Human Rights lawyer, Jiti Ogunye, has criticised the President Muhammadu Buhari administration over its adherence to the rule of law.
Ogunye, who was a guest on Channels Television’s Politics Today on Tuesday, said the Federal Government does not fully observe the rule of law.
“ We have the violations of the rule of law with the spokespersons of the government in the executive branch of the Federal Government of Nigeria justifying these violations on all sorts of grounds, including the ground of national security.
“My take is that this government is not fully observant of the rule of law. We can’t be debating these issues as if we don’t know what we are talking about.
“There are clear cases of violations. Court will give orders in respect of clear cases, in respect of certain persons to be released and they are not released,” he said.
The legal practitioner explained further saying the court, rather than the executive, can determine what constitutes the interest of national security.
He also accused the Federal Government of not obeying court orders under the guise of national security.
Ogunye’s comments come three weeks after the Department of State Service (DSS) arrested the founder of Sahara Reporters, Omoyele Sowore for organising the ‘Revolution Now’ protest.
Sowore is being accused of attempting to topple President Buhari’s government, an act that has received widespread condemnation.
He, however, said there was a need to carry along key stakeholders such as the NJC and the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) in the reform process for better result.
Ogunye said, “Recommendations can be made time and again but when there are no factual situations that warrant stakeholders focussing on the subject so closely; we won’t then have these issues.
“Talking about how to reform, I want to recommend that the Federal Government holds this event in collaboration with stakeholders – NJC, NBA, and all that, who have to set up a grand commission to look at how to reform our judiciary holistically and comprehensively.”
“Not just about corruption, and I am saying this with all sense of responsibility; the NJC has no capacity to self-reform,” he added. “Part of the problem that we have to deal with on this occasion is that we had a CJN who was indicted presiding over an NJC that he single-handedly nominated or appointed 14 members of; a majority of them.”
“So, how can that NJC that is called upon to regulate itself in regulating the regulators perform optimally?” the lawyer questioned.
He was hopeful that if the issues raised were thoroughly considered in addition with some legislative interventions such as amendment of the Constitution, the judiciary would become better.
The lawyer also suggested that the nation’s judicial system be re-federalised, as part of the fundamental reform process.
According to him, the judiciary is unitary regardless of the various forms of the court such as the state and federal High Courts.
Ogunye decried the situation where a judge has over 700 cases to adjudicate, stressing that Lagos State does, for example, needed a minimum of 200 judges.
A legal practitioner, Jiti Ogunye, has said that the defection of lawmakers from a party to another is bound to occur close to every election year.
Ogunye stated this on Tuesday night during his appearance on Channels Television’s News At 10.
“It has always been like this when elections are approaching. It is like what happened in 2015 before the general elections,” he said.
Ogunye’s reaction comes hours after some lawmakers elected on the platform of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in the National Assembly dumped their party for the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Of the 14 senators that defected on Tuesday, 13 opted for PDP while one is undecided on which party to join.
Senator Dino Melaye, former Governor of Kano Rabiu Kwankwaso, Suleiman Hunkuyi, who was suspended by the Kaduna APC, Abdulazeez Nyako (Adamawa), Barnabas Gemade (Benue), and Ibrahim Dambaba were among those who defected.
Others are Senators Shaaba Lafiaji (Kwara), Rafiu Ibrahim (Kwara), Monsurat Sunmonu (Oyo) and Usman Nafada (Gombe) Ubale Shittu, Isah Misau, Suleiman Nazif, and Soji Akanbi.
Similarly, in the House of Representatives, 33 lawmakers joined the PDP while four joined the African Democratic Congress (ADC).
The defecting Reps are Danburam Nuhu, Mark Gbilah, Razak Atunwa, Ahmed Garba Bichi, Abdulsamad Dasuk and Zakari Mohammed, Sani Rano, Barry Mpigi, Ali madaki, Dickson Tackighir, Hassan Saleh.
Also, the Chairman of Rules and Business at the House of Representatives, Orker Jev has resigned from the APC but is yet to disclose which party he would be joining.
But Ogunye believes a situation whereby the politicians decide to leave the party that brought them into power for another is not good for Nigeria’s democracy
He, however, blamed the act on the perceived selfishness of some political figures rather than the desire to serve the people they represent.
“Politicians in Nigeria and this is very sad for us, are always interested in hunting for platforms and tickets and since the name of the game is power, and not ideology or adherence to party lines, oppositions are going to have something like this always,” he added.
Ogunye also disagreed with the comments made by APC’s National Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, that neither he nor the party would lose some sleep over the development.
He argued that the party was obviously worried some few days back but it was “only trying to pull a bold face to it.”
The lawyer feels that events in the coming days would determine whether the mass defection would affect the chances of the ruling party in next year’s general elections.
Legal Practitioner, Mr Jiti Ogunye, has asked the embattled former chairman of the Presidential Task Force on Pension Reforms, Mr Abdulrasheed Maina, to present himself before the court rather than requesting to meet with the President.
Mr Ogunye described Maina’s comments and request to meet with the president as “cock and bull stories”, as well as an attempt to evade the justice system.
He made this known on Channels Television’s Sunrise daily, in response to an exclusive interview of Maina in which he insisted that he was innocent of the allegations preferred against him.
“Maina wants to meet with Mr Presdient over what? Do we even respect our court at all? Do we respect our judicial process? Do you know that in this country, Supreme Court justices are being tried in court? Who is he to be saying that he wants to recover money?
“Present yourself, you are a fugitive from justice. Have your day in court prove your innocence there – that is the law that I know. All this talk about I want to see the president – for what? He has seen the Attorney General of the Federation and he told us that he visited Maina to the knowledge of the National Security Adviser of Nigeria”.
Mr Ogunye, speaking further about the involvement of the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, in Maina’s return and reinstatement, described the situation as a disgraceful and monumental scandal.
The AGF had denied having any involvement when he appeared before the House of Representatives ad-hoc committee, set up to investigate the case, last week.
He also gave a detailed report of recoveries made, as well as an existing pension fraud syndicate made up of politicians, legislators and retired civil servants, as well as Maina himself.
Mr Ogunye, however, stressed that “the AGF should concern himself with the role he played, whether legally, morally, ethically, even politically, it was correct for him to have played that role.
“In the course of his testimony before that committee, the AGF was forced to disclose that he visited Maina in Dubai.
“What is the business of the Attorney General of the Federation, visiting a fugitive from justice outside the shores of Nigeria,” he questioned.
“My presumption was that a deal was struck on how to bring Maina back into the country behind the back of Nigerians, reinstate him and then launder him back to service”.
According to Mr Ogunye, contrary to what Malami said, all fingers point at him as being at the centre of Maina’s reinstatement.
“What he said has been disproved by others including the head of service. According to them, he was the one who initiated, instigated and triggered the whole process by writing letters and issuing directives to the Federal Civil Service Commission.”
Giving a suggestion to the government on what should be done, he said rather than taking Maina seriously and having a sit down with him, the government should take itself seriously.
“The government should on the contrary, take Maina seriously by bringing Maina to justice,” he asserted.
Meanwehile, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mr Robert Clarke, who also spoke on the breakfast show, supported the idea that Maina should be given a chance to speak with President Buhari.
READ MORE:Maina Should Be Given A Chance To Speak With Buhari – Robert Clarke
Onochie, the Personal Assistant to the President on Social Media, had made the comments on Monday hours after Concerned Nigerians, a coalition of youth groups, protested in Abuja, demanding that the President should resume or resign.
“That’s a sad statement, it’s even unfortunate and disrespectful of Nigerians that that kind of statement could be made. The right to protest is a fundamental right, Nigerians have the right to associate. So, what is disrespectful about that? the lawyer questioned.
Ogunye noted that although he did not support the call for the President’s resignation, political office holders should mind the way they address citizens who are exercising the fundamental rights.
He said, “The way people in government, including people who are on the fringes of power talk down on the people is disconcerting. Who are the hoodlums who are taking over? We may not agree with some people who are saying that Buhari should resign or resume, but they have the right to protest; they have the right to associate.”
The lawyer stated that the protest wouldn’t have taken place if Nigerians were adequately briefed on the President’s health status.
“You know; a lot of anomalies take place here. Look, if those who are managing information about the President’s health have come out to tell Nigerians that this is what is happening to the President, this is how long it will take him to go through recovery instead of having you come today you come tomorrow, Nigerians may wait patiently,” he said.
Also reacting to the dispersal of the protesters by the police, Ogunye believes the security operatives have realised that their action was unnecessary.
“What I think has taken place now between yesterday (Tuesday) and today (Wednesday) is that a kind of 24-hour sense recovery process has taken place with the police. Why did they break the protest yesterday as mild as it was and why didn’t they do so today? Maybe they’ve had some rethink because it is unnecessary,” he said.
A legal practitioner, Jiti Ogunye, has said that legislative power in Nigeria, largely at the centre, is not being used for the order, peace and good government of Nigeria even though that is a constitutional requirement.
“The basic reason why you have the legislature is to promote peace order and good governance.”
“They know they don’t have the authority. When you are using the legislative process, it is an abuse of power for self-aggrandizement to witch-hunt your opponent and you are trying to kill the right to freedom of speech,” he stated.
Also speaking on the level of sanction meted out on Senator Ndume, for the alleged offence of bringing the Senate to disrepute, he said: “There was no offence, It was a scam”.
He described as “sad”, the situation in which the legislative arm appears to be used largely to blackmail the system; “as if the legislature has a veto power over the executive”.
According to him, it is a disservice to many of the Nigerians who had fought so hard and lost their lives back in the military era.
He expressed his disappointment and frustration over the goings-on in the Senate and the nation as a whole, adding that the it would give democracy a bad name.
The lawyer posited that many would as a result of the frustration, begin to go to the extremes of suggesting a return to military rule.
One year after its inauguration, the report of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption, has come out with its recommendations.
In its report from August 2015 to July 2016, the Executive Secretary, Bolaji Owasanoye, highlighted areas of concentration.
Amongst are the things that the committee maps out as sentencing guidelines for high profile cases where huge monies are trapped.
He decried the amount of monies that the Nigerian government has lost to such cases and its effect on the economy.
“If we do simple arithmetic of all those high profile cases, just add the sums and see how much you will come up with, it will be far above two trillion and because the state has not recovered the money, we will see the effect on the economy,” he said.
The chairman of the committee, Professor Itse Sagay, also added that Nigeria needs an upright judiciary without which the nation’s democracy would collapse.
The sudden raid of the houses of some judges by the DSS and the subsequent arrest of the judicial officers drew a plethora of reactions recently.
But Professor Sagay described the anti-corruption campaign of the President as right, while describing the criticism from Nigerians as totally wrong and shocking.
“We need the judiciary but we need an upright judiciary. Without that, one arm of government will collapse and democracy will collapse.
“Let us think of the implication of what is going on. If we don’t put the judiciary right or have a judiciary in which we have confidence, with integrity and honour, with moral authority, then we have no government and we have no democracy,” he said.
The arrest of some court judges by a combined team of Police and DSS officials in the early hours of Saturday, October 8 has continued to generate reactions.
While various judicial stakeholders have criticised the government for the arrest, a former British police officer, Vince Onyekwelu, has picked holes in the level of expertise displayed by the DSS during its execution of the operation.
The security analyst told Channels Television’s Sunrise Daily how the arrest should have been carried out, since it was believed to be a sting operation.
“We have to understand (that) one of the major concepts of a sting operation is deceit.
“When you talk about deceit, sting operations are planned to have this element of propaganda, element of treachery, element of ‘make believe’ (and) element of trying to deceive a potential criminal,” he explained.
The agency subsequently released all the judges on self-recognition one day after their arrest but they are to report at the agency’s office when requested to, as the investigation and preparation to charge them to court continue.
The judges are accused of misconduct, corruption and had been under investigation by the DSS.
Lawyers, especially the senior ones are responsible for the rot in the judicial system. That is the view of a professor of law, Itsey Sagay.
In an exclusive interview with Channels Television, Professor Sagay said that the senior lawyers corrupted the judges and are largely responsible for the corruption in the system.
He condemned the reaction of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), saying the body lacked the moral premise to criticize the activities of the DSS which he said is lawful.
On whether the National Judicial Council has the capabilities to deal with the corruption in the bench, the law professor said that the NJC lacks the capacity because it is an emergency situation which demands unusual approach.
As reactions continue to trail the arrest of some judges over the weekend, a lecturer at the University of Abuja, Dr. Abu Hamisu, says he has no objection with the involvement of the Department of State Services (DSS) in the arrest.
The lecturer at the Political Science Department is of the opinion that if the government feels the DSS could play a crucial role in its anti-corruption campaign, there is nothing wrong with it.
“We’ve been advocating for collaboration and synergy building in such a way that all the security agencies can tap into the professionalism of one another depending on the case they want to prosecute.
“If (the) EFCC, ICPC and the government of the day feel that the DSS can be really decisive in the fight against corruption in this country, I have nothing against that,” the political scientist said.
Speaking on Tuesday on Sunrise Daily, Dr. Hamisu believes corruption is the cause of Nigeria’s underdeveloped stage, reiterating his stance on the DSS’ involvement.
“The most important thing is to ensure that corruption is really dealt with because the basis of our underdevelopment as a nation up to this very moment is corruption.
“For me, it’s something that has to do with those that are leading us and if they feel that they can give us result and DSS can play a role in this, I have no objection,” he insisted.
The academic warned that the future of the Nigerian child was at risk and called on stakeholders to tackle its menace headlong to ensure a brighter future.
“All we want is to ensure that we have a better future for our children.
“The future that we did not enjoy, the future that corruption denied us because some people were saddled with responsibilities that they abused and perverted,” he lamented.
The Department of State Service, DSS has released all the judges arrested during a nationwide raid of their residents at the weekend.
The judges, according to DSS sources were released on self-recognition but are to report at the agency’s office when requested to, as the investigation and preparation to charge them to court continue.
The judges were accused of corruption and had been under investigation by the DSS.
A spokesman for the DSS, Abdullahi Garba, explained shortly after the raid on Saturday that the service embarked on raids of the Supreme, Appeal and High Courts judges’ residents based on allegations of corruption and other acts of professional misconduct.
According to him, “the Service action is in line with its core mandate, as we have been monitoring the expensive and luxurious lifestyle of some of the Judges as well as complaints from the concerned public over judgment obtained fraudulently and on the basis of amounts of money paid.
“The judges involved were invited, upon which due diligence was exhibited and their premises searched.
“The searches have uncovered huge raw cash of various denominations, local and foreign currencies, with real estate worth several millions of Naira and documents affirming unholy acts by these Judges”.
The DSS spokesman further explained that some of the judges had made useful statements while a few declined even with the glaring evidences that were found against them in terms of material cash, documents and property recovered pointing to their compromise.
“In one of the States where the Service operations were conducted, credible intelligence revealed that the Judge had Two Million United States Dollars ($2,000,000 USD) stashed in his house.
“When he was approached for due search to be conducted, he in concert with the State Governor, mobilised thugs against the Service team.
“The team restrained itself in the face of unbridled provocative activities by those brought in by the Governor.
“Unfortunately, the Judge and Governor also engaged the tacit support of a sister security agency.
“The Service surveillance team noticed that upon frustrating the operation, the Judge with the active support of the Governor craftily moved the money to an unknown location which the Service is currently making effort to unravel,” the statement read, remaining silent about who the governor was.
The State Governor, Mr Nyesom Wike, on getting wind of the plan to arrest a Federal High Court judge in the state went to the residence of the judge with the aim of averting the arrest.
Narrating the situation to newsmen in the state, Governor Wike said: “It appeared to be an attempt to kidnap some people, so I told my security details to arrange security for us to move to the place.
“We got here 10 minutes after 1:00 am, and saw some security agencies, I asked what was going on and the security official said they were detailed to arrest a judge.
“I said it is never heard that by 1:00am (after one), you are here to arrest a judge when you could as well invite the judge.
“If you cannot reach the judge whoever the judge is, invite the judge through the Chief Judge and obviously, the judge must have to respond to your invitation”.
The Governor stated that it will not be appropriate to arrest a judge at an odd hour when he has not been declared as a criminal but invited to have a chat which they said was the motive of the arrest.
Legal practitioner, Jiti Ogunye, sees nothing wrong in the manner in which the Department of State Service (DSS) executed its arrest of three Nigerian judges in the early hours of Saturday, October 8.
Speaking on Channels Television’s Sunday Politics, Mr Ogunye explained the execution of the warrant of arrest, and quoted Section 148 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, which states that a search warrant can be issued and executed at any time of the day including a Sunday or a public holiday.
He was reacting to the claim by constitutional lawyer, Mike Ozekhome, who had earlier on the programme, described the arrest of the judges as “most condemnable by any right thinking member of the society”.
Ozhekhome faulted the timing and manner of the arrest, claiming that the law does not allow for homes of suspects to be searched during the night or for doors to be broken in order to gain access.
Mr Ogunye berated Ozekhome for quoting an old law which, according to him, has since seized to be relevant. “People are not familiar with the law and those who should enlighten the public manipulate the law and they don’t disclose what the law has said.”
On the “gestapo” manner in which the arrest was done, he went further to read from Section 149 of the Act, where the law permits law enforcement agents to “break open any outer or inner door or window of any house or place of the suspect to be arrested” if access to such building cannot be obtained or is denied.
He argued that it has become impossible to deny that Nigeria has serious ethical issues in the judiciary, bordering on corruption.
In justifying the need to fight corruption, Mr Ogunye noted that corruption is the bane of the Nigerian society, “it has affected our development, stunted our growth and destroyed our country”.
Mr Ozekhome had also earlier argued that democracy only thrives on its adherence to the rule of law and the Nigerian government, by allowing the arrests, has gone against the values of democracy and the DSS has gone beyond its constitutional mandate.
“The DSS by our constitutional organogram has its own functions and these are to take care of the internal security of the country.
“Its counterpart the DIA, Directorate of Intelligence Agency, is in charge of matters concerning military, while the NIA, Nigerian Intelligence Agency, is in charge of security matters that extend beyond the boundaries of Nigeria.
“The three legal entities that are allowed by our laws to go into corruption matters are the EFCC, the ICPC and the Nigerian Police, particularly under Section 4.
“So, their action is faulted fundamentally on the ground that they were going beyond their constitutional and statutory mandate,” he said.
Again, Mr Ogunye disagreed with Mr Ozekhome’s argument.
“This law was made during the military era and it has wide implications,” he argued, adding that the law also added that the DSS can be saddled with any issue the President feels affects the internal security of the country.
“The corruption of the judiciary that wants to destroy the third arm of government can be deemed, and in fact I will deem it, as something that is affecting the security of the country,” he said.