- Lawyers: Autonomy’ll guarantee judiciary’s independence
President Muhammadu Buhari’s resolve to fully implement recommendations by Presidential Implementation Committee on Autonomy of the State Legislature and State Judiciary has brightened hope that the two arms will soon be free of the grip of governors. AKEEM NAFIU writes
It seems the incessant strike by the Judiciary Staff Association of Nigeria (JUSUN) over lack of financial autonomy for states judiciary will soon be a thing of the past following the resolve of President Muhammadu Buhari’s promise to implement recommendations of a committee set up to ensure that the third arm of government gets what rightly belongs to it.
Prior to the signing of the Bill which granted financial autonomy to States Judiciary and the Houses of Assembly on 8th June, 2018, by President Muhammadu Buhari, many state governors have been observing Section 121(3) of the Constitution which clearly spells out how funds due to the third arm of government should be disbursed.
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.”
However, many state governors disregard for this constitutional provision has often times led to serious disputes with JUSUN’s executives calling out their members to shun work. The strikes usually have negative impacts on the administration of justice in states concerned.
National Assembly’s intervention
The 7th Assembly had jointly passed the fourth alteration Bill to further amend the 1999 Constitution, but former President Goodluck Jonathan withheld assent even after billions had been committed to amendment exercise.
However, in its determination to fashion out an acceptable legislation, the 8th Assembly proceeded with the amendment to the Constitution.
The two chambers considered the amendment to 33 sections of the Constitution based on the reports of their ad-hoc committees on constitution review. While the Senate approved 29 recommendations, the House of Representatives approved only 24.
Notable among the Bills is the one which granted financial autonomy to States Judiciary and Houses of Assembly.
The Bill granting financial autonomy to States Judiciary and Houses of Assembly subsequently became law on 8th June, 2019, when President Muhammadu Buhari assented to it.
Briefing State House journalists on the development, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly matters, Senator Ita Enang, said with the coming on board of the law, states judiciary are expected to have direct access to their funds and not through state governors again.
“I just want to inform you that His Excellency President Muhammadu Buhari today assented to the Constitution Fourth Alteration Bill which grants financial authonomy and independence to the Houses of Assembly of the respective states and to the Judiciary of the respective states.
“Therefore upon this signature, the amounts standing to the credit of the judiciary are now to be paid directly to the judiciary of those states, no more through the governors and no more from the governors and then the amounts standing to the credit of the Houses of Assembly of the respective states are now to be paid directly to the Houses of Assembly of that state for the benefit of the legislators and the management of the States Houses of Assembly. This grants full autonomy now to the judiciary at the state level and the Houses of Assembly at the state level”, Enang said.
About 9 months after signing the Bill granting financial autonomy to States Judiciary and Houses of Assembly 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 a former 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 legislature and the judiciary.
Speaking to journalists after the presentation ceremony, Malami disclosed that the intention of the Committee is to see what can be done with effect to the Constitutional order with respect to the autonomy of the states Legislature and Judiciary in the context of the provisions of the Constitution.
He revealed that the Committee consulted with state governors, Chief Judges of states, Speakers of State Houses of Assembly, Civil Society Organizations and relevant stakeholders, including members of the public in carrying out its assignment.
The former AGF while noting that the legislature and judiciary remain the last hope of the common man, said it is unfortunate that many state governors honoured the constitutional provisions for their financial autonomy in the breach, than in observance.
He further noted that the implementation of the Committee’s recommendations will entrench constitutionalism, democratic principles and separation of powers.
He 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 established 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”.
President Muhammadu Buhari had in the meantime assured the nation of his determination to take appropriate decision on the Committee’s recommendations.
A statement by the President’s Special Adviser on Media and publicity, Femi Adesina, quoted President Buhari as saying efforts to ensure autonomy for state legislatures and judiciary will further strengthen democracy and deepen inclusiveness of citizens by guaranteeing fairness for ordinary Nigerians.
“I went through a terrible time getting here for the three times I contested elections. That’s why I want to stabilise the system so that others will not pass through the same experience.
“Both young and ordinary Nigerians depend on leadership to ensure justice is always done. So we must ensure that trust is not compromised. This administration will take the report seriously”, the President said.
A cross-section of lawyers has equally hailed efforts of the Federal Government at ensuring that States judiciary and Houses of Assembly enjoy their financial autonomy as guaranteed by the Constitution.
The lawyers while speaking on the issue with New Telegraph Law at the weekend however wants to expand the scope by ensuring that funds allocated to states judiciary are judiciously spent.
Speaking on the issue, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Chief Mike Ozekhome, lauded government efforts at freeing States Judiciary and Houses of Assembly from the grip of governors.
The silk however cautioned against the issuance of Executive Order saying it may be counter-productive.
He said: “Government effort is appreciated but I am not aware an Executives Order can amend Sections 80 to 86 and 162 of the Constitution. Full autonomy for the Judiciary can only be achieved by amending these Sections of the Constitution in accordance with Section 9 thereof”.
Another Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Mr. Yemi Candide-Johnson, also expressed his joy at government’s efforts. He however called for a thorough scrutiny of how judiciary funds are spent by states judiciary.
“Government’s effort at guaranteeing financial autonomy for States’ Judiciary and Houses of Assembly is quite important and commendable.
“But more important is to make judicial budgets transparent and accountable. Today they are opaque and discretionary in a potentially dangerous manner”, the silk said.
Another member of the inner Bar, Dr. Biodun Layonu, believed the issuance of the Executive Order as contained in the Committee’s recommendations will ensure states compliance with constitutional provisions.
He said: “The Executive Order is simply to facilitate compliance with constitutional provisions. It is a good development. It will further ensure the independence of the judiciary”.
A former Vice-President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Mr. Monday Ubani, noted that the implementation of the Committee’s recommendations will ensure that that the law regarding financial autonomy for states judiciary and Houses of Assembly is obeyed across board.
“There was an amendment to the Constitution by the National Assembly, the fourth alteration, and part of it is a Bill to guarantee financial autonomy of the states judiciary and Houses of Assembly.
“Some of the problems we have been having in the past has to do with incessant strike by the Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN) over lack of financial autonomy for states judiciary.
“There should be no reason why states judiciary should be at the mercy of state governors when it comes to the issue of funds to run the third arm of government. This is because all arms of government is expected to be independent.
“So, I think the Federal Government meant well in setting up this committee and it’s a way of whipping all states into line regarding financial autonomy for the judiciary.
“What I think should happen after the committee had made its recommendation is for the issuance of a White Paper or an Executive Order because this is a constitutional issue.
“I don’t think the Federal Government has done anything wrong by setting up the committee despite the fact that the issue of financial autonomy for states judiciary is clearly spelt out in the Constitution. It is only a way of ensuring that that the law is obeyed across board and if any state governor now flouts the law, it means he does not mean well.
“I must commend the government for this effort at ensuring that the law regarding financial autonomy for states judiciary is obeyed to the letter. This will surely enhance good governance across the country”, he said.
A Lagos-based lawyer, Mr. Chris Ekemezie, believed that financially independent state judiciary will rekindle the courage of the courts to dispense justice.
He said: “In a federal system, though no perfect federal system exist anywhere in the world, it is desirable that all organs if government remains independent but coordinate. For a true federalism, judiciary must be independent of all other arms of government.
“The call for independence of State Judiciary is a welcome development. There is need for states judiciary to be financially independent.
“There is also need for appellate courts to exist in the states. It will not only decongest too many cases at the Federal Appeal Court but will also enhance dispensation of justice.
“A financially independent state judiciary will rekindle the courage of the courts to dispense justice.”
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.
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.
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.”
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.”
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
YOUNG LAWYERS’ FORUM: ‘Poor justice delivery system hampering law development’
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
Govs’ self-serving agenda fuelling crisis in legislative houses
Mazi Afam Osigwe is a former General Secretary of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA). In this interview with AKEEM NAFIU, he speaks on leadership crisis in Edo and Bauchi States’ Houses of Assembly, Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo’s verdict on media report of kidnap cases, anti-graft war of Buhari’s administration and sundry issues
What does the raging crisis in Edo and Bauchi States’ Houses of Assembly portends for the nation’s democracy?
Recently, I appeared on a national television for a discourse on the performance of the various Houses of Assembly across the country in the last dispensation.
It will interest you to know that two of the panelists in the discourse were former Speakers of Delta and Taraba States Houses of Assembly and the concurrent of views are that the various Houses of Assembly have performed abysmally low. This was linked to the penchant of governors to control these lawmakers to do their biddings.
This makes it difficult for them to carry out their constitutional duties of ensuring checks and balances on the Executive and other arms of government.
So, what is currently playing out in the Edo and Bauchi States Houses of Assembly could not be detached from the quest by the governors in these states to put their candidates in control of these Houses.
In the governors’ bid to achieve their goals, it is very possible that constitutional provision might have been subverted and this is evident in the allegation and counter-allegation that the Houses were not properly convened.
So, the problem we have relates to people subverting the constitutional provisions put in place to ensure orderliness in the operations of the legislature for self-serving purposes.
All these actions portend danger for the nation’s democracy. Those in authority, including the Federal Government, have always shamelessly take actions without reference to constitutional provisions. We seem to think that might is right without minding whose ox is gored. In any nation where might is right, the law will be the biggest victim and democracy will suffer.
Is there anything that can be done to correct these anomalies and bring sanity into the system, particularly as we are at the beginning of a new dispensation?
There are certain things that we must address. One of such is the quest by governors to control the legislators.
Secondly, the unbridled ambition of political parties to install House leadership should also be checked. Rather than allowing the lawmakers to decide who leads them, the parties are fond of adopting candidates for such position.
Until we have a change in our mindsets and attitude, these things will continue. The rights and powers constitutionally donated to the legislators to do certain things must be respected.
What is your take on a recent report released by Amnesty International, on upsurge in torture and other forms of crude method by law enforcement agencies?
All these problems could be traced to lack of accountability. We don’t hold people to account. Lives don’t matter in Nigeria. Deaths were never investigated. Many people have been killed in controversial circumstances and there was no enquiry as to the cause of these deaths.
It is also sad that those in authority usually pretend that they are oblivious of happenings in detention facilities where people were summarily being executed.
These atrocities will definitely continue until government decides to hold individuals who are saddled with some of these responsibilities responsible for their actions. Questions must be asked and anybody found to have done something wrong while in service must be prosecuted.
Besides, all these issues if not addressed will continue to have adverse effects on the administration of criminal justice system. So, we must be ready to address some of these issues to nip the menace in the bud.
Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, while addressing some Nigerians in the course of his official visit to the United States claimed that reported cases of kidnapping in Nigeria were being exaggerated. Do you share his view on the matter?
When I first heard that, I pray and hope that he was misquoted. This is because even the blind can see that kidnapping is on the rise in the nation. Even the deaf and dumb can hear about cases of kidnap, as well as killings resulting from kidnap.
So, it would amount to playing politics too far and not taken the lives and people’s welfare seriously for anyone to say that reports on kidnap cases in the country were exaggerated.
Why do you think kidnapping has been on the rise despite the existence of law prescribing death penalty for kidnappers in many states of the federation?
My straight answer to this question will be failure of law enforcement. You can have all the death penalties in your statute books but as far as the law is not enforced by those who are saddled with the responsibilities of preventing commission of offences and to prevent bring offenders to book fail to do their jobs, the legislation will remain dead letters law.
This is because it is when these people do their jobs that offenders will be apprehended and the court will then have the opportunity of imposing the appropriate punishment. So, to the extent that there is a weak or absence of law enforcement, then those legislations will only remain on paper and kidnappers will not be deterred from indulging in the crime.
Therefore, there is a need for strict law enforcement for the legislations to have any effect. Otherwise, even if all the states in Nigeria adopt death penalty for the offence of kidnapping, nothing will change. So, we must first enforce the laws before we begin to talk about what punishment should be meted out to offenders.
What is your advice for the Federal Government on how to tackle the upsurge in banditry and kidnapping across the country?
Security agencies have failed to put in place the necessary infrastructure and intelligence needed to nip the menace in the bud. We are not even getting the right statistics because I believe more people are being kidnapped around the country than was reported. We may never get the accurate number of people that lost their lives either in the course of being kidnapped or while being rescued by security operatives.
Until the society shows that it is a matter to be taken serious and not only to be concerned only when a high profile individual is kidnapped, we may never get it right.
We need to see the capacity of the police and the State Security Services (SSS) in tackling the menace. What numbers can people call when in distress that help will come their way? These are some of the things we need to do to tackle the problem which has fast becoming a criminal enterprise.
Police should device means of arresting those involved in kidnapping so that information retrieved from them will be used to arrest others associated with these criminals.
Besides, the police involvement in this crime should be preemptive. There should be an intelligence network that will give out information about those involved in kidnapping. It’s all about methodology and building up the capacity to prevent commission of a crime.
State police may also help in some aspect, particularly, as those in a community where a crime is committed are usually in the know as to who are the offenders.
What is your assessment of the anti-graft war of Buhari’s administration?
The generality of opinions is that it is selective. I will like to see a corruption-free Nigeria. I will like to see a society where public confidence is not filtered away and where all organs of government live above board.
But, I will also want to see that the process leading to all these is fair enough without looking at people’s faces and charges are not dropped because of the stand of certain people.
To what extent will the separation of the office of the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice help the enforcement of the rule of law?
I always say that if the office is split into two, but the individual holding the office of the Attorney General valued the position more than what the law says and put himself as the errand boy of the president, nothing will change.
An Attorney General who sees himself as an adviser to the president rather than someone who holds public office in people’s trust will find it difficult to uphold the sanctity of the rule of law.
For instance, we can see the last Attorney General, Abubakar Malami, also acting as an adviser to the All Progressive Congress (APC). Even meddling in an affair his office precludes him from dabbling into.
It is expected that when an Attorney General gives an opinion, it should be an expression of what the law says, without any political motive.
Court unveils Civil Procedure Rules 2019, commission ADR centre
As part of the move to fast track the administration of justice in the country, the Federal High Court at the weekend unveiled the Court’s Civil Procedure Rules 2019 just as it commissioned its newly established Alternative Dispute Resolution Centre (ADR).
The events which took place at the court’s headquarters in Abuja had in attendance, the Solicitor-General of the Federation and Permanent Secretary of the Federal Ministry of Justice, Dayo Apata, Chief Joe Gadzama SAN, among others.
Speaking at the unveiling, the Chief Judge of the court, Justice Abdul Kafarati noted that the current civil procedure in force in the court was put since 2009.
He said: “As we all know that law and procedure change rapidly as we adapt to continuous changes in modern societies. It is our responsibility as a court to ensure that we are not left behind and we adapt as much as possible to these modern trends.
“The only way we can achieve this is by regular review of our laws and procedures to ensure we are able to deliver justice to not only the common man but everybody that approaches the court seeking justice.
“My predecessors in office did their very best to uplift the court by introducing so many reforms and engaging in various human and infrastructural development. When I became the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, I made up my mind that I will do all I can to leave a lasting legacy on the history of this great court.
“I realized that there was limited time so I had to quickly identify an area which I believe will have a lasting impact on the administration of Justice in the Federal High Court as it introduced a number of innovations intended to enhance speedy and efficient administration of justice.”
Justice Kafarati however revealed that the new Civil Procedure Rules 2019 had been gazetted and introduced a lot of innovations to enhance speedy dispensation of Justice.
Speaking on the new ADR center, Justice Kafarati stated the center would determine cases with Arbitration clause.
He said: “You are aware that I rose to the position and eventually appointed to head the Federal High Court of Nigeria as the Chief Judge, a position to the grace of almighty Allah deserved by all interpretation.
“It is also public knowledge that I will be retiring as the Chief Judge of the Court in no distant time. However, on assuming the post of the Chief Judge, I made up my mind on the things I would love to do and achieve despite the shortness of the time and tenure.
“I had resolved to do my best to improve on the works and achievements of my predecessors in office so that my administration will as well be counted when the history of achievement of the heads of this Court will be chronicled.
“In that regard, I embarked on the constitution of various committees to review the AMCON rules, the Federal High Court Civil Procedure Rules and a brand new Alternative Dispute Resolution for our baby project, the commissioning today of which you are all witnesses.
“I have in the life of this administration, also taken every strong steps to strengthen our criminal justice system by issuing statutory instruments which facilitated the prosecution and decongestion of the over bloated Kainji detention camps thereby convicting those who had hands in various security breaches in the North East and releasing so many who were wrongly detained in the camp.
“I am by His Grace adding another feather to our vista achievements by the commissioning of this complex for the Federal High Court Alternative Dispute Resolution Practice.
“This centre will no doubt help to determine such cases with Arbitration clauses in their agreement which were explored before parties rushed to court . It will in this regard reduce the busy dockets of the courts with a positive impact on the overall administration of Justice particularly the Federal High Court.
“I urge practitioners and parties to key into this lofty means of dispute resolution devoid of technicalities of law. I also appeal to practitioners not to turn this centre to a regular court because by so doing the aim of creating this centre would be defeated.
“It is my prayer and desire that all parties who approached this centre would receive the justice they deserved “.
In his own speech, the Solicitor-General of the Federation, Dayo Apata, commended the Federal High Court for coming up with the new rules , which he believed will aid law practice and criminal justice.
He noted that the ADR centre would go a long way to decongest the court, adding that there were too many cases before the court already.
Apata, who was just elevated to the rank of SAN by the Legal Practitioners Privileges Committee, stated that the Ministry of Justice had the highest number of cases before the court, but the ministry will henceforth be guided by the new rules.
An ADR expert, J.K Gadzama SAN in his own speech commended the initiative by the Chief Judge in making the centre a reality, adding that it would ease the administration of justice in the country.
He, however, promised that lawyers would support the centre and make it work to fulfil its purpose.
Other judges of the court present on the occasion were Justice John Tsoho, Justice Binta Nyako, Justice Okon Abang and Justice Taiwo Taiwo.
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.
EFCC arraigns Covenant Varsity lecturer for N141.6m fraud
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has arraigned a Senior Information Technology (IT) lecturer at Covenant University, Otta, Ogun State, Owolo Onorouiohene Dan before Justice Saliu Saidu of a Federal High Court in Lagos for N141.6million fraud.
The lecturer was docked on a three-count charge bordering on the alleged offence. He, however, pleaded not guilty to the charge.
Following the defendant’s denial of the alleged offence, EFCC’s lawyer, Rotimi Oyedepo, sought a trial date and pleaded with the court to remand Owolo in prison.
Responding, Owolo’s lawyer, E. O. Binutu, who did not oppose EFCC’s lawyer for a trial date, however pleaded for a short date for the hearing of his client’s bail application.
Following the lawyer’s plea, Justice Saidu adjourned the matter to July 3 for the hearing of the defendant’s bail application. The judge also ordered that the defendant should be remanded in prison pending the hearing of his bail application.
The anti-graft agency in a charge marked FHC/L/202c/19, alleged that the defendant committed the alleged offence between December 2017 and March 2019.
The defendant was said to have between 10th July, 2018 and 18th February, 2019, retained the aggregate sum of N122.7 million in his Zenith bank account number 2213999627, the sum which he reasonably knew to be proceeds of unlawful act.
He was also alleged to have between 13th December, 2017 and 25th March, 2019 retained the sum of N14.7million and N4.1million in his GTB and Ecobank accounts with numbers; 0223905152 and 2261053189 belonging to him and Adebayo Abimbola Oladayo.
The offence was said to be contrary to Section 15 (2) (a) of the Money Laundering Prohibition Act, 2011 as Amended and punishable under Section 15 (3) of the same Act.
Count one of the charge against the defendant reads: “That you, Owolo Onorouiohene Dan, between 10th day of July, 2018 and 18th day of February, 2019 in Lagos within the jurisdiction of this Honourable retained the aggregate sum of N122,748,000.00 (One Hundred and Twenty Two Million, Seven Hundred and Forty Eight Thousand Naira) in your Zenith Bank account No. 2213999627 which sum you reasonably ought to have known forms part of proceeds of your unlawful act to wit: stealing and you thereby committed an offence contrary to section 15 (2) (a) of the Money Laundering Prohibition Act, 2011 as amended and punishable under section 15 (3) of the same Act”.
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