Human rights lawyer and a Senior Advocate of Nigeria Femi Falana on Friday filed a lawsuit at the Federal High Court in Abuja seeking to stop the Nigerian Railway Corporation from resuming train services on the Abuja-Kaduna route until the railway lines are adequately protected from attacks by bandits and terrorists.
Also joined in the suit is another human rights lawyer, Marshal Abubakar.
Both activists filed the suit on Friday ahead of the now-botched planned resumption of train services on the Abuja-Kaduna route on Monday, March 28.
The suit against the NRC, the Minister of Transportation, and the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, declared that the Respondents on the matter, are bound to secure the railway lines linking Kaduna State to Abuja (and indeed all other railways lines in Nigeria) against armed attacks by Boko Haram terrorists, kidnappers, and other armed groups before the recommencement of railway transportation services.
The lawsuit relied on Section 33 of the 1999 Constitution and Article 4 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights Act, Cap A9 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria which guarantee that every person living in Nigeria is entitled to the protection of their fundamental right to life.
In the suit with file number, FHC/ABJ/CS/22, the applicants declared that the brutal killing of unarmed passengers in the Abuja – Kaduna bound train by armed gangs/Boko Haram terrorists on the 28th day of March 2022 is illegal and unconstitutional as it violates the fundamental right of the deceased to life guaranteed by Section 14 (2) (b), 15 (3) (b), 33 and 43 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
They however asked for the relief of the court mandating the Respondents to protect the lives and properties of every passenger plying the Kaduna- Abuja Railway lines(and indeed all other railway lines in Nigeria) by recruiting adequate security personnel and security gadgets to guard and protect every of such passengers utilizing the public railway transportation system in Nigeria.
They also sought an order of the court prohibiting the Corporation and the Federal Ministry of Transportation from recommencing railways services on the Kaduna- Abuja route until adequate security and requisite gadgets are provided to ensure the safety and protection of lives and properties on the route.
Other reliefs sought by the Applicants is for the court to mandate the Respondents officials, whose alleged criminal negligence caused the bomb attack on the Abuja-Kaduna train on March 28, 2022, should be investigated and prosecuted.
“However, the former President is disqualified from contesting the said election by 137 (3) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 as amended which provides as follows: ‘A person who was sworn in to complete the term for which another person was elected as President shall not be elected to such office for more than a single term.
“Some people have said that the amendment is not retrospective and therefore cannot apply to Dr. Jonathan. Assuming without conceding that the amendment is not retrospective, it is submitted that under the current Constitution a President or Governor cannot spend more than 2 terms of 8 years. In other words, the Constitution will not allow anyone to be in office for more than a cumulative period of 8 years.
“It is not in dispute that Dr. Jonathan became the President of Nigeria in 2010 following the sudden death of President Umaru Yaradua. He later contested and won the 2011 presidential election. Having spent 5 years in office as President, Dr. Jonathan is disqualified from contesting the 2023 presidential election.
“The reason is that if he wins the election, he will spend an additional term of 4 years. It means that he would spend a cumulative period of 9 years as President of Nigeria in utter breach of Section 137 of the Constitution which provides for a maximum two terms of 8 years.”
His comments followed speculations that the former president may defect from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).
Jonathan was elected President of Nigeria in the 2011 election but lost to Muhammadu Buhari in 2015.
A Senior Advocate of Nigeria and human rights advocate, Femi Falana, has faulted the decision of a Federal High Court sitting in Umuahia to order he deletion of Section 84 (12) of the amended Electoral Act.
The section bars political appointees at any level to vote or be voted for “at the Convention or Congress of any political party for the purpose of the nomination of candidates for any election”.
According to Justice Evelyn Anyadike, such a clause was unconstitutional.
However, in a statement obtained by Channels Television on Saturday, Mr Falana argued that “the learned trial judge fell into a great error.”
Sections 66 (1) (f), 107(1) (f),137 (1) (f) and 182 (1) (f) of the Constitution relied upon by his lordship require persons employed in the public service of either the Federal Government or State Governments,” he said. “Specifically, each of the aforesaid sections provides that “No person shall be qualified for election into the Senate or House of Reps if:
(f) he is a person employed in the public service of the Federation or of any State and has not resigned, withdrawn or retired from such employment 30 days before the date of election.”
By virtue of section 318 of the Constitution, political appointees are not included in the list of persons employed in the public service. To that extent, section 84 (12) of the Electoral Act was annulled on a very faulty ground.
No doubt, the Judge would have dismissed the case if his attention had been drawn to the cases of DADA v. ADEYEYE (2005) 6 NWLR (Pt. 920) 1 at 19 ASOGWA v. CHUKWU (2003) 4 NWLR (Pt. 811) 540 OJONYE V. ONU & ORS (2018) LPELR-44223) where the appellate Courts have held that political appointees or political office holders are not public servants as provided for under the Constitution.
On Tuesday, 8th March, 2022, The Federal High Court (coramInyangEkwo J.) sacked the Ebonyi State Governor, David Umahi, his deputy, KelechiIgwe, along with 15 lawmakers in the State over their defection from the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) to the All Progressives Congress (APC).
In sacking the governor and his deputy, the learned trial judge ruled that the votes polled by a political party could not be transferred to or utilised for the benefit of another political party or member of another political party. In acknowledging that the Constitution was silent on the implication of the defection of a governor or his deputy, the learned trial judge opined that “such a lacuna was not to be celebrated or even mischievously flaunted as failure of a remedy for situations of such nature.”
Before the decision was handed down last week, the High Court of Ebonyi State had dismissed the suit filed by the APC and its flag bearers, Senator SoniOgbuji, Justin Ogbodo in the 2919 governorship election who had prayed the Court to declare them the winners of the election since the PDP candidate had abandoned the mandate of the people by joining the APC. It was the view of the presiding Judge, Henry Njoku J. that his jurisdiction to entertain the matter had been ousted by section 308 of the Constitution which has conferred immunity on Governor Umahi and his deputy. In contradiction, Justice Ekwo held that immunity from civil and criminal proceedings conferred on the President, Vice-President, Governors, and Deputy Governors by section 308 of the Constitution did not apply to the case because “the cause of action and the remedy thereof cannot wait till the third and fourth defendants leave office.” Consequently, the Court ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to immediately declare the persons nominated to it by PDP as governor and deputy governor or alternatively conduct fresh gubernatorial election in the State in line with section 177(c) of the Constitution.
Not unexpectedly, the epochal verdict has generated mixed reactions from social commentators, political analysts and legal practitioners and other interest groups. It is pertinent to note there is no dispute whatsoever in the removal of the 16 legislators who decamped from the PDP to APC because the issue has been judicially put to rest in many decided cases pursuant to section 68(1)(g) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) which expressly prohibits cross carpeting by legislators and provides for circumstance(s) in which legitimate defection is permissible. In the case of Abegunde v. Ondo State House of Assembly (2014) LPELR 23683, the Supreme Court rejected the argument of the appellant, a member of the House of Representatives who decamped from Labour Party to Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) on the basis of fractionalization of the party at the State level. The Supreme Court held that only a division that makes it impossible for a party to function can provide the basis for a legislator’s defection hence, the Appellant’s seat was declared vacant.
In the instant case, there was no fractionalization in the PDP when the 15 members of the Ebonyi State House of Assembly decamped from the PDP to APC. The legislators decided to defect in solidarity with Governor Umahi without considering the legal implications of their action. Having regards to the facts and circumstances of the defection and the state of the law the finding of Justice Ekwo on the loss of the seats by the legislators cannot be impugned in any material particular. But the former legislators should be prepared to contest on the platform of the APC as INEC will soon conduct a bye-election to fill the 15 vacant seats in the parliament. No doubt, the loss of the seats and the court order for the refund of all salaries and allowances collected by the defectors will serve as a deterrent to other political defectors.
However, the removal of Governor Umahi and his deputy has been questioned by some lawyers who erroneously believe that the Judge erred in law in not relying on the authority of Attorney-General of the Federation v AtikuAbubakar (2007) 20 WRN 1. Those who criticized the judgment on that score have failed to realize that the main issue for determination in the Atiku’s case was the legal priority of the decision of President OlusegunObasanjo to declare the office of Vice President AtikuAbubakar vacant for abandoning the political party on whose platform he and the President were elected and joining another political party. While upholding the fundamental right of the Vice President to freedom of association the Supreme Court declared illegal and unconstitutional the President’s declaration of his Vice President’s office vacant, based on his defection to another political party. The Court held that the Constitution does not make express provision for the vacation of office of the Vice President upon his defection from his sponsoring political party to another party.
Contrary to the misleading impression conveyed by many lawyers, the Justices of the apex court did not endorse the defection of Vice President Abubakar. Indeed, in the leading judgment of the Court, Akintan JSC said that “The action cannot be justified by the fact that he (1st respondent) had been suspended or expelled from the ruling political party under which he was jointly elected with the President or that he was exercising his fundamental right of association guaranteed by the Constitution. What is required of him is to first resign and even after resigning from that office, he would still be precluded from dissociating himself from the collective responsibility for decisions taken by the cabinet while he was in office.” Although the Court declined to order the removal of the Vice President it was held that his action could fall under misconduct which would make him liable for impeachment by the National Assembly pursuant to section 143 of the Constitution.
It is on record that the Supreme Court has been consistent in condemning cross carpeting and defection by Nigerian politicians as it has bedeviled the political morality of the country. In the case of Federal Electoral Commission v. Goni (1983) 2 SCNLR 227, Aniagolu, JSC said, called for an end to the “fraudulent and malevolent practice of cross-carpeting politicians of yester years who, for financial consideration or otherwise, crossed from one political party to another, without qualms and without conscience. Such a practice had to be discouraged by the framers of our Constitution if political public morality of our country was to be preserved.” On his own part, Obaseki JSC stated that “It is now political history that some of the Nigerian politicians who had the honour of being voted into Parliaments and the Houses of Assembly under the previous civilian Constitutions just before and after independence did little to keep their loyalty to the political parties which sponsored them for election. No self- respecting politician would wish to see a repeat of the wave of carpet crossing and sitting tight that characterized those eras.”
Those who have placed uncritical reliance on the Atiku’s case have failed to appreciate that the validity of the votes scored by the PDP in the presidential election did not arise for determination. To that extent, the case cannot be a justification for the subversion of the democratic rights of voters by political defectors. Whereas in the 2019 governorship election in Ebonyi State, the PDP garnered 393,343 votes across the 13 local governments areas of the state, its closest challenger, the APC, got 81,703 votes. After the PDP had emerged the *winner of the election the certificate of return was issued in the name of its flag bearer by the INEC Chairman, Professor Yakubu Mahmud who stated that “I hereby certify that Nweze David Umahi of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has been elected to the office of Governor of Ebonyi State…” Even though Governor Umahi has decamped from the PDP to APC neither the INEC nor the High Court of Ebonyi State has amended the Certificate of Return to read “Nweze David Umahi of the All Progressive Congress”!
It is interesting to note that some lawyers have maintained that Governor Umahi has exercised his freedom of association by decamping from PDP to APC. While the Governor’s freedom of association is constitutionally protected he cannot be permitted to infringe on the democratic rights of the 393, 343 citizens who voted for him as the governorship candidate of the PDP have been completely ignored. Or are we to believe that the votes scored by the PDP have been merged with those of the APC since the PDP candidate decamped to APC? Curiously, in making a mockery of the democratic rights of the people of Ebonyi State the critics of the judgment of Justice Egwu have failed to advert their minds to the undeniable fact that majority of the voters actually exercised their franchise in favour of the PDP. After all, the names of the candidate David Umahi and his deputy were not on the ballot papers.
In the leading judgment of the Supreme Court in All Progressive Congress v. Marafa, LOR (24/05/2019) SC, Justice Paul AdamuGalinji declared that all the votes cast for the APC were “wasted votes” on the grounds that the party failed to conduct a proper primary. The Court added that all political parties with the second highest votes in the elections and the required spread, are elected to the various elections. In the instant case, the votes credited to the PDP in the 2019 governorship election in Ebonyi State cannot be said to have been wasted based on the decision of Governor Umahi to decamp to the ruling party. Since the said votes are not wasted it is inconceivable that they have been legally transferred from the PDP to the APC. Under no law in Nigeria can the exercise of the right of Governor Umahi to defect from the PDP to APC extinguish the 4-year mandate freely given to him on the platform of the PDP during the 2019 general election.
We wish to submit, without any fear of contradiction, that elections are won by political parties and not by candidates. In Amaechi v. INEC &Ors(2008) LCN/3642 (SC), the Supreme Court held that “The above provision (i.e. section 221) effectually removes the possibility of independent candidacy in our elections; and places emphasis and responsibility in elections on political parties. Without a political party a candidate cannot contest.” Pius OlayiwolaAderemiJSC, emphatically stated that, “…it is the political parties that the electorates do vote for at election time.” This decision has been consistently misinterpreted by some lawyers who share the view that the position of the apex court in Amaechi’s case has changed and that the decision reached in Atiku’s case represents the correct position of the law on defections by State Governors.
In a rather desperate bid to buttress the point, reliance has been placed on the Court of Appeal decisions in INEC v Action Congress (2009) 2 NWLR Pt. 1126-524 (CA), where it was held that, “…the participation of a political party does not exceed campaigning for the candidate…” and Ngige v. Akunyile (2012) 15 NWLR Pt. 1323-343 (CA) where it was said that “… a political party is nothing more than agent of the candidate in gathering votes to an election”. In order to discredit the judgment of the Federal High Court, some lawyers have referred to sections 140 and 141 of the repealed Electoral Act 2010 to prove that the case of Amaechi v INEC is no longer the law. Apparently, the lawyers are not aware of the case of Labour Party v INEC (Suit No FHC/ABJ/CS/399/2011) where Kolawole J. (now JCA) had declared that both sections of the Electoral Act, 2010 for being inconsistent with sections 134 and 179 of the Constitution which imbues the judiciary/court with powers to declare the person with majority votes winner of an election process. According to the learned trial judge “the two sections smacked of legislative tyranny, in the sense that they removed the constitutionally guaranteed powers of the court to declare any candidate winner of an election. The judge further stated that what the National Assembly had done in this instance was to deliberately interfere with judicial affairs. While noting further that the two sections were nothing but legislative judgment…”
With respect, the Supreme Court has never jettisoned its position in Amaechi’s case. Hence, in Wada v. Bello (2017) 3 W.R.N. 72; the court reiterated and upheld its earlier position in Amaechi’s case when it held that “A political party is an abstraction. It has to canvass for votes through its members as agents, in the same way it contests, wins or loses elections through a candidate it nominates who acts as its agents. There is no provision for independent candidates. The candidates nominated to contest at an election by his party acts as an agent of his party. He is, as it were, an agent of a disclosed principal and as far as third parties are involved, benefits and liabilities accruing to the candidate (as agent) belong to his party (the disclosed principal).”
Thus, in line with the tenets of the rule of law the INEC has been guided by the decisions of the Supreme Court in Amaechi v INEC and Wada v Bello. For instance, the INEC declared the All Progressives Congress (APC) as the winner of the December 5, 2020, senatorial bye-election held in Imo North. The returning officer reportedly announced that APC polled a total of 36, 811 votes while PDP came second with 31,903 votes but the INEC Resident Electoral Commissioner in Imo, Professor Francis Ezeone said that the commission was unable to return a candidate at the time as a result of several court orders for and against the two major contenders. Interestingly, the commission did not declare the candidate who won the election until the Supreme Court affirmed Frank Ibezim’s candidacy, several months after the election.
In the same vein, in February 2022, INEC declared the APC as the winner of the chairmanship election conducted in Abaji Area Council of Abuja but due to a legal tussle over the party’s aspirant, no candidate was declared the winner of the election. The INEC Returning Officer for Abaji Area Council said that it would not be legitimate to declare any of the aspirants as the winner of the election. He announced that, “We cannot declare a candidate winner in Abaji because the winning party does not have a candidate here, the case is still in court.” He said that a winner would be announced after the resolution of the pending intra party dispute by the Supreme Court. Up till now, the winner of the election has not been declared as the case has not been determined. It is interesting to note that the practice of declaring political parties as winners of elections without naming the candidates by the INEC has not been challenged in any court.
The consistent interpretation of section 221 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) by the Supreme Court has confirmed that votes cast during elections in Nigeria are owned by political candidates and not by candidates who are flag bearers or agents. Since the candidate are agents of their principals it is grossly misleading to insist that Governor Umahi has transferred the 393,343 votes scored by the PDP to the APC because of his defection. Furthermore, Governor Umahi had constituted the government of Ebonyi State on the basis of the majority of the lawful votes scored by the PDP in line with the provision of section 179 of the Constitution. Thus, before the defection of Governor Umahi from PDP to APC, Ebonyi State was a PDP-led Government. Therefore, , the APC-led Government in the State formed as a result of the defection of the Governor is illegal as it is a negation of section 1(2) of the Constitution which has prohibited the control of the government of Nigeria or any part of it except in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution.
It has also been argued that the defection of Governor Umahi in exercise of his freedom of association has cancelled the 393, 343 votes scored by the PDP. Even under a military dictatorship in Nigeria, the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights held that the cancellation of the results of the June 12 presidential election won by Bashorun M.K.O. Abiola by the Ibrahim Babangida military junta was a violation of the combined provisions of articles 13 and 20 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights. See Constitutional Rights Project &Anor. v Nigeria (2000) AHLR 198. Furthermore, in view of the several provisions of the Constitution and the Electoral Act which have provided for participatory democracy on the basis of majoritarian rule the defection of Governor Umahi cannot wipe out the 393, 343 lawful votes scored by the PDP in Ebonyi State.
It view of the foregoing, it is submitted that the judgment of the Federal High Court delivered by Justice Ekwo is in tandem with the relevant provisions of the Constitution, Electoral Act and the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act, Cap A9, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004. It is also in line with the decisions of the Supreme Court which have confirmed that elections are won by political parties. However, in view of the penchant of members of the ruling class to subvert the wishes of the people through cross carpeting or defection borne out of wanton opportunism it is high time that votes were made to count in the country. The members of the national assembly and the various state legislative houses should take advantage of the ongoing constitutional review to put an end to the subversion of the wishes of the electorate by compelling political leaders who decamp from the political parties on whose platform they were elected to resign from office forthwith.
In conclusion, I am compelled to remind Nigerian politicians and lawyers of the cautionary words of the Honourable Justice Ganjili in the case of A.P.C. v Marafa (supra). Worried over the brazen political manipulation and impunity by the Nigerian ruling class, his Lordship said that, “For this great country, some politicians who are either ignorant of what party politics is, or out of mischief, have continuously dragged this nation backward. If care is not taken, this class of politicians will drag this nation to the Stone Age, where all of us will be consumed. I once again, as this court has consistently preached, urge this class of politicians to play the game according to law and guidelines which they themselves have enacted. It is only when this is done that sanity will take center stage in the domestic and international affairs of this great nation.”
Human rights lawyer and a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Femi Falana, has faulted the Nigeria Police Force over the arrest of an Abuja based legal practitioner, Abubakar Marshall.
Marshall, a lawyer to activist Omoyele Sowore, was arrested on Friday by the FCT Police Command for failing to produce his client.
But in a statement issued on Sunday, Falana condemned the arrest, describing the act as illegal. He also dismissed claims by the police that Sowore jumped bail, saying that the activist had presented himself for any possible arraignment.
“In a bid to justify the illegal arrest of Abubakar Marshall Esq. the Police claimed that the lawyer contravened an unspecified provision of the Criminal Code because he failed to produce a client, Mr. Omoyele Sowore at a police station in the Federal Capital Territory,” the statement partly read.
“It is public knowledge that the movement of Mr Sowore has been restricted to the Federal Capital Territory for the past two years on the orders of the Federal Capital Territory. Since his abode is well known to the security agencies, it is grossly misleading to claim that his surety has contravened any provision of the Penal Code.
“However, in spite of the indiscretion of Abubakar Marshall to stand surety for Mr. Sowore, his arrest, detention and prosecution by the Federal Capital Territory Police Command cannot be justified under the law
“It is trite law that a surety cannot be arrested, detained and charged with any criminal offence before any court in Nigeria on the ground that a suspect has jumped bail or failed to report for investigation or arraignment.
“The penalty is that the surety is legally obligated to pay the sum stated in the recognisance or bail bond. Before the bail bond can be forfeited the surety is entitled to show a cause or justify before a Court why it should not be forfeited.
“However, if the surety fails to pay the sum stipulated in the bond the court shall proceed to recover it from the surety like a fine under the Administration of Criminal Justice Act.
“In view of the several decisions of Nigerian courts on the contractual nature of suretyship, Abubakar Marshall has not committed any offence whatsoever. The authorities of the Federal Capital Territory Police Command are advised to withdraw the criminal charge erroneously filed before the Upper Area Court in Kubwa. However, since Mr. Sowore is not on the run, he has decided to report himself to the Police for any possible arraignment.”
Human rights lawyer and a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Femi Falana, has called on Nigerians to mount pressure on the National Assembly to override President Muhammadu Buhari on the Electoral Act Amendment Bill.
Following the refusal of the president to sign the document over the mode of primaries, the National Assembly had on January 31 transmitted the reworked bill to the president for assent.
The presidency has repeatedly defended the delay in the assent to the electoral bill, saying President Buhari is still consulting with the relevant stakeholders before making his decision known to Nigerians.
But speaking during an interview on Channels Television’s Political Paradigm, Falana said Buhari’s refusal to sign the electoral act amendment bill in the past, as well as his delay in giving assent since receiving the bill over two weeks ago, and the lack of pressure from members of the All Progressives Congress (APC) for him to sign, speaks volumes.
“It is a challenge to all Nigerians. Once the 30-day period expires, the bill goes back to the National Assembly and Nigerians have to mount pressure on the National Assembly to override the veto of the President. We can’t go on like this,” he said.
Falana said he wouldn’t be surprised if Buhari again refuses to sign the document, accusing the President of not being prepared to reform the nation’s electoral process.
While noting that the bill has been dragged since 2018, he criticised the ruling APC of failing to tackle rigging of elections, violent polls, inconclusive elections.
“The ruling party wants the situation to remain hence there is no pressure on the President to sign the electoral bill into law.
“The party is not prepared to allow the status quo to change. Status quo that promotes rigging of elections, violent elections, inconclusive elections and the tribunalisation of the electoral process.”
A Chief Pathologist with the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH), Dr. Sunday Soyemi, has told the Coroner Inquest into the controversial death of Sylvester Oromoni, that a blackish substance was found in the boy’s intestine during autopsy.
While answering questions on Tuesday under cross-examination from Counsel to the Oromoni family, Femi Falana (SAN), Dr Soyemi, however, testified that no test was carried out to determine what the blackish substance was.
Lekki-based school, Dowen College, has been in the eye of the storm since the demise of a 12-year-old student, Sylvester Oromoni Jnr.
The deceased’s father had alleged that his child was beaten by some senior students and forced to drink a liquid that killed him.
But the school has denied the claim, saying instead that he sustained injuries while playing football with his mates.
Find below the conversation between Mr Falana and the Pathologist below:
Falana: You did say, that when you were opening up the body, you found a blackish substance in the intestine of the deceased?
That’s correct, said the pathologist.
Falana: Did you send the black substance to a toxicologist? To which the pathologist replied No.
Falana: Don’t you think the blackish substance should have been taken to a toxicology laboratory in view of the allegation that the boy was poisoned?
Again, the pathologist replied No. This prompted Mr Falana to ask, “What is the blackish substance?”
Pathologist: It could be anything. It could be faecal stool matter mixed with embalming fluid.
Falana: It could be anything, we don’t know. Yet without conducting a test, you dismissed the conclusion of the pathologist in Warri who came to the conclusion that the deceased died of acute lung injury arising from chemical intoxication?
Pathologist: I took samples of the oesophagus and the stomach to the laboratory and looked at it under the microscope and they were essentially normal.
Falana: What laboratory did you use? LASUTH or one outside?
Pathologist: I didn’t take it to a toxicologist laboratory. LASUTH has no toxicology laboratory.
Falana: LASUTH has no facilities for testing for poison, when such tests are needed, it is sent abroad.
Pathologist: That’s correct.
Toxicology, according to the English dictionary, is the branch of pharmacology that deals with the nature, effect, detection and treatment of poisons and poisoning.
In response to further questions from the Counsel to the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Bernard Onigah, the Pathologist gave reasons why a toxicologist test was not carried out.
Pathologist: In conducting toxicology, I need to take blood, urine and the vitreous fluid in the eyes, all of which will be sent to the laboratory for test. I also need gastric content in the stomach. All these were not available at the second autopsy.
When asked why they were not available, the pathologist said, “the stomach had been opened by the first pathologist and nothing was found. The blood, urine and eye fluid had been sucked out during embalming and put in the Formalin, the embalming fluid.
The lawyer then asked, “Are you telling the court that it is impossible to take samples for toxicology as at the time the body was brought to you for an autopsy?”
The pathologist replied, “that’s correct”.
Counsel to Dowen College, Anthony Kpokpo asked the pathologist the impact a noxious substance, chemical or poison introduced through the mouth will have on the oesophagus or the stomach.
The pathologist replied, “I’ll expect to see a bruising of the lining of the stomach and the oesophagus.”
Kpokpo: Did you see any bruising in the lining of the deceased’s stomach or oesophagus?
The cross-examination also dwelled on the cause of death with the pathologist insisting that the late Sylvester, died of Septicaemia.
Septicaemia is when bacteria enters the bloodstream, and causes blood poisoning which triggers sepsis
While being led in evidence by the Director of Public Prosecution, DPP Lagos, Dr. Jide Martins, the pathologist testified on his findings during the autopsy. He said the findings indicated a generalised infection of the body.
“It was an infection of the lungs, the deceased also had an infection of the liver, the kidneys, infection of the right arm, the soft tissue of the muscles covering the bone below the ankle. The summary of these is that he had generalised infection.”
Dr. Soyemi said, “This could have been treated. What could have been used in treating was massive dose of antibiotics, intravenous fluid and blood transfusion.”
He added that based on his finding, the illness could have been properly managed if the boy was taken for proper treatment. It was not a terminal case at all, the doctor stated.
The doctor however noted that the medical condition could lead to death if not properly treated, adding that the “mortality rate is high.”
Mr Falana asked, “can massaging of the body and an injury lead to infection?”
The doctor replied no.
The senior lawyer again asked, “If there’s an injury and it has been massaged repeatedly, can it lead to the removal of the skin or part of the skin?”
The doctor replied in the affirmative.
The senior advocate asked, “Are you aware that the ankle injury of the deceased was subjected to massaging in the sickbay of Dowen College on the 21st, 22nd & 23rd?
Dr. Soyemi said, “Not aware.”
The pathologist also spoke to some “sensitive photographs” of the autopsy report which were shown in court to describe the procedure and methods of the post mortem.
One of the pictures showed the deceased with his name tag, another showed an incision made in the chest area.
A few others showed vertical marks on the chin (post mortem injury), “a recent external circular injury on the right ankle,” reddening on the lower part of the two legs (this shows that the embalming fluid did not get to that part of his body), the white brain shows that there is not enough blood in the body.
“Prior to the conduct of autopsy, I did a total body radiograph to rule out any skeletal injury, that is, fracture, none was found. And the radiologist confirmed there was no fracture,” he said.
He faulted the initial pathologist in Warri describing his autopsy as a botched autopsy.
In the first autopsy carried out in Delta State, the pathologist, Clement Vhirterhire said the 12 years old died from “acute lung injury due to chemical intoxication.”
“Before I started the autopsy, the doctor who conducted the first autopsy was in attendance and was in attendance throughout. So, I observed that the autopsy was not properly done. All that was not properly done are documented in my statement,” Dr. Soyemi said.
“For example, at the first autopsy, the pathologist never opened the oesophagus; the oesophagus is the food pipe. He also did not open the trachea, it is the air path through which we breathe.
“These are vital things that he should not have missed out.
“He concluded his report as chemical intoxication. For one to be intoxicated with chemicals, that chemical has to pass through the oesophagus, which is the food path. If one has not opened the food path, he cannot talk about chemical intoxication.
Mr Femi Falana, however, noted that the pathologist should not be allowed to comment on the first autopsy because it was not tendered as evidence in the inquest.
But the DPP, Dr. Martins, said that the witness should be allowed to comment on it because he is an expert and the coroner inquest is a fact-finding exercise.
“He is an expert witness and he holds a duty to the court and he understands the issues that are relevant to the determination of this inquest,” Mr Martins said.
When the coroner appeared to allow the comments, it led to a heated exchange between him and Mr Falana.
The coroner said, “This is not a regular court. You are already casting aspersions on the court and my person. I allowed all parties to speak, I listened to everybody, the rules of evidence do not apply.”
“You say this at your convenience,” Mr Falana responded.
Reacting, the coroner said he took exception to the statement adding that “If you have a problem with me personally sitting on this inquest, the avenues are there. I’m not a tyrant, I fear nobody; I owe my duty to God. Learned silk is saying I do that at my convenience. Take that back.”
Mr Falana however said he had no cause to question the coroner’s integrity.
“Your lordship, if I have created the impression that I question your integrity, I take it back.”
The coroner also apologised for raising his voice at the learned silk.
He ruled that he would take any comment that would assist in the fact-finding. He, however, asked the DPP to limit his questions to the evidence tendered in court.
On media reports of the post mortem proceedings, Mr. Femi Falana asked the pathologist Dr Soyemi if he had authorized one of his colleagues, Dr. Nwigwe Chikodili Isabella, to speak on Arise TV about the findings of the autopsy.
The pathologist said that he did not give any such authorization. He also testified that this was not normal practice and admitted that he was embarrassed when the report was being discussed on TV.
“I was embarrassed because she didn’t perform the autopsy, she observed all through and it’s not the normal practice even if you have done the autopsy,” he said.
Magistrate Mikhail Kadiri has adjourned further proceedings till Monday.
The government had cleared them following the Legal Advice of the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP), Ms. Adetutu Oshinusi, that there was no prima facie case against the suspects.
Falana insisted that the state government did not have a Director of Public Prosecution on January 4 when the report was issued.
“From the press conference of the Commissioner of Police and from the legal advice that hoods out of the Ministry of Justice that was alleged to be issued by the Director of Public Prosecution, the Lagos State government did not have a Director of Public Prosecution on January 4 when that report came out of the ministry,” he said.
According to him, “the Authorities are aware of the fact that the Chief Coroner of the State has ordered that an inquest be conducted into the circumstances surrounding the unnatural death of Sylvester Oromoni.
“The inquest which commenced before the Coroner on December 16, 2021, has been adjourned to January 15, 2022, for further hearing.”
Mr Falana insists that “the report has not laid the allegations surrounding the gruesome murder of Sylvester Oromoni to rest.”
Lagos State Government had earlier on Wednesday cleared five students and five employees of Dowen College accused of complicity in the death of 12-year-old Sylvester Oromoni.
The state cleared them as well as the school following the Legal Advice of the Director of Public Prosecution, DPP, Ms. Adetutu Oshinusi.
According to the advice, the interim and final autopsy reports issued by the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital and toxicology report of post mortem samples and that of the Central Hospital, Warri were in agreement as to the cause of death namely: Septicaemia, Lobar Pneumonia with Acute Pyelonephritis, Pyomyositis of the right ankle and Acute Bacteria Pneumonia due to severe Sepsis.
The DPP’s legal advice, therefore, concluded that based on these findings, there is no prima facie case of murder, involuntary manslaughter and or malicious administering of poison with intent to harm against the five students, Favour Benjamin aged 16, Micheal Kashamu (15), Edward Begue (16), Ansel Temile (14) and Kenneth Inyang (15).
The state also cleared the minors of belonging to unlawful society due to insufficient facts to establish the offence.
This decision was met with various reactions including that of the family lawyer, Femi Falana.
The Father of the deceased in an interview with Channels TV said contrary to the results conducted by the Lagos State Government, there was another autopsy carried out by the Delta State Police Command which suggested that his late son may have been fed with harmful chemicals.
He, however, insisted he will not give up and that his family will meet with his lawyers on the way forward as regards the case.
Human rights lawyer and a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Femi Falana said President Muhammadu Buhari is a beneficiary of direct primary.
Falana in a statement issued on Tuesday said the All Progressives Congress (APC) had also adopted the direct primary for the emergence of its presidential candidate in 2019.
His comment is in the wake of President Buhari’s refusal to sign the Electoral Act Amendment Bill into law.
The President had asked the National Assembly to remove the controversial clause on direct primaries from the bill and return the proposed law to him for assent.
But Falana faulted the President’s decision, saying Buhari is throwing out the baby and the bathwater.
“The reason adduced for the rejection of the Electoral Amendment Bill is grossly misleading. Section 87 of the current Electoral Act provides for either direct or indirect primaries. In fact, the APC used direct primary for the emergence of its presidential candidate in 2019. In other words, President Buhari is a beneficiary of direct primary,” he said.
“By rejecting the Bill on the ground that it provided for direct primary the President decided to throw away the baby and the bathwater. Thus, the President rejected electronic voting which he had endorsed when he admitted that he is a beneficiary of electronic accreditation of voters by the use of card readers.
“With respect, direct primary is in consonance with section 223 of the Constitution which has imposed a duty on political parties to elect their officers through democratic elections. There is no provision in the Constitution for the imposition of candidates by money bags through indirect primaries.
“The INEC has submitted a bill of N305 billion for the entire 2023 general elections. So who conjured the figure of N500 billion for the primaries to give the impression that it is an expensive venture? In any case, since electronic voting had been adopted by the National Assembly it was going to be used for both primary and general elections. So the cost would have been significantly reduced. The fear of insecurity is a red herring in that political parties have continued to hold huge rallies even in defiance of Covid 19 restrictions imposed by the Federal Government.
“Having rejected to assent to the Electoral Amendment Bill in 2018 and 2021, President Buhari has confirmed beyond any shadow of a doubt that his administration will not allow the Independent National Electoral Commission to conduct credible elections in 2023 and thereafter. That is going to be the tragic legacy of the President and the ruling party that were campaigning for electoral reforms before the 2015 general elections.
“The challenge before the National Assembly is to invoke the provision of section 58 (5) of the Constitution to pass the Bill into law by the resolution of two-thirds majority of the members. However, if the national assembly cannot muster the required two-thirds majority, section 87 of the Act which allows direct or indirect primaries should be left intact so that the other provisions of the Electoral Amendment Bill 2021 can be passed again by the legislators and assented to by the President.”
The family of Sylvester Oromoni (Jnr), the late 12-year-old Dowen College student, has hired the firm of a foremost human rights lawyer and activist, Femi Falana, to prosecute its case against the institution over the death of their son.
Channels Television obtained the letter written by Falana to the office of Lagos State’s Chief Coroner, requesting an inquest into the circumstances leading to the death of his client’s child.
The letter was dated December 6, 2021, signed by Taiwo Olawale, and addressed to the chief coroner, High Court of Lagos State.
The letter, titled ‘Request for Inquest into the Tragic Death of Sylvester Oromoni killed at Dowen College, Lekki, Lagos,’ said that based on the briefings by the family, the late student died as a result of injuries allegedly inflicted on him by his seniors at the school.”
“Given the needless death of Sylvester Oromoni, we are compelled to request you to use your good offices to cause a coroner’s inquest to be conducted into the cause of death of this young and promising boy and make appropriate recommendations pursuant to Section 15 of the Lagos State Coroner’s Law 2007 that states that an inquest shall hold whenever a coroner is informed that the death of a deceased person within his coroner district is as a result of a death in a violent, unnatural or suspicious situation,” the letter read in part.
“We hereby request your lordship to conduct an inquest into the circumstance surrounding this tragic death and we are confident that your lordship will accede to our request with utmost urgency.”
Human rights lawyer and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Femi Falana, has asked President Muhammadu Buhari to call the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed.
He stated this in a statement on Wednesday in reaction to the remarks of the minister on the report of the Lagos State Judicial Panel of Inquiry on Restitution for Victims of SARS Related Abuses and other matters.
Falana noted that President Buhari had told United States Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, during a meeting recently that state governments would have to take steps on the reports of their panels before the Federal Government would act on the recommendations.
He stressed that by his action, Mohammed has overruled the President by rejecting the report of the panel in Lagos on behalf of the Federal Government.
The senior advocate also accused the minister of insulting the Governor of Lagos State, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, by rejecting the report of the panel instituted by him under the Tribunal of Enquiry Law of the state.
Governor Sanwo-Olu, according to him, has been presented with a fait accompli by the minister despite that he is still studying the report.
Falana faulted Mohammed, saying the action of the minister undermined the rule of law and social justice in the land.
He, therefore, urged the Lagos State government to ignore the rejection of the report by the minister, stressing that the Federal Government’s name was not clothed with any power under the Tribunal of Enquiry Law.
Read the full statement by the lawyer below:
FG Is Not Competent To Reject The Report Of Okuwobi Judicial Commission Of Inquiry
On November 18, 2021, President Muhammadu Buhari held a meeting in Abuja with Mr. Anthony Blinken, the United States Secretary of State. During the meeting, President Buhari said that the state governments in the country would have to take steps on the reports of their panels before the Federal Government acts on the recommendations.
In particular, the President said, “We at the federal have to wait for the steps taken by the states, and we have to allow the system to work. We can’t impose ideas on them. Federal Government has to wait for the reaction of the states.”
But in an utter display of executive rascality, Mr Lai Mohammed, the Minister of Information has overruled the President by rejecting the report of the Lagos Panel on behalf of the Federal Government.
By not waiting “for the reaction of the states,” the Minister has overruled the President of the Republic. As if that was not enough, the Minister decided to insult the Governor of Lagos State, Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu by rejecting the report of the Judicial Commission instituted by him under the Tribunal of Enquiry Law of Lagos State. Thus, the Governor who is currently studying the report has been presented with a fait accompli by the Minister. As far as Mr. Mohammed is concerned, the Governor must toe his line since the Lagos.
Mr. Mohammed has described the 309-page report of a Judicial tribunal as “fake news”. As a lawyer of many years standing, the Minister ought to have known that it is the height of arrogant contempt to describe the report of a Judicial Commission of Enquiry constituted under the Tribunal of Enquiry Law as “fake”.
It is regrettable to note that the Minister has failed to realise that the Lagos State Government is not an extension of the Federal Government but a sovereign entity under the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Since the name of the Federal Government is not clothed with any power under the Tribunal of Enquiry Law, the purported rejection of the report by the Minister ought to be treated with disdain by the Lagos State Government.
In a press conference held on October 20, 2021, Mr. Mohammed had recalled that the National Economic Council had “directed State Governors to immediately forward copies of final reports of the panels to their Attorneys-General for prompt arraignment and prosecution of all indicted persons. Where incidents in the reports relate to matters of discipline, in addition to prosecution, NEC urged the Nigeria Police Force to take disciplinary action on the affected officers in line with the provisions of the Police Act 2020.” Has Mr. Mohammed overruled the collective decision of the National Economic Council?
However, it is pertinent to point out that Mr. Mohammed’s comment on the report lacks originality as it is a mere regurgitation of the jaundiced views of a couple of aggrieved individuals. The two individuals have tried, albeit unsuccessfully, to discredit the findings and recommendations of the body.
In a desperate attempt to mislead the Governor, both aggrieved persons have been campaigning for the total rejection of the report because of the so-called discrepancies and inconsistencies contained in the document. No doubt, these individuals are entitled to express their opinions on the report of the Commission. But the call for the rejection of the report is illegal in every material.
In December 2015, the Nigerian Army massacred hundreds of Shiites in Zaria and hurriedly buried their bodies in a mass grave at Mango in Kaduna State on the orders of the then Chief of Army Staff. Even though Mr. Mohammed said that the report of the genocidal attack was a hoax, the Justice Garba Judicial Commission of Enquiry instituted by the Kaduna State Government confirmed a casualty figure of 348 Shiites.
Six years thereafter, the authorities have ignored the recommendation of the Judicial Commission that the culprits be prosecuted. The Lagos Judicial Commission of Enquiry accepted the evidence of forensic experts to the effect that 99 dead bodies were dumped in the various mortuaries in Lagos State during the protests. Mr. Mohammed has described the massacre as “fake news”.
Finally, Mr. Mohammed’s callous comment on the cold murder of unarmed citizens at the Lekki Toll Gate is a sad reminder of his own experience under the same forces of brutalisation. On August 8, 2014, Mr. Mohammed, the then Publicity Secretary of the APC had left Lagos for Osogbo, Osun State in support of Governor Rauf Aregbesola’s re-election bid.
Later that night, it was reported that he had been kidnapped by a team of hooded operatives of the State Security Service. I was aroused from my sleep by Governor Aregbesola who requested me to assist in searching for Mr. Mohammed. However, a couple of hours later, I was relieved when it was reported that he had regained his freedom.
But the PDP dismissed the kidnap story as a hoax emanating from the fecund imagination of Mr. Mohammed. Having completely crossed to the other side of the political divide, Mr. Mohammed conveniently regards news of the tragic massacre of unarmed citizens as fake.
Mr. Mohammed’s steps undermine the rule of law and social justice in the land. President Buhari should call him to order.