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Reforming Nigeria’s prison system

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Reforming Nigeria’s prison system
  • Lawyers push for implementation of NCS Act

 

AKEEM NAFIU writes that the signing of the Nigerian Correctional Service Bill into law by President Muhammadu Buhari has brightened hope that the myriad of problems confronting the nation’s prison system will soon be a thing of the past

 

 

Eleven years after it was first presented on the floor of the Senate, the Nigerian Correctional Service (NCS) Bill which sought to end a myriad of problems confronting the nation’s prison system has finally become law following President Muhammadu Buhari’s assent to the bill at the weekend.

 

 

Besides, the president’s assent to the Bill has led to a change in nomenclature from Nigerian Prisons Service to Nigerian Correctional Service.

 

 

The Bill which repealed the 1972 Prisons Act which established the Nigerian Prisons Service was presented in January 2008 to the 6th Senate by Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba.

 

 

Presenting the Bill, Senator Ndoma-Egba, who is the current Chairman of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), had noted that the Bill would address fundamental lapses inherent in the Prisons Act should it become law.

 

 

He was of the view that a review of the Act was necessary not only to put in place a framework for the rehabilitation and transformation of inmates but also to address inadequate funding of prisons.

 

 

He added that the Bill would drive prison reform by moving towards rehabilitative justice and preparing offenders for re-introduction into the society by making vocational and educational courses available.

But the Bill later suffered setbacks for more than two years until it was read for the second time in April 2010.

Passage of NCS Bill 2019

 

 

Effort at passing the Bill into law was intensified by the 8th Senate and it was later passed into law early this year.

 

 

However, President Buhari declined assent to it when it was transmitted to him.

 

 

In a letter sent to the Senate on 16th April, 2019, the president complained about the language used in drafting the Bill as well as a provision he believed would breach the independence of the judiciary.

The president noted that Section 44(d) of the vetoed Bill which sought to fund a special non-custodial fund with five per cent of all fines paid to the federal purse would run against Sections 81 and 84 of the Constitution which guarantee the independence of the Judiciary.

He said: “I am declining assent to the Bill because Section 44 (d) of the Bill which seeks to fund the special non-custodial fund with five per cent of all fines paid to the federal purse violates the provisions of Sections 81 and 84 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) which guarantee the independence of the Judiciary,” Buhari said in his letter to the Senate.

The Bill was transmitted back to the president by the Senate after some amendments on 20th July, 2019 and it was finally assented to on 14th August, 2019.

NCS Act 2019

 

 

The Nigerian Correctional Service Act 2019 repeals the Prisons Act. It also changes the name of government’s agency in charge of prisons from Nigeria Prisons Service to Nigerian Correctional Service.

The two main faculties of the Correctional Service are; Custodial Service and Non-custodial Service.

 

 

According to the Act, the Custodial Service is to:

 

 

* Take custody and control of persons legally interned in safe, secure and humane conditions.

 

 

* Conveying remand persons to and from courts in motorized formations;

* Identifying the existence and causes of anti-social behaviours of inmates

 

 

* Conducting risk and needs assessment aimed at developing appropriate correctional treatment methods for reformation, rehabilitation and reintegration

 

 

* Implementing reformation and rehabilitation programmes to enhance the reintegration of inmates back into the society

 

 

* Initiating behaviour modification in inmates through the provision of medical, psychological, spiritual and counselling services for all offenders including violent extremists

 

 

* Empowering inmates through the deployment of educational and vocational skills training programmes, and facilitating incentives and income generation through Custodial Centres, farms and industries

* Administering borstal and related institutions

 

 

* Providing support to facilitate the speedy disposal of cases of persons awaiting trial

 

 

* It further provides in Section 12 (2) (c):

 

 

“that where an inmate sentenced to death has exhausted all legal procedures for appeal and a period of 10 years has elapsed without execution of the sentence, the Chief Judge may commute the sentence of death to life imprisonment”

 

* Section 12 (8) empowers the state Controller of the Service to reject more intakes of inmates where it is apparent that the correctional centre in question is filled to capacity.

 

 

However, the Non-Custodial Service is responsible for the administration of non-custodial measures. These are;

 

 

* Community Service, probation, parole, restorative justice measures and such other measures as a court of competent jurisdiction may order.

 

 

* Measure of Restorative Justice approved in the Act includes victim-offender mediation, family group conferencing, community mediation and other conciliatory measures as may be deemed necessary at pre-trial, trial, during imprisonment or even post- imprisonment stages.

 

 

Lawyers speak

 

 

Some senior lawyers have been speaking on the new legislation as well as the change in nomenclature of the Nigerian Prison Service.

 

 

The lawyers while baring their minds on the issue at the weekend lauded President Muhammadu Buhari for assenting to the Bill, saying this is a sign of good things to befall the nation’s prison system.

They however demanded a holistic implementation of the new legislation from the Federal Government.

 

 

Speaking on the issue, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Chief Niyi Akintola, expressed his hope that the new legislation will help in reforming the nation’s prison system.

 

 

He said: “I want to commend the Federal Government for allowing such legislation. It is an international best practice that is being adopted and I hope government will be able to implement it.

 

 

“Putting a law in place is not a major problem for us in this country but its implementation which has always been the bane of our development.

“The country is blessed with good brains to formulate good policies but getting people to implement the policies have always been a problem.

 

 

“So, all I can say is that this is a step in the right direction and I hope government will be able to put machinery in motion to ensure the full implementation of the law”.

 

 

In his comments, the National President of the Campaign For the Defence of Human Rights (CDHR), Mr. Malachy Ugwummadu, said the new legislation is consistent with the whole package of the reformed Criminal Justice system.

 

 

 

 

“The first thing is to commend the Federal Government for this shift in nomenclature which is reflective of an intended shift in policy decision to move away from punishment to correctional.

 

 

“This is against the regular prison facilities that we have had from the colonial era till this moment and it’s quite consistent with the whole package of the reformed Criminal Justice system.

 

 

“But you can agree with me that it will not stop at just change in name. Even if we call it empowerment center, it doesn’t cease to be a place of confinement.

 

 

“What comes along with such facility designed to hold onto people pending trial or at such time they finish serving their jail terms is the access to activities that has the capacity to reform a suspect or an accused person.

“There should be a deliberate policy of government, particularly the prison service to ensure that every prisoner who is desirous to be educated and entitled to be educated have that education.

 

 

“Another thing is the provision of infrastructure, including ICT facilities to enable prisoners have access to the world in a manner that would re-orientate them. In essence, there should be a deliberate policy to re-orientate prisoners for them to develop a frame of mind that takes them away from criminality to innovation. Prisoners must also have regular interface with members of the public in terms of external lectures and religious activities,” he said.

 

 

 

 

 

 

On his part, the Coordinator, Christian Lawyers Fellowship of Nigeria (CLASFON), Lagos sub-region, Prince Okey-Joe Onuakalusi, thumbed up the president for assenting to the Bill saying it will make prisoners better members of the society.

 

 

He said: “Prior to the emergence of the law, prisons were seen as places of punishment and prisoners are usually stigmatized.

 

 

“This however should not be the case because the essence of prison ought to be a way of taking someone who have committed a crime out of the society and placed him in a place where he will be able to re-adjust into the system before bringing him back to the society.

 

 

“This new arrangement of Nigerian Correctional Service system brings out what is obtainable in advanced countries where Correctional agencies are in existence for people who have been convicted for various minor offences. This was done to take away any stigma of a prisoner. My expectation of the new legislation is that it will make prisoners better members of the society.

 

 

“I know for a fact that the organization I represent, the Christian Lawyers Fellowship of Nigeria (CLASFON), do visit prisons, make donations as well offer free legal services to prisoners. Through our legal services, we have been able to rehabilitate some of them.

 

 

“We hope that government will be able to implement all that were contained in the new law for a thorough reformation, revamping and rejigging of our prison system.

 

 

“I also hope that mechanism that will make our prisons truly correctional facilities will be put in place by government. Officers who will man these Correctional facilities must also be trained”.

 

 

A Lagos-based lawyer, Mr. Ige Asemudara, argued that the problem with the nation’s prison system borders on human, financial and other resources available to it and the management of such resources.

 

 

“Change of name is not the same thing as transformation. What difference does it make if I change my name from Ige to Samson? Does that make me the strongest or most powerful man on earth?

 

 

“The service needs to be transformed. Every prison officer I have seen either looked frustrated, overworked or unkempt. The welfare of the officers is as bad as those of the prisoners.

 

 

“I have not read the Bill or Act as the case may be but I know one thing for sure, the problems with the service is not with the law but with the human, financial and other resources available to it and the management of those resources.

“So, the institution needs a total overhaul, budgeting for the service and implementation of same should be reviewed and monitored to the last kobo.

 

 

“Inmates are dying, officers are suffering. Correctional programmes have always been there but never well implemented or managed. Let there be attitudinal change also through proper education and reorientation.

 

 

 

“There is a need for a well-tailored programme for rehabilitation of ex-convicts and their reabsorption into the society. There must indeed be a paradigm shift. I practice in the criminal justice section among other sections of legal practice and I must confess, the prisons are in a sorry state. Until we address these salient issues, there will be nothing in that new name,” Asemudara said.

 

 

A rights activist, Mr. Chris Ekemezie, demanded a total overhaul of the nation’s prison system.

 

 

He said: “The problem we have in Nigeria is cosmetic. We do not need a change of name. What is needed is reformation. All the prisons in Nigeria are still made of mud. They were originally made for fewer inmates. Today a prison meant for just 450 inmates house over 6,000. In most cases they consist of more awaiting trials than convicts.

 

 

 

“Changing a name does not make a difference. Take a bottle of beer and change its name to Sparkling Water, you did not alter its chemical composition. It remains beer notwithstanding the change of name.

 

“Let it bear any name what is needed is reformations. Modern housing facilities need to be put in place which will include new concrete buildings, beddings, modern toilet facilities, two or three inmates to a room, feeding and recreational facilities.

 

 

“Presently the prison facilities in Nigeria are eyesores. It is meant to dehumanize inmates. The change of name without corresponding upgrade of the facilities is a fallacy,” the lawyer said.

 

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Law

‘FG goofed on new nomenclature for prisons’

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‘FG goofed on new nomenclature for prisons’

Folarin Ebiti, a lawyer of many parts, obtained an LL.B from the Lagos State University and was called to Bar in 2017. Ebiti shares his law story with JOHN CHIKEZIE

 

Background

I am Folarin Ebiti, from Lagos Island in Lagos state. I am a lawyer with a particular niche for business, real estates, Information Technology and Intellectual Property. I also like sport, reading, and traveling.

My elementary school started at the Police Children School in Obalende and later at Ola Quranic Private School.

 

Thereafter, I attended Wahab Folawiyo, and Government College Victory Island for my junior secondary school education and later completed my senior secondary school education at Was-Lat Private College.

 

 

I attended Lagos State University where I bagged my LL.B degree and subsequently to the Nigeria Law School, Lagos campus. I was called to the Nigeria Bar in the year 2017.

 

 

Choice of career

 

There was a time when I had to define what I wanted in life. My resolve was the pursuit of a noble, personal fulfilling and financially rewarding career. I was very good at Art subjects but mathematic wasn’t really my forte. Therefore, as a result of my limited capacity in the subject, like all my peers, studying law provided a perfect escape from future mathematical problems.

 

Honestly, it was until my first year at the university, while studying law, did I realize the immense opportunities inherent in the legal profession.

 

I realized I could do much and become whatsoever I had dreamt of with the law degree. As a lawyer, I could be in politics, a writer, a teacher, a magnate, an advocate and even become a hero to the people.

 

The legal profession is vast and intellectually challenging and I think studying law is the best way to understand what our society is about, how it operates, applicable rules, how politics and policies are involved, and how the individuals are being affected by all these.

 

 

The police and the prison system 

 

 

The police are now erroneously seen as debt recovery agents. It’s even more outrageous when pure contractual misunderstanding is criminally defined for obvious reasons. The Nigeria judiciary system needs to be more proficient, effective and take positions that will make a well-designed administration of criminal justice system. Imagine a society where bail is free and the police is truly your friend; but unfortunately, that society is not Nigeria. 

 

Consequently, another issue worthy of attention is the prison systems in Nigeria; now The Nigerian Correctional Service formerly known as Nigerian Prison service.

 

It is not enough to change the name when the problem still remains the same. Nigeria prisons are heavily congested over and above its current structure. The percentage of awaiting trial-inmates is outrageous and some have spent several years behind bars without getting a day in court.

 

 

Personally, these are more pronounced issue that should get all stakeholders attention. I look forward to using my status as a lawyer to advocate much better criminal administration system.

 

New crime trend– armed robbery, rape, fraud and cybercrime

 

The causes of most social ills and menace are not farfetched. Factors such as unemployment, poverty, peer group pressure, poor security mechanism, also negative behavioral pattern such as greed, anger, jealousy, revenge, or pride. Other factors such as the upbringing of a child and its relative impact could also be a cause.

 

The theory of cause and effect is almost an impeccable theory; the lacuna created by unscrupulous, visionless and corrupt leadership is a great social imbalance which results into poor and angry followers.

What may drive people to take up arms or result to cybercrime may differ. But the major cause is still the quest to amass wealth regardless of the moral or legal consequences.

However, on the issue of rape, apart from the underlying cause earlier mentioned, proper deterrent to rape perpetrators is evidently yet to be established by the judiciary.

We live in a society that stigmatizes rape victims.

 

 

And as a result of failure to provide adequate proof such as semen, bruises or other material evidence to convict a suspect in court, the rape victim becomes totally intimidated.

 

 

Who are then the champions or stakeholders to end this cruel menace? Everybody! The government, being a major stakeholder, should rise up and develop working policies to reduce the outrageous level of poverty and unemployment.

 

 

The family, as a micro government, should start teaching values and responsibility to their kids. The society at large should understand that yahoo yahoo (cybercrime) is not different from armed robbery and that it has a matching tendency of killing its victims. 

 

 

What I would have done differently as Attorney-General of the Federation

 

 

My first line of action would be to hold a stakeholders’ meeting with the aim of having a working policies and base on a general expression of intents from relevant stakeholders, then every other action will flow.

 

 

We can come up with a national policy on justice, ultimately, to promote quick dispensation of justice without fear of favour, promote alternative dispute resolution, champion a robust capacity building structure for judges and all other judiciary workers. Others would be on decongestion of the court; relieving the heavy workloads on our judges, sponsors bills that will help achieve these aims, promote consolidations of bills or laws that in a way will eradicate proliferation of laws which is hindering economic growth.

 

 

Similarly, come up with a national policy on prosecution which ultimately helps reinstate the public confidence in the administration of criminal justice system. Reforms that will aid in decongesting the prisons, capacity building for all prosecutors, strong collaboration with the police to ensure no innocent person suffers unjustly, act as check on the police excesses, also ensure that lawful prosecution of offenders or accused persons are timely and diligently.

Where there is a working administration of criminal justice naturally the people’s confidence would be restored.

 

 

Independence of judiciary

 

Personally, the constitutional arrangement is to be blamed whether or not the judiciary is truly independent.

 

 

Section 231 (1) of the Constitution provides that the appointment of a person to the office of Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) shall be made by the President on the recommendation of the National Judicial Council (NJC), subject to confirmation of such appointment by the Senate.

Similarly, Section 292 of the Constitution provides for the removal of judicial officers and in the case of the Federal Justices, it is by the president, who takes action on an address supported by two thirds majority of the Senate.

The NJC is empowered not only with the recommendation of Federal Justices, but also with State Judges Section 271 (1) of the Constitution. The State Judicial Council, in my opinion, is best suited to handle the affairs of recommending State Judges for obvious reasons and not the NJC.

 

 

Looking at the Constitution, the judiciary, as the third arm of government, cannot be said to be truly independent, most especially when the other arms are strongly interfering in its affairs, thereby hindering the possibility of a strong institutional independence.

Ambition

 

 

I am a very ambitious person and, like most young persons that desire to be rich, respected and famous, I like to be all that too and more. I am privileged to be a member of the noble profession and I understand the weight and possibility inherent in the profession.

I would like to be known as an expert in Business Law practices, Intellectual property practices and a True Advocate for law and order. I am passionate about humanity and I hope to volunteer my skills and expertise for the betterment of humanity in whatever capacity I might find myself in the future.

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Bickering over Ondo retirement age law

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Bickering over Ondo retirement age law

FOLUSO OGUNMODEDE writes that fresh litigation is imminent in Ondo State following plans by some lawyers to challenge in court a new law passed by the State House of Assembly which would extend retirement age of university and other tertiary institutions’ workers from 60 to 70 years

 

D

ays after it enacted a law entitled Ondo State Universities and Other Tertiary Institutions (Retirement age) Law, 2019 which now pegged retirement age of the institutions’ members of staff from 60 to 70 years, the State House of Assembly may have ignited legal fireworks following plans by lawyers to test the new law in court.

 

Besides, the House which passed a “bill for a law to provide for the retirement age of professors, academic and non-academic staff of universities and other tertiary institutions in Ondo State” on 4th September, 2019 said the new law would take effect from January 2019.

 

 

With the new law, workers who already retired between January and August this year and whose positions had been occupied by their subordinates would return to office.

 

 

The law arose from an executive bill initiated from the office of the governor. But while passing the bill into law, the House which made the law retrospective said Professors in the state universities would now retire at 70 years while other academic staff and non-academic staff at 65 years.

 

 

 

It said: “Interpretation; in this law, unless the context otherwise requires: “Academic staff” means an employee of the university who is engaged in teaching and research services.

 

 

“Non-academic staff” means a member of staff of universities and other tertiary institutions whose primary duties are not academic but administrative in support of the academic programs of the Institution.

“Staff on professional cadre means academic staff who are professors in the relevant field of study.

 

 

“Other tertiary institutions include Teaching Hospitals, Research Institutes, Polytechnics, Mono-technics and colleges of education established and owned by Ondo State Government.

“University” means a university established by a Law enacted by the Ondo State House of Assembly.  Notwithstanding the provisions of any existing law relating or pertaining to compulsory retirement age of staff on professional cadre and other staff of universities and other tertiary institutions in the State, the retirement age for Professors shall be 70 years, other academic staff shall be 65 years, and the on-academic staff shall be 65 years.

 

“This Law may be cited as the Ondo State Universities and Other Tertiary Institutions (Retirement Age) Law, 2019 and the law should come into effect in January 2019.”

 

Apparently miffed, lawyers at the weekend described the new law passed on 4th September, 2019 and made to take effect from January as not only illegal but an abuse of power by the Ondo state House Assembly.

 

The lawyers including a Senior Advocate of Nigeria condemned the new law, describing it as anti-people which if implemented would not only increase the state’s financial burden  as workers would now benefit retrospectively but an opportunity to put future of young ones in jeopardy.

Specifically, Mr. Seyi Sowemimo (SAN), President, Campaign For the Defence of Human Rights (CDHR), Mr. Malachy Ugwummadu and Mr. Mohammed Fawehinmi condemned the new law, insisting that its implementation would not stand the test of time.

 

 

Also, they were unanimous that the law which was made to operate retrospectively was wicked anti-people, and would put the future of young ones in extreme jeopardy.

 

 

For instance, Sowemimo, said young people would find it extremely difficult to secure employment in the civil service should the new law become operational.

He said: “The law will definitely increase financial burden of the state, because many people will now benefit retrospectively.

 

 

“It’s an indication that the state is willing to bear the consequences of extending service years of civil servants.

“This may consequently put the opportunity of the young ones coming into service in jeopardy. This is because the sooner the older ones leave the better for the young ones. So, I don’t really see much sense in the law and I will not be surprised if the law is challenged in court.”

 

 

Sowemimo was echoed by Ugwummadu, who believed that the law was capable of legitimizing sharp practices in the state civil service.

 

He said: “First, the law is not supposed to operate retrospectively. That is trite, because you cannot legislate with respect to things that have happened. You legislate with respect to things of the moment and how the society interfacing with people will be regulated moving forward.

“You can only be talking of a law when it is passed by the   State House of Assembly and assented to by the governor.

 

 

“This is the same way an Act will become effectual when the Bill presented by the National Assembly is assented to by the president. So, technically, the work relationship of a state cannot be reordered through Executive Bill. It must be by way of legislation and then the rules and conditions of employment will now benefit from that legislation. Legislation is consistent with democracy and not Executive Order which is reminiscent of military mentality.

 

 

“However, if the Executive Bill under consideration becomes effective, it will mean that people who have retired, even others who have died, will now draw salaries. This will in turn legitimises sharp practices in the state civil service.”

Fawehinmi said the law was not only fraudulent and vexatious, but also insulting the nation’s democratic era.

 

 

He said: “This is absolutely shocking to say the least. We have left the military era behind for about 20 years till date. That law is dead on arrival. The law is fraudulent, vexatious and very insulting to this democratic era to be very frank.

“All the members of the House that participated in the promulgation of this new law should be brought up on charges of fraudulent misrepresentation and should be further investigated for embezzlement of funds relating to the purported backdate. This is very disgraceful”.

A rights activist, Mr. Kabir Akingbolu, described the law as illegal saying it was borne out of favoritism and nepotism.

 

 

Akingbolu said: “It is an illegal law. How can this kind of law be made in Nigeria by 21st century. It is ridiculous and if you look at it very well, you will arrive at the corner cause as favouritism or nepotism.

 

“Apart from the fact that our law, the 1999 Constitution, which is the ‘Fons et origo’ and the grund num of Nigerian laws, forbid retroactive laws, our peculiar circumstances in the country does not favour such.

 

“This is because the stark reality is that many youths are jobless and it follows that when people resign due to old age, it will create room for youth employment. To do otherwise is to worsen the lots of the youths who are majorly jobless.

 

“The law must have been made to suit some people who are connected to the powers that be. It is simply an anti-people policy more so, that anyone who retires at age 65 is not likely to suffer because he can leave conveniently on his pension but what of the youths?

 

 

“I am sure the governor who is a very senior lawyer will take a second look at the law. We are not in military era. This is undemocratic and I wouldn’t be surprised if it is challenged in court.”

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Olumide-Fusika: Shoddy investigation fueling prolonged trial of criminal cases

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Mr. Adeyinka Olumide-Fusika, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), in this interview with AKEEM NAFIU speaks on delay in criminal trial, cases congestion at Supreme Court and sundry issues

 

 

Do you agree with suggestions that criminal trial will be hastily concluded when the burden of proof is shifted from the prosecution to the defence?

 

 

If I am not mistaking, the purport of your question is that when delay is suffered in criminal trial, it is the fault of the defence. There are no statistical data or fact to prove that assertion.

What we know is that in Nigeria, what goes for investigation is simply laughable. An instance is the case of Sowore who is being detained for organizing a protest he tagged, ‘RevolutionNow’.

He was arrested by operatives of the Department of State Services (DSS) and accused of treason. The DSS then went to court and sought for 90 days to detain Sowore while they carry out investigations on his activities.

In the course of all these, DSS went to town with news about how Sowore is being funded by his foreign partners to topple Buhari’s government. Nowhere else is that done except in Nigeria and is some other banana republic.

To start with, if DSS are engage in any serious investigation, it will not be announcing it on the pages of newspapers. This is because as a serious investigator, while you are yet to conclude your work, you will not want to divulge it so as to prevent your targets from knowing your plans or what you have found out about them.

It is only when investigations have been concluded that charges are filed with the proof of evidence. That’s the way it is supposed to be done. But the reverse is the case in Nigeria.

So, when there are no proper investigations, how do you expect prosecution of such cases to look like? Of course, it would not be smooth because the evidences are not there. Therefore, when there are suggestions that it is the defence that is causing delay, it is not always true.

Most of the prosecuting agencies have failed in their duties and they are only engaging in propaganda saying thing that are not factual. They are never ready for any prosecution.

 

I am not saying all these to completely exonerate the defence. Of course, there are defence lawyers who will cling to everything to delay their cases because they know within their heart that clients have no case. So, they will want to do everything to drag the case for as long as possible.

However, the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015 has addressed some of these issues. I also want you to take note that our legal system is based on the principle that everybody is presumed innocent until proven guilty and the burden is on the person who has alleged the commission of an offence to prove that the offence was actually committed.

 

What is your view on panacea for the problem of congestion of cases  at the Supreme Court?

 

Yes, the Supreme Court is congested. Even, commercial lawyers will tell you that they are the one suffering. This is because the whole place has been taken over by political cases. For me, there are some cases that should not even get to the Supreme Court.

Meanwhile, whatever case you see in the apex court is allowed by the Constitution now in operation. The Supreme Court judges can however look at the rules of the court and determine whatever cases they will hear.

 

Is the establishment of regional Supreme Court a way out of the congestion problem?

 

I don’t think so. By the time we are having Supreme Court at the regions, we will be confronted with the issue of conflicting judgements. Even, with just one Supreme Court in existence at the moment, the academics who are studying the judgements talks about inconsistencies and conflicting principles.

 

All these boils down to the Nigeria factor because I don’t think we should have any reason for conflict in as much as the law is constant. The issue of conflicting judgements is not peculiar to the Supreme Court alone, the lower courts are also involved.

However, in a civilized society, the law must be known and must be interpreted in a manner that is clear and consistent at all times. This is because uncertainty in interpretation of laws will breed anarchy.

 

 

How do we make the new set of ministers recently sworn into office by President Buhari accountable?

 

The ministers are accountable to the president. It’s the person that appointed them that has authority over them. It’s a 4-year bondage that we have signed ourselves into. The person that is accountable to us that we can remove by our votes is that individual that we put in power.

So, as far as the issue of the ministers is concern, it is only the person that appointed them that can decide their fate. The president has chosen these people to help him achieve his agenda and if they are not doing well, he is the only one that can take an action to remove them.

 

 

But for me as a Nigerian, I don’t have any expectation from anyone in government and I hope you equally know that most Nigerians are on their own. Government is on its own while majority of Nigerians are also on their own. They don’t look up to government for anything and they have no expectation from government.

 

Personally, I don’t have any expectation from any minister and if perhaps they perform, we’ll give thanks to God, but I can assure you that will be accidental.

 

Some of these people have been in government since the commencement of this democracy in 1999 and if you asked them about their contribution to national development, they can’t point out to anything. So, it will be foolish of me to say I have any expectation from anyone in government and any Nigerian who is hopeful, I wish him or her goodluck.

 

Do you think the appointment of a Minister for Police Affairs will change the negative narratives about Nigerian police?

 

 

After four years, go and check police barracks and the conditions of policemen. Where they work and where they live. Take the pictures of those places now and go back there in the next four years. There would not be any improvement, it would have worsened.

So, what’s the point of having a Minister for Police Affairs? What’s the point? There’s no point? I don’t see the minister achieving anything.

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Law

Bickering over Ondo retirement age law

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Bickering over Ondo retirement age law

Lawyers: Ondo retirement age law wicked, vexatious

 

FOLUSO OGUNMODEDE writes that fresh litigation is imminent in Ondo State following plans by some lawyers to challenge in court a new law passed by the State House of Assembly which would extend retirement age of university and other tertiary institutions’ workers from 60 to 70 years

 

 

 

D

ays after it enacted a law entitled Ondo State Universities and Other Tertiary Institutions (Retirement age) Law, 2019 which now pegged retirement age of the institutions’ members of staff from 60 to 70 years, the State House of Assembly may have ignited legal fireworks following plans by lawyers to test the new law in court.

Besides, the House which passed a “bill for a law to provide for the retirement age of professors, academic and non-academic staff of universities and other tertiary institutions in Ondo State” on 4th September, 2019 said the new law would take effect from January 2019.

With the new law, workers who already retired between January and August this year and whose positions had been occupied by their subordinates would return to office.

The law arose from an executive bill initiated from the office of the governor. But while passing the bill into law, the House which made the law retrospective said Professors in the state universities would now retire at 70 years while other academic staff and non-academic staff at 65 years.

It said: “Interpretation; in this law, unless the context otherwise requires: “Academic staff” means an employee of the university who is engaged in teaching and research services.

“Non-academic staff” means a member of staff of universities and other tertiary institutions whose primary duties are not academic but administrative in support of the academic programs of the Institution.

“Staff on professional cadre means academic staff who are professors in the relevant field of study.

“Other tertiary institutions include Teaching Hospitals, Research Institutes, Polytechnics, Mono-technics and colleges of education established and owned by Ondo State Government.

“University” means a university established by a Law enacted by the Ondo State House of Assembly.  Notwithstanding the provisions of any existing law relating or pertaining to compulsory retirement age of staff on professional cadre and other staff of universities and other tertiary institutions in the State, the retirement age for Professors shall be 70 years, other academic staff shall be 65 years, and the on-academic staff shall be 65 years.

“This Law may be cited as the Ondo State Universities and Other Tertiary Institutions (Retirement Age) Law, 2019 and the law should come into effect in January 2019.”

Apparently miffed, lawyers at the weekend described the new law passed on 4th September, 2019 and made to take effect from January as not only illegal but an abuse of power by the Ondo state House Assembly.

The lawyers including a Senior Advocate of Nigeria condemned the new law, describing it as anti-people which if implemented would not only increase the state’s financial burden  as workers would now benefit retrospectively but an opportunity to put future of young ones in jeopardy.

Specifically, Mr. Seyi Sowemimo (SAN), President, Campaign For the Defence of Human Rights (CDHR), Mr. Malachy Ugwummadu and Mr. Mohammed Fawehinmi condemned the new law, insisting that its implementation would not stand the test of time.

Also, they were unanimous that the law which was made to operate retrospectively was wicked anti-people, and would put the future of young ones in extreme jeopardy.

For instance, Sowemimo, said young people would find it extremely difficult to secure employment in the civil service should the new law become operational.

He said: “The law will definitely increase financial burden of the state, because many people will now benefit retrospectively.

“It’s an indication that the state is willing to bear the consequences of extending service years of civil servants.

“This may consequently put the opportunity of the young ones coming into service in jeopardy. This is because the sooner the older ones leave the better for the young ones. So, I don’t really see much sense in the law and I will not be surprised if the law is challenged in court.”

Sowemimo was echoed by Ugwummadu, who believed that the law was capable of legitimizing sharp practices in the state civil service.

 

 

He said: “First, the law is not supposed to operate retrospectively. That is trite, because you cannot legislate with respect to things that have happened. You legislate with respect to things of the moment and how the society interfacing with people will be regulated moving forward.

“You can only be talking of a law when it is passed by the    State House of Assembly and assented to by the governor.

 

 

“This is the same way an Act will become effectual when the Bill presented by the National Assembly is assented to by the president. So, technically, the work relationship of a state cannot be reordered through Executive Bill. It must be by way of legislation and then the rules and conditions of employment will now benefit from that legislation. Legislation is consistent with democracy and not Executive Order which is reminiscent of military mentality.

“However, if the Executive Bill under consideration becomes effective, it will mean that people who have retired, even others who have died, will now draw salaries. This will in turn legitimises sharp practices in the state civil service.”

Fawehinmi said the law was not only fraudulent and vexatious, but also insulting the nation’s democratic era.

 

He said: “This is absolutely shocking to say the least. We have left the military era behind for about 20 years till date. That law is dead on arrival. The law is fraudulent, vexatious and very insulting to this democratic era to be very frank.

“All the members of the House that participated in the promulgation of this new law should be brought up on charges of fraudulent misrepresentation and should be further investigated for embezzlement of funds relating to the purported backdate. This is very disgraceful”.

 

A rights activist, Mr. Kabir Akingbolu, described the law as illegal saying it was borne out of favoritism and nepotism.

 

Akingbolu said: “It is an illegal law. How can this kind of law be made in Nigeria by 21st century. It is ridiculous and if you look at it very well, you will arrive at the corner cause as favouritism or nepotism.

 

“Apart from the fact that our law, the 1999 Constitution, which is the ‘Fons et origo’ and the grund num of Nigerian laws, forbid retroactive laws, our peculiar circumstances in the country does not favour such.

 

“This is because the stark reality is that many youths are jobless and it follows that when people resign due to old age, it will create room for youth employment. To do otherwise is to worsen the lots of the youths who are majorly jobless.

 

“The law must have been made to suit some people who are connected to the powers that be. It is simply an anti-people policy more so, that anyone who retires at age 65 is not likely to suffer because he can leave conveniently on his pension but what of the youths?

 

 

“I am sure the governor who is a very senior lawyer will take a second look at the law. We are not in military era. This is undemocratic and I wouldn’t be surprised if it is challenged in court.”

 

 

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‘FG goofed on new nomenclature for prisons’

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‘FG goofed on new nomenclature for prisons’

Folarin Ebiti, a lawyer of many parts, obtained an LL.B from the Lagos State University and was called to Bar in 2017. Ebiti shares his law story with JOHN CHIKEZIE

 

Background

I am Folarin Ebiti, from Lagos Island in Lagos state. I am a lawyer with a particular niche for business, real estates, Information Technology and Intellectual Property. I also like sport, reading, and traveling.

My elementary school started at the Police Children School in Obalende and later at Ola Quranic Private School.

 

Thereafter, I attended Wahab Folawiyo, and Government College Victory Island for my junior secondary school education and later completed my senior secondary school education at Was-Lat Private College.

 

 

I attended Lagos State University where I bagged my LL.B degree and subsequently to the Nigeria Law School, Lagos campus. I was called to the Nigeria Bar in the year 2017.

 

 

Choice of career

 

There was a time when I had to define what I wanted in life. My resolve was the pursuit of a noble, personal fulfilling and financially rewarding career. I was very good at Art subjects but mathematic wasn’t really my forte. Therefore, as a result of my limited capacity in the subject, like all my peers, studying law provided a perfect escape from future mathematical problems.

 

Honestly, it was until my first year at the university, while studying law, did I realize the immense opportunities inherent in the legal profession.

 

I realized I could do much and become whatsoever I had dreamt of with the law degree. As a lawyer, I could be in politics, a writer, a teacher, a magnate, an advocate and even become a hero to the people.

 

The legal profession is vast and intellectually challenging and I think studying law is the best way to understand what our society is about, how it operates, applicable rules, how politics and policies are involved, and how the individuals are being affected by all these.

 

 

The police and the prison system 

 

 

The police are now erroneously seen as debt recovery agents. It’s even more outrageous when pure contractual misunderstanding is criminally defined for obvious reasons. The Nigeria judiciary system needs to be more proficient, effective and take positions that will make a well-designed administration of criminal justice system. Imagine a society where bail is free and the police is truly your friend; but unfortunately, that society is not Nigeria. 

 

Consequently, another issue worthy of attention is the prison systems in Nigeria; now The Nigerian Correctional Service formerly known as Nigerian Prison service.

 

It is not enough to change the name when the problem still remains the same. Nigeria prisons are heavily congested over and above its current structure. The percentage of awaiting trial-inmates is outrageous and some have spent several years behind bars without getting a day in court.

 

 

Personally, these are more pronounced issue that should get all stakeholders attention. I look forward to using my status as a lawyer to advocate much better criminal administration system.

 

New crime trend– armed robbery, rape, fraud and cybercrime

 

The causes of most social ills and menace are not farfetched. Factors such as unemployment, poverty, peer group pressure, poor security mechanism, also negative behavioral pattern such as greed, anger, jealousy, revenge, or pride. Other factors such as the upbringing of a child and its relative impact could also be a cause.

 

The theory of cause and effect is almost an impeccable theory; the lacuna created by unscrupulous, visionless and corrupt leadership is a great social imbalance which results into poor and angry followers.

What may drive people to take up arms or result to cybercrime may differ. But the major cause is still the quest to amass wealth regardless of the moral or legal consequences.

However, on the issue of rape, apart from the underlying cause earlier mentioned, proper deterrent to rape perpetrators is evidently yet to be established by the judiciary.

We live in a society that stigmatizes rape victims.

 

 

And as a result of failure to provide adequate proof such as semen, bruises or other material evidence to convict a suspect in court, the rape victim becomes totally intimidated.

 

 

Who are then the champions or stakeholders to end this cruel menace? Everybody! The government, being a major stakeholder, should rise up and develop working policies to reduce the outrageous level of poverty and unemployment.

 

 

The family, as a micro government, should start teaching values and responsibility to their kids. The society at large should understand that yahoo yahoo (cybercrime) is not different from armed robbery and that it has a matching tendency of killing its victims. 

 

 

What I would have done differently as Attorney-General of the Federation

 

 

My first line of action would be to hold a stakeholders’ meeting with the aim of having a working policies and base on a general expression of intents from relevant stakeholders, then every other action will flow.

 

 

We can come up with a national policy on justice, ultimately, to promote quick dispensation of justice without fear of favour, promote alternative dispute resolution, champion a robust capacity building structure for judges and all other judiciary workers. Others would be on decongestion of the court; relieving the heavy workloads on our judges, sponsors bills that will help achieve these aims, promote consolidations of bills or laws that in a way will eradicate proliferation of laws which is hindering economic growth.

 

 

Similarly, come up with a national policy on prosecution which ultimately helps reinstate the public confidence in the administration of criminal justice system. Reforms that will aid in decongesting the prisons, capacity building for all prosecutors, strong collaboration with the police to ensure no innocent person suffers unjustly, act as check on the police excesses, also ensure that lawful prosecution of offenders or accused persons are timely and diligently.

Where there is a working administration of criminal justice naturally the people’s confidence would be restored.

 

 

Independence of judiciary

 

Personally, the constitutional arrangement is to be blamed whether or not the judiciary is truly independent.

 

 

Section 231 (1) of the Constitution provides that the appointment of a person to the office of Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) shall be made by the President on the recommendation of the National Judicial Council (NJC), subject to confirmation of such appointment by the Senate.

Similarly, Section 292 of the Constitution provides for the removal of judicial officers and in the case of the Federal Justices, it is by the president, who takes action on an address supported by two thirds majority of the Senate.

The NJC is empowered not only with the recommendation of Federal Justices, but also with State Judges Section 271 (1) of the Constitution. The State Judicial Council, in my opinion, is best suited to handle the affairs of recommending State Judges for obvious reasons and not the NJC.

 

 

Looking at the Constitution, the judiciary, as the third arm of government, cannot be said to be truly independent, most especially when the other arms are strongly interfering in its affairs, thereby hindering the possibility of a strong institutional independence.

Ambition

 

 

I am a very ambitious person and, like most young persons that desire to be rich, respected and famous, I like to be all that too and more. I am privileged to be a member of the noble profession and I understand the weight and possibility inherent in the profession.

I would like to be known as an expert in Business Law practices, Intellectual property practices and a True Advocate for law and order. I am passionate about humanity and I hope to volunteer my skills and expertise for the betterment of humanity in whatever capacity I might find myself in the future.

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Businessman bags10 years over $179,000 fraud

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A Nigerian businessman, Lawrence Maduagwu, has been sentenced to 10 years in prison by an Ikeja Special Offences Court in Lagos for defrauding a Chinese company, PMC industries limited, of $179,000.

 

Justice Mojisola Dada convicted Maduagwu, who was arraigned on February 28, 2018 by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), on a two-count charge bordering on stealing and obtaining by false pretence.

 

 

Delivering her judgement, Justice Dada said, “the defendant is hereby sentenced to seven years imprisonment on count one and three years on count two.

 

“Both sentences are to run concurrently from the date of his remand, on February 28,  2018 by the court”.

 

The judge also ordered that the convict shall make full restitution of $179,000 to the petitioner, which the EFCC must employ all legal means to ensure compliance.

 

In the course of Maduagwu’s trial, the prosecution lawyer, Samuel Daji, called five witnesses and tendered several exhibits that were admitted in evidence by the court.

A Chinese National, Li Min, also testified against Maduagwu narrating how he conned him off  $179,000.

 

In his evidence-in-chief, Lin Min, told the court that his company was defrauded by his Nigerian business partner, Maduagwu.

 

He said that the company became a mess after the fraud and that he lost his position as a Managing Director as a result of Maduagwu’s deceit.

“My business partner refused to pay for goods I delivered to him which amounts to over $179,000 since 2013; leaving my life in shambles.

 

“Maduagwu approached my company with a proposition for business in Nigeria. He promised an availability of market and customers and assured me that goods delivered would be promptly paid for. He told my company that he has a market he can help us sell our goods to and that there would be no issue of non-payment.

 

“He then ordered for Calcium Chloride and I wrote him an invoice and transported 500 metric tons of Calcium Chloride worth $179,000 to him. After they arrived at Port Harcourt seaport and after confirmation, he called and said there are more customers in demand for our goods and told me to send another one and it cost another $179,000.

 

“At this time, I didn’t know he was deceiving and playing me all along and he refused to pay for both goods. I called severally and appealed with him to send the payment.

 

“After several attempts, we tried looking for him in his office, after which he paid for the first shipment with a guarantee to pay for the second shipment. From 2013 till this moment, he has refused to pay for the second shipment.”

Li Min added that his account has been frozen due to Maduagwu’s refusal to pay for the second shipment, and that his family had deserted him as they believed he was a fraudster.

 

According to him: “My family, business, and health has been in dire situation ever since. I plead with this court to give me justice”.

 

 

The offences committed by the businessman contravened Section 1 (2)& (3) of the Advance Fee Fraud and Other Fraud-Related Offences Act No 14 of 2006 and Section 285 (1) of the Criminal Law of Lagos State 2011 respectively.

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Christian lawyers task colleagues on justice system

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Christian lawyers task  colleagues on justice system

Christian lawyers have called on their colleagues in the legal profession to always pursue justice in the discharge of their duties. They believed that lawyers are catalysts and change agents in their sphere of influence.

The lawyers made the call at a ‘Dinner event’ organized by the Christian Lawyers Fellowship of Nigeria (CLASFON), Lagos sub-region as part of its Annual General Conference.

 

 

According to them, Justice must not only be spoken of but must be evidenced and exemplified in all deeds, actions and practices of a legal practitioner.

 

 

They also emphasized the need for all lawyers to stand for truth, justice and righteousness at all times irrespective of whose ox is gored.

 

 

Speaking on the theme of the event, “Help all the way”, the Coordinator of CLASFON, Lagos sub-region, Prince Okey-Joe Onuakalusi, noted that justice has not only become a scare commodity in Nigeria, but is also on the verge of extinction.

“There is a common saying that the judiciary is the last hope of the common man. But I dare say the actors to set the stage for eroding this hope are you and I.

 

 

“The Bar and Bench I dare say are the active participants when a judge delivers a judgement on the influence of any form of gratification. Whether called nepotism, bribery or any other fancy name, anything that defeats fairness and righteousness is evil and anyone that does such has done a great disservice to himself and humanity and as a lawyer especially, is an accomplice to the murder of justice.

 

 

“We are gathered here today because 12 men in their time chose to stand on the side of righteousness, equity and justice; and we are beneficiaries of their steadfastness. And I dare say that our over a hundred thousand self-professed ‘Christian’ lawyers can still change the Nigerian society for good if we are determined to.

 

 

“We must decide like those 12 pioneers of CLASFON stand for the truth, justice and righteousness at all times irrespective of whose ox is gored.

“May I then ask, “who is your helper?” as this is not a task for one without the Supreme being. Only God can help your resolve to follow the path of justice and righteousness”, he said.

The event was chaired by a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Mr. Wemimo Ogunde.

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My agenda for judiciary, by CJN

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My agenda for judiciary, by CJN

The Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad, had an interview session with journalists from selected media houses on the sidelines of the just concluded Annual National Conference of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA). In the session, the CJN speaks on his agenda for the judiciary, its independence, NJC’s members and sundry issues. AKEEM NAFIU was there

 

 

How do we address the ugly perception by some foreign organizations that Nigeria’s judiciary is corrupt?

 

 

Well, anybody can say whatever he likes. But, what we are saying is that if the judiciary is corrupt, those who are saying it should come up with proofs.

 

 

They should be particular about it and mention the individuals involved. This must be proved and when this is done, the law will take its course on anybody.

 

 

This is what we are saying. You can’t just wake up and be making blanket allegations of corruption against the judiciary. Case or cases of corruption must be established and whoever is involved will not go unpunished.

 

 

What is the way out of concerns over lack of fund for projects embarked upon by judiciary, particularly in states of the Federation?

 

 

There were lots of complaints, particularly from Chief Judges of states across the country that state executives are not making funds available. Judiciary is an arm of government but unfortunately some states are not financially independent.

Some of them have gotten what is due to them but others are yet to do so. But certainly whatever needs to be done has to be done, particularly as regards availability of funds because projects cannot be executed when there are no funds.

 

 

In a situation where the judiciary has to go cap in hand for funds from either the state or federal government, a lot of things will have to wait. I believe these are part of the reasons why those projects are yet to be completed.

 

 

Besides, most of these projects are handled by the Federal Ministry of Works and my view is that enough money should be made available for the purpose of executing the projects.

 

 

How much do you think will be adequate for the judiciary to perform its tasks?

 

 

This is something that comes with some calculations. If I speculate or make a guess, I may not not be accurate. Of course, we have a yearly budget which are defended and while defending the budget, a lot of issues are cut away. But, if what we are projecting is giving to the judiciary, it would go a long way in solving many of our problems.

 

 

As long as I may not be exact in telling you how much will be sufficient for the judiciary, we have experts who usually work on such issues and come up with what they think will meet up with the needs of the judiciary on a yearly basis.

However, if the Judiciary is financially independent and we are allowed to do what we think should be done with the funds in our control, I don’t think we will have some of these problems we are talking about.

 

 

Judiciary cannot be said to be independent when it is not independent financially. But I believe with some of the changes we are noticing, the judiciary will soon be independent in all ramifications and in the true sense of it.

 

 

Will you support the clamour in certain quarters that non-lawyers and retired judges should be made members of the National Judicial Council (NJC)?

 

 

Those who are making such proposition or suggestion does not know a lot of things. They are completely ignorant of a lot of things regarding the National Judicial Council (NJC).

The composition of the NJC as they are suggesting is what it is. We have lawyers in the NJC. When it comes to the discipline of judges, those concerned were asked to recuse themselves. 

The law does not permit non-lawyers to be part of the NJC but if the law changes today to say they should be there, it will be so.

 

 

What do you say to insinuation that the CJN’s powers to appoint persons to the NJC is too enormous and should be whittled down?

 

 

Well, if those in authority thinks that the powers given to the CJN is too much and that it should be reduced, I have no issue with that, afterall I have no stake in anything. What we are doing is executing the law as it is.

 

 

What is your assessment of the chain of events that led to your emergence as the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN)?

 

 

The only thing that is permanent is change. There must be changes. This is universal. Change is very necessary. If things must move properly, there must be change. Even in the application of the law, nothing is static; the law is applied to suit the society.

 

 

How do you view the relationship between the judiciary and the executive?

 

 

Well, as far as I am concerned, the relationship, let me generally say among the three arms of government is cordial. Each of the arms is carrying out its functions in line with the dictates of the Constitution.

 

 

The Judiciary does not involve itself in making the laws, except when court’s pronouncements are deemed to be laws. There are situations where we make pronouncement and they are seen as law. Otherwise, we inter-relate. But, none of the institutions interfere in the roles or responsibilities of the other. That is how we are going.

 

 

The Judiciary relates very well with both the Executive and the Legislature. That does not mean that we should not tell the truth if the Executive and the Legislature have issues to settle in court. We don’t mind whose ox is gored. That is what we stick to and this is what we have been doing.

 

 

There has been conversation about how to move the judiciary forward in terms of technology for it to operate as expected in the 21st century. How do we achieve this?

 

 

It is welcomed. Technology will certainly make our job more easier to do. Do you know that judges are still taking proceedings with long hand in almost all our courts in Nigeria? We still write judgements with long hand. If technology is introduced, I am telling you I will fully accept it because like I said earlier it eases a lot of work.

If I tell you that in a day, I hardly sleep for the required 8 hours, you may not believe me. This is because I had to study files of cases before me and I have to do this and other related works everyday.

 

 

What is your view on the controversies trailing the arbitration award of $9.5 billion in favour of a British firm, P&ID, over a failed power project?

 

 

I cannot specifically comment on this issue as well as what process will be involved in the investigation to be carried out by the Office of the Attorney General of the Federation. This is because the case may eventually appear before me in court.

 

Normally, we don’t give advice and we don’t make suggestions when cases are likely to be in court for us. We must keep our mouth sealed until the case gets to court.

Besides, the Attorney General may also have made one or two comments on the issue, but I cannot make any comment on the issue for now to avoid any contradictions.

What is your agenda for the judiciary?

 

 

We want to take Nigeria’s judiciary to a very high status. We want the nation’s judiciary to be first among equals and the first in the African continent.

However, If government can give us all we require in terms of finance, a lot of things will be done. A lot of facilities will be made available for our operations.

I am so optimistic that the judiciary will soon be financially independent because the Federal Government has been taken steps in that direction.

 

 

I will also work towards achieving holistic independent for the judiciary in terms of everything.

 

 

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Why ministers must hold office in public trust, by lawyers

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Why ministers must hold office in public trust, by lawyers

Lawyers at the weekend joined millions of Nigerians to demand that the recently sworn in ministers in President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration should rise to the occasion and dutifully perform tasks assigned to them in order to move the country forward. AKEEM NAFIU reports

 

 

“Y

ou were chosen from each of the 36 States of the federation, and most importantly, you share my commitment to working tirelessly for the people of this country and to achieving a future where every Nigerian can reach his or her full potential.

 

 

“I believe you are ready to get to work. Indeed, the work has already started. For the past two days, you were with me at the retreat; the retreat which was conducted with clear focus on the roadmap towards the delivery of Government Policies, Programmes and Projects for 2019-2023.

“As you are aware, the core objectives of this administration are to improve security, achieve diversified, inclusive economic growth and fight corruption. I am convinced that we can build a buoyant economy that supports inclusive growth and creates broad-based prosperity for every Nigerian – one that will absorb the two million Nigerians entering the labour market each year, as well as reduce the backlog of over 20 million unemployed or underemployed Nigerians.

 

 

“We must also intensify efforts to reduce internal Isecurity threats and eliminate corruption at all levels so as to ensure that our citizens have a safe and corruption-free environment where they can live and conduct their businesses, without fear and intimidation.

 

 

“Our primary business over the next four years is to work together towards delivering the results that the people of Nigeria expect from us. We have a great opportunity as an administration to build on the progress already made in order to fundamentally shift Nigeria’s trajectory on the path of steady growth and development.

“Let me also emphasize that, as heads of your respective ministries, and for effective implementation of your mandates, you are required to work closely with the Permanent Secretaries and Chief Executive Officers of agencies under your purview. This has become necessary considering the fact that, the task of moving the country to the Next Level requires dedication, focus, and collective efforts”.

 

 

The above quotes represents part of the views of President Muhammadu Buhari at the swearing-in ceremony of the ministers designate.

 

 

The president’s thoughts underscored the high expectations of Nigerians in his government regarding the change promised them when he found himself at the helm in 2015.

In the meantime, some senior lawyers have added their voices to that of the president in calling on the ministers to live up to expectations in their various areas of assignments.

 

 

The lawyers while baring their minds on the inauguration of the ministers by the president emphasized the need for them to be accountable not only to the person that appointed them but also to Nigerians.

They opined that as long as Nigerians are yearning for better living standards and democracy dividends, the ministers must be ready to give their all in their service to the nation.

 

 

In his comment, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Chief Mike Ahamba, want the ministers to see their appointment as a privilege and call to service.

He said: “The president has picked the ministers out of millions of Nigerians and they have taken their oath of offices. I expect them to realize that it is a privilege to serve the nation and as such they should live up to expectations.

 

 

“I believed that the president that has appointed them expect them to perform well in any assignment given to them. They should not dissapoint the president and the nation”.

Another silk, Dr. Biodun Layonu (SAN), was of the view that Nigerians have a duty to make the ministers accountable by properly scrutinizing their activities.

 

 

“The ministers are an extension of the executive powers of the government and that of the president who is their principal.  They are accountable the same way the president is accountable to the people of Nigeria and the Constitution.

 

 

“Everyone has the responsibility to make them accountable by watching them in and out of office. The media and the National Assembly oversight functions play major roles in this regard including  NGOs and the professional bodies like NBA. The ordinary people too, by responsible social media coverage and investigative journalism. “Finally the success of the government is the success of the country. We must help them whenever we can to achieve. We are not in competition with them and we must wish them well and cooperate with them by giving ideas and making positive suggestions.

To Mr. Yemi Candide-Johnson (SAN), the ministers are serving at the president’s pleasure and as such any failure on their part must be blamed on the person who appoints them

 

 

He said: “It’s not our job to hold them accountable. They serve at the pleasure of the president in whom all executive power resides. Their faults is his failure and it is him who must account to the Nigerian people”.

Another member of the inner Bar, Mr. Adeyinka Olumide-Fusika, was also of the view that it is the president who appoints the minister that is accountable to Nigerians.

 

 

“The ministers are accountable to the president. It’s the person that appointed them that has authority over them. It’s a 4-year bondage that we have signed ourselves into. The person that is accountable to us that we can remove by our votes is that individual that we put in power.

“So, as far as the issue of the ministers is concern, it is only the person that appointed them that can decide their fate. The president has chosen these people to help him achieve his agenda and if they are not doing well, he is the only one that can take an action to remove them.

 

 

“But for me as a Nigerian, I don’t have any expectation from anyone in government and I hope you equally know that most Nigerians are on their own. Government is on its own while majority of Nigerians are also on their own. They don’t look up to government for anything and they have no expectation from government.

“Personally, I don’t have any expectation from any minister and if perhaps they perform, we’ll give thanks to God, but I can assure you that will be accidental.

“Some of these people have been in government since the commencement of this democracy in 1999 and if you asked them about their contribution to national development, they can’t point out to anything. So, it will be foolish of me to say I have any expectation from anyone in government and any Nigerian who is hopeful, I wish him or her goodluck”, the silk said.

 

 

In his own submissions, a law teacher, Mr. Wahab Shittu, tasked Nigerians to monitor the ministers’ activities in line with the indicators set by Buhari’s government as well as global best practices on fundamentals of good governance.

He said: “Holding ministers accountable is a collective enterprise. We all must serve as Ombudsmen to monitor their progress and performance in the context of indicators set by the administration and global best practices on the fundamentals of good governance.

“Nigerians are yearning for better living standards and democracy dividends.This administration mainly has three point agenda- anti-corruption, security and improvement of the economy. Ministers must deliver on all of these including reflecting integrity, competence, character, capacity, capability and performance. There should be no excuse.

 

 

“We must set targets and monitor compliance. Ministers either ship in or ship out; they must know that public office is public trust and seize the opportunity to really serve the people. Ministers must deliver. No excuse.”

To Mr. Destiny Takon, Nigerians should be concerned about how to make the ministers accountable since they are holding their various offices in public trust.

 

 

“Public office holding is a public trust. To that extent, though appointed by the president and ‘approved’ by the National Assembly, their allegiance and stewardship should be to the Nigerian people.

“In this regard, because the Nigerian people have high expectations for the change promised them by this government since five years ago, that is yet to manifest, emphasis needs to be shifted a bit from calling on just the president and his party alone, to calling on the ministers too directly, to perform on their specific ministerial assignments.

 

 

“This is so because the ministries are the outspread arms of the government by which the dividends of democracy and the derivatives of good governance are delivered to the yearning populace.

“In sane climes, the ministers are chosen from the best crop of the intelligentsia of that nation, just so that meaningful progress in all areas of national life, can be realized. This in itself, emphasizes the prime place of ministers in the quest for good governance and national development”.

A Lagos-based lawyer, Mr. Gabriel Uduafi, noted that ministers’ performance can only be measured in line with people’s expectations.

 

 

“For us to make the ministers accountable, we have to look at the issue ministry by ministry and sector by sector. We must place this side-by-side with the expectations of Nigerians. Once we are able to put these expectations in place, then, we can measure the ministers‘ level of performance.

But, if citizens don’t have expectations, there is no way we can set any performance index for them”, he said.

 

 

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NBA cautions FG against undermining rule of law

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NBA cautions FG against undermining rule of law

The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) has cautioned the Federal Government against engaging in actions that can undermine the rule of law to avoid creating a bad impression of the nation to the outside world.

 

 

The plea was made by the President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Mr. Paul Usoro (SAN) while addressing journalists at the weekend on the communique issued by the lawyers’ umbrella body at the end of activities at its 59th Annual General Conference.

 

 

Usoro noted that the rule of law is one of the core foundational values in a democracy, predicated on an independent judiciary, independent Bar, separation of powers and access to justice.

 

 

The NBA president while assuring that the Bar under him will defend and promote  the rule of law, said citizens and government have a duty to protect, safeguard and advance the rule of law at all times.

 

 

His words: “In no circumstance will the NBA stop to defend, promote and to protect the rule of law. Even when it appears that people in authority are undermining the rule of law, the NBA has sworn to continue to highlight those actions that degrade the rule of law.

 

 

“We will not only stop at continuing to talk about those issues, we will also name and shame those involved, so that the populace will know that we are concerned about some of these practices.

 

 

“The only thing that we will do and that we are still doing is to meet relevant authorities and highlight these issues to them for them to know the damage that the degradation of the rule of law does to the image of Nigeria. It destroys our economy and discourage investors from coming to the country. It does so much negative things to the country”.

 

 

Usoro informed his audience that the recommendations and decisions were adopted in acknowledgment of the roles of different stakeholders in ‘facing the future’ for the betterment of the legal profession, the Nigerian economy and the general public.

He said the conference achieved the objective of speaking to the task of its theme; ‘Facing the Future’, not just by NBA, representing all of the legal system, but also the nation.

 

 

In the communique, the NBA urged the Supreme Court to avail itself any available opportunity to make unambiguous determination on the status of the Code of Conduct Tribunal and clarify whether it is an organ of the Executive or a quasi-judicial tribunal capable of bring vested with criminal jurisdiction.

 

 

Besides, through the communique, the NBA is urging judicial officers to be independent, courageous and unbiased in the execution of their functions without regard to the appointing authority, in order to bolster and retain confidence of investors, businesses and the public in the judiciary.

 

 

The NBA also identified poor socio-economic situation in Nigeria as a contributory factor for the increase in kidnapping and terrorism. It consequently urged the Federal Government to adopt policies that will support socioeconomic empowerment without reference to ethnic, religious or geographical location.

 

 

It also called for an holistic and total enforcement of the Criminal Justice Act 2015, Criminal Justice Laws of some of the states, the anti-kidnapping provisions of the Criminal Code Act and the Kidnapping laws of some states, Terrorism (Prevention) Act and Fundamental Human Rights to reduce the act of kidnapping and terrorism.

 

 

It was also recommended that the Nigerian Bar Association should review the Rules of Professional Conduct (RPC) for an improved and efficient disciplinary process.

The Conference featured 42 sessions, 209 Nigerian and foreign speakers from the legal and business community, academia, legislature as well as the public sector. It witnessed a record attendance of 12,000 delegates.

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