Lawyers: Protest marches not treasonable offence
Do protest marches amount to treason and an act of terrorism? Lawyers say no. AKEEM NAFIU reports
ancing on the street saying we don’t want bad governance. How does that amount to treason? One said.
Another asked: “How can protest marches amount to terrorism? Are the protesters carrying gun or bombs?
These were among many questions dotting lips of some senior lawyers in response to claims by the police that Monday, last week’s protest march embarked upon by ‘RevolutionNow’ group amounted to treason and an act of terrorism.
The Inspector-General of Police (IGP) Mohammed Adamu had warned organisers of ‘RevolutionNow’ protests to shelve their planned actions as it amounted to a treasonable felony.
The warning was contained in a statement posted on the Force verified Twitter account @Policeng less than 48 hours to the scheduled day of the protest.
In the statement, the police chief urged Nigerians to steer clear of any activities in the name of ‘RevolutionNow’, saying the Force will not “stand idly by and watch any individual or group in the society cause anarchy in the land.”
Adamu further argued that the planned protest which aims to force “a regime change in the country” is “treasonable felony and acts of terrorism”.
The statement reads: “The attention of the Nigeria Police Force has been drawn to a video circulating on the social media by the ‘Global Coalition for Security and Democracy in Nigeria and others’, inciting Nigerians, home and abroad, to join a planned ‘revolution’ march against the Government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria on Monday, 5th August, 2019 with the sole aim of forcing a regime change in the country.
“The Force wishes to state unequivocally that the call amounts to treasonable felony and acts of terrorism and will therefore not stand idly-by and watch any individual or group in the society cause anarchy in the land.
“While acknowledging the rights of Nigerians to embark on protest, the Force wishes to note that such rights should not translate to a violent and forceful change of government which clearly is the meaning of ‘revolution’.
“Needless to state that Nigeria is a democratic republic and has well-defined processes for change of government exercised periodically during various cycle of elections.
“The Force therefore warns the organizers, sponsors, allies, supporters, associates and sympathisers of the group ‘Global Coalition for Security and Democracy in Nigeria’ to, in their own interest, steer clear of any such planned protest, demonstration, acts of incitement and proposed “revolution”, as the full wrath of the law will be brought to bear on any individual or group engaged or found participating in the above planned criminal act.
“Parents and guardians are therefore enjoined to impress on their children and wards not to allow themselves to be used in whatever form by any person or group of persons to cause breach of law and order in the country.
“The police will work with other Law Enforcement Agencies and positive minded Nigerians to protect, defend and secure our public peace and space.”
Prior to the police warning, the Convener of ‘RevolutionNow’ group, Omoyele Sowore, was earlier picked up by security operatives in a hotel room around 1.25a.m. on 3rd August, 2019.
Although a day after, the Department of State Services (DSS) had informed the nation that it had taken Sowore into custody because ‘he called for a revolution in Nigeria,’ DSS’ spokesperson, Peter Afunanya, informed journalists in Abuja that the agency was aware that Sowore had been in touch with some foreign actors to destabilize Nigeria.
He added that Sowore’s words were all the evidence the secret police had of his purported violent revolution plot.
Crackdown on protesters
Despite Sowore’s arrest, the ‘RevolutionNow’ group pressed ahead with its planned protest across the country.
The group demanded an economy that would work for the masses; an effective and democratic end to insecurity; an end to systemic corruption and for total system change; the immediate implementation of the N30,000 minimum wage; including free and qualitative education for all”.
However, the protests were met with stiff resistance from security operatives.
In a broadcast on Facebook at midnight on the day of the protest, a rights activist, Inibehe Effiong, revealed that 56 protesters were arrested by security operatives in the ‘RevolutionNow’ protest across the country.
According to Effiong, who is also a lawyer to Omoyele Sowore, the figure included journalists already reported to have been arrested by security agencies at various venues of the protests.
Some of the states where protesters were arrested included Lagos, Cross River, Ondo and Ogun. The crackdown was condemned by many Nigerians,whioe many of the arrested protesters have been charged to court.
Sowore’s 45 days detention
The Department of State Services (DSS) has also secured a court order to keep the Convener of ‘RevolutionNow’ group, Omoyele Sowore, in custody for 45 days.
Justice Taiwo Taiwo of a Federal High Court in Abuja made the order in a ruling on an ex-parte motion filed by the DSS seeking to keep Sowore for 90 days to conclude its investigation about allegation of terrorism against Sowore.
In his ruling, the judge held that the detention order would be renewable after the expiration of the first 45 days on September 21.
The security agency had anchored its motion on the provision of Section 27(1) of the Terrorism (Prevention) Amendment Act.
The Convener of ‘RevolutionNow’ group had in the meantime lodged an appeal against the court’s ruling allowing the DSS to keep him in custody for 45 days.
In the appeal filed through his lawyer, Femi Falana (SAN), Sowore argued that the remand order infringed on his fundamental human rights as well as the rules of the court.
According to him, the detention order not only contravened provisions of the Constitution but was also to legalise his “illegal” detention.
He consequently asked the appellate court to overturn the lower court’s decision.
Some members of the Inner Bar have countered police claims that the protest march called by ‘RevolutionNow’ amounted to treason and an act of terrorism.
The senior lawyers while speaking on the issue at the weekend noted that security operatives have so far failed to establish the intention of the ‘RevolutionNow’ group to overthrow Buhari’s government.
They were also of the view that it was not within the purview of the police to categorize protest march as either treason or act of terrorism, saying only the court was capable of making such description.
The lawyers further noted that the police’s claim was an attempt by government to extend the ambit of the Terrorism Prevention (Amendment) Act to cover individuals and organisations critical of official policies or perceived marginalisation within the federation.
Speaking on the issue, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) Chief Mike Ozekhome, noted that Sections 39 to 43 of the Criminal Code and Section 410 of the Penal Code which criminalised treason envisioned a dire situation where an intention to overthrow a government, or overcome the President or Governor of a State (called “mens rea”) was accompanied by overt acts such as stockpiling and possession of arms and ammunition.
He said: “That allegation is most plural, most damning and most illogical from the government or security spokespersons.
“What is treason? For the definition of treason, you have to look at Sections 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42 and 43 of the Criminal Code which applies in the Southern part of Nigeria.
“Then you must look at Section 410 of the Penal Code that applies in the Northern part of Nigeria including the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja. Treason is the act of overthrowing the sovereign government of a state.
“Do mere uttered words “we will cause a revolution” by Nigerians who are singing, dancing and carrying placards on the streets, shouting “aluta continua, victoria acerta” without more, constitute treasonable felony especially by Nigerians who are protesting against bad governance and have carefully itemized their grievances in writing?
“Does this amount to treason or treasonable felony? Do you announce a revolution if not for the mischief of some people deliberately reading the word literally rather than figuratively?
“Dancing on the street saying we don’t want bad governance, how does that amount to treason or treasonable felony?
“This government is allergic to plurality of voices. This government is allergic to criticism; this government is allergic to opinions. This government should know that Nigeria is a country with many colours.
“You cannot sample opinions. We cannot all sleep on the same bed. This government should learn to be tolerant.”
Ozekhome was corroborated by another silk, Chief Ifedayo Adedipe, who also viewed the protest march as nothing near treason or act of terrorism.
Adedipe said: “How can a protest march amount to terrorism? Are the protesters carrying gun or bombs? Are they shooting at people? Are they destroying property? Are they carrying placards? Even if they are carrying placards, are they injuring people with them? It is certainly an abuse of language to say that protest amounts to an act of terrorism and treasonable felony.
“So, I do not agree with the police on that and I think they are giving this government a very bad image. That is not how to defend the Constitution.
“These police officers should recognize that their duty is to defend the nation. However, they are sadly interpreting their role to mean that they are to defend the government of the day and its interest. Therefore, in my humble opinion marching and protest can never amount to an act of terrorism or treasonable felony.”
To Mr. Femi Falana (SAN), the claim by the police was an attempt by the Force to criminalize the protest.
He said: “Protest marches in Nigeria are not treasonable offences. No doubt, the Nigeria Police Force has capitalized on the use of the word “revolution” to criminalise the protest.
“If revolution has become a criminal offence in Nigeria why were the leaders of the APC not charged for claiming to have carried out Nigeria’s democratic revolution which terminated the 16-year rule of the PDP in 2015?
“Why was Dr. Kingsley Chiedu Moghalu, the Presidential Candidate of the Young Progressive Party (YPP) not threatened with treason when he asked Nigerians to rise up for revolution via the 2019 general election?
“Did all Nigerian senators led by APC members not commit treason or terrorism when they spent one and a half hours on May 14, 2019 to debate Senator Chukwuka Utazi’s timely motion on “Bridging the gap between the haves and have-not to nip in the bud the seeds of a looming violent revolution?
“It is worrisome that the Buhari administration has decided to extend the ambit of the Terrorism Prevention (Amendment) Act to cover individuals and organisations that are critical of official policies or perceived marginalisation within the federation.”
Mr. Seyi Sowemimo (SAN) said only the court can make any categorization of protest march.
“The police is not in a position to decide whether a protest march is treasonable or not. It is the court that can make such declaration”, he said
Dr. Biodun Layonu (SAN) also believed the police tag on the protest march by ‘RevolutionNow’ was a ploy to use something against the Convener, Omoyele Sowore.
He said: “The police claim is not correct. It’s a ploy to hang something on the man.”
Muhammed: Judiciary must fight disobedience to court’s orders
Abdullahi Awwal Muhammad is the Secretary of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Gwagwalada branch, Abuja. In this interview with Tunde Oyesina , he speaks on the disobedience of court orders, verdict of the Supreme Court on the Buhari/Atiku legal brawl, death sentence for hate speech and sundry issues
Do you share the states lawmakers’ view on financial autonomy?
Well, when you say financial autonomy, already we are having the three arms of government operating their separate budget, so I would not know what the clamouring is all about.
I just believe that since it is democracy and all the arms are independent of one another, I do not see any reason why certain arm will now be crying foul. More importantly, they know how to sponsor bills if something is not in their favor.
As a matter of fact, instead of creating money for themselves they can as well strive to support bill that would help develop their states via more budgetary allocations.
The ‘death sentence’ for ‘hate speech’ being advocated had generated controversies. What is your take on it?
The proponent of that death sentence have realized their mistakes, and as I speak, they are already withdrawing from it.
Of course, everybody supports that there could be sanction and what have you; but then not to the level of bringing it firing squad into the narratives.
For me, lesser punishment will do and not go to the extent of death sentence.
New Wigs in the legal profession just got called to the Bar recently. Considering alleged poor results arising from previous examinations, should the government declare a state of emergency in legal education?
No is my answer. I think what they ought to do in an ideal situation is to follow what a former Minister of Education in Nigeria proposed that before venturing into law, such candidates aspiring to study law, should first and foremost bagged another degree other than law.
In doing that, your performance in that First Degree will now qualified you to study Law. The thing is by the time they come to read law, they would have become experienced and ready for the rigors of having to go through what it entails to study law.
Some of our friends did that and they are better off today.
Nevertheless, I partially agree with those advocating that government should indeed look into how to make the institution impact the required knowledge.
Stakeholders’ in the Bar and Bench are worried that court orders are not being respected by the executive arm and the security agencies; especially those holding high profile detainees, are you not worried too?
Any right thinking person’s would be worried. And until the judiciary is functioning, there can’t be a law abiding society.
The moment the executive or even the security agencies or even parastaltals decided to refuse to obey court orders; then we are calling for anarchy. We are simply telling foreign countries and followers of events within and outside the country that we are not a serious nation.
So, every reasonable person should condemn such act in strong terms. If you observed very well, many people ranging from lawyers and other personalities have both condemned disrespect for court others.
Going forward, however, I think the judiciary should henceforth enforce some of these judgments. What do I mean by that; let the conference of all judges revisit the issue and thrash it out.
Let them also find an avenue to intimate the President of our country on the danger in him or the executive arm or even the security agencies not respecting court orders.
What about conflicting court judgment by court of similar jurisdiction, can there be a way around it?
As for that, I think what should be done is that; the moment any Judge sees that a verdict has been given in respect of a particular matter, another Judge should endeavor to decline to sit on that matter.
Not only that, he could also send them back. Why I am saying this is that we have seen in the past where some court sits over such matter. This for me does not portray the court well and it will even breed confusion.
Proffering solution, I also think that the Chief Justice of respective courts should equally sound a note of warnings to all the judges to stop the embarrassing act.
President Muhammadu Buhari signed a bill which amends production sharing contract amidst controversy. What is the constitutional implication especially when it was done outside Nigeria?
Far from it; The President can execute or sign any bill from anywhere because he has been empower to do so and wherever he might be at any point in time does not matter.
In the constitution, no where it is written that he cannot exercise his powers. Mind you, if it is in other country’s constitution that their President cannot act outside his country’s shore, it is not in ours.
The legal brawl between the ruling APC and the opposition PDP that started at the presidential election petition tribunal ended up at the Supreme Court with the latter crying foul after the judgment, what’s your take?
You see, as lawyers we are made and bound to respect. Beautifully, the PDP fought to the peak. But now that they have come to the end, that is all. Onus is on them to support the sitting government to succeed.
And until we begin to see ourselves as Nigerians and not a member of PDP or APC, we may continue to have problems like this and if care is not taken, economic and political progress might elude us.
Are you comfortable with the way the war against corruption is being fought by the ruling party?
Let me first sound it clearly here that there is no country in the world that is immune from corruption or has zero corruption as it were.
We should appreciate the fact that this government is doing its best in fighting the hydra-headed corruption.
We can only hope that another government maintains the tempo after this administration tenure would have elapsed.
So, in fighting corruption, anyone found wanting should be made to face the music within the ambit of the law. Honestly, Mr. President is trying his best but he alone cannot do it.
What about allegation of corruption leveled against the judiciary?
I make bold to say that if at all such existed then it has reduced. Hardly will any judge ask for bribe or what have you.
In many of our courts today, you would see Judges speaking openly against corruption and warning defendants, plaintiffs the complainants and all the litigants in the court that look; “I do not ask any of my registrar to collect anything on my behalf.”
That goes to tell you that corruption is being fought in the judiciary too as against the impression being created in some quarters.
I will nevertheless encourage our Judges to be bold and fearless in the discharge of their duties. They should give judgment even if it is against Mr. President and, if such judgment is not respected, it would be on record that they have done the needful.
Some NGOs and other victims of rape are advocating castration for rapists and also blacklisting them, how justifiable?
No, it is not justifiable. I think they are also human being and they also deserve some level of dignity. I discussed that recently with a friend of mine who happens to be a Judge.
But I think the law establishing who is being raped ought to be reviewed. It is worthy to say here that it is always difficult to apprehend rapist except the person confesses, it is unarguable and challengeable.
However, I agree that there must be punishment but not castration as being proposed by some sections of the society.
Sentence of say 5 years without an option of fines will do hoping that by the time such person is left off the hooks, he would learn his lesson.
On being blacklist, it is not also a violation of such person’s rights because any convicted persons by the court has already dented his reputation. That accounts for why you see that it is always difficult for such people to run for any political office.
Rage over DSS’ invasion of court
- Lawyers: Judiciary facing greatest trying times in Nigeria’s history
Lawyers were unanimous that the weekend invasion of a Federal High Court in Abuja by armed operatives of the Department of State Services (DSS) to re-arrest the Convener of #RevolutionNowgroup, Omoyele Sowore, was a denigration of the hallowed temple of justice. AKEEM NAFIU and TUNDE OYESINA report
nvading the Federal High Court room is to me, going too far to effect an arrest. That to me is tantamount to demystifying the court and breaking the sacrosanctity surrounding the court and judiciary,” one of them said.
“This is lawlessness at its peak, for operatives of DSS to storm a courtroom where there is a presiding judge,” another said.
These were thoughts of some senior lawyers who were enraged at the conducts of some armed operatives of the Department of State Services (DSS) at an Abuja Federal High Court at the weekend following the secret agents’ invasion of the court to rearrest Sowore who had being temporarily released on bail to face his trial of treasonable felony.
The armed DSS’ operatives stormed the court to re-arrest Sowore and his co-accused pesrson, Adebayo Bakare, within 24 hours after releasing them on the order of Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu.
Until Friday’s invasion of the court, twice the court’s orders on DSS, compelling it to release Sowore and Bakare’s release ignored.
For 124 days DSS had shunned the court’s order until last Thursday when Justice Ojukwu again granted an order for their release.
Besides, the judge slammed a fine of N100, 000 on the DSS over frivolous request for adjournment and failure to obey the court’s order on the defendants’ release on bail.
But less than 24 hours after complying with the court’s orders, DSS operatives in a commando style, stormed Justice Ojukwu’s court, moments after she adjourned further hearing in the trial of Sowore and his co-accused over treason to February 2020.
Sowore and his co-accused were on their way out of the court when they were accosted by 15 armed DSS operatives who appeared to have laid an ambush for them in a bid to arrest them.
Sensing danger, Sowore and Bakare attempted rushing back to the courtroom but Sowore was quickly held by an operative.
Sowore eventually managed to free himself and ran back into the court with the invading operatives cocking their guns as they went after him. The operatives chased Sowore to the courtroom, creating commotion with everyone inside, including the judge, scampering for safety. This led to the suspension of proceedings in the court.
DSS attempt to arrest Sowore and Bakare in the courtroom was resisted by their supporters who dared the gun-toting security agents as they tried to drag the duo away.
Sowore’s lawyer, Femi Falana (SAN) and lawyer representing the Federal Government, Hassan Liman (SAN), were later summoned by Justice Ojukwu to her chambers.
After the meeting, Falana criticized moves by the DSS operatives to make arrest within the court’s premises.
Falana said: “This morning, the SSS lawyers and the lawyers of the Attorney-General reported to the court that the order of the court had been complied with and I confirmed because our clients were released last night.
“As soon as the court adjourned the matter to February next year, the SSS operatives pounced on the court, disrupted proceedings and then attempted to arrest our clients even in the web of the court. That was extremely embarrassing because it has never happened in Nigeria where you enter a court to arrest anybody, even an alleged coup plotter.
“The atmosphere was very rowdy, but I insisted that the arrest could not be carried out within the precinct of the court.
”He was going to be arrested outside the premises but there was a crowd that resisted the arrest, but I appealed to everybody and asked Sowore to jump into my car and so we drove to the office of the SSS because they said he will just answer a few questions, but now he is being detained.
“We are going to take steps under the law by asking for his release again since they are claiming this is a fresh arrest.
“Nobody has disclosed yet what his charges are; he couldn’t have committed any other offence because he has been detained for the past four months unless the DSS wants to tell the whole world that he committed this fresh offence while in their custody.”
NBA, CDHR, lawyers react
Lawyers’ umbrella body, the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), a Civil Society Organization (CSO), Campaign For the Defence of Human Rights (CDHR) as well as some senior lawyers have equally flayed the action of the DSS.
In a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Kunle Edun, the NBA called for the immediate suspension of the DSS’ Director-General, Yusuf Bichi, for heading an agency which had taken delight in violating the fundamental rights of Nigerians and disrespecting court orders.
The NBA also called on both the Federal Government and National Assembly to immediately investigate the shameful conduct by the DSS and ensure that all persons found culpable are duly punished in accordance with the law.
It also asked the National Assembly to review the laws setting up the DSS and all other security or giving confidence to the existing investors. The so called last hope of the common man ascribed or associated with the court now appears utopian and no longer real. This is abominable, aberrant, flabbergasting and can only further precipitate our being consigned to a laughing stock,” he said.
Ebun Adegboruwa (SAN) believed it was wrong for the DSS to think it was above the law.
He said: “DSS cannot be above the law. This is lawlessness at its peak, for operatives of DSS to storm a courtroom where there is a presiding judge to arrest Omoyele Sowore, right inside the courtroom.
It was reported that the presiding judge was chased away with guns and the whole courtroom was in pandemonium. I don’t feel proud to be a lawyer right now at all, let alone being a citizen of a country of lawless officers of the law who are shaming the law. We must rise up and kick against this evil.”
Kabir Akingbolu, the incident has shown that the DSS has risen above the law.
“It’s a very sad development and a very bad day for the judiciary in particular and the legal profession in general. This is a proof that the DSS has now risen above the law. This is because the practice we met is that the court is a sacred place which must be respected at all time. And to this end, arrest is not allowed within the precinct of the court.
“This is a clear violation of our individual sense of dignity because the terrible, barbaric and inexplicable show of shame put up by one of the nation’s highest security outfit is seen everywhere in the world and will remain in everlasting memory.
“The questions to ask are: did he commit another offence after his release for which he needed to be interrogated? Is there any new offence for which he is wanted? I believe like every Nigerian the answers to these questions are in the negative. Therefore, the arrest is an aberration and a brazen display of lawlessness and disrespect for the judiciary.
“But, by and large, it is a stronger indication that we have a very weak judiciary. Imagine, there is no positive order against the Director of DSS up till now. Too sad that the judiciary can condone this type of monumental degradation and desecration of the temple of justice and go scot free. This is bound to happen and the worst will still happen because the judiciary will not take any step to address it like it happened somewhere in 2014 when thugs beat up a judge during court session and tear up the record book. Nobody talked and that is why this happened again.
“Judiciary needs to be brave and courageous to fight this attempt at undermining it because rule of law is dying by the day. May God help us survive the tyranny of this government,” he said.
Businessman battles AMCON over N208m debt
Justice Saliu Saidu of a Federal High Court in Lagos will tomorrow hear a motion filed by a businessman, Uche Francis Ubajaka, to challenge the freezing of his account by the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) over an alleged N208 million debt.
Two firms owned by Ubakaja; Grunz Link Nigeria Ltd and Pructton Associates Nigeria Ltd as well as two members of his family; Ifunaya Theresa-Anne Ubajaka and Obiorah Benedict Ubakaja, who were also affected by the freezing order have equally filed a motion to challenge it.
Justice Saidu had on 30th October, 2019, after granting an ex-parte motion filed by AMCON, ordered the freezing of the various accounts of the applicants domiciled in Access, Fidelity and Zenith banks.
Dissatisfied, Ubakaja and others filed separate motions through their lawyer, Chief Emeka Okpoko (SAN), seeking court’s order vacating and setting aside the freezing order.
In the motions, the applicants contended that the court lacks the jurisdiction to grant the freezing order against them.
They argued that the freezing order was obtained by AMCON upon concealment and misrepresentation of material facts.
According to them, Section 50 (1) of the Asset Management Corporation Act 2010 as amended in 2019 which authorizes AMCON to obtain an order of court freezing debtors accounts is not applicable to them.
It was averred that the freezing order was made in breach of Sections 36 (5), 43 and 44 (2) (k) of the Constitution and is therefore void.
Particularly, in his motion, Ubajaka contended that he had challenged the purported debt in the High Court of Lagos State in suit number; LD/59/2013 and is currently a subject of appeal in Appeal No: CA/L/1232/18.
In a further amended statement of claim attached to his suit at the High Court, Ubajaka averred that on August 2007, he secured a loan facility of N52.1 million from First City Monument Bank (FCMB) to purchase shares from the Nigerian Stock Exchange.
He added that he also secured another facility of N116.7 million from the bank for similar purpose on 13th March, 2008.
Ubajaka further disclosed that he provided N22.4 million as equity contribution in respect of the N52.1 million facility while he also provided N50 million as equity contribution for the N116.7 million facility.
The businessman further averred that it was agreed that he will use the money to buy shares while the bank will hold on to the shares as collateral for its investment. He added that following the agreement, he paid N1.6 million representing management, facility and processing fees.
It was further averred that the bank later appointed its sister company, Fin Bank Securities and Asset Management Ltd to manage the investment and upon the purchase of the shares, both of them took charge of everything.
The businessman averred that the act of negligence and mismanagement of his stocks by the bank and its sister company have caused him to suffer huge losses and rather than dispose off the stocks when they were expected to do so to mitigate the losses and liquidate the facility failed to do so.
He added that his inability to repay the total loan sum of N208 million was directly as a result of the act and inaction of the bank and its sister company which completely frustrated his efforts at repaying the facility.
However, AMCON is insisting that the freezing order secured on the buinessman’s account was in order.
The agency in its counter affidavit to Ubakaja’s motion said the court has the jurisdiction to make the order.
A2J sues NJC, others over irregularity in Supreme Court’s appointments
Foremost rights group, Access to Justice (A2J), has filed a suit against the National Judicial Council (NJC) following an alleged meeting convened by the NJC to consider nominees for appointment to the Supreme Court Bench.
A2J said that it had on 27th November, 2019, filed an action against the Federal Judicial Service Commission, and the National Judicial Council.
According to its Director, Joseph Otteh, in a statement, regardless of their persistent defiance of the 2014 Appointment Guidelines, the respondent at the meeting recommended four Justices of the Court of Appeal- Justices Adamu Jauro, Emmanuel A. Agim, C. Oseji and Helen M. Ogunwumiju- for elevation and appointment as Justices of the Supreme Court.
Otteh said that the suit was filed at the Abuja division of the Federal High Court as No. FHC/ABJ/CS/1460/2019, while naming Justice Tanko Muhammed, the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Senator Ahmed Ibrahim Lawan, the President of the Nigerian Senate and President Muhammadu Buhari, as respondents.
He said: “This lawsuit is the latest in the series of steps taken by the applicant (A2Justice) as part of a longstanding advocacy to reform judicial appointment processes in Nigeria and ensure that judicial selection procedures are conducted transparently, competitively and are merit-based as well as meet required standards of integrity.
“More particularly, that judicial appointment processes comply faithfully with the provisions of the National Judicial Councils Extant Revised Guidelines and Procedural Rules for the Appointment of Judicial Officers of All Superior Courts of Record in Nigeria and the National Judicial Policy 2016.
“These two instruments were, incidentally, made and adopted by the National Judicial Council.
“The reliefs sought by the suit include; declarations that the 1st respondent (Federal Judicial Service Commission) did not fully, and in materials particular comply with the aforesaid Judicial Appointment Guidelines, particularly with respect to making a public call for expression of interest in the vacant positions and notifying the Nigerian Bar Association of the vacancies and calling for nominations before it drew up a list of candidates it submitted to the National Judicial Council for the latter’s consideration for appointment as Supreme Court Justices which the National Judicial Council considered at its meeting of the 22nd and 23rd October, 2019 and;
“An order of the Honourable Court quashing the list of candidates submitted by the Federal Judicial Service Commission (1st respondent) to the 2nd respondent (National Judicial Council) for consideration as Supreme Court Justices.”
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.
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