A Federal High Court sitting in Abuja has granted leave to two Lagos-based lawyers, Femi Falana and Bamidele Aturu to be joined as co-defandants in a suit filed by a former governorship aspirant in Anambra state, Stanley Okeke seeking an order of the court to compel the federal government to remove fuel subsidy. Ruling on the motion for joinder, Justice Adeniyi Ademola allowed the duo to be joined as fourth and fifth defendants while President Goodluck Jonathan remains the first defendant.
Other defendants are the Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Allison-Madueke and the Minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.
In the applications for joinder by both Messrs Falana and Aturu, the duo expressed how adversely they will be affected by the withdrawal of fuel subsidy.
Mr Okeke, who is the National Coordinator of Citizens Club, had in December 2012 dragged President Jonathan to a Federal High Court seeking for an order compelling the president to stop fuel subsidy and refund to the federation account such sum earlier appropriated and or approved under the sub-head of fuel subsidy funds because same cannot be justified in the face of the pervasive corruption, perennial fuel shortage and long queues being witnessed in some part of the country.
The plaintiff also asked the court for an order directing the 3rd defendant (Ms Okonjo-Iweala) to stop further payment of fuel subsidy money predicated on the corrupt, illegal and unlawful fuel subsidy regime.
He also wants the court to declare that the fuel subsidy currently being funded by the federal government was a waste of public funds and therefore unlawful and illegal to sustain same.
The judge consequently adjourned the suit to May 22, 2013 for hearing of the originating summons
As the UN Human Rights Council session opens this week, a non-governmental organisation, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has sent a request to the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, urging her “to publicly condemn the reports of dehumanising and degrading conditions of police trainees across police colleges in Nigeria.”
The session of the Human Rights Council is holding from February 25 to March 22, 2013.
The organisation also wants Ms Pillay to “call or facilitate a public session of the UN Human Rights Council and civil society to discuss the problem with a view to putting pressure on the Nigerian government to urgently address and remedy the serious and systematic violation of the human rights of the trainees to human security and dignity, and to an adequate standard of living.”
In the petition signed by Solicitor to SERAP, Mr. Femi Falana, and sent to Ms Pillay on Monday, the organisation said that, “publicly speaking out against the violations of the human rights of police trainees and holding of a public session on the treatment of police trainees in police colleges across Nigeria would contribute to putting pressure on the government to urgently take concrete, meaningful and transparent action to improve the conditions and treatment of the trainees, and consequently improve the ability of our law enforcement agencies to discharge their duties of maintaining law and order, and ensuring the safety and security of the citizens.
“This is a crucial law enforcement issue to which your office is fully committed to addressing globally including in Nigeria. Unless the Nigerian government is held responsible for its failure to respect the right to human security and dignity of police trainees across police colleges in Nigeria, the government will not be able to meet up with its international legal obligations of maintaining law and order, and ensuring the safety and security of its citizens.”
SERAP maintains that “By failing to spend allocated budgets meant to establish infrastructure and improve the conditions of police colleges in the country, the government has breached its international human rights obligations and commitments including under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.”
The organisation requested the UN Rights Chief to, among others:
1. Publicly condemn in your statement to the session of the UN Human Rights Council scheduled to hold between February 25 2013 and March 22, 2013 reports of dehumanising and degrading treatment of police trainees across police colleges in Nigeria
2. Ask the Nigerian Government delegation attending the session of the Human Rights Council to explain how the budget meant to establish infrastructure and improve the conditions of police trainees in police colleges has been spent, and what the government is doing to urgently address this serious human rights violation
3. Call or facilitate public session of the Human Rights Council and civil society to discuss the problems with a view to putting pressure on the Nigerian government to address it.
4. Urge the Nigerian government to invite the Special Rapporteur on adequate housing as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living, and on the right to non-discrimination in this context; Independent Expert on the issue of human rights obligations relating to the enjoyment of a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment; Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights; Special Rapporteur on the right to food; Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; and Special Rapporteur on the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation to visit Nigeria to thoroughly investigate the violations of human rights committed against police trainees across police colleges in Nigeria, and to make recommendations to the government on what to do to address the problem.
The organisation states further: “Recent investigation and documentary by the highly respected Channels TV showed among others that training facilities are in terribly bad shape; that the college is overcrowded (housing 3000 people instead of 750); that student hostels are in dilapidated conditions and lack beds, mattresses and decent and functioning toilets. It showed the college’s male and female dormitories, some of them built before independence in 1960, in state of disrepair. The trainees are clearly in some discomfort, because the footage showed bug-infested sleeping quarters and blood-stained beddings.”
Nigeria is a member of the Human Rights Council, and has ratified several UN human rights treaties, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
Frontline lawyer and a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Femi Falana has faulted the basis on which the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) deregistered 28 political parties insisting that political parties do not exist primarily to win elections.
Mr Falana, who was responding to questions from Channels Television’s judiciary correspondent, Shola Soyele, said section 78 subsection 7of the Electoral Act 2010 upon which INEC based its action is fraudulent.
Section 78 subsection 7 of the Electoral Act 2010 empowers INEC to “deregister political parties for failure to win presidential or governorship elections or a seat in the National or state House of Assembly.
While condemning INEC’s move and the legality of the section, Mr Falana said sometimes political parties are set up simply to mobilise against reactionary policies of government.
“You may decide, as a political party, for the next four years we are going to wage a war against corruption,” he said.
The National Assembly has always been rejecting the move by the Executive on the ceding of the Bakassi Peninsula to Cameroon since 2006 as attempts have been made by the Federal Government to comply with section 12 of the Nigeria constitution, this is the saying of a Senior Advocate of Nigeria; Femi Falana who was a guest on our breakfast show Sunrise daily while discussing the Bakassi Peninsula matter.
He said the handing over of the Bakassi Peninsula to Cameroon was the height of ‘Executive Lawlessness’ and it is not tolerated by the Nigeria constitution.
The legal practitioner quoted section 12 of the constitution in furtherance saying ‘No treaty signed between Nigeria and another country can come into force without an enactment into law by the National Assembly’.
Recalling the Bakassi Peninsula matter, since the administration of former President , Olusegun Obasanjo when the handing over was done then through the reign of deceased President Shehu Musa Yaradua, the National Assembly has stood their grounds in rejecting the treaty and according Mr. Falana ‘As far as the international law is concerned or the constitution of Nigeria is concerned, it is the end of the matter’.
‘Anything predicated on, a treaty rejected by the National Assembly becomes an illegality’ Falana said.
With just a few days left to the expiration of time Nigeria has to seek a review on the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruling which ceded Bakassi Pennisula to Cameroon, the Nigerian Senate has released some facts that were allegedly not tendered at the ICJ whilst the case lasted. The upper legislative arm is now compelling the executive to seek the review before the expiration on the 10th of October, 2012.
This was the view of the Chairman, Senate Committee on Rules and Business; Senator Ita Enang, who was interviewed from our Abuja studio on Sunrise Daily on Friday. He claimed that with the new facts emerging on the ownership of Bakassi Peninsula, the executive arm of government must be spurred to appeal the judgement.
According to the Senator, there are fresh facts which were not made available to the court at that time the judgement was passed.
He also argued that the judgement and the handing-over of Bakassi is imperfect because the Senate has not been ratified by the Green Tree Treaty that was agreed on by the leaders of the two countries in 2005, as dictated by the 1999 Constitution.
The Senator added that the terms of the Green Tree implementation has been severally violated by the Cameroonian authorities and that the supervising parties also did not do what is expected because the interest of the people of the Bakassi Peninsula was not sought.
The Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Mariam Alooma Mukhta on Wednesday swear in twenty Five lawyers who were recently elevated to the rank of Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SAN) as part of activities marking the commencement of a new legal year by the Supreme Court.
Lagos based lawyer and human rights activist, Femi Falana and the others were conferred as senior advocates by the Legal Practitioners Privileges committee. The elevation, the Committee said, was in accordance with the provisions of the Legal Practitioners’ Act 2004.
Those who were sworn in alongside Mr Falana included: Yemi Akinseye-George, a lecturer at the University of Ibadan, Dakas Clement James Dakas, Joy Okungbowa Adesina, Connie – Jeanne Aremu, Mahmud Abubakar Magaji, Ogwu James Onoja, Garuba Usman Tetengi, Henry Oghogho Ogbodu, Selekeowei Larry, Abenny O. Mohammed and Charles Nwanne Obishai.
Others are Luke Chukwudi Illogu, Francis Chuka Agbo, Paul C. Ananaba, Akinlaja Dayo Moses, Ahmed Raji, Adekunle Theophilus Oyesanya, Rotimi Oluseyi Oguneso, Oluseye Samuel Opasanya, Aderoja Claudius Olumiyiwa, Aliyu Umar, Illo Katune Sanusi, Rotimi Jacobs and Ndukwe A. Nnawuchi. Justice Mukhta praised the Supreme Court Practice Direction signed into law by the past Administration for contributing to the speedy conclusion of election cases.
“In this new legal year, our efforts will be redoubled to ensure that the confidence bestowed on us by the people and by God will not be thrown into the abyss,” she said.
The Chief Justice said there are presently an estimated 40,000 prisoners in Nigeria with about two thirds of this population not convicted. She said that perhaps the Amnesty International is correct for laying the blame on the Nigerian judiciary where cases are unnecessarily adjourned.
She commended the efforts of some state administration aimed at introducing alternative punitive measures as a way of prison decongestion and praised Community service, non-custodian sentences and probation as having great benefits to the government and the society at large.
Also speaking at the event, the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mohammed Bello Adoke called for a rethinking in the elevation of persons to the rank of senior advocates of Nigeria. He observed that the general perception is that being a SAN offers legal practitioners license to charge very fat legal fees.
“In popular discourse within and outside the profession, there is a palpable feeling or perception that the rank is a passport to fame, personal riches and comfort. To others, the rank is a license to command fat fees, open doors and prominence bordering sometimes on arrogance. It is a matter of regret that these negative perceptions of the rank have engendered resentment from our colleagues who are yet to be similarly recognised and honoured”
He said the position of senior advocates of Nigeria places a duty and responsibility on the bearer to the profession.
He called on the new senior advocates as leaders of the Bar, to behave in a manner befitting the rank.
President Goodluck Jonathan is of the view that the time has come for a ‘Peoples Constitution’ and is asking for the help of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) in aggregating broad based contributions to enhance the ongoing constitution review process.
President Jonathan spoke at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, during a presidential retreat for the CSOs and professional associations where he noted that the constitution is one ligament that holds the nation together, and as such its amendment would be incomplete without the voices of all Nigerians.
He explains that his invitation to the participants of the retreat was informed by their closeness to the people and their understanding of the people’s fears and desires, and not for any political settlement.
President Jonathan added that a constitution that can guarantee true democracy must flow from the ideas and experiences of the people, not just the people in the corridors of power.
The retreat is part of this year’s independence anniversary.
A witness at the on-going Coroner’s inquest into the Dana Air Crash, Alexander Omaghomi, has said the negligence and failure of the flight crew to adhere to required emergency guidelines led to the tragedy.
Mr Omaghomi also known as Captain Tito said he had more than 32 years’ experience as a Pilot on Thursday told the Coroner, Magistrate Oyetade Komolafe, that his opinion of the preliminary report of the Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB) was that the pilot and his crew failed to keep to necessary checklists to prevent the fatalities of the air crash.
Omaghomi, a pilot with the defunct Nigerian Airways while being led in evidence by Femi Falana, explained that checklists are items and actions you take in the operations of a flying plane.
The former pilot who retired from flying commercial planes in 1993 said his analysis of the AIB report on the Dana Air crash was that the cockpit was a “a disorganised cockpit” and that the plane “became a flight that nobody had controlled.”
According to him, the pilot did not call for help when he should have done, that is at the time when the plane had already lost two engines.
He further stated that the rules are that no pilot flies for more than 100 hours in a month.
He observed that the pilot of the ill-fated plane had put in 120 hours of flight within 14 days. This was illegal, he said.
Omaghomi lamented that there were only 17 accidents between 1965-2003 while there has been almost 21 air mishaps from 2003 till date.
Earlier, an Aviation Operations Manager with Total Nigeria PLC, Daniel Akpokoje had testified that the last time Dana Air bought fuel from his company was November last year.
He stated that before fuel is supplied to an aircraft, several checks are normally made to ensure that there are no sediments or water mixed with it.
The Coroner adjourned hearings till August 13th in consideration for relatives, who are now collecting the remains of their loved ones who died in the crash.
A Magistrate and the Coroner of Alimosho District in Lagos, Oyetade Alexander Komolafe, on Monday began an inquest into the death of the victims of the Dana Air Flight 992 that crashed on Sunday, 3rd June at Iju-Ishaga, area of Lagos.
About 200 people lost their lives in that incident.
The inquest was ordered last Thursday by the Coroner-judge of Lagos State, Justice Lateefah Okunnu following a request made by the law firm of Falana and Falana.
At the first sitting of the Coroner on Monday, Funmi Falana told Magistrate Komolafe that the Law firm of Olisa Agbakoba was also interested in the matter as they had also filed a similar request for an inquest.
The coroner then granted an application that the request from the 2 law firms should be consolidated.
Magistrate Komolafe also granted an application to summon certain persons and agencies before the Coroner in line with the relevant laws for the conduct of such a proceeding.
Persons expected to appear before the court while the inquest lasts includes, the Minister of Aviation, Stella Oduah, Assistant Inspector-General of Police for Lagos and Ogun States, representatives of Dana Airline, officials of the National Airspace Management Agency(NAMA), Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria(FAAN), the Lagos State Police Command, the Lagos Airport Command of the Police and the Lagos State Fire Service.
Others are the officials of the Lagos State Emergency Management Authority (LASEMA), Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC), Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH), the Nigerian Red Cross, Cleanserve Oil, Sahara Oil, MRS, AP, Total, Conoil, Nigerian Association of Aircraft Pilots and Engineers, Relatives of victims of the plane crash and those on the ground, surviving victims, among others.
Magistrate Komolafe adjourned the inquest proceedings till 12 July to allow the agencies and parties to be served and to enable the chambers of Olisa Agbakoba to prepare for the inquest.
In the request to the coroner judge, Mr. Femi Falana wrote that his firm had confirmed that the aircraft was allowed to fly even though it was defective.
Mr Falana said that the distress call made by the pilot of the ill-fated aircraft several minutes before the crash was ignored by the Airport Authorities while the management of the disaster was crude as members of the public had to use bare hands in their rescue operations.
He had drawn on Section 15 of the Lagos State Coroner’s Law 2007 which provides that an inquest shall hold whenever a Coroner is informed that the death of a person within his District was “in a violent, unnatural or suspicious situation.”
A Federal High Court on Tuesday ruled that lawyer and Human Rights activist, Femi Falana lacks the locus standi to challenge the powers of Federal lawmakers to award jumbo salaries and allowances to themselves.
Mr Falana had filed a case challenging the members of the National Assembly of fixing scandalous emoluments for themselves in August 2010. In the substantive suit Mr Falana sought a declaratory relief to the effect that the members of the National Assembly are not entitled to receive any payment outside the salaries and allowances determined and fixed for them by the Revenue Mobilisation and Fiscal Allocation Commission (RMAFC) pursuant to Section 70 of the Constitution.
In support of the originating summons, Mr Falana accused the Legislators of usurping the Constitutional powers of the RMFAC by taking advantage of passing Appropriation Bills into law to rank themselves the highest paid lawmakers in the world.
While relying on the case of Fawehinmi V The President (2008)23 WRN 65 Mr Falana urged the court to appreciate that the anachronistic doctrine of locus standi was discarded by the Court of Appeal when it declared illegal and unconstitutional the payment of salaries of two Ministers in dollars.
The plaintiff also submitted that his legal standing to promote good governance has been constitutionally guaranteed.
In opposing the suit, the Attorney-General of the Federation and the National Assembly through their counsels, Alex Izion and Kenneth Ikonne respectively, challenged the locus standi of Mr Falana to question the salaries and allowances of the Federal Lawmakers.
The defendants’ lawyers described Mr Falana as a busy body who has not shown that his personal interest has been affected by the jumbo pay of the legislators.
They therefore urged the trial court to dismiss the case on the authority of Abraham Adesanya V The President (1981) All NLR pg 1. Both the RMFAC and the Accountants who were joined in the action did not defend the suit.
In his judgment, the presiding judge, Justice Ibrahim Auta, held that Mr Falana lacked the locus standi to institute the case as he did not prove that he had suffered any greater injury than other Nigerian citizens as a result of the action of the lawmakers.
However, in striking out the suit the Judge said Mr Falana ought to have complained to the RMFAC and that if the body failed to act he could then sue to compel it to carry out its duty under the Constitution.
Reacting to the judgment, Mr Falana said he would study the judgment and then decide whether to lodge a complaint with the RMAFC on the illegal jumbo pay or challenge the judgment on appeal since the learned Chief Judge of the Federal High Court conceded that it is the constitutional duty of the RMFAC to determine and fix the salaries and allowances of the legislators.
The reliefs sought by the plaintiff in the suit were:
1. A DECLARATION that the 1st and 2nd Defendants are entitled to receive such salaries and allowances determined by the 3rd Defendant pursuant to Section 70 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999.
2. A DECLARATION that the allowances provided for the members of the National Assembly in the Appropriation Act, 2010 are illegal, unconstitutional, null and void by virtue of Section 70 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999.
3. A DECLARATION that the 1st and 2nd Defendants are not competent to increase the salaries and allowances of members of the National Assembly through the Appropriation Act in any manner whatsoever and howsoever.
4. A DECLARATION that the President of the Senate or the Speaker of the House of Representatives is entitled to not more than the following six vehicles: (i) 2 official cars (ii) 1 Pilot (iii) 1 Protocol Press (iv) 1 Ambulance (v) 1 Security
5. A DECLARATION that apart from the Senate President and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, no other member of the National Assembly is entitled to an official car.
6. AN ORDER of PERPETUAL INJUNCTION restraining the 4th and 5th Defendants, their agents, privies and servants from further paying unauthorized salaries and allowances to members of the National Assembly.
7. AN ORDER directing the 4th & 5th Defendants to deduct and pay into the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Federation the unauthorized salaries and allowances received by members of the National Assembly since May 29, 2007.
8. AN ORDER directing the 4th and 5th Defendants to retrieve all official cars from members of the 1st and 2nd Defendants apart from the Senate President and the Speaker of the House of Representatives sell them and pay the proceeds to the Consolidation Revenue Fund of the Federation forthwith.
The Attorney General of Lagos state and Commissioner for Justice, Mr. Adeola Ipaye says it would be wrong for anyone or group of persons to accuse the state government of flouting court procedures in respect of the sacked doctors.
Addressing journalists today in Alausa, Mr Ipaye explained that as much as the Lagos state government was willing to resolve the matter in the interest of all, the doctors made that move impossible thereby contravening the rules of engagement in the process.
There’s been mixed reactions over the decision of the Lagos state government that is, sacking the 788 striking doctors and the employing 373 new doctors to take the place of the striking doctors who were also issued a quit notice by the Lagos state government to vacate the quarters allotted them.
Renowned human rights lawyer; Femi Falana said on his part that the Lagos State Government decide to help themselves by their actions which has violated the provisions of the Trade Dispute Act.
Falana urged the Lagos state governor, Babtunde Raji Fashola to rescind the decision of the state government and recall the sacked doctors back to work then a suit can be instituted against the doctors on resumption.
On the other hand, Professor Sagay feels the move was a good one and commended the Lagos state government for it saying the action taken by the doctors was irrational looking at the matter from the angle of Lagosians needing medical help.
He asked Governor Babatunde Fashola to recall the sacked doctors and instruct the state Attorney General to institute a suit against the doctors if he so wished.
Falana also argued that the sack of the doctors was contrary to decisions of the Supreme Court in two cases – Lagos State Military Government v Ojukwu, and Attorney General of Lagos State v Attorney General of the Federation.
Meanwhile as the days go by, patients seeking medical help at the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital suffer from neglect as the two weeks old scuffle between the Lagos State Government and the doctors continue.