Category Archives: Lawyers

Justice Onnoghen In The Eye Of Buhari’s War On Democracy

We have people like Prof. Wole Soyinka to thank for a ‘born again’ democrat like Buhari as democratically elected president of Nigeria. Wole was the man who said people familiar with the man’s conversion told him that Buhari the Despot had repented and was now a born again democrat. You can re-read Soyinka’s Challenge of Change, Burden of Choice, it’s everywhere on the internet.

Now we have the measure of Buhari’s conversion. But more to the point, we should know to trust an avowed animist agnostic when he employs the tropes of Christianity to describe the conversion of a Muslim fundamentalist. Maybe the joke was on us. We can leave Wole to rue his fallibility every time he looks in the mirror and sees wrinkled change.

Continue reading Justice Onnoghen In The Eye Of Buhari’s War On Democracy

BETWEEN TRUTH AND DUE PROCESS: Nigerian Lawyers Must Rise To Stare Down This Gorgon Of Odoriferous Abuse of Power

(By Godson Ugochukwu)

Let me most respectfully submit that I find all arguments (and their kindred expressions) on whether or not the CJN is above the law or immune from criminal indictments and prosecution totally non sequitur. Since the latest installment of this cancerous administration’s rampaging assault on the judiciary and all that’s sacred, I have read a bit of the effulgent commentaries on the issue. They are, to be sure and justifiably so, very high on emotions. They have also been quite high on law, if not necessarily in equal parts. But I must say that of the myriad of commentaries against, I have not yet happened upon even one suggesting (by a mile and a half) that the CJN is (is or to be treated as) above the law or prosecution. Not one. And I’m not saying that if one were to make it one’s singular obsession and devote all of one’s time and energy, sans any other interests and abdicating all other callings, one might not find at least one such opinion. I’m just saying I haven’t. I have also not met anybody who has. And I can wager why. It’s because it’s never going to be in issue. That the CJN has no prosecutorial immunity is a no brainer. It therefore beggars belief the intellectual energy exerted by some to advance lengthy arguments in emphasis of a point so mute.

Continue reading BETWEEN TRUTH AND DUE PROCESS: Nigerian Lawyers Must Rise To Stare Down This Gorgon Of Odoriferous Abuse of Power

Assault, Intimidation and Desecration of the Judiciary Must STOP-NBA President

Nigerians have witnessed again the targeted assault of the judiciary by agents of the Federal Government of Nigeria (“FGN”) epitomized by today’s media trial of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Honorable Mr. Justice Walter S N Onnoghen, GCON (“CJN”). According to media reports which have now been validated by the Statement of the Code of Conduct Tribunal (“CCT”) that was released today an application was “filed by the Code of Conduct Bureau to the CCT Chairman yesterday for the trial to commence against the Chief Justice of Nigeria on six count charges” and that the CCT “will commence the trial on Monday, 14th January 2019”. The Nigerian Bar Association unequivocally condemns this assault, intimidation and desecration of the Judiciary by FGN agencies and demands that it be stopped immediately.2. In Nganjiwa v Federal Republic of Nigeria (2017) LPELR-43391(CA), the Court of Appeal made it very clear that any misconduct attached to the office and functions of a judicial officer must first be reported to and handled by the National Judicial Council (“NJC”) pursuant to the provisions of our laws. Only after the NJC has pronounced against such judicial officer can the prosecuting agencies of the Federal Government proceed against him. As the Court pointed out, these requirements of the law are anchored on the overriding principles of separation of powers between the executive, the judiciary and the legislature and on the need to preserve, promote and protect the independence of the judiciary. Our respective liberties and the rule of law are best protected and preserved if the judiciary remains independent and shielded from intimidation and assault by the other arms of the government.3. In Nganjiwa v FRN (supra), the Court of Appeal made reference to Rule 3 of the Revised Code of Conduct for Judicial Officers of February 2016 (“Code of Conduct for Judicial Officers”)and held that the said Rule 3 “makes provision in relation to fidelity to the Constitution and the Law”. The provisions in regard to assets declaration as they apply to all public officers including the CJN are contained in both the Constitution and the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act 1991, the enabling law that establishes both the Code of Conduct Bureau (“CCB”) and the CCT. The fidelity which judicial officers therefore owe “to the Constitution and the Law” pursuant to Rule 3 of the Code of Conduct for Judicial Officers encompasses compliance with the provisions relating to assets declarations as contained in the the Constitution and the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act. Any infraction in that regard by a judicial officer, as the Court of Appeal rightly held, constitutes a misconduct by the judicial officer and becomes the subject matter for discipline by the NJC as a condition precedent to any possible prosecution of the judicial officer by any of the FGN’s prosecuting agencies.4. Why has FGN decided to embark on this anomalous course of charging the CJN before the CCT without first presenting whatever facts it purportedly has against His Lordship to the NJC for its deliberation and determination? The Petition that triggered the CCB action was on its face received by the Bureau on 09 January 2019 and the Charge was promptly drafted and is dated the following day, 10 January 2019 – giving the CCB a record 24 hours for completion of its investigation and the drafting of the said Charge and ancillary processes! If one contemplates the fact that the CCT arraignment is scheduled to take place on 14 January 2019, we have in total a record number of 3 (three) working days between the receipt and processing of the petition, investigation, preparation of Charge and ancillary processes and the arraignment! Such unprecedented speed and efficiency in Nigeria’s criminal justice administration! It is clear, given the rush with which this matter was conducted by the CCB, that the NJC was not privy to it and did not conduct its mandatorily required disciplinary processes prior to the filing of the Charge before the CCT.5. We still wonder why the FGN choose to deviate from the laid down and explicit provisions of the law as expounded in Nganjiwa v FRN (supra). Could it be that it was misadvised? Or is this a naked show of power and force by agencies of the FGN? And why embark on the media trial of the CJN? This, unfortunately, is a predilection of the FGN’s prosecuting agencies with the possible exception of the Federal Ministry of Justice. As the NBA pointed out in its International Anti-Corruption Day Statement that was issued on 09 December 2018 “media trial of persons charged with corrupt practices . . . amount to corruption itself. Indeed, those orchestrated media trials degrade and corrupt the justice administration system quite apart from the incalculable (but obviously intended) damage that it does to persons who may ultimately be discharged and acquitted. In point of fact, it is corrupt practice to use as license or hide under the cover of the fight against corruption to recklessly destroy the names, characters and reputations of persons who have not been found guilty of corrupt practices by competent courts and who may ultimately be pronounced innocent of such charges.” These media trials must, alongside the on-going desecration and assault of the judiciary, cease forthwith.5. There are two final issues that we must touch upon in this Statement, albeit, briefly. First, could it possibly be a coincidence that the current assault on the judiciary is taking place only weeks to the 2019 National Election? Apart from the conduct itself being wrongful and deplorable, its timing is condemnable. FGN will find it difficult to convince any reasonable person that its assault against the CJN and by extension the judiciary is not aimed at emasculating that arm of the government and intimidating our Judges ahead of the 2019 National Elections. In our afore-referenced International Anti-Corruption Day Statement, the NBA had deplored “conducts that qualify as . . . political non-accountability, absence of transparency and impunity in public service.” The FGN’s conduct in this instance qualifies, amongst others, as “impunity in public service”.6. As a final point, it is also difficult for a disinterested observer not to see a pattern of consistent assault by agencies of the FGN on the heads of the two independent arms of government, to wit, the legislature and the judiciary, starting with the prosecution of the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, before the CCT and now, the ill-fated prosecution of the CJN before the same CCT. The impression must not be created that the agencies of the Executive arm of the FGN are interested in destabilizing and laying prostrate the other arms of the Government and in the process eliminating and destroying any and all voices of dissent and checks and balances. That is not desirable for the democracy that we strive to build neither is it good for the image of the Government. We urge restraint on the part of Government and demand that the CCB follow due process in proceeding against the CJN by complying with Nganjiwa’s Judgment (supra) and other similar judicial precedents. This continuing attack on the justice sector must cease forthwith. FGN and its agencies must desist from debasing the rule of law.Paul Usoro, SANPresident

Continue reading Assault, Intimidation and Desecration of the Judiciary Must STOP-NBA President

BAR BRIEFS WITH HABEEB: MUSINGS ON PRACTICING FEE

BY AKOREDE HABEEB LAWAL


One point of agreement amongst members of the Nigerian Bar Association is the need to pay the annual practicing fee. It is an agreement rooted in a long practice and which door of choice has been closed by the relevant provisions of the Legal Practitioners Act and the Rules of Professional Conduct which mandate the payment of practicing fee. Laws close doors, but often leave some windows open to allow some air of changes and dynamism which often lead to disagreement and disputes. The constant resolution of these disputes is one reason responsible for the development of the law.

Continue reading BAR BRIEFS WITH HABEEB: MUSINGS ON PRACTICING FEE

Just in- See the details of Statement made by CJN over CCB charge

PREMIUM TIMES has obtained details of a statement given by the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Walter Onnoghen, to the Code of Conduct Bureau which is accusing him of false asset declaration.
In one note seen by this newspaper, Mr Onnoghen said he “forgot to update his asset declaration, after the expiration of his 2005 declaration”.
Mr Onnoghen also explained that he believed that the form SCN 000015 filed in December 2016 after he emerged acting CJN would cover for the period after his confirmation as CJN.
The case against Mr Onnoghen came after a group, the Anti-Corruption and Research Based Data Initiative, sent a petition against him alleging wrongdoing in his asset declaration.
The group said the CJN, Nigeria’s most senior judicial officer, maintained illegal accounts containing foreign currencies and did not declare them.
The group’s head, Denis Aghanya, is a member of the ruling All Progressives Congress and a former publicity secretary of the defunct Congress for Progressive Change.
The group said, its petition was brought “bearing in mind the imminence of the 2019 elections and the overwhelming role of the judiciary both before and after the election.”
A statement by the Code of Conduct Tribunal on Saturday, said Mr Onnoghen would be arraigned for alleged false asset charge on Monday — seven days after the petition was brought.
Some lawyers have alleged the trial is politically motivated.
Mr Onnoghen wrote as follows:
“My asset declaration form numbers SCN 00014 and SCN 00005 were declared on the same day, 14/12/2016 because I forgot to make a declaration of my assets after the expiration of my 2005 declaration in 2009. Following my appointment as acting CJN in November, 2016, the need to declare my assets anew made me to realize the mistake.
“I then did the declaration to cover the period in default. I did not include my standard charted bank account in SCN 000014 because I believed they were not opened.
“I did not make a fresh declaration of asset after my substantive appointment as CJN because I was under the impression that my SCN 000015 was to cover that period of four years which includes my term as CJN,” Mr Onnoghen said in his statement dated January 11.
Mr Onnoghen was first appointed acting CJN on November 10, 2017 following the retirement of the former CJN, Mahmoud Mohammed.
His appointment as acting CJN came amidst criticism of President Muhammadu Buhari’s failure to forward his name to the Senate for confirmation as the most senior judge.
On February 8, 2017 Vice President Yemi Osinbajo returned Mr Onnoghen’s name for confirmation to the Senate on March 1.
Mr Onnoghen was subsequently sworn in to office as Nigeria’s 17th CJN on March 8, 2017.
Sourced from Premium Times.

FG to arraign CJN before CCT for corruption charges…

The Federal Government is set to arraign the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen on charges of non-declaration before the Code of Conduct Tribunal in Abuja on Monday.
CCT headquarters in Abuja on Saturday confirmed the development in a statement signed by its Head, Press & Public Relations, Mr. Ibraheem Al-Hassan.
According to Al-Hassan, the three-man panel of the tribunal led by Danladi Umar, fixed Monday for the arraignment of Nigeria’s number one judge, following an application by the Code of Conduct Bureau for leave to commence the case.
He said the application was filed on Friday and summons for the Monday’s proceedings had been served on the CJN.
All the six counts preferred against the CJN are said to be bordering on non- declaration of assets.
The CCT’s statement read in part, “The Code of Conduct Tribunal has scheduled Monday, January 14, 2019 for the commencement of trial against current Chief Justice of Nigeria, Hon Justce Onnoghen Nkanu Walter Samuel for alleged non-declaration of assets.
“This was consequent to an application filed by the Code of Conduct Bureau to the CCT Chairman yesterday (Friday) for the trial to commence against the Chief Justice of Nigeria on six charges.
“However, service of summons has been effected to the defendant.
“The three-man panel led by Justice Danladi Y. Umar, will commence the trial on Monday, January 14, 2019 at its courtroom, situated at the headquarter, along Jabi Daki biyu, Saloman Lar way, Abuja, at 10:00am.
“The application was filed yesterday by the operatives of CCB, dated January 11, 2019 and signed by Musa Ibrahim Usman (Esq) and Fatima Danjuma Ali (Esq), containing six charges all bordering on non-declaration of assets.”

On the 15th of January, the people will gather for Gani Fawehinmi

JUST A REMINDER LADIES AND GENTLEMEN!

The Ikeja Branch of the Nigerian Bar Association holds its 15th Gani Fawehenmi Annual Lecture (Fawehimnism) next Tuesday the 15th of January, 2019 at Airport Hotel, Ikeja by 10am prompt. Theme: SECURING THE INDEPENDENCE OF INEC. – A PANACEA FOR FREE, FAIR AND CREDIBLE ELECTIONS IN NIGERIA UNDER THE DISTINGUISHED CHAIRMANSHIP OF HON JUSTICE HABEEB ABIRU OF THE COURT OF APPEAL, JOS DIVISION AND GUEST SPEAKER IS PROFESSOR AKIN OYEBODE, FORMER VC OF UNIVERSITY OF ADO EKITTI.
OUR SPECIAL GUESTS OF HONOUR ARE:

Continue reading On the 15th of January, the people will gather for Gani Fawehinmi

A response to Steve Sun on PUSAN Presidency- Sixtus Onuka

THE PUSAN PRESIDENCY IS OVER! REPLYING TO
STEVE SUN’S DECEPTIVE ASSERTIONS

When I saw my learned friend, Steve Sun’s article with the shouting headline which states inter alia that that “The PUSAN presidency is over!”, I took it with a bit of seriousness. Soon after I commenced reading, I realized that indeed, it did not deserve more than a scant attention, as it is totally bereft of supporting facts and law to give it any modicum of substance. In any case, knowing Steve’s antecedents and the pen-roles he played during the run-up to the NBA election, I was not entirely surprised, I was only disappointed. One thing that is outstandingly odd and disgusting about the article is the fact that it is replete with misrepresentations and deceptive assertions, euphemistically speaking.

Steve first said that “The OPNBA has been declared vacant, following his disgraceful arraignment….” I asked myself, by whom? The EFCC? The trial court? The NBA, or whom? I know that the court has not been asked to declare the seat of the president vacant and that indeed the court has not and could not have done so. The EFCC, on the other hand, has no power to declare the president’s seat vacant. They are also understandably not praying that the seat of the president be declared vacant. Of course, even Steve knows that the NBA has not howsoever declared the president’s seat vacant. So, why the deceptive assertion that that office has been declared vacant? Sensationalism, I guess!

Moreover, the learned counsel mischievously represents that there is now an “Acting President” in the person of Mr. Stanley Imo. I reckon that Mr. Stanley Imo remains the 1st Vice President of NBA. You see, lies can only get you ephemeral attention. Once the bubble bursts, your reputation becomes a tad less that it was before the lies.

In a final but inane attempt to beguile Nigerian lawyers, Steve audaciously called for a suspension of the constitution of the NBA, “…based on the equitable doctrine of necessity”. He also mendaciously asserted that “When the law and equity are in conflict, equity must prevail!”.

It appears to me that my learned friend believed at this point that he was addressing a pack of garage boys in his ill-fated article. In any case, let me remind you, Steve Sun, that we are still also lawyers and that is why you remain my learned friend. You know, or ought to have known that the reverse of what you posit is the law. It is either you are being, mischievous or your “LLB Equity” is shaky. I refuse to believe that the latter is the case. I know your pattern.

I just checked and it has been confirmed to me again by the Court of Appeal’s decision in MUDIAGA-ERHUEH VS. INEC (2003) 5 NWLR (Pt 812) 70 that the law indeed prevails where there is a conflict between the law and equity. You may wish to check out the interplay of the law, common law and equity at page 91. Be also reminded that the doctrine of necessity is not coterminous with equity, but a constitutional law issue.

I urge well-meaning Nigerian lawyers to, as always, ignore Steve Sun, while we walk and work towards a rebranded NBA of our dream.

Sixtus Onuka