Human Rights Activist, Femi Falana (SAN) has asked the Federal Government to withdraw the army from enforcing the lockdown order placed on the Federal Capital Territory; Lagos and Ogun States.
He said deploying armed troops is illegal and unconstitutional based on precedent judgements of the courts of the land.
He said, “In the March 29, 2020, national broadcast of President Muhammadu Buhari and the COVID-19 Quarantine Regulations issued thereafter to curtail the spread of coronavirus pandemic the members of the armed forces were not authorised to enforce the Regulations.
“But out of sheer impunity, the Defence Headquarters announced the plans of the armed forces to implement the presidential order on the restriction of the movement of the Nigerian people.
“In my reaction to the illegal plan of the Defence Headquarters to involve armed troops in the enforcement of the Regulations, I issued a public statement wherein I said that while the nation’s armed forces should be commended for making their medical facilities available to members of the public in the fight against the highly dangerous virus, the plan to dispatch armed soldiers to the streets to enforce the COVID-19 guidelines should be shelved because it is illegal.
“For the umpteenth time, I am compelled to draw the attention of the military authorities to the case of Yussuf v Obasanjo (2005) 18 NWLR (Pt ) where Salami JCA (as he then was) held that ‘It is up to the police to protect our nascent democracy and not the military, otherwise the democracy might be wittingly or unwittingly militarized.’ This is not what the citizenry bargained for in wrestling power from the military in 1999.
“Conscious steps should be taken to civilianise the polity and thereby ensure the survival of and sustenance of democracy.”
Falana said his position was also backed by the judgement in the case of All Progressive Congress v Peoples Democratic Party (2015) LPELR 24349 where Aboki JCA held that the President lacked the power to call on the Armed Forces to restore law and order in any part of the federation without the approval of the National Assembly as provided in sections 217(2) and 218(4) of the Constitution as amended.
He reminded the Federal Government of its legal obligation “to confine the Military to their demanding assignments especially in these trying times of insurgencies and encroachment into the country’s territories…
“However, in utter violation of the aforesaid injunctions of the Court of Appeal, the platoons of armed troops deployed by the military authorities have unleashed mayhem on innocent members of the public for allegedly breaching the COVID-19 Regulations.”
Falana regretted that the involvement of the armed troops in the enforcement had led to torture and brutalisation of innocent citizens as revealed in several video clips trending online.
He accused the military authorities of not conducting a thorough investigation but rather dismissing the video clip.
“Whereas based on a similar video clip which recently exposed a group of policemen who had engaged in the brutalisation of some traders in Lagos under the pretext of enforcing the COVID-19 Regulations the Inspector General of Police, Mr Mohammed Adamu ensured that the culprits were promptly identified and arrested for the purpose of prosecuting them.
“The civilised conduct of the Police Chief has demonstrated the readiness of the current police leadership to put a stop to the involvement of police personnel in the crude infringement of the fundamental right of the Nigerian people to dignity.
“In the light of the foregoing, we respectfully call on President Buhari and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces to restrain members of the armed forces from further enforcing the COVID 19 Regulations.
“Furthermore, we urge the President to order an investigation into the video clips of the brutalisation of members of the public by some overzealous soldiers and direct the appropriate authorities to bring them to justice for contravening the provisions of the Anti Torture Act, 2017,” he said.
The Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, says the directive of the Chief Justice of the Federation, Justice Tanko Mohammed for courts to suspend proceedings follows the Quarantine Act signed by President Muhammadu Buhari.
Malami in a statement issued on Wednesday by his Special Assistant on Media and Public Relations, Dr Umar Jibrilu Gwandu, however, clarified that courts are expected to attend to matters that are urgent, essential or time-bound even during the lockdown.
The AGF explained that since speedy dispensation of justice is a cardinal principle of the Justice Sector Reform of the present administration, only time-bound cases will be treated with dispatch and accorded the required attention as the nation battles the COVID-19 scourge.
According to the statement, the directive was communicated in a letter addressed to all heads of courts dated 1st April 2020 conveying the COVID 19 Regulation 2020.
It read in part: “Further to the letter Ref. No. NJC/CIR/HOC/11/631 dated 23rd March 2020 by the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Hon. Justice I. T. Mohammad, CFR directing suspension of Court sittings for an initial period of two weeks at the first instance, except in matters that are urgent, essential or time-bound according to extant laws.”
Human rights lawyer, Femi Falana has written to the Minister of Health, Osagie Ehanire to seek the help of Cuba as the country has a drug that has so far proven effective in the fight against Coronavirus.
Falana said “We have confirmed that the Cuban drug known as ‘Recombinant Human Interferon Alpha 2B’ developed by Cuba has so far proven to be the most effective weapon against COVID-19.
“Apart from the Chinese Government which has chosen ‘Interfron Alpha 2B’ as one of the drugs for combating COVID-19, the Italian Government has adopted it and secured the services of Cuban doctors along with Chinese experts in combating the dreaded disease.”
According to Falana, the right wing Brazilian Government which had expelled Cuban doctors two years ago on ideological grounds had been compelled to request for the assistance of Cuban medical team amidst conovarious pandemic.
“Similarly, other Latin American, Caribbean and European countries are reported to have requested the Cuban drug and also help from Cuban medical professionals to fight the COVID-19 scourge,” he said.
“In view of the foregoing, we call on you to use your good offices to confirm the efficacy of the Interfron Alpha 2B’ and recommend same for the treatment of COVID 19.
“Having regards to the selfless role of the Cuban medical professionals in eradicating the Ebola virus in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone in 2017 we call without any further delay. The health of humanity should not be sacrificed on the alter of ideological disputation,” he added.
…Ex-Kano Emir sues IG, DSS boss, fights to leave detention
…Soyinka hits Ganduje
…Nasarawa gov, emirs, security chiefs meet deposed monarch
The deposed Emir of Kano, Muhammadu Sanusi, on Thursday instituted a suit before the Federal High Court in Abuja seeking an order for his release from the post-dethronement detention and confinement.
NobleReporters learnt early on Friday that former Emir’s preliminary ex parte application seeking an interim order for his release had been assigned to Justice Anwuli Chikere.
Barring any last-minute development, the judge will hear the ex parte application on Friday, our correspondent learnt.
The Kano State Governor, Abdullahi Ganduje, on Monday deposed Sanusi because of what the state government called “total disrespect to lawful instructions from the office of the state government.”
On Monday, the dethroned monarch was banished to Loko, a remote location in Nasarawa State. On Tuesday, he was relocated to Awe, where he is currently being detained in a guest house.
But Sanusi’s team of lawyers led by Lateef Fagbemi (SAN) on Thursday filed a suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/357/2020 before the Federal High Court in Abuja to challenge his banishment and continued detention in Awe by security agencies.
The respondents to the application are, the Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu; the Director-General of the Department of State Services, Yusuf Bichi; the Attorney-General of Kano State, Ibrahim Muktar, and the Attorney-General of the Federation, Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN).
In the application, which is a prelude to the main suit, the deposed monarch specifically prayed for an interim order for the restoration of his rights to human dignity, personal liberty, freedom of association, and movement around Nigeria, apart from Kano State, pending the hearing and determination of his main suit.
“An interim order of this honourable court releasing the applicant from the detention and or confinement of the respondents and restoring the applicant’s rights to human dignity, personal liberty, freedom of association and movement in Nigeria, (apart from Kano State) pending the hearing and determination of the applicant’s originating summons,” the prayer read in part.
Alleging a breach of their client’s rights provided under sections 34,35, 40, 41 and 46 of the Nigerian Constitution, Sanusi’s legal team comprising 12 Senior Advocates of Nigeria, contended, “the applicant’s fundamental right to life, human dignity, personal liberty and movement are seriously under challenge and continually being breached by the respondents.”
The battery of SANs comprises, Fagbemi; Prof. Konyinsola Ajayi; a former President of the Nigerian Bar Association, Abubakar Mahmoud; Adeniyi Akintola, the incumbent NBA President, Paul Usoro; Ifedayo Adedipe, Dr. Garba Tetengi, Suraj Sa’eda, Funke Aboyade, Nesser Dangiri, Ernest Ojukwu, and H.O. Afolabi.
In addition to the interim order, the lawyers sought an order granting leave to the applicant to serve the order to be issued by the court and the main suit on the four respondents through substituted means.
He prayed for an order permitting him to deliver the processes meant for the IGP to any officer in his office at the police headquarters at Louis Edet House, Garki, Abuja, the ones for the DG DSS to any officer at the DSS headquarters at Aso Drive in Abuja, the ones for the AG of Kano State to any officer at state’s Ministry of Justice, Audu Bako Secretariat, Kano, and the ones for the AGF to any officer at the Federal Ministry of Justice in Abuja.
His grounds for the application are, “The applicant’s originating motion and all other processes were filed on March 12, 2020.
“Considering the status of the respondents, it would be difficult to effect personal service on the first second and third respondents (IGP, DG of DSS), unless this application is granted.
“First, second and third respondents will have knowledge of the originating motion for the enforcement of the applicant’s fundamental right, if they are served by substituted means as stated on the motion paper.
“There is an urgent need to grant this application so that service can be promptly effected on the first, second and third respondents.
“Applicant’s fundamental rights to life, human dignity, personal liberty and movement are seriously under challenge and continually being breached by the respondents.”
Nasarawa Gov, Emirs visit Sanusi in Awe
There were reports earlier on Thursday that the deposed monarch had left Awe for Lagos. But an aide of Sanusi and one of his lawyers, who confided in The PUNCH, said the deposed monarch was still in Awe.
One of our correspondents reported that the Nasarawa State Governor, Abdullahi Sule and some traditional rulers in the state met with Sanusi on Thursday evening in Awe.
The governor, who arrived at 5pm with the Emir of Lafia, Justice Sidi Dauda Bage, met with the former Kano monarch.
Our correspondent gathered that the governor alongside Bage and the Emir of Awe, Alhaji Isa Umar II, spent about one hour with Sanusi. The visitors were said to have left Sanusi’s residence by 6:15 pm. An aide to the governor confirmed the visit to the media
Some of the security chiefs in the governor’s convoy were the state Commissioner of Police, Mr Bola Longe; representatives of 177 Guard Battalion from Shittu Alao Barracks, Keffi; the Department of State Services and the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps.
Some family members of deposed monarch also visited him.
There were reports earlier on Thursday that the Kaduna State Governor, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, would visit the deposed monarch in Awe after a meeting of the power sector reform committee in Abuja.
But an aide to the governor, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said El-Rufai did not go to Awe again. “He did not go there because the meeting (power sector reform committee meeting) did not end on time.”
UNIZIK defers award for dethroned Sanusi
In a related development, the Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, Anambra State, on Thursday deferred the award of a doctorate earlier approved for the deposed Emir of Kano.
The Vice Chancellor of the university, Prof Charles Esimone, announced the deferment of the award during the 14th convocation ceremony of the university. Esimone said the deferment was due to prevailing circumstances in the country.
Soyinka hits Ganduje, says Sanusi a reformer
Nobel laureate, Prof Wole Soyinka, on Thursday berated Ganduje, saying he lacked friends who could have prevailed on him to save himself before dethroning and banishing Sanusi.
The playwright stated this in a statement titled, “For whom the gates open wide’ following Monday’s dethronement of Sanusi and his banishment to Nasarawa State by the state government.
The Nobel laureate described Sanusi as one of the greatest reformers of the feudal order.
Soyinka recalled a similar scenario which he said nearly played out in his home state, Ogun, some years ago, when a governor wanted to dethrone and banish a monarch before his (the governor’s) friends keenly appealed to him to reconsider the action.
He said, “His office was invaded by some of the panicked chiefs and stalwarts of Ogun State who rushed to ward off the impending order. One of them stopped at my home after the pacification session to narrate what had transpired, and how some of them had actually gone on their knees to plead with that governor to stay action.
“I was furious. I knew every detail of that affair, had listened to a recording of the speech that was supposed to have given this mighty offence. It was pure piffle.
“Why did you people plead with him? Don’t you realise you were making him feel a god? You should have let him carry on, then we would see what a cataclysm he had launched on the state!’
“The man, an independent businessman of absolute integrity, and one of that governor’s intimate circle, smiled and said, “No, we couldn’t do that. We are his friends. We were pleading with him to save him from himself.”
“What a pity Ganduje lacked friends who could have saved him from himself! Insofar as one can acknowledge certain valued elements in traditional institutions, the man he thinks he has humiliated has demonstrated that he is one of the greatest reformers even of the feudal order.’’
The social critic further said these were depressing times–stemming from different factors of course–for a large sector of the nation.
“Insecurity, economy in a coma, a leadership in name only, having vanished into ether, permanently AWOL in a time of serial crisis. No wonder mimic and debased forms of leadership assertiveness rush in to fill the vacuum! The latest in the stakes of such power appropriation makes one wonder which is the more reactionary order: the so-called feudal institution, or the self-vaunting modernised governance whose apex can bring the feudal to heel quite arbitrarily, without check and without seeming consequence. To rub pepper in the wound, the protagonist of that “progressive” order enjoys near-absolute immunity, thus, even when it has disgraced its status and violated its oath of office, caught literally with its pants down in open defecation, it can still pretend to act in the interest of progress, modernity and public well being. Such are the ironies raised by the purported dethronement of the Emir of Kano, Muhammadu Sanusi, with one stroke of a pen!,’’ he said.
Describing Sanusi as a one-man EFCC (Economic and Financial Crimes Commission) sanitisations squad in the banking system taking on the powerful corrupters of that institution, Soyinka stated that he trod on the interests of powerful beneficiaries of a worm-infested sector and, in the process, created permanent enemies.
He added that Sanusi sounded much aware of the impending fall of the axe of vengefulness and power primitivism when they spoke via phone in London during his visit.
He stated that though uncertain, he had a feeling that the palace gates of the Kano emirate were not yet definitively slammed against Sanusi.
Soyinka said, “It is just a feeling. Closed and bared, or merely shut however, the doors of enlightened society remains wide open to Muhammadu Sanusi. As for his current crowing nemesis, a different kind of gates remain yawning to receive him when, as must, the days of governorship immunity finally come to an end.”
A former lawmaker representing Kaduna Central Senatorial District, Shehu Sani, has arrived the Federal High Court, Abuja, in solidarity with rights activist and journalist, Omoyele Sowore, who is standing trial for treason.
Sani walked into the courtroom shortly after the commencement of proceedings for the day.
During the trial in February, Sani together with Nobel Laureate, Prof Wole Soyinka and Prof Chidi Odinkalu all made appearances to support Sowore.
Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu of the Federal High Court, Abuja, has adjourned the trial of rights activists, Omoyele Sowore and Olawale Bakare until April 1, 2020.
Ojukwu, who was angry at the way the prosecution was delaying the trial, adjourned the case at the instance of the objection raised by lead defence counsel, Femi Falana, when the first prosecution witness, Rasheed Olawale, was giving evidence out of the summary statement.
Falana urged the court to limit and restrict the witness to the summary of the statement that was made available to them by the prosecution.
He argued that the evidence being given by the witness was mischievous and alien to section 36 of the constitution that guarantees fair hearing.
In his own submission, prosecution counsel, A.A Aliyu, asked the court to dismiss Falana’s objection on the grounds that the evidence given by the witness would not amount to miscarriage of justice as painted by the defence.
The trial judge therefore asked the prosecution to reproduce the witness statement in details to accommodate whatever evidence the witness want to give whenever it was called upon.
The judge said, “Serve them these evidence, I don’t know what is difficult in that. Serve them all the evidence you want to rely on.
“That should not be difficult and that is the provision of the law.”
Disgraced Hollywood Producer, Harvey Weinstein has asked a New York Jury for a five-year sentence as he faces 29 years behind bars, ahead of his rape conviction sentencing on Wednesday.
The TV producer/film maker was last month convicted on two out of five counts – criminal sexual act in the first degree and rape in the third degree and faces almost 29 years behind bars.
The jury convicted the 67-year-old after he went on trial in early January over charges of rape and sexual assault.
Harvey Weinstein seeks mercy ahead of rape sentencing as his lawyers ask for 5-year prison term
Weinstein was ordered to go to the notorious Rikers Island jail, and ahead of his conviction on Wednesday, his legal team are now pleading for mercy, as they want the jury to give him a 5 year jail term arguing he is already suffering from a ‘historic fall from grace’ and serious health issues.
Now, according to NobleReporters sourcing, they cited his charitable contributions, while also claiming the harsh public backlash should be taken into account when pronouncing a judgement.
‘Mr. Weinstein cannot walk outside without being heckled, he has lost his means to earn a living, simply put, his fall from grace has been historic, perhaps unmatched in the age of social media,’ the attorneys wrote.
‘Deserved or not, this is certainly a unique and extremely severe consequence that Mr. Weinstein had to endure, and in the age of social media and given his fame, virtually unrivaled when compared to any other defendant in the state of New York if not nationally.’
‘The grave reality is that Mr Weinstein may not even outlive that term’ making it ‘a de facto life sentence,’ according to the reports.
“His life story, his accomplishments, and struggles, are simply remarkable and should not be disregarded in total because of the jury’s verdict,”
The move by the defense team comes after the prosecutor Assistant District Attorney Joan Illuzzi, on Friday filed her own 11-page memorandum, in which she documented 36 additional uncharged allegations against Weinstein ranging from sexual assault to workplace harassment and bullying, urging the jury not to reduce his sentence.
“These acts, viewed in the totality, establish that throughout his entire adult professional life, defendant has displayed a staggering lack of empathy, treating others with disdain and inhumanity,” Illuzzi wrote.
Lawyers of the deposed Emir of Kano, Muhammadu Sanusi (II), have threatened to take legal action if the state authorities don’t release him within the next 24 hours.
The lawyers said this while briefing journalists on Tuesday in Abuja while the emir was being moved from Loko Development Area of Nasarawa State to Awe Local Government Area.
This comes barely 24 hours after the Kano State Government removed Sanusi as Emir of Kano.
The Secretary to the State Government, Usman Alhaji, made the announcement during the State Executive Council meeting which held at the Government House in Kano.
Alhaji explained that the state government took the decision to remove the traditional ruler over allegations of consistently refusing to abide by instructions given to him.
According to him, the removal was in line with the recommendation of the Kano State Public Complaint and Anti-Corruption Commission which had summoned the emir.
The commission had asked the traditional ruler to respond to a petition accusing him of selling lands belonging to the Kano Emirate to the tune of N2 billion.
But in documents obtained by Channels Television and signed by the chairman of the commission, Sanusi was accused of obstructing the investigation of the commission by securing a restriction order from a court.
The removal of Muhammadu Sanusi II as the Emir of Kano is reversible in the court of law, says one of his senior lawyers, Abubakar Mahmoud (SAN).
Sanusi was unanimously dethroned on Monday by the Kano State Government led by Governor Abdullahi Ganduje, who immediately announced a replacement for the former governor of Central Bank.
But Sanusi’s lawyer said on Monday evening that the removal was not surprising though most embarrassing given that Sanusi was not given any fair hearing just as due process was not observed in the matter.
Mahmoud, who spoke on Channels Television monitored by newsmen, said though Sanusi was yet to make a decision whether to challenge his removal in court or not but had he decided to seek redress, the decision of the Kano State government would be reversed.
He said, “He has been in various legal tussles with the state government over the last two to three years. So, this did not come to us as a surprise. We were so much embarrassed at the manner in which it was done without giving him any fair hearing or observing any due process.
“However, the government has announced its decision dethroning him and he was this evening (Monday evening) taken into custody and flown to Abuja.
“We are going to be in touch with him to discuss which line of action to take as his lawyers. And we as lawyers, of course, we believe that this action was illegal and unconstitutional. And more so, the aspect of banishment, under the constitution, nobody can be deprived of his liberty under the manner he has been deprived of his. Nevertheless, we will be in touch with him and hopefully, come up with the next line of action in due course.
“The next line of action would depend on the instruction from the Emir. There are two aspects to it – the dethronement and the banishment. We will be consulting with him.
“I had a meeting with him before he was taken to custody and at that point, he has not taken a decision on whether he is going to pursue this matter in court or not.
“Of course, we will give him time to come up with a decision on his dethronement. But as far as his liberty is concerned, we are very firmly clear that this is an illegal act and we will be considering what line of action to take hopefully by tomorrow (Tuesday) when I speak with him.”
When asked of the possibility of a reversal, Mahmoud said he and his team were confident that the court would reverse the decision of the Kano State Government should Sanusi decide to challenge the action.
“An action that is illegal can be reversed by the court of law and that is why we have the written constitution and courts in place. Under the constitution of the country, whenever the executive branch of government takes an action that is unconstitutional or illegal, the courts are there for all citizens to seek redress.
“We are confident given the fact of this case that if the Emir was to challenge the action, it would be reversed because the action, in our view, is repressing and illegal,” he said.
..says he is trying to overthrow Buhari govt
...trial resumes on March 12, 2020
The Nigerian Government has filed a motion to mask its witnesses in the case against Omoyele Sowore.
Sowore is currently under trial for planning a protest demanding good governance from the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration.
The trial was adjourned to continue on March 11,12 and 13 after failure of the Department of State Services to give Sowore and his legal team necessary documents to argue their case.
In a Facebook post on Friday, Sowore revealed that the government had filed a motion to mask its witnesses.
He wrote, “UPDATE: Just now the @MBuhari regime filed a motion in court that they want to mask their witnesses in the #RevolutionNow trial scheduled for next week.
“Same prosecutors said they were ready for trial last month with unmasked witnesses!
“This is their latest tactic to seek another adjournment! Funny people!”
Earlier this week, United States-based advocacy organisation, Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, said that Sowore was being persecuted by the Nigerian Government for speaking truth to the leadership of the country.
In a recent documentary detailing how the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari had infringed upon the right of the journalist for simply criticising its failures, the international rights group condemned the attempt by the Nigerian Government to silence critics and shrink the civic space.
Sowore was arrested in the early hours of August 3, 2019 by operatives of the Department of State Services for calling on Nigerians to take to the streets in peaceful demonstrations on August 5 and was kept in unlawful detention from that period until December 5, 2019 when he was finally released on bail despite two court orders earlier sanctioning his freedom.
In a twist of event, DSS operatives invaded the Federal High Court in Abuja on December 6, 2019 to rearrest him without any court order.
He remained in unlawful detention until 18 days later when he was released by the secret police for the second time.
At the resumption of his trial in a case brought against him by the Nigerian Government, the prosecution failed to prove accusations against him and even went ahead to dropping seven of the charges earlier preferred against him.
The trial resumes on March 12, 2020 in this time government is accusing him of attempting to overthrow Buhari’s administration by calling on citizens to protest against the regime.
Groups and high-raking individuals from around the world have described the charges against Sowore as baseless and a waste of time.
The journalist remains confined to Abuja as one of his bail conditions forbids him from leaving the city or speaking with journalists until the end of his trial.
The Federal High Court in Abuja, on Monday, struck out charges of non-declaration of assets instituted against a former Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, by the defunct Special Presidential Investigation Panel for the Recovery of Public Property.
The dissolved panel then led by Mr. Okoi Obono-Obla had in 2018 instituted the case marked FHC/ABJ/CR/62/2018 against Ekweremadu, alleging that, “without reasonable excuse”, the serving senator refused and neglected to declare his assets upon being served the panel’s “notice to declare”.
The AGF office took over the case and other suits being handled by the SPIP upon a presidential directive dissolving the panel in 2019.
On Monday, Justice Binta Nyako struck out the case against Ekweremadu after the prosecuting counsel from the AGF office, Mr Pius Akutah, said the former lawyer handling the case for the panel had disappeared with the case file.
Akutah pleaded with the judge to order the former counsel to release the file to the AGF office but the request was declined by the judge.
But Ekweremadu’s lawyer, Chief Adegboyega Awomolo (SAN), urged the judge to strike out the case.
Responding, Justice Nyako dismissed the prosecution’s request.
She said, “You are attorney general (referring to the lawyer as representing the AGF), you should know what to do.
“You should not be waiting for me to make an order against an individual.”
Justice Nyako added, “So, as it is today, you don’t know the case against the defendant since you don’t have the file. I am going to strike out the case, when you are ready you can come back.
“The case is hereby struck out for want of diligent prosecution. The prosecution is allowed to come back whenever they are ready to proceed with the case.”
NobleReporters heard that Ekweremadu was present in court and stood in the dock while the proceedings lasted on Monday.
A Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Chief Robert Clarke, shares with TUNDE AJAJA his worries about the nation’s judicial system, the rise in the requests for Supreme Court to review its judgement, indiscipline in the bar and other issues
Prior to the Supreme Court judgement on the Bayelsa election, the apex court’s ruling on the Imo State governorship election was greeted by series of drama. Is it normal for Supreme Court judgement to elicit such outrage?
Let me start from the drama. You know politics now permeate everything we do in our political life in Nigeria. When that decision was given, definitely it was a shock to the then governor (Emeka Ihedioha) who realised he was no longer a governor and the shock would have been so great that his supporters decided to shout foul play. To anyone outside, that was a normal reaction, but having had the privilege of looking into the matter from the legal point of view; I mean the fact of the case, I discovered that the court was in order. So, the Supreme Court has said it is not god and so it could make mistake but it has also said if it made mistake, you could come back. That is the norm all over the world. Under the Nigerian law, however, the court said it would only listen to you on certain grounds: if you find that it had no jurisdiction; if you think there was fraud or if you think the judgement was mistakenly given. However, the court said if it did not fall within those parameters, it would not look into it because it could not open floodgates for judgements to be reviewed as if you are appealing against its own judgement. Else, that would destroy the judicial system. And that is why in the history of Nigerian jurisprudence, only three instances have come before the Supreme Court. Fortunately, I have been instrumental in two of the three.
When was that?
Thirteen years ago, I took one to them, which I lost. There were five sitting members of the Supreme Court and in all judgements of the Supreme Court, all judges must sign. In this particular case, in the Certified True Copies, only three judges signed, so I challenged the Supreme Court that their judgement was a nullity because three of them could not sign when the law stated five. However, they were able to convince me that how they sign in their inner chamber wasn’t known to me. Now, I have challenged the court’s ruling on Zamfara case (where the court sacked all the persons elected on the platform of the All Progressives Congress over irregularities in their primary). I said in my appeal that they have no jurisdiction. A constitutional court should be made of seven judges when dealing with constitutional matters, but in Zamfara case there were only five judges and it was not an appeal from the tribunal. It was a pre-election matter that had nothing to do with the election, so why should they declare the election a nullity? I believe I have a good case. So, in the case of Imo, the litigants also have a right.
In the past, cases on governorship elections used to terminate at the Court of Appeal, up till the time Justice Ayo Salami was the President of the Court of Appeal. Would you blame that on politicians’ desperation or you think it’s helpful?
I’m not blaming the politicians for that. That fault was solely by the Supreme Court then. The Chief Justice of Nigeria at that time (Late Justice Katsina Alu) was the brains behind that amendment because prior to that amendment, all governorship election matters terminated at the Court of Appeal and there was no problem. But then, Salami’s case came up. There was a governorship election in Sokoto and judgement was to be delivered and somebody wrote a petition to the CJN that money had changed hands. The CJN, thinking he had the power, ordered Salami not to give judgement, whereas he had no such power under the law. The CJN has no power under the law to give directive to the President of the Court of Appeal on any election matter, because it’s the prerogative of the President of the Court of Appeal to form election tribunals. So, Salami refused and history today knows what happened thereafter. As a result of that, Katsina Alu made the National Assembly to amend that provision. Now, Senatorial, House of Reps and governorship elections now get to the Supreme Court and that is why the Supreme Court judges are being overworked. I feel sorry for them for overworking themselves, but they are the architect of their own misfortune due to what their boss did and now they are faced with almost 300 cases from election petitions.
To create room for the judges to have time for civil and other matters before them, shouldn’t the National Assembly or the Supreme Court take steps to revert to the status quo ante?
They can do that. In the interest of the Supreme Court itself, it can initiate, through the National Assembly, a bill to return to what obtained before; that all election matters, except the presidential election, should terminate at the Court of Appeal. Also, if there are concurrent findings of facts by a lower court and the Court of Appeal, then the appeal should terminate there and I believe that now the Supreme Court has a policy that where there are concurrent findings by two lower courts, they don’t set it aside. But why should it even go to them? The law should be amended to allow the Supreme Court deal with constitutional matters of very serious nature.
In the midst of the challenges in the judiciary, which of them worries you most?
Today, we have the best personnel all over Africa. Nigeria is still the best in Africa and we have the best brains. The only problem is politics. Let me be bold enough to say that since the 1999 Constitution came into effect, the politicians have corrupted virtually every aspect of the Nigerian life, including the judiciary. In political matters today, before judgement is delivered, you would be hearing so many rumours as to what would be the outcome and that is politics playing out itself. These are the things we should be able to remove and help our judiciary so as not to be influenced by politicians. They (politicians) are a dangerous specie of people. But I don’t blame the judiciary alone; I blame lawyers also, because most of the top lawyers in Nigeria today are also in this with politicians.
There are instances where some lawyers, your colleagues, go ahead in such instances to lead their clients on even when they know the rules don’t allow it, is that part of the dynamics of being a lawyer?
That was why I said politics has infiltrated everywhere. There are instances where lawyers would know there is no reason to appeal, but because they know the politicians have the money they have stolen and they are ready to spend part of it, they (lawyers) would encourage them to go ahead. You won’t find lawyers doing such in a case involving breach of contract or land matters. It’s in political matters that you would find it and that is the problem. Lawyers give politicians hope when there is none; they tell them to appeal when they know there is no case. All these have to be corrected and we have to look inwards and see that most of the rot today come from us. If your client has a good case, let them know and tell them that you would try your best. If they have a bad case, tell them the truth and let them know that they have a marginal case but that you would see what you could do, maybe you would be able to convince the judge.
In the case of Heineken Lokpobiri vs David Lyon over the APC primary in Bayelsa State, the Supreme Court dismissed the case because it was filed outside the 14 days allowed by law. Could it be that some lawyers don’t pay attention to some of these things?
In election matters, time is of the essence. If you are filing an interlocutory appeal in a pre-election matter, it is 14 days. If you don’t do it within 14 days and you go to court, it will be thrown out. I just won a case in the Supreme Court on a pre-election matter from Delta State, in which time element was of the essence. With that single point, I won the case. So, time is so important and I’m so sorry, many of our lawyers would see it and close their eyes to it. At the end of the day, they would look so stupid at the Supreme Court.
Situations like this waste the time of the court, and it is disturbing especially in a system where there are thousands of cases before the court. Should there not be a sanction for lawyers who deliberately do this?
I have stated it many times that we need a review of the judicial system involving election matters. I believe we don’t need the Supreme Court except for presidential elections. From elections into the Senate downwards, we should have an intermediary Supreme Court, which would be a Constitutional Court, where appeals from the tribunal would go directly and it would be the final court for election matters. The case won’t go to the Court of Appeal or the Supreme Court, it would have a status higher than the Court of Appeal but lower than the Supreme Court and that would solve most of our problems.
Would you say the Nigerian Bar Association has done its best to ensure discipline in the bar?
Again, it goes back to the advent of partisan politics in 1999. The NBA has always stood for probity and discipline within the bar association and we have been able to produce within that period top lawyers who had prestige and good character. But again, we have politicised the bar association. We have done it in a way that in order to remove schism, we did rotation with insistence on getting the best. But since democracy came in, government itself would go and pick a lawyer to contest and they back them up with money. You will not believe it; to be a president of the NBA today, you could spend nothing less than N1.5bn. Why? And that is how they now allow government into the process. So, most of what is happening in the bar today has the influence of government and that is my only fear for the bar association.
In some other climes, lawyers sometimes advise their clients to plead guilty to their offence, perhaps not to incur the wrath of the judge or not to waste the time of the court, but in our clime, the situation is different. Should we not imbibe such a culture to save our justice system?
In the United States of America, to become a lawyer, you must have a first degree, then you must go to the Law School for four years. So, it takes about seven years to become a lawyer, and they are in demand and so there is affluence among them. Here, there are ‘cash and bail’ lawyers who have not got a brief for some time. Such lawyers would cling to any brief, whether it is factual or not. So, the problem is poverty. A young lawyer who has not got a brief before now gets a brief and you think he or she would tell his client he has no case? He wouldn’t want to do that. But things would change. I can see a good future for Nigeria.
Politicians, who are the ones behind constitution amendments, have put timelines in election cases while other matters could last for as long as possible. Is that fair?
Many state judiciary procedures have made it easy so that you don’t waste much time on litigation. There is something called pre-trial conference, so that before a case is heard in the open court, you would have cleared all the pleadings within a short time. However, the problem we have is the election petitions and that is why I keep referring to it. Every four years, virtually all the normal courts in Nigeria are at a standstill because most of the judges from the 36 states are pushed to 36 tribunals and they would be there for 180 days. That means all the cases they have are kept at a standstill. By the time they come back, there is a backlog.
What would you suggest as the way out?
Once we decide not to use present acting judges as chairmen of tribunals, things would get better. Let them engage retired magistrates and judges – and there are many of them who are still agile – to go to these tribunals rather than take from the mainstream of the judiciary, because already the judges have so much to do. That is why I keep saying we have many pending cases because we have allowed political matters to take control of our courts. Look at the Federal High Courts, when election is coming and nominations or primaries have begun, 60 per cent of Federal High Court cases would be pre-election matters because the FHC is the only court that can deal with INEC matters. We find that all other matters will be pending because all other political matters would be given expeditious hearing. So, our problem is not because the courts are congested, our problem is that we have allowed political matters to overwhelm the courts. Anybody that is not properly nominated would go to court; and if they lose an election, they would go back to court. Until we create a separate court for politics outside the normal courts, we will not enjoy the normal courts. It is the disruption every four years that causes the issues. We hope they would agree to this doctrine of constitutional court.
There have been arguments that we need a system where the appointment of the CJN should have nothing to do with the executive to avoid undue influences. Do you agree with that?
I have always criticised the way and manner judges are appointed. I believe it still has political connotation, which should not be, even though the governor would tell you he’s acting on the advice of the Judicial Service Commission. But why can’t the NJC or the Judicial Service Commission itself as a body appoint who should be the Chief Judge of a state or who should be a judge? For me, that would be better. The governor can tell you I want three names out of which he would pick one. So, invariably, he is the one appointing. Those are the things we have been asking that a review should be done about so that the prerogative of appointment and removal should be with them. Let us have a proper judicial service commission that is not concentrated by judges again.
Who do you advise should be the members?
Top Nigerians who have made good name in different fields can form the majority of the membership of the NJC. When you put all lawyers there, it doesn’t make sense. Those are the things I would recommend.
A renowned professor of international law and jurisprudence, Akin Oyebode, said recently that instead of amending our current constitution, we should come up with a new one. What’s your view on that?
I have said it over 100 times that the 1999 Constitution is a rotten egg. You cannot build anything on it. Once an egg is rotten, it cannot bear any good result. We have to restructure Nigeria and get a new type of constitution. We cannot afford to have 36 states in Nigeria. We don’t have the money to maintain it and that is why, today, 80 per cent of our earnings go into maintaining governance. Only 20 per cent of it goes into capital project. Within the past 20 years of this democracy, except for Buhari, who among the former presidents built infrastructure? They frittered away Nigeria’s money with nothing to show for it. Today, people say we are borrowing but we are borrowing money that we are seeing what we are using the money for. We are borrowing from the Chinese to build the railway system. Dangote has gone into a massive venture and he’s going to revolutionise that sector. So, we have seen something better. Let us change the system of governance. Let us reduce the number of states to an appreciable number that we can manage. Why do we need to have 36 states’ chief judges; 36 Attorney Generals and commissioners and so on?
How many states do you think we should have?
Between eight and 12 would be ideal so that we can manage it under a system where each state would be autonomous. The 1963 Constitution is the best constitution we have ever had in Nigeria. If we can go back to that constitution, which had the regionalization of the states; all states were self-governing and they were developing at their own pace until the military coup came and we moved from 12 states to 19 states, to 21 states, until (late Gen Sani) Abacha had a brainwave because he wanted to be Head of State and he wanted to please everybody, so he created 36 states. It’s all nonsense. Let us reduce our cost of governance.
Many people have canvassed this idea for years, how do we get started with the process especially when people feel the current set of political leaders – executive and legislature – like others before them, may not have the political will to set it in motion?
The 1999 constitution is being managed by the National Assembly and the Executive. These two arms of government are enjoying so many privileges in terms of financial considerations and emoluments and they would not want to leave it. So, if you leave the change to these people, nothing would come out of it. But if Buhari wants to leave a legacy before he leaves in 2023, he should set up a national conference, where he will get a bill passed first, not like the way Jonathan did it that it had no legal basis. Buhari should send a bill to the National Assembly that he intends to set up such an assembly and that at the end of the deliberations he would send whatever they decide to a referendum and once the referendum approves it, you pass it into law.
Once he can get a commitment from them, then he puts it in motion. Get a correct representative of the people and let them go through the process like they did during Jonathan’s time and let them draw their resolutions. But, rather than sending it to the National Assembly, send it to a referendum. That is the voice of the people. We have never had a constitution except the 1963 Constitution that represented the voice of the people. Every other constitution in Nigeria has been military-inspired. Therefore, for once in our lifetime, let us send it to referendum. With that, the Senate President and Speaker of the House of Representatives would have no choice but to accept it because they would have expressed commitment that they would be bound by it.
Instead of 21 judges at the Supreme Court, as stated in the constitution, the number dropped to 13 about three weeks ago. Why have we never had a full complement of judges in the Supreme Court?
In all my years of practice I have never seen the full complement of judges in the Supreme Court. In Nigeria, ethnicity, tribalism and religion find their ways into everything. For some time now, we have grouped Nigeria into six geographical zones. When they want to appoint a judge now and there is a slot for Yoruba extraction, there are six states and so to pick from them, tribalism would creep in. But, I believe that at no time should the Supreme Court be less than 17 because there are about three or four panels in the Supreme Court and each panel is made up of five judges. When only 13 persons are handling all the cases in that court, why won’t they be overworked, even though it is a self-inflicted injury, as far as I’m concerned.
The Court of Appeal also doesn’t have its full complement and down the line to the High Courts it is the same story. Is it that there are no right persons to be elevated to the bench?
It’s all these rubbish political matters that have disrupted the judicial system in Nigeria; they are not allowing the courts to carry out their normal duties. Until a drastic situation creates a constitutional court and we deploy renowned judges from the Court of Appeal to serve there, things won’t change.
Given the level of stealing in our country, do you think it’s high time we considered capital punishment for corruption?
Whether it is capital punishment or not, a crook would always be a crook. Most of these things are in the blood. Somebody who wants to steal has it in the blood and some Nigerians have imbibed the custom of believing that when they are working for government, they are there to steal. If you are made a commissioner tomorrow, all your relations are looking forward to getting contracts from you. So, we believe it’s a money-spinning venture. Sentencing people to death will not stop people from stealing. it’s in the blood of Nigerians to steal.
Does it mean we can’t do anything about it?
Once there is good governance, the propensity to steal would reduce. When a mechanic has power supply to work in his workshop and a tyre repairer has electricity to do his job, when will he have the time to dupe others? Nigeria is so great, with about 200 million people. Can you imagine if we have one singlet and briefs factory in Nigeria? Do you know the market it would have? We import everything. Whereas if most of our politicians who are stealing money can set up singlet and pants factories in every geo-political zone, the market is there, but we all just believe in stealing.
In our current constitution, when someone is sentenced to death, the governor needs to sign and because of religious beliefs and political considerations, there are over 2,000 persons awaiting their execution since governors have refused to sign. Should we not at this time eliminate the provision of the governor signing?
My answer to this question is that we should abolish death sentence and make it a minimum of 20 years’ imprisonment. I believe somebody who killed at the age of 36 and is sentenced to 20 years and comes back at the age of 56 should have learnt a lesson, rather than keep them there. Some are afraid to sign a death warrant or they have religious phobia that you shouldn’t take life when you don’t make one. Then, let us agree to cancel death penalty in our books and make it 20 years’ imprisonment.
We hear judges are poorly paid, is that also a disincentive?
I’m aware that in Lagos State, judges are well paid, but I don’t know what happens in other states. However, I believe a judge must be well paid to enable them look away from temptation. But again, the lifestyle of some of the judges is questionable. I know of a young judge in the Federal High Court in Lagos that has over 26 children. How does he pay the school fees of his children? Some people just breed children, and corruption may not be far from such a judge. There are singular cases of corrupt judges that we know of. By their acts you would know they are corrupt.
Have you ever wished to be a judge?
Advocacy is an intrinsic act; you need to have it in your blood. I love advocacy; it’s in my blood and I do many cases pro bono. Many people would wonder why I still go to court. I love to be in court; I pray that the day I would die, maybe I would die in the courtroom, because that is my life.
Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Femi Falana, has accused the Nigerian Government of failing to account for the $4bn recovered from late Head of State, Gen. Sani Abacha.
Falana also said that since 1999, the government had recovered about $4bn of public funds stolen by Abacha but that Nigerians were not aware of how the fund was expended by the government.
Falana, who spoke at the Anti-Corruption Situation Room conference organised by Human and Environmental Development Agenda, which focused on reviewing efforts of state and non-state actors in the fight against corruption in Nigeria.
Falana said it was lack of accountability by the Nigerian Government that prompted the cautionary insult of a United States Department of State official, who mocked Nigerian leaders, asking them to ensure accountability in the disbursement of the latest over $308m warehoused in the Island of Jersey but recently released to Nigeria.
“About $4bn recovered Abacha loot is yet to be accounted for.
“One young state house official told Buhari government officials that the money must not be stolen.
“It is the most successful recovery of stolen public funds in the world. We have not been able to account for the money,” Falana said, lamenting that a former President said he recovered $2bn in eight years but when he was asked to account for the funds after a court order, he said the “judge was foolish”.
Falana said Nigerians had been battling public officials to make open the assets declared, noting that declaration was from the Latin word declare, which means to ‘declare open’.
He said the Code of Conduct Bureau should be told the secrets surrounding asset declaration in Nigeria is illegal.
An official of Transparency International, Mr Anwal Musa Rafsanjani, said the TI report is not about corruption by the Nigerian Government but rather focuses on perception and the corruption trends in the country.
Human rights lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN), says a court process will be filed this week seeking the removal of the service chiefs based on the expiration of their tenure.
He had argued that it was illegal for the President, Maj. Gen Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), to extend the tenure of the service chiefs.
When asked why no one had challenged the matter in court if indeed it was illegal, Falana said, “I can assure you that it is already being escalated. To the best of my knowledge, a suit will be filed during the week in respect of this matter.”
Falana recalled that activist, Mr. Festus Keyamo (SAN), who now serves as the Minister of State for Labour and Employment had sued the President Goodluck Jonathan’s government for failing to seek the approval of the Senate before appointing the service chiefs.
He said the Federal High Court had stated while delivering judgement that the National Assembly must approve the appointment of service chiefs before they can be installed.
The activist said it stands to reason that if the Senate approved the appointment of service chiefs, then the Senate’s approval must be sought before their tenure could be extended.
The senior advocate said, “My colleague who is now a minister in this government, secured a judgment that service chiefs must be approved by the Senate and President Jonathan had to seek the approval of the National Assembly in line with the judgment of the court.
“Now, going by that judgement, the President cannot extend the expired tenure of service chiefs without going to the National Assembly. So, when the House of Representatives recently passed a solution that the service chiefs should go, they should have relied on the judgment to say you cannot extend without approval if you cannot appoint without our approval.”
When asked if he implied that Buhari was breaking the law, Falana responded, “for sure.”
Falana said under the Public Service Rules and the Harmonised Terms and Conditions of Service of Military Officers and under Section 26 of the Armed Forces Act, there was no provision for the extension of tenure beyond the period stipulated by law.
The activist said it was wrong even though it had been done in the past.
“You cannot extend the tenure of certain officers while you ask others to go upon putting in 35 years in office,” he said.
Human rights lawyer, Mr Femi Falana (SAN), has said that the Presidency has no power to stop any peaceful protest by aggrieved Nigerians who are calling for the replacement of the service chiefs.
Mr Falana, while responding to a statement credited to a presidential spokesperson, Mr Garba Shehu, on Sunday, said Nigerians have the fundamental right to demonstrate for or against the Federal Government.
The senior lawyer quoted Mr Shehu: “The Presidency wishes to caution a section of the political class against misleading the public and inciting protests against the heads of military institutions.
“This has become necessary in view of received reports that about 2, 000 men and women have been hired to demonstrate against Nigeria’s service chiefs on Monday.”
He, however, cautioned that the Nigeria Police Force should not harass aggrieved Nigerians for protesting against perceived injustice in the country.
“The authorities of the Nigeria Police Force are urged not to harass aggrieved Nigerians for protesting against perceived injustice in the country.
“Nigerians have the fundamental right to demonstrate for or against the federal government without official fiat the Presidency has no power to stop any peaceful protest in the country.
“In fact, the right to assemble and protest peaceful was won by the Nigerian people in the case of All Nigerian People’s Party v Inspector-General of Police (2008) 12 WRN 65,” he stated.
Mr Falana noted that leaders of the All Progressives Congress (APC) had in 2014, held a protest against insecurity.
“It was in the exercise of the right of freedom of expression that APC leaders including General Mohammadu Buhari, Chief John Oyegun, Dr Sylvester Onu and Mr Rotimi Amaechi had participated in the protest held at Abuja on November 20, 2014, against insecurity under the erstwhile Jonathan administration.”
Human rights lawyer, Femi Falana on Monday said President Muhammadu Buhari is running afoul of the law in his decision not to terminate the current crop of security Service Chiefs.
Mr Falana, who appeared on Sunrise Daily, argued that the laws regulating military officers require the retirement of military officers who have served for 35 years or have reached the age of 60.
He added that a lawsuit would be filed this week in respect of the matter.
In an interview that lasted more than 20 minutes, Mr Falana also said President Buhari “must be prevailed upon” to acknowledge the possibility of “internal sabotage” within the military in the war against insurgency.
Responding to statements from the Presidency cautioning against public protests against the government, Mr Falana said such comments should be “embarrassing” to the President who, before he took the country’s reins, had led public demonstrations.
What Falana Actually Said
“Under the public service rule, under the harmonised rules for military officers in Nigeria and under Section 6 of the armed forces act, which empowers the President to make rules and regulations for the military, there is no provision for extension of tenure (for Service Chiefs) beyond the period stipulated by law. It has been done in the past, but that does not make it right. There is equality before the law, so you can’t extend the service of certain officers while you ask others to go after 35 years of service or the attainment of 60 years of age.
“To the best of my knowledge, a suit will be filed during the week, in respect of this matter.
“The President must be prevailed upon to appreciate that we may also be undergoing what you might describe as internal sabotage (in the fight against insurgency) by many members of the armed forces who simply feel since these are the people who can stop insurgency or terrorism, let them go ahead. Because the Chief of Army Staff himself has had an occasion to accuse members of the armed forces of not doing enough.
“The Service Chiefs are retiring officers who have served for 35 years or have reached the age of 60 – it is their fault not to appeal to the President for them to go or to resign.
On Caution Against Public Protests
“Is the Nigerian state telling us that a protest by 2,000 people cannot be managed? What on earth is going on? We have to recognise the right of Nigerians to protest for or against the government. And just last week in Abuja sponsored agents of the government staged a protest asking the government to expel Amnesty International from Nigeria. Even against me, the government had sponsored some elements to demonstrate in Abuja. I have evidence. If the government can mobilise support and get its agents to demonstrate in favour of its own policies; Nigerians must also be given the opportunity to demonstrate against policies of the government considered inimical to their interest.
“I want to believe that some of these statements oozing out of the Presidency are meant to embarrass the government, particularly President Muhammadu Buhari. Because the case of ANPP and Inspector General of Police decided by the Court of Appeal in December 2007 on the rights of Nigerians to demonstrate without police permit, without the fiat of the government, was handled for the former leaders of the ANPP, who are now in the APC, by my humble self, from the High Court to the Court of Appeal; and that is the law today.
“Following that judgement, the National Assembly in 2015 amended the Public Order Act by imposing a duty on the police to provide security for Nigerians who wish to demonstrate. That is the law today.
“Whenever I have had cause to lead a demonstration or participate in one, we have always written to the police for protection, not for permit. And I must confess, so far, I have not had any case where we have been told not to demonstrate. The only time, I think, was last year when Professor Soyinka and I were supposed to address a meeting and the police said it won’t take place; I said no, call the authorities, this is the right we have fought for and won. And in fairness to them, we were allowed to have the program.
“What is particularly embarrassing is that on the 20th of November 2014, the Presidential Candidate of the APC, General Muhammadu Buhari, now President Muhammadu Buhari, the then APC Chairman, Chief John Oyegun, two current Ministers, Dr. Sylvester Onu and Rotimi Amaechi, led others to demonstrate in Abuja against insecurity in the country, and they were more than 2,000. Heavens did not fall and heavens will not fall this time around.”
A Senior Advocate, Oba Maduabuchi, has called on the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice (AGF), Abubakar Malami (SAN) to direct the Federal Accounts Allocation Committee (FAAC) to stop payment of monthly allocations to councils without democratically elected chairmen.
Malami recently described the operation of caretaker committees at the local government level as illegal, unconstitutional and directed all affected state governments to disband them with immediate effect.
In a letter addressed to the Oyo State Attorney General, Prof. Oyewo Oyelewo and dated January 14, 2020, Malami described the caretaker committees as illegal and unconstitutional.
In addition, in the said letter with reference number HAGF/Oyo/2020/Vol.l/l, the AGF further stated that the Committees amount to a breach of the provisions of Section 7(1) of the 1999 constitution (as amended).
In a statement in Abuja, Maduabuchi said governors have developed a nauseating propensity for treating the 1999 constitution with levity.
He said Section 7(1) of the 1999 constitution guaranteed a system of democratically elected local government councils and urged the various governors to ensure their existence under a law which provides for their establishment, structures composition, finance and function.
“It is elementary knowledge that it is the same constitution that established the office of every state government and also that of the president. The same constitution also set up the three tiers of government all independent of each other unless as limited by the same constitution.
“But the first thing almost every governor does is to dissolve the local government councils as elected by the people and in their stead, appoint what is known as interim management to run these Councils.”
The senior lawyer observed that this virulent assault on our grundnorm (the constitution) has resulted to various litigations and the courts have all maintained that the governors did not have the vires to either dissolve the duly elected Local Government Chairmen or to appoint interim management committee in their stead.
The lawyer explained that the AGF “is both a person and authority within the contemplation of section 287 of the 1999 enjoined to enforce the judgments of the superior courts in Nigeria. He is the chief law officer of the federation and he has the power nay duty to ensure that the constitution is protected and obeyed.
Dr Umar Gwandu, the Special Assistant on Media and Public Relations in the Office of the Minister disclosed this in a statement on Sunday in Abuja.
The Minister is expected to, on behalf of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, sign a tripartite agreement with Nigeria, the Island of New Jersey and the United States of America.
The agreement is for repatriation of 321m US dollars looted assets and as part of the Federal Government’s efforts to recover more stolen funds stashed abroad.
He said the meeting is an annual event between Nigeria and U.S.aimed at reviewing bilateral relations and taking necessary steps to advance mutual interest in all diplomatic areas among the two countries.
“The meeting is not an ad hoc event for addressing impromptu concerns, but a friendly binational meeting that holds annually devoid of intervening concerns or relating to the internal affairs of the participating states.”
Some other Nigerian government delegates expected to be part of the meeting include: the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment Otunba Adeniyi Adebayo, Minister of Defence, Maj.-Gen. Bashir Magashi (rtd), Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, National Security Adviser, Maj.-Gen. Babagana Monguno (rtd) as well as Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development; Sadiya Umar Faruk.
…issues warrant of arrest on Etete
An Abuja High Court sitting in Gwagwalada, yesterday, admitted to bail a former Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mohammed Adoke, SAN, in the sum of N50 million with one surety in like sum.
The trial judge, Justice Abubakar Idris Kutigi, also admitted Adoke’s co-defendants, Aliyu Abubakar and Rasky Gbinigie, to bail pending the determination of corruption allegations against them.
While it gave the 2nd defendant, Abubakar bail in the sum of N50 million, it granted the 3rd defendant, Gbinigie bail in the sum of N10 million.
The court ordered that the sureties must be responsible citizens that must depose affidavits of means.
Justice Idris further held that the sureties must be resident within the jurisdiction of the court and must own verifiable landed properties worth the bail sum.
The court further ordered the sureties to tender their three-year tax clearance certificates, even as it seized international passports of all the defendants, warning them not to travel out of the country without permission.
The court held that the defendants must sign a written undertaking not to interfere with any of the prosecution witnesses and to make themselves available for trial at all times.
The judge, however, warned that breach of any of the conditions would warrant automatic revocation of the defendants’ bail.
He consequently dismissed a counter-affidavit the EFCC filed to oppose the release of the defendants on bail.
In a related development, the court also issued a warrant for the arrest of a former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Dauzia Loya (Dan) Etete and two others that were linked with the alleged $1.1 billion Malabu Oil scam.
Justice Kutigi issued the arrest warrant on the strength of an ex-parte application and affidavit the EFCC brought before the court.
Others the court said should be arrested are Munamuna Seidougha and Amaran Joseph.
EFCC had, through its counsel, Bala Sanga, told the court that the trio have been at large and had since refused to make themselves available for trial.
It alleged that the suspects have been residing in France and were occasionally sighted in different parts of Europe.
The anti-graft agency maintained that the order would enable it to collaborate with the International Police (Interpol) to ensure that they were arrested and extradited back to the country for prosecution.
The three suspects were mentioned as defendants in corruption charges pending before different courts.
They were accused of complicity in the alleged fraudulent transfer of ownership of Oil Prospecting License, OPL, 245, regarded as one of the biggest oil blocs in Africa.
Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Femi Falana, has written to Commissioner of Police, Federal Capital Territory, seeking an inquest into the killing of a journalist, Alex Ogbu.
NobleReporters had reported the gruesome killing of Ogbu on January 21 during a demonstration by members of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria in Abuja.
The journalist, who was covering the protest, was shot in the head by armed policemen when they opened fire on the protesters.
Falana’s request was contained in a letter obtained by NobleReporters on Wednesday.
The letter reads, “Since the said Mr Alex Ogbu died in such circumstance as to make an holding of an inquest necessary or desirable, and particularly since the extra-judicial killing was carried out at Berger Area of Abuja, within your jurisdiction and sphere of authority, we request that you employ your good offices to cause an official notification to be issued to the coroner with respect to holding an inquest as to the cause and nature of death of Alex Ogbu.”
Falana noted that the request was predicated on the provisions of the coroners law L.L of Northern Nigerian 1963 CAP 27 as applicable to the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.
He said that failure by the police to comply with the request within seven days would force him to approach a competent court of law for an order of mandamus.
Police authorities have tried to change the narrative around Ogbu’s death, claiming that he was an accident victim and not killed by policemen.
Nigerian Author and Lawyer, Reno Omokri has taken to micro-blogging website, Twitter, to share his thoughts about the topic – HARDWORK.
In his tweet, Reno disclosed that although being hardworking is not bad, it does not pay and it ages one before his/her time. Reno further added that SMARTWORK pays, not HARDWORK.
His tweet reads ;
HARD-WORK is not necessarily a virtue, though it‘s not bad. HARD-WORK doesn’t PAY. It KILLS! It ages you before your time. If HARD-WORK PAID everyone will want to be a labourer. What PAYS, is SMARTWORK. A SHARP ax cuts a TREE faster than a DULL one.
I read an actor’s write up about a poor, hardworking and honest man who treats his wife like a Queen. Not possible! If you are poor, hardworking and honest, you can treat your wife well. But even in Scripture, it takes MONEY to look after a Queen!
Transparency International, the world’s foremost coalition against corruption, has said that Nigeria’s Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Mr Abubakar Malami (SAN), frustrated high-profiled cases since he assumed office in 2015 and has not been at the forefront of anti-corruption fight.
The organisation alleged that Malami had not prosecuted any corruption case in about five years he had been in office but had watered down cases that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission was investigating or that were before the court.
TI’s representative in Nigeria, Mr Auwal Musa Rafsanjani, made the allegation in an interview with THISDAY while defending the 2019 Corruption Perception Index of the organisation, which measured corruption in 180 countries and territories.
The CPI, which the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre, TI’s chapter in Nigeria, released on Thursday, revealed that Nigeria scored 26 out of 100 points in the 2019 CPI, falling back by one point when compared with the 2018 report.
In the country comparison, the CPI revealed that Nigeria “ranks 146 out of 180 countries – two places down compared to 2018 results. While the index does not show real incidences of corruption, it is a reliable indication of the perception of the Nigerian public and the international community about the state of corruption in the country.”
Disappointed at Nigeria’s rating on TI’s corruption index, Malami condemned the 2019 CPI that placed the country at 146 out of the 180 countries and territories globally, noting that there was no evidence to back the country’s rating.
In a statement by its acting spokesperson, Mr Tony Orilade, on Friday, the EFCC faulted Nigeria’s poor rating on the index, questioning the bogus and ambiguous criteria TI used to arrive at what it called “a jaundiced and illogical rating.”
But in a conversation with THISDAY, Rafsanjani challenged Malami to present one corruption case he had prosecuted since he assumed office in 2015, noting that the AGF in four years had not prosecuted any corruption case.
Rather, TI’s contact person alleged that the AGF watered down corruption cases that the EFCC had been investigating before Malami assumed office or the graft cases that had been filed at the court before he took over as the justice minister.
Citing different corruption cases the AGF allegedly frustrated, Rafsanjani explained how Malami prevailed on President Muhammadu Buhari to drop the Malabu oil scandal at the initial stage.
He said, “Malami misled the President that there was no case in the Malabu oil deal contrary to the position of the EFCC. That is why the case did not go on for a very long time. Until the EFCC insisted on prosecuting the case, the Malabu oil scandal has been swept under the carpet.”
He also explained how the AGF withdrew the corruption case against former Gombe State governor and a chieftain of All Progressives Congress, Danjuma Goje in 2019 after Goje stepped down to context the election of the President of the Senate.
He alleged that the AGF “applied for the withdrawal of the charges even though EFCC had filed N25bn corruption charges against Goje alongside a former Executive Chairman of Gombe State Universal Basic Education Board, Mr. Aliyu El-Nafaty.”
Rafsanjani, also, explained how Malami stopped the prosecution of former Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki for allegedly forging the Senate rules to conduct the election of principal officers.
Since 2015 the attorney general had been in office, Rafsanjani claimed that he “has not gone to court to prosecute any corruption case. Rather, he has watered down corruption charges in courts or those under investigation at the EFCC.
“Rather than dismissing the TI’s corruption index, the federal government should review areas where we need to improve on the efforts of fighting corruption,” TI’s representative advised.
He, therefore, justified the corruption perception index on Nigeria, noting that it “is the perception of citizens in Nigeria. This has nothing to do with what EFCC or ICPC is doing.”
In Nigeria, Rafsanjani lamented that public offices “are abused and electoral processes at all level compromised. When they go to hospital, they encounter corruption. When they go to police either on the road or at the police station, they encounter corruption.
“When students are seeking placements in the tertiary institutions nationwide, they encounter corruption. When they go to process international passport or driver’s licence, they encounter corruption. This has nothing to do with what EFCC or ICPC is doing.”
Rafsanjani lamented that the critics of the 2019 CPI did not read the report, noting that in the same index, specifically, the ratings of Canada and the US dropped.
He therefore challenged critics of the 2019 CPI to come out and present facts that contradict the Corruption Perception Index on Nigeria.
He said, “In fact, government does not need Transparency International to know there is corruption in Nigeria.
“It is something that is happening on daily basis. If they are saying there is no corruption, let them come out and contradict the CPI with facts and figures. Any official that dismisses the CPI is actually the beneficiary of corruption. It is the perception of citizens in Nigeria.”