroachment upon those rights. Under an independent judicial system, the courts and its officers should be free from inappropriate intervention in the judiciary’s affairs.

 

 

Immunity – judges should be given legal immunity from prosecution for any acts they carry out in performance of their judicial function. They do not have to worry about being sued for something they say or do while carrying out their duties. Judges should ensure that their integrity is maintained; they should always stand for the truth and ensure the prevalence of the rule of law. Enough of seeing judges that are recreant in the name of protecting the interests of those who can fire them.

Making a difference

The word God gave to me when I was called to the Nigerian Bar was Deuteronomy 1:17

 

“Do not be partial in your judgments. Hear the cases of those who are poor as well as those who are rich. Don’t be afraid of anyone’s anger, for the decision you make is God’s decision. Bring me any cases that are too difficult for you, and I will handle them.”

These have been my watch word and my driving force. However, some of the things I would ensure is done differently are the fact that lawyers must have a due notice whenever my court is not sitting. This will portray good integrity and also enable lawyers to plan their day rightly. Also, I won’t give room for lawyers’ sharp practices and my court will always promote the maxim “equity does not aid the indolent but the vigilant.”

In summary, I will ensure that the height of indiscipline is reduced in courts.

 

 

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Judges suspended over fighting

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Judges suspended over fighting

The three Indiana judges who were involved in a brawl in Indianapolis that left two of them shot have been temporarily suspended by the Indiana Supreme Court.

The state Supreme Court handed down the order Tuesday, writing in its ruling that the actions of Clark County Judges Andrew Adams and Bradley Jacobs and Crawford County Judge Sabrina Bell “were not merely embarrassing on a personal level … they discredited the entire Indiana judiciary,” the Washington Post reported.

The order states that all three judges were intoxicated and “behaving in an injudicious manner” during the May 1 incident in a White Castle parking lot.

Jacobs and Adams were shot following a scuffle with strangers in the lot — about a half-mile from the state Capitol — after a night of bar-hopping, reports the New York Post.

Adams and two other men were charged in connection with the fight.

Under the order of the Indiana Supreme Court, Adams will serve a 60-day unpaid suspension ending January 12, and Jacobs and Bell will serve 30-day unpaid suspensions ending December 22.

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Osinbajo, Akpata, World Bank VP, others bag 2019 ESQ’s awards

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Osinbajo, Akpata, World Bank VP, others bag 2019 ESQ’s awards

Although he was not physically present at this year’s ESQ award night where prominent lawyers and corporate organisations were rewarded for their outstanding contributions to nation building and the development of law, Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo (SAN) was conferred with ESQ Nigerian Legal Award.

 

 

Osinbajo, who was penciled down as special guest of honour and awardee in the Special Award category for 2019 award which took place at the prestigious Land Mark Event Centre, Oniru, Victoria Island, Lagos, at the weekend was not physically present.

 

 

He was recognised for his invaluable contribution to the development of Business Law in Nigeria especially through his landmark contribution towards the attainment of the milestone of Ease of Doing Business, the promotion of transparency, ethics and good governance in Africa’s biggest economy.

 

 

According to the ESQ Nigerian legal awards committee, Osinbajo has contributed immensely to the development of law in Nigeria both at the international level as an academic, democrat, legal practitioner, and the Vice-President.

 

 

His contribution towards reshaping the lives of young Nigerian lawyers, according to the group, was well-recognised and the award well-packaged and sent to him.

 

 

But the Vice-President’s absence did not affect the evening negatively as many other awardees and dignitaries turned up in huge numbers to grace the occasion.

 

 

Among the personalities who were present at the event were the Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice of Edo State, Professor Yinka Omorowe, chairman of the awards committee, Dr. Olusegun Akin- Olugbade, the World Bank Vice President, Dr. Stanley Okoro (ably represented) and a former chairman of the Section on Business Law of the Nigerian Bar Association, (NBA/SBL), Mr. Olumide Akpata who was awarded the best business lawyer of the year.

 

 

Welcoming guests at the event, the convener and chief host of ESQ Nigerian Legal Awards, Mr. Lere Fashola said “when we envisioned the idea of an award ceremony, we did not fully appreciate the gravity of the undertakings.

 

 

“However, through the years and after many different experiences that we have learnt from, we have made considerable progress.

 

“What we see tonight is a culmination of ten years of consistent and dedicated efforts. Ladies and gentlemen, I welcome you to the Nigerian Legal Awards.

 

 

“We stand for excellence, we believe in excellence and we reward excellence. Hence, we considered it imperative to recognise the excellent and important contributions to the legal profession.

 

 

“Tonight, we shall be celebrating the biggest and the best players in the legal profession; the law firms, the leaders and the icons. We also acknowledge that our future is already being shaped by extra-ordinary young persons. These are the people that will dictate the future prosperity of the legal profession.

 

 

“Tonight, we shall be honouring 40 under 40 lawyers. If there was any decision most herculean for the Judges to reach, it was coming up with the 40 honorees out of the galaxy of the over 100 star finalists.   

 

 

“The role of new wigs and younger lawyers in the profession cannot be overlooked. With the best grooming, training and mentorship and the right work ethics, they can aspire and certainly reach for the peak of the profession.

 

 

“It is for this reason that ESQ is building the first professional co-work station for lawyers. The station will be a hub for cutting edge continuing legal education and innovative legal practice.

 

 

“Dear distinguished industry leaders and mentors, we acknowledge your towering support and contribution to the profession that we so dearly love. You are our icons and we pay our gratitude for leading the path for us to tread.

 

 

Distinguished guests thank you very much for gracing us with your presence; the Award is nothing without you.”

 

 

Other awardees at this year’s awards included Abimbola Ogunbanjo, President of the National Council of the Nigerian Stock Exchange and Managing Partner of Chris Ogunbanjo LLP, Cecilia Akintomide, Independent Non-Executive Director of FBN Holdings and Fmr. Vice President Secretary General of the African Development Bank, Sola Adepetun, founding Partner of one of Nigeria’s most reputable firms, Adepetun Caxton-Martins & Segun (ACAS-LAW) and Chairman, Board of Directors, Standard Chartered Bank, Prof. Yinka Omorogbe, Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Edo State and Fmr. National Secretary to the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, Adedoyin Rhodes-Vivour, SAN, Managing Partner of Doyin Rhodes-Vivour as well as Olumide Akpata, former Chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association Section on Business Law will be recognized at the 2019 Nigerian Legal Awards

 

 

The Nigerian Legal Awards which being convened by ESQ Legal Blitz is the only platform projecting the achievements of legal players within Nigeria’s thriving business law community. The awards represent the beacon of honour and prestige on the achievements recorded in the Nigerian legal industry.

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‘I embrace litigation, taxation to prepare for the Bench’

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‘I embrace litigation, taxation  to prepare for the Bench’

Boma Opulah is an indigene of Okrika Local Government Area in Rivers State. Opulah attended the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN) and was called to Bar in 2018. She shares her law journey into the noble profession with JOHN CHIKEZIE

 

 

Background

 

My name is Boma Opulah. I am an indigene of Okrika Local Government Area of Rivers State. I grew up in Port Harcourt where I had my primary and secondary education in Bereton Montessori Primary School and Jephthah Comprehensive Secondary School.

In 2017, I obtained a Law degree (LL. B) from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. Thereafter, I obtained a BL from the Nigerian Law School, Lagos.

 

 

I was called to the Nigerian Bar in 2018. I am currently working as an Associate at Probitas Partners LLP.

 

Choice of career

 

 

There is something noble and dignifying about the legal profession. The ability to help people get out of trouble is synonymous with saving lives. Being a voice of reason in the society and fighting for justice gave me the courage to study law.

 

Secondly, I never really considered any other course besides law. The nobility of the profession and how every lawyer I met, in my younger years, was intelligent and confident made me fall in love with the profession more.

 

 

Growing up

 

 

My father, Chief Dan Belema Opulah, studied law as a second degree. So, when I was in primary school, I was eager to finish primary school and join my dad at the Rivers State University of Science and Technology to study law. I actually thought that was how it works. I was often teased about going to the university from primary school. The day I was told that there was something called secondary school, I cried.

 

I looked up to my dad a lot and all I wanted to do was follow his footsteps. Interestingly, he wanted me to be a model.

 

But my mum wanted me to be a doctor. I got to secondary school and didn’t like the sciences. So, I chose the arts. I wasn’t pressured into decisions while growing up. I was advised and well brought up to make the right decisions.

 

First court appearance

 

I was quite nervous when I had to appear alone in court. I took down notes of what I wanted to say so I will be more coordinated. I just took it like I was having a conversation with the judge and that is how it went; a professional conversation with the judge. Today, I remember how nervous I was and still wondered why.

 

Undergraduate experience

 

 

I have an experience I can’t forget in a hurry during my undergraduate’s days. It was in the early hours of the day during my final examination. There was a fire outbreak at a shop beside my hostel.

 

 

The fire was spreading fast and you can only imagine the chaos it caused. My friend and I were determined not to get distracted and nothing was going to stop us from finishing well. Some people were carrying their boxes but we took our file that contained our documents needed for clearance and our study materials for the exam and went to the classroom. We left all the chaos behind. By 5a.m., when we came back to the hostel, the fire had been put out and everything was back to normal. We laughed about how much we wanted to graduate and that was the only thing we had on our minds at the time.

 

 

Specialization

 

 

My preferred areas are dispute resolution, taxation, Corporate & Commercial Law.

 

Dispute resolution is the litigation aspect. There’s a lot to learn in the courtroom that can’t be gotten from anywhere else. Litigation is an essential part of the law practice especially for a lawyer that wants to become a Senior Advocate of Nigeria or wants to move from the Bar to the Bench. I hope to be on the Bench someday.

 

I’m currently a key member of the tax industry at Probitas Partners LLP. My work experience has increased my interest in Taxation. With all that’s going on right now with respect to taxation in the country, everyone should have a Tax lawyer on speed dial.

 

 

Corporate and Commercial Law is an aspect of law I developed interest in while practicing. I struggled with corporate law in Law School but I realized it’s more interesting in practice than in theory. Also, a good knowledge of Corporate and Commercial Law makes a lawyer very versatile.

 

Death penalty for rapist

 

Rape is a very serious crime. In my opinion, life imprisonment is an appropriate penalty for persons found guilty of rape. Death penalty is the ultimate punishment for any crime and I think this will be more suitable where the victims are underage.

 

Defiling a child is another level of crime.

 

At the end of the day, is there really any punishment that can right the wrongs done to the victims of rape?

 

So partially, I agree with the proposition of death penalty if only the victim is a minor.

 

Marrying a lawyer

 

“Lawyer” isn’t one of the attributes I look for in a man. Any reputable career is fine.

 

Future ambition

 

I aspire to be a successful woman. I hope to move from the Bar to the Bench in the next 15 years. I aspire to be a leader and role model to young people. While excelling in my career, I will be a wonderful wife and mother, by God’s grace.

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Dust over Buhari’s power to sign bills abroad

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Dust over Buhari’s  power to sign bills abroad

Can President Muhammadu Buhari attend to issues of governance under whatever guise on foreign shores? Lawyers say no, yes. FOLUSO OGUNMODEDE writes

 

Sagay, Ozekhome, Layonu, others differ over power to sign Bills abroad

 

 

A

lthough the raging dust over whether President Muhammadu Buhari, who on a private visit to the United Kingdom without transmitting power to his deputy, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria as enshrined under Section 145 of the Constitution is still on, lawyer, who at the weekend joined the fray could not agree on the legality or otherwise of the President’s action.

 

 

President Buhari, who some couple of weeks ago declared a reduction in number of foreign trips ministers and other government’s officials would embark on, headed for a 15-day trip to the United Kingdom.

 

 

While announcing the reduction, President Buhari had said the reduction in the number and the duration of foreign trips for ministers and other categories of government officials was a ‘cost-saving measure’ to achieve fiscal prudence by removing travel allowances known as estacode.

 

 

His UK private visit commenced on 2nd November, 2019, arriving Friday 15th November, 2019 according to Femi Adesina, the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity.

 

 

 

Adesina had said “President Muhammadu Buhari leaves the country today (2nd November, 2019) on an official trip to Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to attend Economic Forum of the Future Investment Initiative (FII) in Riyadh.

 

“On the sidelines of the event, President will hold bilateral talks with His Majesty King Salman and His Majesty King Abdullah ll of Jordan.

 

“On Wednesday, 30 October, 2019, the President will participate in the High Level Event titled ‘What is next for Africa: How will Investment and Trade Transform the continent into the Next Great Economic Success Story?’ with Presidents of Kenya, Congo-Brazzaville and Burkina Faso.

 

“At the end of the summit, President Buhari will on Saturday 2nd November, 2019, proceed to the United Kingdom on a private visit. He is expected to return to Nigeria on 17 November, 2019.”

 

 

This was without handing over to his deputy, Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo in accordance to Section 145 of the Constitution which empowers Vice-President to act during temporary absence of Mr. President.

 

Section 145 says: “Whenever the President transmits to the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives a written declaration that he is proceeding on vacation or that he is otherwise unable to discharge the functions of his office,

 

until he transmits to them a written declaration to the contrary such functions shall be discharged by the Vice-President as Acting President.”

 

Notwithstanding President Buhari’s failure to comply with Section 145 by transferring power to Osinbajo, his Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari, Monday last week took a bill to Mr. President, who is in London for signing.

 

The bill, which amended the Deep Offshore and Inland Basin Production Sharing Contract Act, was signed into law in London by President Buhari, indicating that future memos, bills and other documents requiring the President’s signature must be taken to London for signing at least for the next few days.

 

 

But this, however, drew sparked among Nigerians, who described it as embarrassing to the nation.

 

Yesterday, lawyers joined the fray, although could not agree on the legality or otherwise of President Buhari’s action.

 

Can the President continue with the business of governance abroad or anywhere in the absence of a written declaration?

 

Lawyers said Yes, No

 

 

Chairman, Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption, Professor Itsejuwa Sagay (SAN), Dr. Biodun Layonu (SAN) and Mr. Hakeem Afolabi (SAN) believed that President Buhari was not limited by law on where to carry out the issues of governance since he had executive powers to perform duties of his office.

 

Sagay said: “It’s a waste of time talking about the legality or illegality of his actions. Questioning whether it’s legally valid is taking the issue out of context.

 

“Rather, you might question the appropriateness, in the sense that why not wait until he comes back? So, the question of legality doesn’t come into this context because it is very wrong to conclude. I don’t know why but there must be a reason.  So, definitely, Mr. President has the powers to rule from anywhere.

 

 

Also, to Layonu, President Buhari had not violated any by law by carrying out some of his presidential functions outside Nigeria.

 

 

“Yes, the president can perform his duties outside the country. The important thing is that there is no provision prohibiting him from carrying out some of his presidential functions outside Nigeria,” he said.

 

 

Layonu was echoed by another silk, Hakeem Afolabi, who simply     said there’s no hard and fast rule about the president’s appending his signature to a Bill.

He said: “The issue is quite academic. There is no law that state mandatorily that law must be signed in any particular place.

 

 

“Wherever the President is, he remains the President of Nigeria, hence, no illegality in signing documents outside Nigeria.

 

 

“The only point is the moral aspect in that, why should the document be taken to the president while overseas. The immorality does not however make it illegal.”

 

 

But fiery Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Chief Mike Ozekhome, a Law Professor, Ernest Ojukwu (SAN) and Dr. Jonas Ekpo disagreed with Sagay, Layonu and Afolabi, saying although President Buhari was vested with a variety of duties and powers, including negotiating treaties with foreign governments, signing into law or vetoing legislation passed by the National Assembly, appointing high-ranking members of the executive like Ministers and all judges of the federal judiciary and being the Commander –In-Chief of the Armed Forces, these powers could only be exercised under the sovereign entity of Nigeria.

 

 

Accordingly, the Principle of Sovereignty envisaged that the powers of the President would only be exercised within the territorial limits of the country.

 

For instance, Ozekhome said President Buhari was not legally permitted to either rule Nigeria from overseas or sign Bills while on foreign trips.

 

 

He said: “The present ongoing visit of President Muhammadu Buhari to the United Kingdom on a private visit and his act of signing into law, a Bill entitled “Amended Deep Offshore and Inland Basin Production Sharing Bill” doing this in a foreign country, the UK, has evoked mixed reactions from Nigerians.

 

 

“As expected, some government apologists and sympathisers have already queued behind him and argued that he can govern Nigeria from any part of the planet earth. No. This is a constitutional aberration, to say the least.

 

 

“Section 5(1) of the Constitution vests the executive powers of the Federation in the president. He shall exercise these powers either directly or through the Vice-President and Ministers of the government of the Federation or Officers in the Public Service of the Federation.

 

 

“The corollary of this is that the Constitution does not envision a one-man riot squad, or an absolutist dictator whose absence will automatically cripple governance. Surely, the President is only president of the enclave called Nigeria. Nigeria is a sovereign country. She has geographical boundaries that are recognised by the United Nations. She cannot by herself arbitrarily extend or expand her boundaries, whether in governance or influence.

 

“The President may travel abroad, either on official or private visits. But, he must inform the National Assembly which, by the way, now appears to be a mere toothless rubber stamp. He did not.

 

 

“The United Kingdom where Mr. President is currently is, however, not part and parcel of the entity called Nigeria. That is why Section 145 of the 1999 Constitution makes provisions for transfer of powers to his Vice-President as “Acting President” with the approval of the National Assembly, through a letter to the Senate President and the Speaker, House of Representatives, whenever he is proceeding on vacation or that he is otherwise unable to discharge the functions of his office.

 

 

“Travelling abroad outside the shores of Nigeria, except where it is on declared official duties, certainly amounts to proceeding on vacation, no matter what colouration of interpretation any one may want to give to it.

 

 

“The president’s spokesperson had publicly told Nigerians the president would travel abroad to spend 15 days on “a private visit” and return on 17th November, 2019 after attending an official summit in Saudi Arabia.

 

 

A private visit is what it means “private”, not “official.”

 

 

“How can a whole president of the biggest black nation on earth even if President of one tiny Banana Republic, begins to perform functions as important as signing an Act of Parliament in a foreign land? Why did the Constitution provide for a joint ticket for a President and Vice-President in Section 142(1)?  This important section was to ensure that there shall never be a void, lacuna or gap in governance, which is a continuum.

 

 

“Can President Donald Trump of U.S.A. or Prime Minister Boris Johnson of the United Kingdom, or even President Matamela Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa come to Nigeria on “a private visit” and begin to sign laws for their country right here in Nigeria? Don’t we have national pride or self-esteem as a sovereign nation? Why is the Vice-President there in the first instance?

 

 

“What was so urgent about this Bills which had been pending for years that it couldn’t wait for Mr. President’s return? Can the NASS or Supreme Court in Nigeria therefore take a cue to go and sit in London to conduct legislative and judicial duties respectively? The world is laughing at us.

 

 

“I get embarrassed by the kind of condescending questions I am asked about governance in Nigeria whenever I travel abroad.

 

 

“We are fast reducing the serious act of governance in a constitutional democracy of a 200 million people to the ludicrous template of a Baba Sallah’s Alawada Keri Keri Dance Troupe’s histrionics and the theatrical melodramatic.”

 

 

To Ojukwu, Mr. President was vested with a variety of duties and powers, including negotiating treaties with foreign governments, signing into law or vetoing legislation passed by the National Assembly, appointing high-ranking members of the executive like Ministers and all judges of the federal judiciary, and serving as commander in chief of the armed forces.

 

 

He said: “These powers are exercised under the sovereign entity of Nigeria. The Principle of sovereignty envisages that the powers of the President can only be exercised within the territorial limits of the country.

 

 

“But today, the World has become a global village with improved connections and communications through means of travel and online communications. Under these circumstances it is easy for a President to keep in seamless contact with activities at home and so could make decisions from anywhere as if he was sitting at his desk in his office at home.

 

 

“And leaders of every country now make routine decisions for their countries from their aircrafts and faraway places. There is no question about that as this is the reality of today’s technological age.

 

 

“There are no laws or rules banning Nigerian Presidents from making routine decisions for the country from anywhere. There are, however, certain acts that may still be intrinsically tied to the exercise of the Country’s sovereignty and such acts may undermine our sovereignty and expose the country to foreign interference if done outside the territory of Nigeria. Example is signing a bill into law on a foreign land.

 

 

“That is a fundamental exercise of the right of a nation to its sovereignty. It should not be allowed. I think the courts may declare such bill invalid despite the fact that there is no express provision against such act in our constitution.”

 

 

Ekpo “the Nigerian Constitution does not have extra-territorial application. The President of Nigeria cannot exercise presidential powers from anywhere.

 

 

“To put it in perspective, two examples will suffice: First, President Buhari cannot exercise his authority under Section 58 (1) of the Constitution to assent to Bills passed by the National Assembly in the United Kingdom.

 

 

“He also cannot exercise his authority under Section 148 (2) of the Constitution to preside over the regular (weekly) Federal Executive Council meeting from the United Kingdom, or anywhere outside the territory of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

 

 

“The authority of the British Prime Minister over the affairs of the United Kingdom cannot be exercised in Nigeria, neither can the President of Nigeria govern or exercise authority over the affairs of Nigeria from the United Kingdom.

 

 

“There is a reason why responsible foreign leaders in saner climes usually abort their foreign trips and return home upon the occurrence of national disasters or emergencies in their countries. It is not just for convenience sake; it is also because their constitutional authority either as President or Head of State cannot be insulated from their state (country).”

 

 

 

 

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Why Buhari can’t rule from anywhere, by Ubani

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Why Buhari can’t rule from anywhere, by Ubani

Mr. Monday Ubani is a former Vice-President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA). In this interview with AKEEM NAFIU, he speaks on President Muhammadu Buhari’s ‘ private visit’ to the United Kingdom, INEC’s call for Electoral Offences Commission and sundry issues

 

 

How wouldo you view the call by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for enactment of a legislation to establish an Electoral Offence Commission and Tribunal to handle cases of Electoral Act’s violation, particularly during elections?

 

 

It is something that is commendable and I think that the request was part of the recommendations by the Uwais Electoral Commission set up by the former administration.

 

 

But INEC should not just stop at making the request, it should put up a structure to draft the necessary Bill regarding its request and then send it to the National Assembly for enactment. The proposed Bill can come from INEC.

 

 

The electoral body is in charge of conduct of elections and if it feels that there are certain aspects of it that should be handled in such a specialized manner, particularly regarding people who manipulate the electoral system, then, it should go ahead to pursue it.

 

 

However, it is important that INEC should put a Bill in place and send it to the National Assembly rather than just making blanket suggestion. I think it’s something that is worthy of being considered, most importantly because the electoral process in the country has been bastardized.

 

 

Year after year, we seem to move a step forward and several steps backward. There seemed to be an improvement in the electoral process in 2015. However, you will agree with me that the 2019 elections fell short of international best practices. That’s an indication that we are going backward.

 

Besides, the National Assembly should also expedite actions on the amended Electoral Act for the president to sign it before the next general election in 2023.

 

 

In any event, the request by INEC will involve tinkering with the Constitution because it must capture the hierarchy of the proposed court and I don’t think there should be any problem with that as long as members of the National Assembly are willing.

 

 

President Muhammadu Buhari is currently away to the United Kingdom on a two-week private visit without transmitting power to Vice President Yemi Osinbajo. Has the president in anyway committed any constitutional infringement by his action?

 

 

Just like his earlier visit to the United Kingdom in April this year, the president again failed to transmit power to the Vice President of Nigeria, Professor Yemi Osinbajo in accordance with Section 145 of the Constitution. That section mandates the president to transmit power through the National Assembly to his Vice-President to take charge of the country in his absence.

 

The drafters of the Constitution have genuine reason to insert such a Section in an important document like the Constitution, one of which is to ensure that vacuum does not exist and also to give a sense of belonging to whoever the country have elected as Vice-President to the President of the country.

 

 

The most important reason maybe also the fact that presidential duties are enormous and any hardworking president deserves to take a rest from the onerous burden of the presidency and allow his deputy to man the office while he rests and resumes refreshed for the task ahead.

 

 

When President Yar’dua was in power and took ill and failed to hand over the reins of power to the then Vice-President, Goodluck Jonathan, that failure created so much crisis, that the National Assembly had to device the doctrine of necessity to obviate the conflagration that was about to blow up the country then.

 

 

It was not a pleasant time for Nigerians as words like “the president can rule from anywhere in the world” rented the air to the annoyance of majority of Nigerians. Sadly, we are being treated shockingly to the same menu under the new dispensation.

 

In 2010, the National Assembly in conjunction with the 36 State Houses of Assembly cured the defect by inserting Subsection (2) to the Section 145 of the 1999 Constitution to avoid a repeat of that ugly incident. The sum total of that subsection is that if the President fails, refuses and or neglects to transmit power to his Vice President, the National Assembly is mandated after the period of 21 days to pass a resolution empowering the Vice-President to start to act automatically as the Acting President of Nigeria.

 

 

That section did not and never provided that it is only when the president will spend more than 21 days outside the shores of the country, that he will be required to hand over power to his Vice President. The 21 days provision is meant to give the maximum period the president will be allowed to be in breach of Section 145 of the Constitution as the National Assembly will come in to do what the President ought to have done in the first place by mandating the Vice President to act in the place of the “travelled president.”

 

 

The president has breached the Constitution, no doubt, by his inability to transmit power to the Vice President of the country for the 19 or less that he wants to spend for his ‘private visit’ in the UK.

 

 

The ‘private visit’ has no place in Section 145 of the 1999 Constitution in the first place. He is only allowed outside the shores of Nigeria for official visits, medicals and or vacations.

 

 

The Senate President, Dr. Ahmed Lawan, has expressed reservations about the clamour for the adoption of unicameral legislature, describing it as impossibility because of the nation’s peculiarities. Do you share his view?

 

 

 

My thinking is that nothing in life is sacrosanct. The only thing that is permanent is change. Even, if we are adhered to certain procedures over time and years, it doesn’t mean we should continue in that way forever.

 

I want to look at this issue from the angle of value derivative. What are the benefits we have derived from having bicameral legislature? How has our lives been improved upon by virtue of having both the Senate and the House of Representatives? Is there anything that has positively affected citizens’ lives in having these two chambers? If you asked me, my sincere response will be that there is none.

 

 

There is no benefit whatsoever that Nigerians have derived from bicameral legislature, apart from those representing us, who have enjoyed immense benefits alongside their family members. I understand that one quarter of our national budget goes into servicing the National Assembly yearly. This is ridiculous to say the least. What is the percentage of those at the National Assembly compared to the larger population?

 

 

So, if you look at it that way, coupled with the fact that the general consensus is that we should discontinue to operate bicameral legislature, I don’t see any reason why we should not switch to unicameral legislature.

 

 

Therefore, if people are now clamouring for unicameral legislature in order to reduce the huge cost being expended on the National Assembly, I am in total support. There are so many ways by which we could achieve this, one of which is to retain the House of Representatives and do away with the Senate.

 

 

We must also be concerned about the quality of people going to the National Assembly. It shouldn’t be an all-comer affair. Majority of those presently at the National Assembly don’t even know why they are there. That is the truth. They just bought themselves through, bamboozled people and gave them money, knowing the level of poverty in the country. So much money is being spent on these lawmakers and there’s no corresponding benefit being derived by Nigerians for their representation.

 

 

That brings me to the issue of sanitizing the electoral process in order to guarantee an electoral system that will produce quality men and women, particularly at the level of representation at the National Assembly.

 

 

This is what developed countries are enjoying. They have developed their electoral process in such a manner that people who are going to government are those who have succeeded in their private enterprise. These individuals now bring their experiences in their private enterprises to bear in public service. This is usually seen in their quality of governance.

 

 

So, I expect Nigeria to tow this path by addressing the lapses in our electoral process in order to have an electoral system that will produce better leaders. Therefore, I am totally in support of the call for a look at the structure and juxtaposing it with the level of benefits accruing to Nigerians.

 

 

In what way do you think we can achieve the goal of switching from bicameral to unicameral legislature with the current crop of lawmakers at the National Assembly?

 

 

The fear you have expressed is genuine and I also share in the sentiments that it will amount to a class suicide for these lawmakers to agree to a constitution amendment that will allow a switch from bicameral to unicameral legislature.

 

 

It is expected that they will not view such issue objectively as something that needs to be done in the overall interest of the masses. Meanwhile, they are supposed to look at issues from the point of view of the country and national interest. This is what happens in sane climes.

 

 

It would be practically impossible to achieve any switch under the present dispensation unless we have a brand new Constitution that is not made by these lawmakers but by Nigerians themselves.

 

 

I am talking about the way the 1979 Constitution emerged from a Constituent Assembly. At that time, people were elected and the Chairman of the Assembly was the late Chief F. R. A. Williams (SAN). I think his Deputy was Chief Awolowo. They are the ones that gave us the 1979 Constitution.

 

 

So, all those fundamental suggestions including the unicameral legislature will be incorporated once a Constitution put together by the people is in place. It is in this kind of situation that we can make any headway.

 

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Law

You’re starving us of funds, Kenya’s Chief Justice laments

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You’re starving us of funds, Kenya’s Chief Justice laments

Kenya’s Chief Justice lashed out on Monday at budget cuts that he said were intended to undermine the court system and would hamper an anti-corruption drive.

David Maraga, who angered President Uhuru Kenyatta’s government as head of the Supreme Court in 2017 by overturning Kenyatta’s re-election and forcing a re-vote, said some courts had stopped working and a drive to speed up corruption cases was on hold, reports Reuters.

“A number of critical processes in the courts and the judiciary will be severely crippled,” he said in a televised news conference.

“Some of the incidents that we encounter are deliberate attempts to undermine the judiciary … I am not serving at the pleasure of a few people in the executive who are bent on subjugating the judiciary.”

A former finance minister and hundreds of other senior officials and business people have been charged under a high-level corruption crackdown launched last year. None of the cases have been concluded, however.

The judiciary was allocated 18.9 billion shillings ($183 million) for the fiscal year starting in July, well below the judiciary’s request for 33.3 billion.

Maraga said money for salaries remained the same, but the development and recurrent expenditure budget had been halved.

Government spokesman Cyrus Oguna and the president’s spokeswoman declined to comment. Finance Ministry officials were unavailable.

Maraga said a plan to automate some proceedings in special new anti-corruption courts in Nairobi was now on hold, and that judges should not be blamed if corruption trials are derailed.

Circuit courts of appeal in Nairobi, Mombasa, Nakuru, Eldoret and Nyeri had been suspended and 53 mobile courts working in remote areas had also stopped working owing to lack of money for vehicles and fuel.

Last month, Kenyatta declined to confirm the nominations of 41 judges, citing integrity concerns.

Mercy Wambua, Chief Executive of the Kenya Law Society, said the judiciary was under more pressure than at any time since Kenya returned to multi-party democracy in 1992.

“All the gains we’ve made since democracy to improve access to justice are being eroded,” she said. “We’ve been sent back several years in terms of reforms.”

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Law

Uproar over OPI

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Uproar over OPI

‘OPI exercise’ll spell  doom, chaos, crisis’

 

 

AKEEM NAFIU writes that lawyers have joined the fray notwithstanding explanations by the military that its Operation Positive Identification (OPI) which commenced across the country at the weekend was targeted at members of the dreaded Boko Haram terrorists, banditry, and other crimes

 

“B

esides the OPI, the military is involved in Operation Lafiya Dole in the North-East, Operation Ayem Akpatema in the North-Central, Operation Crocodile Smile and Atilogu Dance in the South-South and South-East.

 

“However, the OPI is based on intelligence. We decided to come up with the initiative because we got the intelligence that Boko Haram terrorists were infiltrating the civilian population, not only in North-East, but other parts of the country.

 

“But the exercise is not new; I’m surprised that we are getting the alert now. We actually started it on September 22 (this year). We are using it to checkmate criminality. It’s not new. The OPI is an intelligence-led operation.

“We are covered by the Constitution. The exercise is constitutional. What we are doing is in line with the 1999 Constitution. So far, two arrests were made in Kogi and Lagos states, and several other arrests would be made in the course of the last quarter of the year.

 

“We have details of arrests being made through the operation, but the operation won’t amount to additional roadblocks. It’s still based on credible intelligence. We’re actually getting intelligence from outside sources. We’re surprised when we got this alert from you that it’s fake news. It’s not fake; it is going on and it will assist us in conducting our operations”.

 

The above were part of the explanations made by the Army’s Chief of Civil/Military Affairs, Maj. Gen. Usman Mohammed in defence of the Operation Positive Identification while appearing before the House of Representatives’ Committee on Army on behalf of the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai.

 

The Army had in October said it planned Operation Positive Identification in the North-Eastern part of the country as a way of tackling the menace of Boko Haram insurgents, banditry, kidnapping, armed robbery, cattle rustling as well as other sundry criminalities in the region.

However, on 25 September, 2019, it revealed plans to extend the exercise to other parts of the country as the exercise would enable soldiers to accost citizens on the streets or roads and ask them to produce a means of identification.

 

Many Nigerians including the House of Representatives were, however, not comfortable with the plan and this resulted in the lawmakers directing the Chief of Army Staff to appear before it for proper briefing on the planned exercise.

 

In summoning the army chief, the House had last Tuesday, adopted a motion brought before it by the minority leader, Hon. Ndudi Elumelu (PDP-Delta), condemning the OPI and seeking the summons of the COAS to explain its rationale before a relevant committee.

 

 

Buratai’s representative told the Reps’ committee that even though the military was not the lead agency for identification, its intervention was needed considering the ‘peculiar circumstances’ currently facing the nation.

He insisted that the special military exercise will commence as scheduled.

 

But the Chairman of the House Committee on Army, Hon. Abdulrazak Namdas (APC, Adamawa) was of the view that with the OPI, the army may be biting more than its statutory share.

 

He subsequently constituted a sub-committee to liaise with the army on the details of the operations. The committee is expected to submit its report to plenary tomorrow.

Suit against OPI

Already, a rights activist and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Mr. Femi Falana, has instituted a suit at the Federal High Court in Lagos to stop the army from going on with its Operation Positive Identification.

 

In the suit marked FHC/L/CS/1939/2019, Falana argued that the army’s exercise which required Nigerians to move around with legitimate means of identification was unconstitutional and illegal.

 

He added that the Operation was an infringement on the right of Nigerians as guaranteed by Section 35 of the Constitution as well as Article 6 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act, (Cap A10) Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.

 

In an affidavit in support of the suit, Falana disclosed that by virtue of Section 215 (3) of the Constitution, the Nigeria Police Force “has the exclusive power to maintain law and order and secure public safety and public order in the country” and not the army.

 

He further contended that the President could only deploy military to suppress insurrection or restore law and order when such need arose in line with Section 217(1) of the Constitution.

 

 

The silk averred that there was no insurrection in any part of the country which was beyond the control of police  part of the country which was beyond the control of police to warrant the deployment of armed troops all over the country from 1st November, 2019 to 23rd December, 2019.

 

 

According to him, the Nigerian Army under the leadership of Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai was not empowered to take over police duties while the President and Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces also lacked the power to deploy members of the armed forces in the maintenance of internal security in any part of the country by virtue of Section 217 (a) (b) and (c) of the Constitution.

 

 

He added that neither the Constitution nor the Armed Forces Act Cap A20 LFN, 2004, empowered the Nigeria Army to arrest any citizen who was not subject to service law.

 

 

CSO’s concern

 

 

Also, a Civil Society Organization (CSO), the Campaign For the Defence of Human Rights (CDHR) has equally petitioned President Muhammadu Buhari to direct the military to halt its Operation Positive Identification exercise.

 

 

In the petition dated 28th October, 2019 and signed by its National President, Dr. Osagie Obayuwana, CDHR expressed its concern about the negative impact of the exercise on Nigerians.

It noted that the operation would portend usurpation of police duties by soldiers who were not trained for civic duties.

 

 

CDHR said it was also concerned that the operation would seriously infringe on the freedom of movement of the people of Nigeria, a right constitutionally protected by Section 41 of the 1999 Constitution, which entitles every citizen to move freely throughout Nigeria.

 

 

It added that the interference of this well-entrenched right was not justified or justifiable on any of the grounds stipulated in the Constitution as there would not be said to exist any reasonable basis to suspect that all Nigerians were criminals or about to engage in criminal activities.

 

The petition reads: “Nigeria has outgrown the crudity of the military issuing warnings to the nation as a whole for a population of about 200 million persons to carry  valid means of identification whenever they are going out to avoid being seen as criminally minded by soldiers.

“To our knowledge, no state of emergency has been declared to warrant this wholesale interference with the rights of the people.

 

“We see the operation as a trivialization of and a crude approach to the serious security challenge with which our country is faced at this critical time.

 

“We urge Mr. President to rather pursue economic and social policies that will address the root cause of crime and win the confidence and cooperation of the majority of our people, as a way of reducing deviant behaviour to the barest minimum. We call on Mr. President to have a rethink and immediately announce the cancelation of Operation Positive Identification.”

Lawyers speak

However, some senior lawyers have equally joined the fray as they condemned the military exercise, describing it as illegal and unconstitutional. 

They said the military was not constitutionally empowered to dabble into internal security.

 

Speaking on the issue, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Chief Mike Ahamba, said such an operation is better handled by a civil authority and not by the military.

 

 

He said: “Even if government wants to check people’s identity, it should not be by the military. It should be by a civil authority.

 

“Essentially, it is not a military affair and I don’t think this is right.

“The Federal Government should ensure that things that may ignite violence are avoided. The Operation Positive Identification will not stop the spate of insecurity in the country.

 

“Nigerians should first be encouraged to get their national identity card and once this is achieved, it will be easy for security agencies to fish out criminals”.

 

A former Vice-President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Mr. Monday Ubani, said it was illegal for the military to involve itself in internal security.

“It is purely illegal. The Nigerian Army has no business asking any person for his or her identity on the road. It is not the business of the army.

 

“When I first heard the announcement, I was thinking that an Executive Order permitting the army to carry out such exercise has been put in place but I later found out that there was nothing like that. In essence, the army has no business in internal security. That is the job of the Nigeria police.

 

“The Nigerian Army Act is yet to be amended to now include this kind of responsibility. The military is supposed to be in charge of any external aggression. That was the responsibility assigned to it under the law. Therefore, asking the military to now be engaged in internal security arrangements in which they will begin to ask people of their identities on the road is a clear violation of the law and citizens’ constitutional rights as concern right to free movements and dignity.

 

“We are aware of how security agencies even carry out legal duties with excessive abuse lest talk of this kind of operation. You can be assured that there won’t be any regard for people’s dignity. So, if the military is given this kind of power that does not exist under the law, it will surely be abused.

“There’s no doubt about the fact that the country is facing security challenges, but the point needs to be made that security agencies need to up their game,” he said.

 

Destiny Takon believed that issues bordering on migration or identification of persons and their nationality were principally the constitutional province of the Immigration Services and narrowly, of the Nigerian Police.

 

He said: “First of all, I query the use of the Army for an operation within Nigeria which requires individuals to positively identify themselves. The question that beckons is, is that the constitutional role of the Army? My answer is in the negative because issues bordering on migration or identification of persons and their nationality, are principally, the constitutional province of the Immigration Services and narrowly, of the Nigerian wPolice.

 

“The use of the Army is suspicious and it also amounts to a misplacement of resources and priorities, when you consider that the Army should be applied to more demanding areas of our national life, like dealing with insurgency and militancy, which twin evils have so far outwitted and reduced the operational efficiency of the Army.

 

“Now, as against requiring Nigerians to go about in their own country with means of positive identification and not to move within certain hours, I say is tantamount to initiating a Police State. The constitution guarantees freedom of movement to Nigerians within our shores, without let or hindrance. Any action of government which directly or indirectly hinders that right, like the planned operation, amounts to a breach of that right.

 

“If the planned operation only required you to say your name and what community and Local Government you were from, without restriction as to what time you can move and not do so. I would not have faulted it as breaching the citizens’ right to freedom of movement. I would have faulted it only on lack of effectiveness because Soldiers are not trained to know or identify Nigerians by their names, facial looks and outline and their ethnic nationalities, communities and Local Government Areas, as the Immigration Service is.

 

“Nigerians are also advised to dress properly and not argue or contend with the soldiers. All of these amount to putting Nigerians under siege, fear and psychological trauma, while deifying soldiers or clothing them with authority to molest Nigerians: that authority, soldiers have never been able to manage without brutal excesses.

 

“On a final note, I strongly believe that the planned operation has some ulterior motive to serve, knowing the antecedents and body language of the Buhari administration and Nigerians should comply with it, not because they are legally obliged to but because because tyrants make, execute and interpret laws by themselves and to soothe their own purposes.”

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