- Lawyers: CJN must provide right leadership for judiciary
awyers were unanimous at the weekend that the newly sworn in Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad, must swiftly commence a process of restoring citizens’ confidence in judiciary barely six days after he took the oath of office as the 17th CJN.
Justice Muhammad was sworn in last week Wednesday by President Muhammadu Buhari following his confirmation by the Senate.
He succeeded Justice Walter Samuel Onnoghen who was unceremoniously removed by the president over allegations of non-disclosure of assets.
Prior to his confirmation as the nation’s substantive CJN, Justice Muhammad has been functioning in Acting capacity since 25th January, 2019.
President Buhari nominated Justice Muhammad as CJN through a letter dated 11th July, 2019, following a recommendation by the National Judicial Council (NJC).
The letter, titled, ‘Appointment of Chief Justice of Nigeria,’ reads: “In accordance with Section 231 (1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended), which gives the President the power to appoint a Chief Justice of Nigeria on the recommendation of the National Judicial Council and subject to the confirmation of the appointment by the Senate, I have the honour to forward the nomination of Honorable Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad for confirmation as Chief Justice of Nigeria.
“It is my hope that this request will receive the usual expeditious consideration of the distinguished Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”
The nomination of Justice Muhammad was subsequently confirmed by the Red Chamber on 17th July, 2019.
Hon. Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad, CFR, was born on 31st December 1953. An indigene of Doguwa in Giade Local Government Area of Bauchi State, Justice Muhammad attended Giade Primary School for his primary education between 1961 and 1968. He then proceeded to Government Secondary School, Azare for his secondary education from 1969 to 1973.
His Lordship was also at Abdullahi Bayero University College, Kano for his IJMB from 1975 to 1976. After successfully completing his course, Justice Muhammad got admission to read Law at Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria from 1976 to 1980. He also attended the Nigerian Law School from 1980 to 1981.
In furtherance of his educational career, Justice Muhammad went back to the prestigious Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) Zaria, for his Masters’ Degree in Law (LLM) on a part-time basis, from 1982 to 1984. In order to update himself in the field of Law, His Lordship went back to ABU, Zaria from1987 to 1998 and obtained his Doctorate Degree (PhD) in Law, also on a part-time basis.
Hon. Justice I. T. Muhammad, CFR was appointed as Magistrate Grade II from 1982 to 1984 with Bauchi State Judiciary and was Senior Magistrate Grade II from 1984 to 1986. His Lordship was appointed as the Provost, College of Legal and Islamic Studies, Bauchi from 1986 to 1989.
He was appointed Chief Magistrate/Deputy Chief Registrar, High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja from 1990 to 1991. From 1991 to 1993, he was appointed as Khadi (Judge) of the Sharia Court of Appeal in Bauchi State.
Justice Muhammad was elevated to the position of Justice of the Court of Appeal in 1993 and he was there until 2006 when he was appointed Justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria. He was sworn-in as a Justice of the apex court on the 8th of January 2007.
The newly sworn-in Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) has in the meantime promised to tackle corruption in the judici8ary headlong. He said the judiciary under his watch would be more transparent and corruption-free.
Speaking with State House correspondents after his swearing-in by President Muhammadu Buhari, the CJN expressed his concerns about corruption within the judiciary system saying his administration will focus on fighting the menace.
A way of achieving this, according to the CJN is by dealing with those who try to pervert judgement by negotiating bribe for persons standing trials.
He described as unfortunate the situation where judges allowed some people to serve as links between them and people standing trial in court, saying such scenario must stop.
The CJN consequently challenged journalists to rise to the occasion by alerting him or expose suspected cases of corrupt practices in the judiciary.
He, however, warned that allegations of corruption against any judicial officer must be substantiated to guide against tarnishing the good image of the affected individual and the system.
He said: “Anybody who is not satisfied with the job and he wants money, the judiciary or judicial line is not a place for money-making.
“Some people were posing as go-between, which is between a judge and perhaps somebody who is standing trial.
“These go-betweens, go around asking people for money here and there to settle judges and facilitate judgments.
“I’m sure any judge or any justice who is in his real sense can never ask somebody to go and collect money for him because he knows that he is being paid by the government for what he does.
“I’m telling you that the judiciary under my watch by God’s grace would be better in tackling all these kinds of corruption.
“You people or any other person who know about corruption allegations, please let him write to me or let him have contact with me and tell me.
“But remember, the thing that is difficult is when we ask you to substantiate, you will be able to substantiate. Don’t just make hollow allegations. Be sure that you are quite in possession of facts you will be able to establish when we ask you to establish your allegation, and we will deal with it.
“I want to see Nigerian judiciary, if according to my wish, as the best judiciary in the world. But you see, we are still learning. But I’m proud to say that Nigerian judiciary I’m sure is one of the best in Africa.
“Now if you take a look at judicial officers, all of us are fully trained and all of us are almost, at interval, going on courses so that we remind ourselves of the ethics that are binding on us.
“Therefore we pray that with the cooperation of citizens of this country, Nigerian judiciary will be a very big judiciary and we hope it will be successful during our tenure.”
Lawyers agenda for CJN
Some members of the wig and gown have been talking about their expectations of Justice Tanko Muhammad as he steers the wheel of the judiciary.
The lawyers, both of inner and outer Bar, while baring their minds on the issue at the weekend emphasized the need for Justice Muhammad to provide the right leadership for the judiciary.
They thumbed up the CJN for his resolve to tackle corruption in the judiciary and also asked him to lead by example saying this is the only way the third arm of government can regain its lost glory.
Speaking on the issue, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Chief Mike Ahamba, called on Justice Muhammad to make ‘justice for all’ his watchword.
He said: my agenda for the new Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) Justice Tanko Muhammad, is to ensure justice for all, at all times and at all cost”.
Ahamba was corroborated another member of the inner Bar, Mr. Seyi Sowemimo, who also asked the CJN to always pursue the cause of justice.
“The only agenda he needs to pursue is to provide the right leadership to the judiciary so that the Supreme Court can deliver sound judgements and always pursue the cause of justice”, the silk said.
Mr. Yemi Candide-Johnson (SAN) also want the new CJN to ensure the enthronement of the era where legal disputes are decided on their merits.
He said: “The job of the judicature is to decide disputes on their merits. The public will have confidence in a just, rational and progressive rule of law.
“If this Chief Justice wishes to live down the ridicule of his notorious confirmation hearing, then he might wish to consider three small things which can be solved with some energy and a bit of imagination.
“First, the dramatic eradication of cases idling away in the docket of Appellate Courts.
“Second, administrative efficiency of Federal Courts as well as root and branch reform of their clumsy and incompetent registries and lastly, the basic training of superior judges on judicial philosophy and their orientation towards societal order and progress”.
In his own comments, a law teacher, Mr. Wahab Shittu, want the CJN to change the narration about frequent disobedience to court orders by other arms of government.
“The CJN should always lead by example and demand such impressive examples from other judges. Secondly, the CJN should institutionalize a policy of zero tolerance for corruption across board.Thirdly, he should banish impunity from our collective consciousness.
“He should demand and insist upon obedience to court orders. Fourthly, he should put in place measures to avoid delays in our justice delivery system. Fifthly, the CJN should restore public confidence in the judiciary by emphasizing competence, integrity, character and capacity in judicial appointments and justice delivery services.
“The CJN as the Chairman of the National Judicial Council (NJC) must overhaul the operations of NJC by enforcing consequences for judicial infractions. The CJN must deliver quality and sufficient infrastructure to the judiciary. Of particular significance is enhancing the quality of the judiciary through the deployment of information communication Technology.
“In summary the CJN must strengthen constitutionalism, respect for the rule of law, due process, accountability and transparency and enhance our democratic institutions. The CJN as the symbol of justice in our country must deliver as a jurist and ensure that judges deliver too as jurists.The goal at all times should be the attainment of justice as the hallmark of his tenure”, he said
National President of the Campaign For the Defence of Human Rights (CDHR), Mr. Malachy Ugwummadu, wants the CJN to introduce greater transparency and inclusiveness in the recruitment processes of Judges and Justices to attain greater competence, integrity, legal knowledge and established sense of justice.
“For the newly confirmed CJN, I humbly make the following recommendations as agenda: The weak and vulnerable in the society should have greater access to justice in terms of general cost of litigation and restraining principles of law and technicalities including locus standi. “Institutional reforms to create capacity and empower state bodies like National Human Commission, Legal Aid Council, etc to play greater roles in granting access to the public to justice.
“See through the campaign for greater independence of the Judiciary and confront known and perceived corruption in the judiciary.
“Institutionalise regular and continuing legal education and training for judges and judicial officers on new areas of the law while also strengthening disciplinary institutions and procedures to serve as deterrent”, he said.
A Lagos-based lawyer, Mr. Destiny Takon, should stamp his authority as the Head of the third arm of government without minding whose ox is gored.
He said: “Justice Tanko should open his eyes to the constitutional reality that even though nominated by the President, he is the Head of the judiciary and of one of the three separate arms of government. He should not denigrate the sanctity of the the judiciary.
“He should always remember that he personifies the citadel of justice in Nigeria, which itself, represents the last bastion of hope for the common man. The courts are ideally, the surest safeguard against lawlessness and unconstitutionalism and it is his province to uphold that expectation for all Nigerians.
“I say this especially because of the outrageous outcome of the the Osun Governorship election judgement that came out of the Supreme Court under his watch.
“Justice Tanko must remember that he is the Chief Justice of Nigeria and not of the party in government or of the President who nominated him. Justice Tanko must ensure that the courts do justice, even if the heavens fall”.
The Coordinator of Christian Lawyers Fellowship of Nigeria (CLASFON), Lagos sub-region, Prince Okey-Joe Onuakalusi, want Justice Muhammad to encourage judges to deliver judgement without fear or favour.
“Judgements in our courts must not only seem to have dispensed justice but also must be seen to deliver justice to litigants. Judgements must be based on merit and not technicalities.
“The National Judicial Council (NJC) under his watch must rise to the occasion to promote excellence and punish incompetence.
“He must also encourage and elevate quality and competent, scholarly members of the Bar in the appointment of judges in our courts and eschew tribalism. Training of judicial staff for the 21st century work environment must also be prioritized”, the lawyer said.
To Mr. Ige Asemudara, the new Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) should put machinery in motion to restore the lost public confidence in the judiciary.
He said: “The CJN should focus on building public confidence in the judiciary. He should ensure that the public perception of the judiciary is improved to its best.
“It is important that the independence of the judiciary is not only a concept but a practical term seen to be in action, manifesting in judicial acts and decisions. The courts must not only be courts of law but courts of justice.”
Pushing for abolition of states’ pension laws
‘Life pension for governors, others unconstitutional’
Lawyers have called on lawmakers of other states across the country to emulate Zamfara State legislators by nullifying Pension Law for ex-governors, deputies and others. AKEEM NAFIU writes
ome senior lawyers have lauded the Zamfara State House of Assembly for the quick passage of a Bill which abolished pension and other allowances for ex-governors and their deputies as well as former lawmakers in the state.
The lawmakers had set machinery in motion for the Bill to shoot down pension payment a few days after a former governor of the state, Abdul’aziz Yari, wrote the state government, demanding his N10 million ‘monthly upkeep,’ which he claimed had not been paid for some months.
In his submissions, sponsor of the Bill, Hon. Faruk Dosara (House Leader, PDP Maradun) urged his colleagues to consider the ‘complete repeal’ of the law “which provides bogus payment to former political leaders of the state at the detriment of the retired civil servants who have not been paid their entitlements over the years.”
The lawmaker was worried that the state coughed out over N700 million yearly to cater for past leaders of the state, describing it as taking negative toll on the state’s finances.
Dosara was seconded by Hon. Tukur Birnin-Tudu (PDP, Bakura), who also threw his weight behind nullification of pension and allowances for ex-governors and their deputies.
After deliberations, the Bill passed both first and second readings after a process pushed by House Speaker, Hon. Nasiru Magarya.
The House subsequently went for a committee after which the Bill passed through third reading following which it was sent to Governor Bello Matawalle for assent.
In a statement, Spokesperson of the Assembly, Hon. Mustapha Jafaru, revealed that ex-speakers of the House of assembly and their deputies were also affected by the new law.
“With this development, all past political leaders in Zamfara will no longer enjoy any entitlement unless those prescribed by the National Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC),” Jafaru said.
Zamfara State Governor, Dr. Bello Matawalle, assented to the Bill a day after it was passed by the lawmakers at Government House, Gusau.
On the occasion, the governor regretted that social and economic realities in the state were not taken into consideration before the abolished law was put in place.
He said: “It is estimated that it will cost the state N702 million every year to settle the upkeep allowances for the beneficiaries of the repealed law alone.
“What moral justification could be offered for such a jumbo package for a few when the social index has consistently indicated that majority of our population lives in absolute poverty.”
The governor while promising to be more dedicated to issues of development of the state and the wellbeing of its people, also assured that his administration will not reneged in settling all the benefits of political office holders as provided by the Revenue Mobilization, Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC).
It would be recalled that the Pension law in Zamfara which was signed in 2006, gives former governors pension for life, two personal staff, two vehicles replaceable every four years, two drivers, free medical for the former governors and deputies and their immediate families in Nigeria or abroad. The law also gives the former governors a four-bedroom house in Zamfara and an office, free telephone and 30 days paid vacation outside Nigeria.
Lagos Pension Law
The Lagos Pension Law known as Public Office Holder (Payment of Pension) Law approved by former Governor Bola Tinubu in 2007, provides for the following benefit for life:
*Two houses, one in Lagos and another in Abuja. Six brand new cars replaceable every three years; furniture allowance of 300 per cent of annual salary to be paid every two years, and close to N2.5 million as pension (about N30 million pension annually). He will also enjoy security detail, free medicals including for his immediate families.
Other benefits include 10 per cent house maintenance, 30 percent car maintenance, 10 percent entertainment, 20 percent utility, and several domestic staff.
In Rivers, the law provides 100 per cent of annual basic salaries for ex-governors and deputies, one residential house for former governor “anywhere of his choice in Nigeria while one residential house anywhere in Rivers for former deputy, three cars for the ex-governor every four years; two cars for the deputy every four years. His furniture is 300 per cent of annual basic salary every four years en bloc. House maintenance is 10 percent of annual basic salary.
In Akwa Ibom, the law provides for N200 million annual pay to ex-governors and deputies. He enjoys a pension for life at a rate equivalent to the salary of the incumbent governor and deputy governor respectively.
A new official car and a utility vehicle every four years; one personal aide and provision of adequate security; a cook, chauffeurs and security guards for the governor at a sum not exceeding N5 million per month and N2.5 million for the deputy governor. There is also a free medical services for governor and spouse at an amount not exceeding N100 million for the governor per annum and N50 million for the deputy governor.
Also, there is a five-bedroom mansion in Abuja and Akwa Ibom and allowance of 300 per cent of annual basic salary for the deputy governor. He takes a furniture allowance of 300 percent of annual basic salary every four years in addition to severance gratuity.
The Kano State Pension Rights of Governor and Deputy Governor Law signed into law in 2007 provides for 100 percent of annual basic salaries for former governor and deputy. Furnished and equipped office, as well as a six-bedroom house; “well-furnished” four-bedroom for deputy, plus an office.
The former governor is also entitled to free medical treatment along with his immediate families within and outside Nigeria, where necessary. It is same for deputy.
Two drivers are also for former governor and a driver for his deputy; and personal staff below the rank of a Principal Administrative Officer and a PA not below grade level 10. There is also a provision for a 30- day vacation within and outside Nigeria.
In Kwara, the pension law signed in 2010 gives a former governor two cars and a security car, replaceable every three years, a “well-furnished 5-bedroom duplex,” furniture allowance of 300 per cent of his salary; five personal staff, three SSS, free medical care for the governor and the deputy, 30 percent of salary for car maintenance, 20 percent for utility, 10 per cent for entertainment and 10 percent for house maintenance.
In Sokoto, former governors and deputy governors are to receive N200 million and N180 million respectively, being monetisation for other entitlements which include domestic aides, residence and vehicles that could be renewed after every four years.
Section 2 (2) of the Sokoto State Grant of Pension (governor and deputy governor) Law, 2013 states that “the total annual pension to be paid to the governor and deputy governor, shall be at a rate equivalent to the annual total salary of the incumbent governor or deputy governor of the state respectively.”
In Gombe, the Executive Pension Law and other Matters Connected therewith, 2008, stipulates that a former governor would be provided with a Personal Assistant not less than GL 10, two vehicles, to be replaced every four years, two drivers, free medical treatment for the former governor and his immediate family within Nigeria or abroad. 30 days annual vacation outside Nigeria with 30 days estacode with travel expense allowance for himself and wife, a furnished befitting accommodation in any part of the state as well as one direct telephone line internet facilities. The former governor also pockets N200 million as severance allowance while deputy governors go with N100 million.
In Osun State, the law guiding the payment of pensions to former governors and their deputies is cited as the Pension (Governor and Deputy Governor) Law 2001. The law stipulates that former governors and former deputy governors are entitled to pension at the rate equivalent to the incumbent office holder.
Provision of Pension Rights of the Executive Governor and Deputy of Delta State, 2005 is the law guiding the provision of pension for former governors and deputy governors of Delta State.
The former governors and their deputies are entitled to one duplex in any city of their choice within Nigeria, One jeep and a backup car replaceable every two years, an office with four staff, two security personnel and a monthly salary among others.
The Oyo State Pension Law 2004 provides that a former Governor and his Deputy are to collect pension as long as they live. The law stipulates that the pension for life will be paid at a rate equivalent to the annual salary of the incumbent Governor or Deputy Governor of the state.
The breakdown of the pension and allowances includes; furniture Allowance which is put at 300 per cent of the annual basic salary, leave allowance is 10 per cent of annual basic salary while severance allowance will be 300 per cent of the annual basic salary.
It is also worthy of note that the pension benefits for these former state chief executives are in addition to what was provided for them in the Certain Political Office Holders and Judicial Officers Remuneration Act, backed by the Revenue Mobilization, Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) which prescribes 300 percent severance for governors.
Aside the 300 percent severance package, the Act also makes the following provisions for the state executives:
*Brand new cars renewable every three to four years.
*Accommodation at the State capital and sometimes in Abuja;
*30-day-paid holiday outside the country and free medical treatment for the former governors and their immediate family members.
Some senior lawyers have in the meantime thumbed-up Governor Matawalle and lawmakers in Zamfara for being on the side of the masses in abolishing the Pension law operating in the state.
The lawyers while speaking on the issue with New Telegraph Law at the weekend, however, expressed their displeasure that several other states in the country are still operating the ‘illegal’ pension law.
Speaking on the issue, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Chief Mike Ahamba, said other states should follow Zamfara’s example by promptly annul the ‘illegal and unconstitutional’ Pension law.
He said: “It shows that Zamfara State has learnt that the pension law is an illegality. What happened in Zamfara should also happen all over the country. There should be no pension for governors and their deputies for serving just for four years or at most eight years.
“They are not public servants and no law authorizes pension for them. Pension is under the Exclusive legislative list. How can a law made in a state grants pension to somebody? It is not possible.
“Even if you go to the Pensions Act as presently enacted, it made no mention of pension for former governors or legislators. So, it’s just a pack of illegalities happening all this while and nobody is talking about them.
“If you check the definition of public officer, it does not include political office holders like president, vice-president, governors, their deputies and members of the House of Assembly.
“Pensions are for public officers. So, what these political office holders are doing by allocating pensions to themselves is against the Constitution. Neither the National Assembly nor the State Houses of Assembly is empowered by the Constitution to give extra powers to themselves.
“Nigerians should rise up to resist these illegal moves. Taxpayers’ money should be spent judiciously and not to pay pension certain individuals who have only worked for between four to eight years.
“I appreciate the Zamfara State governor and the legislators for facing the truth in this country. I know that all other state governments will see the reasonableness of what they have done and follow suit.”
Another member of the inner Bar, Chief Ifedayo Adedipe, while also expressing his happiness over what happened in Zamfara, attributed the existence of pension law in states to politicians’ greed.
“What happened in Zamfara State is a welcome development. It is quite unfortunate that Nigeria is blessed with infectiously corrupt political elite; people who have nothing to live on other than the common patrimony of other Nigerians. I have never seen anything more provocative.
“The crisis we are experiencing in the nation today is directly attributable to the greed of these political elites. Somebody will have 10, 15 cars as well as several houses because he served for only 4 or 8 years as governor and then he suddenly becomes a billionaire at the expense of the public. It is not right and I don’t support it.
“The greed of political elites has given birth to kidnapping, banditry and other vices in the country. The way we are going in this country, we will bring the edifice down unless care is taken and we all condemn these illegal acts,” Adedipe said.
To Mr. Seyi Sowemimo (SAN), other states should immediately emulate Zamfara by repealing pension law for political office holders.
He said: “It’s a good development. For how long are those collecting the money in office that they are collecting such a humongous amount? I think they have really taken advantage of this country since 1999. It’s so ridiculous and I don’t know how we came to tolerate all these things.
“I hope those lawmakers in Zamfara were acting in public interests? At this point in time, many states lacked financial ability to incur all these useless expenses. I hope other states will follow suit as soon as possible.
“We have been having legislators in this country since 1960 and they have not been voting such useless allowances for themselves and those in the Executive arm.
“Besides, I think we must also weigh the justice because some people have collected this largesse in the past. I think justice demands that at some point these people must be made to return what they collected.”
A former Vice-President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Mr. Monday Ubani, believed there can be no justification for the payment of humongous pensions and allowances for former state executives across the country.
“I am one of those who believed that if people have served, they should be taken care of. But, it must be within reasonable parameter. Anything that is unreasonable or outrageous must be condemned.
“You can imagine what was happening in Zamfara prior to the abolition of the Pension Law where a former governor was collecting N10 million monthly. That is clearly illegal and outrageous. I am very happy that the state lawmakers have abolished that law.
“So, if there is any other state where such outrageous policy is in place, it should be completely annulled.
“Political office holders are not part of those recognized by the Constitution, who are entitled to pension and that was why they are enacting laws to back up their illegality.
“Those who are entitled to pension under the law are civil servants who have worked for state and federal governments or in private sector.
“The executive is manipulating the legislature at various states to pass these obnoxious pension laws. You can see that the State Houses of Assembly too are now imitating what the executives are pushing them to do.
“I think it is only the Nigerian populace that could stop this kind of illegality and stealing of tax payers’ money. All these things are showing that this country is clearly sick. It is only a sick country that can allow this kind of thing to be happening unabated.
“People should speak and rise up through protests to shut down this high display of impunity by political office holders”, he said.
A former President of the Campaign For the Defence of Human Rights (CDHR), Mr. Malachy Ugwummadu, regretted that meagre resources states ought to use in paying civil servants are now being used to pay pensions to political office holders.
He said: “It underscores the point that they may have succumbed to an intensive and sustained campaigns compelling them to become sensitive to the overriding needs and feelings of the people of Zamfara State.
“Sustaining such disproportionate and incongruous retirement payment regimes for long serving civil servants and political office holders who, at most, served their states for a maximum period of eight years, unwittingly widens the economic gap between the ruling class and the governed.
“In the event, the same move is recommended for other states where meager resources designed to take care of pensioners are now diverted to service people who have looted the treasury of their respective states and also drawing jumbo salaries from their “retirement home” which is the Senate”.
YOUNG LAWYERS’ FORUM: ‘Pupilage exposed me to rudiments of law practice’
Boluwatife Sanya, a native of Oru Ijebu, Ijebu North Local Government, Ogun State is an alumnus of Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago Iwoye. He was called to Bar in 2017. He shares his foray into the law profession with JOHN CHIKEZIE
My name is Boluwatife Sanya, a Barrister and Solicitor of the Supreme Court of Nigeria. I am a native of Oru Ijebu, Ijebu North Local Government, Ogun State.
I attended Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago Iwoye, Ogun state where I obtained a Bachelor in Law and letters (LL.B) in 2016.
I attended the Nigerian Law school, Kano Campus and was called to the Bar on the 13th of December, 2017.
In 2018, I attended a Copyright Course organised by Harvard Law School in partnership with the Nigerian Institute of Advance Legal Studies.
I was in Junior Secondary School 2 when I started paying attention to the happenings in Nigeria. I would usually write my thoughts down randomly in a book I dedicated for such.
I realised nothing was really working in Nigeria. Then I decided to dedicate my life in helping transform Nigeria.
For instance, the system of government we run in Nigeria is not too good. The head of the executive arm of government is too powerful to the extent that he dictates what happens in the other arms of government. For example, a Judge in the State’s High Court sees the governor as an Alpha and Omega. Even the Chief Judges of States bow to their Mr. Governor.
Recently, I’ve realised that the executive arm of government picks which court order to obey and which not to. The reason is not far-fetched because financially, the judiciary is subject to the executive arm.
Whereas, the three arms of government should be subject to each other but in Nigeria, the executive arm is the watchdog for the two other arms and any attempt by the legislature and the Judiciary to carry out their duty by checking the excesses of the executive, they get ridiculed.
Secondly, having read about the oil sector, I have understood that the country spends a large sum of money from oil proceeds to service our yearly budgets.
Nigeria is blessed with so many natural resources, like crude oil, which some independent marketers export to other countries to refine and import at an exorbitant price.
And the Federal Government would then pay a certain sum of money, as subsidy, to these marketers as an incentive for them not to sell the oil to Nigeria at the rate which they imported.
When I discovered this, I often wondered why we cannot divert the money meant for oil subsidy to build good refineries.
I took my time to access all professions alongside these problems, and realized that becoming a lawyer would be very valuable in achieving my dreams more than other profession.
Therefore, I studied law to use my knowledge of the law to change Nigeria positively.
I would describe it as a period of learning. My pupilage has exposed me to different areas of practice. I have learnt and handled matters bothering on Land, Dissolution of marriage, Pre-election, Election Petitions, Chieftaincy, criminal and few others.
Although, the money might not be encouraging, I am assured that there is light at the end of the tunnel.
The places I have worked are Emmanuel Abiodun & Co. and Idowu Adepeju & Co.
Election matters, Intellectual property particularly Copyright and Construction Law.
Election petition is sui generis and within a short period of time, one starts to compete with the whole proceedings from the tribunal to the final appellate court. I find this a lot more interesting because I don’t like foot dragging my matters in court.
Election Petition Tribunal in Nigeria is quite of standard.
The only aspect I will address is the issue of use of card readers to prove over voting.
There are plethora of Supreme Court judgements that say one of the elements to prove over-voting is by tendering voters’ register and not card reader report.
In fact, the Electoral Act recognises voters’ register and not card reader machine. I am of the opinion that if all the card reader machines are working well and there are extra machines in every polling unit, card reader machines can be used to determine whether there is over-voting or not.
The Electoral Act should be amended to reflect the use of Card Reader Machines. This is, however, subject to having standard machines not the epileptic ones used during the 2019 General Elections.
Meanwhile, as regards to electoral offenders, we cannot easily curb electoral violence or offenders from carrying out their activities.
I think we can mitigate their activities in two ways. First is by voting electronically and Secondly by prosecuting them immediately they are arrested.
Corruption and the justice system
Corruption is in all sectors in Nigeria. I cannot shy away from the truth that some Judges are corrupt but I am of the opinion that once any of them is caught, such an individual should be dealt with appropriately.
It might surprise some persons to know that the some Judiciary staff, like the registrars, are mostly the middlemen between the Lawyers and Judges.
Sometimes, the registrars even do it on their own by dealing directly with litigants. I am of the opinion that whosoever is caught in the act should be immediately dismissed from service.
Death penalty for rapists and hate speeches
I have never been in support of death as a penalty for any offence whatsoever.
The prison sentence for a rapist is fine with me, but the issue is that the Nigeria Prison is not a correctional place. Rather it makes worse of the convicts, who come out with hardened hearts to commit more crimes.
The recent hate speech bill by law makers is only an attempt to take away the right of freedom of expression. While I do not subscribe to one publishing a false story, there at other means to go about it other than enacting such an Act. I believe that if a false story affects the character of a person, a deformation suit should be filed in lieu.
In the legal profession, to become one of the renowned Senior Advocates of Nigeria
On the other hand, if God permits, to be a uniting voice, in order to lead Nigerians out of bad governance.
Ahamba: Special Court’ll compound judiciary’s woes
Chief Mike Ahamba, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), in this interview with AKEEM NAFIU, speaks on special court for corruption cases, AGF’s power to manage assets recovered by anti-graft agencies, Hate Speech Bill, life jail for kidnappers and sundry issues
Do you share the view that the new rule issued by the Ministry of Justice, empowering Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami (SAN), to manage all assets recovered by anti-graft agencies will promote corruption?
Who will do it and there will not be thinking about corruption? There’s nobody who will take charge that will not be suspected of engaging in corruption. Now, if you look at the Constitution, the president has the power to assign any responsibility given to him as the Chief Executive of this country to any of his ministers. So, if this is an assignment from the president, I think it is constitutional. We can only hope and pray that the Attorney-General will do the right thing with the recovered assets.
However, if it is the Ministry of Justice that came up with the rule, it has no such powers. But, the implementation of such rule must be with the authority of the president.
If the president has asked the Attorney-General of the Federation to take charge, we should allow him to carry out the assignment before criticizing him.
Do you support establishment of Special Courts for speedy dispensation of justice as being canvassed by President Muhammadu Buhari?
I have always been against the creation of Special Court to enhance speedy dispensation of justice. I spoke against it at the National Conference and even in my book which will soon be published.
One problem that we have in this country is that we usually fail to examine why a negative issue is persisting before making attempt to address it.
How will the creation of Special Courts solve the problem of slow pace of justice delivery? By creating more courts, we cannot solve the problem. I think we should focus on the procedure of adjudication in the country as a way out of the problem rather than creating Special Courts.
We should look among other things at what rules are to be amended to enhance quick dispensation of justice. Necessary equipment should also be supplied to existing judges to work with. Why won’t cases be delayed when judges are still writing in long hands? Why are there no recorders for proceedings? These are some of the issues to be addressed. Let’s find the cause of a problem before we look for solution.
For instance, has the changing of the name of National Electricity Power Authority (NEPA) to Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) help us in solving the electricity problem in this country? How much positive impact has the changing of Nigerian Prison Service (NPS) to Nigerian Correctional Service (NCS) brought on inmates?
As far as I am concerned, it is the human management of a place that matters and not the change of name or something else. The important thing is for those in charge to know their responsibilities and carry them out.
Besides, the absence of sanctions in appropriate areas is the bane of our society. People must be appropriately sanctioned for failing to carry out responsibilities assigned to them under the law.
What I am saying in essence is that creating more courts in the name of Special Courts will only add to the existing problems. People who are directly involved in adjudication should be involved in charting a course for the way out of the problem of justice delay.
The sponsor of the Hate Speech Bill, Senator Aliyu Abdullahi, said he had to come up with the Bill because hate speech is the root of violence in Nigeria. Do you share his view?
I can’t agree with him. It’s not true. Sometimes what is regarded as hate speech could have emanated as a result of what has been done to an individual.
I am against the Bill. It is unconstitutional. That man who came up with the Bill might be the first victim. There must be a proper definition of what constitutes hate speech. If people are complaining because a government is underperforming, we cannot term that as hate speech.
If an issue is affecting me and my people and I decided to air my views, you cannot accuse me of propagating hate speech. If your cattles are destroying my crops and I stand up against it by saying one thing or the other, you cannot accuse me of hate speech.
So, in essence, there must be a proper definition of what constitutes hate speech before coming up with any law to curb it, in order to prevent any infringement on constitutional provisions.
As far as I am concerned, anything that prevents people from expressing their views is against the Constitution of Nigeria. Besides, this Hate Speech Bill is even an issue of misplaced priority by the Senators. It is not in pursuit of peace, order and good government in Nigeria, which is what is suppose to be the main concern of the lawmakers. Anything to the contrary is unconstitutional.
So, any attempt by anyone to gag me not to say my mind on any issue is unconstitutional. Members of the National Assembly are expected to work in line with the dictates of the Constitution and if the lawmakers succeeded in passing the Bill, I, Mike Ahamba, will go to court to test its validity.
Senators are now pushing for life imprisonment for anyone engaging in kidnapping. How far would this measure help in curbing the menace?
Well, I think it’s a step in the right direction. But, the punishment being suggested is not even the issue but I am more concerned about the implementation.
Anyone who involved in kidnapping should be kept in jail to serve as a deterrent to others and also prevent him from continuing in the illicit business.
The problem we are having is the implementation of the laws and not the laws themselves. The failure of institutions to perform their functions under the law is a major problem. This is why we are faced with diverse problems in this country.
Do you think the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is right to have returned anyone as the winner of the last governorship election in Kogi State with the reported violence that characterized the polls?
Well, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has already declared a winner and it is now left for the judiciary to look at the proper conduct or otherwise of the whole exercise.
If INEC has failed, there’s a remedy called the judiciary. It is the failure of the judiciary that is more dangerous to Nigeria than the perpetrators of the violence. So, judiciary should try not to fail Nigerians.
If it is true that there were widespread violence so that it could not be said that an election has taken place, the judiciary is expected to void it. If on the hand, it was found out that the conduct of the election had complied substantially with the law, then its result should be validated by the court.
The ball is now in judiciary’s court to make proper findings about the conduct of the election and make appropriate declaration.
What do you think can be done to have elections devoid of violence in this country?
Well, I have always been saying that being just and honest is a choice. One day, we shall have an INEC Chairman and others working with him, who will say I will not be part of any irregularity and that would be the end of the problem.
Besides, those at the National Assembly should sit up and come up with a brand new Electoral Act that will be used for the next general election. It’s no longer a matter of amending the existing one.
There should be serious brainstorming by people who are familiar with the contents of all the Electoral Acts used so far for elections in this country and from there, a brand new Electoral Act to be used for future elections will emerged.
In 2003, I identified five safeguard provisions in our Electoral Act and by 2007, those safeguard provisions have been removed to allow rigging. When we attacked this in 2007, more safeguard provisions were removed from the Electoral Act to allow rigging in 2011. The same thing has continued till date.
Therefore, the process of getting a brand new Electoral Act should commence immediately before preparations for the next general election begins. The National Assembly should organize a seminar and invite notable election petition lawyers to speak on what have gone wrong and chart the way forward.
How do you view a statement credited to the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, that fake policemen perpetrated violence in the recently conducted Kogi governorship election? Is the statement enough to exonerate the police of complicity?
In a civilized and decent clime, the IGP ought to have resigned by now. How can IGP say fake policemen operated among his own men? I am not even sure any of those so-called fake policemen have been arrested till date. That’s why violence has continued to trail our elections. You can be rest assured that in 2023, the same thing will repeat itself. Repeatedly, we have failed to take decisive action against perpetrators of violence during elections.
So, the assertion by the IGP cannot exonerate the police of any complicity. In fact, the first police officer that should go now is the Inspector General of Police for coming up with such assertion. I am very surprised that all these are happening under the watch of President Muhammadu Buhari in whom I had absolute belief.
Kicking against Special Crimes Court Bill
Notwithstanding President Muhammadu Buhari’s desire for speedy passage of the Special Crimes Court Bill by the National Assembly with the aim of establishing Special Courts for corruption cases, lawyers at the weekend insisted that only an improvement on existing court system will restore hope on the nation’s justice system. AKEEM NAFIU reports
Plans by the Federal Government to establish Special Courts for corruption cases through the instrumentality of the Special Crimes Court Bill currently before the Senate has come under criticism from lawyers.
The lawyers while speaking on the issue with New Telegraph Law at the weekend, described the plans as a ‘wild goose chase’ that will be of no benefit to the nation.
President Buhari had Tuesday last week reminded lawmakers at the National Assembly that the Special Crimes Court Bill was still pending before them.
Besides, he spoke on the need for a speedy passage of the Bill for the establishment of Special Courts to handle graft cases.
The president bared his mind at a national summit organised by the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) and the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation on ‘‘Diminishing Corruption in the Public Service.’’
While President Buhari called on the judiciary to embrace and support the creation of Special Crimes Court, he revealed that the passage of the Bill was a ‘‘specific priority’’ of his administration’s Economic Recovery and Growth Plan 2017-2020.
Buhari said: “The fight against corruption is of course not only for government and anti-corruption agencies alone. All arms and tiers of government must develop and implement the anti-corruption measures.
‘‘I invite the legislative and judicial arms of government to embrace and support the creation of Special Crimes Court that Nigerians have been agitating for to handle corruption cases.
‘The war against corruption cannot be won without prevention, enforcement, public education and enlightenment.
‘‘I encourage the ICPC and other law enforcement agencies to intensify their efforts in public education, enlightenment and engagement with citizens.
‘‘I also urge our development partners, civil society organizations, and the media to continue to support our efforts to strengthen ethical values and integrity in Nigeria.”
But Mr. President’s desires to strengthen ethical values and integrity through creation of special court did not get lawyers’ support.
Reason: They were not comfortable with the president’s push for the creation of Special Courts to handle corruption cases.
To them, the existing economic situation in the country would not support the cost implications of such projects.
For instance, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Chief Ifedayo Adedipe, said independence and impartiality of the court would be eroded with the establishment of Special Courts for graft cases.
He said: “Well, in recent times, there has been public outcry against the judiciary. This was fuel in part by lack of proper appreciation of how the judiciary itself works. It should be constantly borne in mind that we take our bearing from the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. That Constitution provides that the court established for the purpose of adjudication shall be impartial and independent.
“In other words, you do not create the court for a particular set of people. You do not give the impression that some people asked for their own court and you are given them. There has been some disquiet over the way the requests for courts to handle corruption cases have been made. I appreciate the concern of government and the agencies saddled with the investigation and trial of corruption cases. But, when an impression is given that an agency of government has its own judges, then, we are treading a dangerous path.
“This is because, in essence, those are court expected to do their biddings, the independence and impartiality of the court would appear eroded. So, we have to be careful here.
“Elsewhere, you have divisions of courts dealing with specific subject matter. If that is what they are thinking about, I have no problem. For instance, at the High Court, we have family, commercial, probates divisions and the likes. So, if the courts are called criminal division, I have no problem with that.
“But, when you create the court for only a particular class of government’s agency to treat cases they bring, it is quite open to interpretations as to whether or not when someone is taking there, he will be found guilty willy-nilly. Although that may not be the intention, we will have to be careful here.
“In the recent past, whenever any court decides a case and it goes against the mindset of the prosecuting agencies, the comments from those agencies would appear to have been most unfortunate. That is when you will hear comments like the judiciary is not helping us and all sort of things. But, how do you expect the judiciary to help you when your facts are not sufficient to secure conviction? You are not expected to just take somebody to court and your claims will be rubber stamped.
“There is a way the court system works and if you are not satisfied with any verdict, you can go on appeal. But, of late, I have read some disparaging comments about the judiciary coming from some government officials and I think this should not be encouraged in whatever form.”
Chief Emeka Okpoko, another Senior Advocate of Nigeria was not different. He expressed fear that judges who were to man the planned Special Courts would be open to manipulations.
“For me, I don’t believe there’s any need for the establishment of any special court to handle corruption cases. This is because corruption is a criminal offence and it comes within the auspices of criminal law. Even, there are judges handling criminal cases every day.
“The danger in creating a special court for corruption and designating it as same is that over time and if care is not taken, the judges who are placed there may go into another thing entirely.
“This means they would be easily known and earmarked. This may create the opportunity for people to easily reach them and this may influenced their decisions on cases.
“We all know that the beauty of judicial process is that when a case is filed, or a criminal charge is filed, the parties concern will be in the dark as to which judge will handle the case. It is always difficult for any of them to pre-determine the judge who will preside over the case.
“This is part of the beauty of judicial adjudication because it enhances neutrality, confidence and impartiality. These qualities will no longer be there by the time criminal cases are restricted to few hands and this will negatively impacted on the administration of justice.
“The law with regards to proceedings in criminal cases has been improved upon by the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA). Certainly, we can continue to improve on the law but for us to say we want to create special courts for corruption cases, I will never subscribe to that,” he said.
To Olukayode Enitan (SAN), civil and commercial cases will suffer neglect with the creation of Special Courts for corruption cases.
He said: “I do not share that sentiment although there are many who are of that persuasion. When these Special Courts are created, who will be the judges, are they going to be sourced from the existing pool of judges in the first tier of the judicial ladder, that is, High Courts? If it is the existing crop of judges that will be assigned to those courts, what we will have is a case of robbing Peter to pay Paul.
“Whilst now, there is congestion and delay in trial of all cases with the criminal matters relating to corruption getting some preferential treatment, what would then exist would be a total near abandonment of the Civil and Commercial Courts as the judges who are assigned to those special courts would henceforth not do any civil or commercial matters.
“This would have its attendant negative effect and further exacerbate the challenges on the civil and commercial life of the nation. If new judges are to be appointed to anchor the special corruption courts, it would then mean that government agrees that the problem of delay in corruption cases and other cases as well, is attributable to nothing but a dearth of judges.
This also sends a signal that government is deliberately starving the judiciary of needed adjudicatory personnel but is willing to make exceptions when it serves its purposes.
“I would rather recommend that more judges be appointed to the High Courts in the States and FCT and also more justices be appointed to the Court of appeal whilst the Supreme Court should be enhanced to have it constitutional full complement of justices. This will make for well-rounded judges who are able to deal with all manner of cases whether Civil, Commercial or Criminal regardless of whether the criminal case is corruption related or otherwise.”
Mr. Olalekan Ojo (SAN) also disagreed with the president on the creation of Special Courts for corruption cases, saying favourable legal frameworks in aid of speedy conclusion of criminal cases are already in existence.
“We do not need any special crimes court in Nigeria. Already, there are some courts that have been administratively designated as EFCC and ICPC courts.
“Besides, we already have a most favourable legislative framework to ensure a speedy dispensation of justice in Nigeria. Indeed, the problem with the criminal justice system in this country has nothing to do with the existing legal framework. Rather, it has to do with the lawyers, either as defence or prosecutors, the judges as well as the prosecuting agencies.
“As far as the investigative agencies are concerned, I believed that if investigations are thoroughly and professionally carried out, while the law is fully complied with as to what a criminal defendant is entitled to, proceedings will not be hampered in any way. No time will be wasted even on trial -within-trial.
“Furthermore, where it can be shown that a lawyer has come up with a frivolous application for the purpose of delaying the expeditious hearing of a criminal case, judges should make necessary orders that such lawyers should be reported to the disciplinary committee of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) for disciplinary action. I believe this will surely serve as deterrent to others.
“Besides, when we have judges that are conveniently knowledgeable in criminal cases, even where objections are raised by lawyers, they will do a Bench ruling on such objections. But, a situation where on a very small point of law, the case has to be adjourned for weeks, it will be stalled. It all boils down to how speedily the judges can dispense criminal justice.
“According to Lord Dennis, no matter how good the laws of a country are, they will still have to be administered by judges in the country. It is their abilities to administer these laws that will lead to speedy dispensation of justice.
“I also want to emphasize the need for us to have special defence attorneys. People like this will not engage in wasting of precious judicial time because they know how to handle their cases efficiently”, the silk said.
A former General Secretary of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Mazi Afam Osigwe, said government should focus more on how to improve the existing courts’ structure rather than pursuing creation of Special Courts for graft cases.
He said: “I have always been of the opinion that there’s no need for any special court, rather we need to make our court system work better. We need to make our lawyers and prosecutors to follow cases through so that there was no delay. Cases must also be properly investigated before they are brought to court.
“Having a special court will serve no purpose. It will be a waste of time because when it is created, we will not see any difference between it and the regular court. The Federal High Court started as a revenue court. Today, it is a multi-jurisdictional court. For how long are we going to continue to have special court?
“With successive budgets that have been funded with loans and have operated as deficits, have we put the cost of establishing these special courts, the infrastructure as well as the payments of personnel into consideration? I don’t think we can afford the establishment of any special court with the state of our economy.
“So, as far as I am concerned, we don’t need any special court whether by whatever name it is called. What we need is a court system that works and a justice system that ensures that justice goes to the society, the accused and the complainant. We must address our problems holistically and not by creating any special court.”
‘Pupilage empowers me to solve clients’ knotty issues’
Akinbobola Adeniyi is an alumnus of Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Osun State where he obtained his LL.B. Adeniyi, an Associate of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators UK, was called to Bar in 2017. He shares his journey into the ‘noble’ profession, experience and challenges with JOHN CHIKEZIE
My name is Akinbobola Adeniyi. I attended St. Peters Primary School, Akure and Oyemekun Boys Grammar School, Akure for my primary and secondary education.
In 2010, I was admitted to study law at the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) Ile-Ife, Osun State, where I obtained my L.L.B. And thereafter proceeded to the Nigerian Law School, Victoria Island, Lagos. I was called to the Bar in 2017.
However, my career as a lawyer began with Famsville Solicitors, a corporate commercial law firm in Lagos as a trainee Associate. But I am now a full Associate in the same firm. I am also an Associate of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (UK).
I am particularly interested in estate and construction Law, Litigation, Arbitration Law, Shipping law and International Humanitarian Law.
Choice of career
I studied law to protect the rights of children and make them get quality education.
I grew up in a society where a larger of population of children do not have access to quality education. When you take a study of our society today, you would discover that the government has done nothing about the education sector. Our schools are not well funded. Growing up, I believed that education was the only way a society could breakthrough hurdles.
I am deliberate about my passion and I encourage parents to enrol their children as I constantly feel uneasy whenever I see a young child hawking on the street. This is because the right of a child to education is notguaranteed under the law.
I have passion to help the society and do my best, I later felt the best way I could do that is to opt for law and make our society better by pushing our government to be more responsive to the call of the people. I was inspired by the late human rights activist, Chief Abdul-Ganiyu Oyesola Fawehinmi of blessed memory.
More like the places and firms you’ve worked with (work experience) since I was called to the Nigerian Bar, my practice of law has been majorly in a corporate commercial law firms.
The experience has been a great one; we have the opportunity to solve clients’ knotty issues and giving advice based on the legal principles.
The experience has thought me to understand the dynamic needs of clients. Usually, we take instructions from clients, doing case review and proffering the best legal and logical argument to get best result.
I have really learnt a lot from Dayo Adu (Famsville Solicitors Managing Partner), Woye Famojuro and Damilola Osinuga. These ones have impacted well.
Businessmen in legal battle over land
Two businessmen, Chief Olubunmi Alabi and Alhaji Hammed Bajo, are currently locked in a legal tussle over ownership of a parcel of land situated at No. 17, Odunlami Street, Shomolu, Lagos.
In a fundamental rights enforcement suit filed at a Lagos High Court in Ikeja, Alabi is seeking a declaration that the taking over of the landed property by Bajo is unconstitutional, null and void.
Besides, he is seeking an order compelling Bajo, who is the respondent in the suit, to immediately vacate the land and pay him N15 million in general, exemplary and punitive damages for illegally entering the land.
In a 19-paragraph affidavit attached to the suit, Alabi averred that the respondent was now unlawfully erecting a two-storey building on his land without his consent and authority.
“The respondent is not a beneficiary of the land but just imposed himself on my land believing he can do what he likes on the land. Despite several warning issued on the respondent, he never desists from furthering his illegal actions on the land.
“When the respondent got to know of a letter to the Lagos Building Control Agency, he quickly sped up the erecting of the building to quickly complete it.
“I have been restricted by the massive buildings and the laborers he employed from having access to my land”, the applicant averred.
In a brief statement of facts attached to the applicant’s lawyer’s written address, it was stated that “the applicant is one of the beneficiaries of the landed property. The beneficiaries unanimously agreed that the building on the said land should be demolished and give to the builder, Mr. Niyi Adegoroye, who paid N100.2 million to the Alabi’s family and the demolition of the building was done two months after the family unanimously made the agreement.
“On the 27th of April, 2019, when the applicant came to Lagos for a meeting, he was bewildered to see an ongoing construction of two-storey building on the land and he immediately made his enquiries to know who gave the respondent the right to erect such building on the land. On his enquiries, the applicant got to know that the respondent has no authority from Lagos State Building Control Agency to build such structure and also lacks the applicant’s authority to build the structure.”
The respondent is yet to file his defence to the suit as at the time of filing this report.
Why violence has continued to trail elections, by Enitan
Mr. Olukayode Enitan, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), in this interview with AKEEM NAFIU, speaks on violence in election as recorded in Kogi and Bayelsa polls, judiciary’s independence, congestion of cases in courts and sundry issues
The high level violence trailing the just concluded Kogi and Bayelsa States governorship elections has underlined the need for electoral reforms. What advice do you have for government on how to bring sanity to the nation’s electoral process?
As long as there’s no consequence for electoral violence, it will continue to attend every election in this country. Since the beginning of democracy, how many people have been convicted of electoral violence? I doubt that they are up to twenty.
Until we realise that electoral violence is a form of corruption and we begin to deal with it in the same manner as all other forms of corruption are dealt with, it won’t end.
There is still pending before the President, an Electoral Reform Bill, I would advise that it be attended to with dispatch. If there are areas that require further work, nothing stops the executive from sending its inputs and urges the expeditious passage of the Bill.
President Muhammadu Buhari has called on the National Assembly to fast-track the passage of Special Crimes Court Bill for the establishment of Special Courts to handle graft cases. Do you share the president’s sentiment that Special Courts are needed to handle corruption cases?
I do not share that sentiment although there are many who are of that persuasion. When these special Courts are created who will be the judges, are they going to be sourced from the existing pool of judges in the first tier of the judicial ladder, that is, High Courts? If it is the existing crop of judges that will be assigned to those courts, what we will have is a case of robbing Peter to pay Paul.
Whilst now, there is congestion and delay in trial of all cases with the criminal matters relating to corruption getting some preferential treatment, what would then exist would be a total near abandonment of the Civil and Commercial Courts as the judges who are assigned to those special Courts would thenceforth not do any civil or commercial matters.
This would have its attendant negative effect and further exacerbate the challenges on the civil and commercial life of the nation. If new judges are to be appointed to anchor the special corruption courts, it would then mean that government agrees that the problem of delay in corruption cases and other cases as well, is attributable to nothing but a dearth of judges. This also sends a signal that government is deliberately starving the judiciary of needed adjudicatory personnel but is willing to make exceptions when it serves its purposes.
I would rather recommend that more judges be appointed to the High Courts in the States and FCT and also more justices be appointed to the Court of appeal whilst the Supreme Court should be enhanced to have it constitutional full complement of justices. This will make for well-rounded judges who are able to deal with all manner of cases whether Civil, Commercial or Criminal regardless of whether the criminal case is corruption related or otherwise.
One of the major challenges bedeviling administration of justice in the country is the huge volume of cases pending before judges in various courts of the land. What is the way out of the problem?
The first way out of the problem is the appointment of more judges who are interested in the job. We must also ensure that these judges are chosen on the basis of merit and not on any primordial and parochial sentiments. Secondly, the number of appeals that go to the Supreme Court as of right needs to be curtailed.
Do you agree with the belief by some of your colleagues that judiciary was vulnerable to compromise because it was underfunded?
There’s a lot of talk of compromise in the judiciary, but how many have been proved? Talk is cheap. Where compromise is established, it will be discovered that it has nothing to do with funding but with the propensity of the individual to compromise.
Remember that most people who have been found to be compromised are not those you would consider poor by any standards. Of course, this is not to say that the judiciary is not deserving of proper funding. I think it’s a shame that some of our courts in this country have no electricity and the judges are still writing in long hand, even in Lagos which is definitely at the cutting edge of reforms on all facets of justice administration.
How independent is the nation’s judiciary?
Unfortunately, our judiciary is not as independent as I would desire. It’s so bad now that you even see in some courts that judges are somewhat subservient to the desires of the executive to such an extent that some prosecutors would even intimidate them. Of course, there are many judges who would not broach any nonsense from anyone no matter how highly placed.
The Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mr. Ibrahim Magu, has continued to remain in office despite the fact that his 4-year tenure when he is lawfully permitted to be in charge has lapsed on 9th November, 2019. What is the legality of Magu’s continuous stay in office?
I believe that the Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mr. Ibrahim Magu, has acted for the duration of the first term of his tenor.
Remember that the occupier of the office of Chairman of EFCC can serve two terms. So, in the same manner that a substantive chairman can remain in office until his expired tenure is renewed or he is asked to proceed elsewhere, the Acting Chairman is also entitled to so remain in my view.
However those who may feel contrary have a recourse which would be to have the courts declare the propriety or otherwise of the continued stay pending renewal or appointment of another person.
Indian remanded for N149.6m fraud, attempted suicide
Justice Nichol Clay of a Lagos High Court in Igbosere has ordered the remand of an Indian, Lokesh Parwani, who attempted suicide after been arrested over alleged stealing of N146 million.
The remand order was sequel to Parwani’s arraignment by the police on a seven counts charge of conspiracy, stealing, fraud, issuance of dud cheques and attempted suicide. He however pleaded not guilty to the charge.
Following the reading of the charge to the defendant, defence lawyer, Abiodun Kolawole, drew the court’s attention to the bail motion of his client. He added that the motion has been served on the prosecution’s lawyer.
Responding, police lawyer, Morufu Animashaun, while acknowledging the receipt of motion sought for an adjournment to enable him respond appropriately.
He subsequently urged the court to remand the defendant in prison facility pending the hearing and determination of the bail application.
Following the submissions of the lawyer, Justice Clay adjourned the matter to December 2, for the hearing of the defendant’s bail motion. The judge also ordered that the defendant be remanded in the facility of Nigerian Correctional Services (NCS).
The police had in charge number LD/10480c/2019, accused the defendant of conspiring with some persons said to be at large, of defrauding their employer of N149.6 million.
He was said to have committed the offence sometimes in July, 2019, while acting as the company’s Personal Manager.
Upon the detection of the alleged fraud, he was said to have promised to pay back instalmentally and thereby issued four cheques in the sums of $69, 444, $69, 444, $69, 444 and $44, 444 which were returned and rejected on the ground of insufficient funds in his accounts.
Following his failure to pay back the money and coupled with the dud cheques he issued, he was arrested by the police.
He was said to have attempted to commit suicide on July 19, 2019, at the entrance gate of the Force CIID, when he swallowed a rat killer named ‘Super Ready Action Bait Cake’.
The offences according to the police prosecutor are contrary to and punishable under Sections 411, 287 and 407 of the Criminal Laws of Lagos State of Nigeria, 2015, as well as Sections 1 (1) (b) of the Dishonoured Cheques Offence (Act). Cap D11. Vol. 5. Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.
Trader bags 5 years jail term for drug trafficking
Justice Jude Dagat of a Federal High Court in Lagos has sentenced a trader, Mrs. Ezeano Deborah Ifeoma, to five years imprisonment for trafficking in a hard drug known as Methamphetamine.
Deborah popularly called Mama Chika, was arraigned before the court in 2014 by the National Drug Laws Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) on a count charge bordering on unlawful export of the hard drug following her arrest in Otto market, Lagos Mainland Local Government Area, Lagos, where she plies her trade.
She however denied the alleged offence.
In the course of her trial, the NDLEA called seven witnesses among whom are the investigating officer and forensic analyst, while the seized drug as well as the result of a laboratory test conducted on the drug were also tendered as exhibits.
The defendant also testified to prove her innocence.
Delivering judgement in the matter after about five years of trial, Justice Dagat held that the prosecution has successfully proved the charge against the trader beyond every reasonable doubt.
In pronouncing the defendant guilty as charged, the judge held that the defence put up by her was not enough to absolve her of the charge.
Prior to the sentencing of the convict, her lawyer, E. U. Okenyi, pleaded with the court to tamper justice with mercy by not awarding the maximum penalty prescribed for the offence.
Justice Dagat after listening to the convict lawyer’s plea for mercy, sentenced her to five years imprisonment.
The charge against the convict reads: “That you Ezeano Deborah Ifeoma, Female, Adult on or about the 12th day of November 2014 at Sahcol Cargo export shed of the Muritala Mohammed International Airport, lkeja Lagos, within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court, without lawful authority exported 5.0 Kilogrammes of Methamphetamine, a narcotic drug similar to Cocaine, Heroin or LSD and thereby committed an offence contrary to and punishable under Section 11(b) of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency Act Cap N30 Laws of the Federation 2004”.
Akingbolu: Rule of law dead under Buhari’s govt
Mr. Kabir Akingbolu is a rights activist. In this interview with AKEEM NAFIU, he speaks on Hate Speech Bill, Federal Government’s plan to regulate social media, rule of law and sundry issues
The Hate Speech Bill which prescribes death by hanging for hate speech offenders has passed the first reading at the Senate. What is your take on the controversial Bill?
The issue there is that the nation is heading to anarchy. This is because when those in government want to start censoring people’s opinion, gag the press and ensure that all oppositions are silenced, then the nation is heading for a banana republic.
I don’t also see this as part of democratic experience because as far as I am concerned, we are not yet in a democracy but in a civil rule and sadly for us, the civil rule is fast turning into a dictatorial regime.
There’s no way people will not express criticism of any government that is not performing to their expectations. However, what government labelled as hate speeches, most times, are only criticism of bad government policies.
As long as government takes decisions which one way or the other will affect people’s lives, criticism should be expected. If the economy is bad, if education is going comatose and people are disgruntled, there is no way they will not talk. They will not keep quiet.
Nigerians will be happier if the Senate has come up with a law which prescribes death sentence for anyone that has stolen public funds. People will jubilate and clap for them. But, for the lawmakers to leave serious issues and start chasing shadows, it will only lead to creation of more problems for the people.
Instead of solving problems, the National Assembly is trying to create more problems for Nigerians. This is not the kind of law that we want, we desire a better law that will impact meaningfully on citizens’ lives.
When they are talking about hate speech, I have my fears that by the time the law is passed, every actions of the people will be categorised as hate speech. This is because everything will boiled down to who is in charge or who is interpreting what people are saying.
It means nobody will be free to express him or herself again. By then, newspaper editorials will be categorized as hate speech, a teacher that speaks in the classroom will be seen as propagating hate speech and so on. So, as far as I am concerned, the Bill when it becomes law will seriously infringe on people’s rights to express themselves. The lawmakers approach to the issue is very wrong.
What do you think should be the right approach to tackle the menace of hate speech in the society?
If the lawmakers are interested in curbing the incidence of hate speech in the society, there are better ways to do it.
The term ‘hate speech’ used in the Bill is the first problem. This is inappropriate because the presumption of innocence is no longer there for any offender.
Since the law is aimed at curbing unethical use of information, then it is wrong for the lawmakers to brand it hate speech Bill. There should be a better way to describe the Bill other than using the word ‘hate speech’.
Of course, I do not subscribe to the way lies are being peddled by people, particularly on the social media, but I will not be in support of any plan to demonize people through the use of the word ‘hate speech’.
We all know that that those in authority are always interested in protecting their interest to the detriment of the citizens. It does not even lie in the mouth of the lawmakers to categorize an action as hate speech. It is only the court that can so declare.
The Federal Government’s plan to regulate social media activities is also generating reactions. Are you in support of the plan?
I am in support of Federal Government’s plan to regulate activities on the social media. But, I have my doubt as to the sincerity of government to follow its words with action.
A way of regulating the social media is to put a law in place that check people’s excesses on the various platforms. A lot of atrocities are being committed by people on the internet and these must be checked.
So, I totally agreed with the Federal Government that activities on the social media should be regulated in order to have a decent and sane society.
Senate is pushing for special funding for judiciary. What is your take on this and how far do you think it will help in combating judicial corruption?
The proposal is long overdue. It does not augur well for the third arm of government to continue to go cap in hand begging for money from the Executive all the time because this will create undue influence on the judiciary.
The judiciary should have direct access to its fund in the budget and I am hopeful that in pursuant of this, the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) will one day appear before the Senate to defend judiciary’s budget. Likewise, the Chief Judges of each state should equally appear before the various Houses of Assembly.
When the judiciary has direct access to its fund, it will be able to plan its own agenda in a way to carry out its functions effectively. This will go a long way in helping to curb judicial corruption.
However to achieve all these, there must be an amendment to the Constitution mandating the independence of the judiciary, particularly in the area of funding.
A situation whereby the Executive will have to approve money for the judiciary at both states and federal level to undertake a task is inappropriate.
The underfunding of the judiciary makes it prone to the whims and caprices of other arms of government, particularly the Executive. It is also an indirect way of stifling the functions of the judiciary.
Concerns have been mounting on Buhari’s government’s penchant for disobedience to court orders as could be seen lately in the case of the Convener of #RevolutionNowgroup, Mr. Omoyele Sowore, who has remained in DSS custody despite a court order granting him bail. What are your thoughts on this?
When you talk of the rule of law in this country, it is completely dead under this government. There’s no regard for the rule of law in whatever form.
What I noticed is that if a court’s order is in government’s favour, it will be quickly obeyed but if it against government, it would not be obeyed.
Apart from Sowore, there are several other Nigerians who are in detention even when there are court orders freeing them. El-Zakzaky and his wife have been released many times by court orders. The same thing with the former National Security Adviser (NSA), Col. Sambo Dasuki, who was also released on bail by court but government has been adamant in obeying the order.
The Department of State Services (DSS) is becoming an albatross on Nigeria. I have continued to ask myself, how do we found ourselves in this mess?
This government has perpetually disobeyed court orders and the court has no instrument or weapon to enforce its orders. In fact, judges are helpless when court orders are not obeyed. But, lawyers have a big role to play in this area.
For instance, in the case of Sowore, his lawyers should return to the court and file contempt proceedings against the Director General of the DSS to commit him to prison for flouting court’s order for Sowore’s release.
The DG of DSS will be summoned to justify his agency’s action and in the absence of any justification, he should be jailed. When this is done, every other agencies of government will sit up and treat court orders seriously.
I also want to say that the on-going protest over DSS’ refusal to release Sowore is unnecessary. The lawyers should do the needful and everything will be resolved. To me, those protesting are just seeking unnecessary attention.
Besides, many people will be wondering why the Buhari’s administration has been persistently disobeying court orders despite the presence of so many senior lawyers in the government. But, I want to tell you that the moment your friend becomes a politician, he is no longer the friend you use to know.
Most lawyers in politics are no longer what they use to be before they became politicians. Once they are in government, they become something else. It then becomes an issue of if you can’t beat them, join them. The Vice-President is no longer thinking as a lawyer. The same thing goes for other senior lawyers in Buhari’s government. All of them are afraid to rock the boat. They will not want to criticize government’s policies because they are also involved.
Look at what happened during the screening ministerial nominees by the Senate. The AGF’s designate, Abubakar Malami, was there to justify government disobedience to court orders and the Senators did not even hesitate to ratify his nomination by the president.
The question is why should such an individual be confirmed by the Senate? There was no justification for his confirmation.
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