Judges Arrest: LEDAP Asks Lawyers To Boycott Courts This Week

NBA, LEDAP on judges arrestThe Legal Defence and Assistance Project (LEDAP) has condemned the raid of residences of some judges in Nigeria, and the arrest of some of them by the Department of state Services (DSS).

It described the night raid as a flagrant assault on the rule of law and interference with the integrity and independence of judges, saying it amounts to crass intimidation of judges, which is the first line of attack of dictatorships.

Attack On The Judiciary

LEDAP called on all lawyers to rise in unison to condemn what it called an attack on the judiciary by the executive and in protest boycott the courts next week from Monday, October 10 to Friday, October 14.

It said the action would send a strong message to the President Buhari regime that the legal profession would not stand by and watch the desecration and denigration of the judiciary.

“It is to the detriment of the Bar and Bench in Nigeria for the security agencies to make spurious allegations and illegally try judges in the pages of newspapers.

“It raises wrong and unjustified public perception of the justice system, and impugns on public confidence in justice and governance,” a statement by the spokesman for LEDAP, Chino Obiagwu, read.

The group asked the Federal Government to investigate and punish security officials implicated in the unwholesome act.

“It was wrong to execute improperly issued and illegally executed search warrants at night on judges, and in any event, without prior recourse to the head of the judiciary.

“The constitutional principle of separation of powers is sacrosanct and once eroded, will drive Nigeria to a tyranny,” Chino Obiagwu added.

It is the second group that is threatening to scuttle judicial activities if the arrested judges were not released.

Earlier, the Nigerian Bar Association has called for the immediate and unconditional release of the judges.

The group said their arrest was unconstitutional, declaring a state of emergency in the judiciary.

It says the arrests are disturbing and unconstitutional, describing it a situation that had never been witnessed.

The President of the NBA, Mr Abubakar Mahmoud, at a briefing in Lagos, warned the Federal Government of “grave consequences” should the demands not be met.

Mr Mahmoud said two Supreme Court justices, Inyang Okoro and Sylvester Ngwuta, were “abducted” with their families.

Not Under Military Rule

He said: “I want to, on behalf of the Bar Association, make the very following clear and unequivocal demands.

“We demand the immediate, unconditional release of all the judges abducted from about 9:00pm yesterday (Friday).

“The release must be done immediately and without any conditions.

“We demand that the Department of State Services (DSS) should limit itself to its statutory and constitutional responsibilities.

“It is not the responsibility of the DSS to perform duties meant for police officers and other agencies of the state.

“I want to emphasise again that we are not under military rule and we cannot accept this ‘unholy events’ and this ‘gestapo style of operations’.

“We therefore call on President Muhammadu Buhari to immediately call all the state security agencies to order and to respect the rule of law and due process.

“Any issue affecting the judicial officers, there are established processes and to edited for handling them and we demand that these constitutional processes must be obeyed”.

“Given the unfolding nature of the events and the seriousness of the situation, the NBA hereby declares a state of emergency as it affects the affairs of the judiciary”.

Investigated For Corruption

The DSS had on Friday night raided some judges’ homes, arresting some of them in the process.

In Rivers State, however, the Governor of the state, Nyesom Wike prevented the DSS from arresting a judge.

He said the DSS officials had come to pick the judge about 1:00a.m. local time.

The DSS says the judges are being investigated for corruption. It gave figures of amounts it had recovered from the judges in a statement on Saturday.

But the Governor of Ekiti State, Ayodele Fayose, condemned the arrest questioning if “the affected judges been reported to the National Judicial Council (NJC), the body saddled with the responsibilities of investigating and sanctioning erring judges? Were the affected judges ever invited by the DSS and they refused to honour the invitation”?

He described the arrests as a direct assault on the judiciary.

Governor Fayose, who addressed reporters in Ado-Ekiti on Saturday, said: “It should now be obvious to all Nigerians and the international community that democracy is under threat in Nigeria and Nigerians must rise to save democracy from being truncated.

“For all intent and purposes, there is no how the federal government can justify the gestapo and crude action of the DSS against our judiciary, the last hope of the common man and I believe they just want to hide under anti-corruption fight to blackmail and intimidate the judiciary”.

Four Death Row Inmates Executed In Edo

Four death row inmates have been hanged by officers of the Nigeria Prison Service in Edo state. The inmates were convicted of crimes ranging from murder, rape to armed robbery.

The warrants were signed by the state despite global appeal from human rights activists.

President Goodluck Jonathan had directed state governors to exercise their constitutional rights by signing death warrants of death row inmates in order to reduce the rising level of criminality in the country.

Those executed include Chima Ejiofor, Daniel Nsofor, Osarenmwinda Aigbonkhan and Richard Igagu.

Confirming the execution, Edo State Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr Henry Idahagbon said the executed men were convicted 15 years ago, noting that the Edo State Government had nothing to do with the execution.

He said: “These people were convicted 15 years ago. I was only informed this (last) night by the prison authorities that they had been hanged. One of them was convicted in Kaduna, while their matters had gone up to the Supreme Court, and came back to the Federal High Court, Benin. It really has nothing to do with us as a government.

“The governor only signed the death sentence of two, while previous governors signed that of two others. The information I got was that they went to the Federal High Court, which Monday refused their plea for leniency and I believe what the prison authorities did was to execute them immediately after they left the court.

“Edo State government has no hand in it. I was only informed that it had been done,” he added.

In the suit before the Federal High Court, the death row prisoners had contended that to execute them after over 16 years of trauma, suspense and imminent death would amount to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.

They had asked the court to order the Edo State Governor to commute their death sentences to terms of imprisonment.

 Global Condemnation

Amnesty International said it has “received credible reports that authorities in the state of Edo in southern Nigerian have hanged four men in Benin City Prison on Monday – the first known executions in the country since 2006”.

Noting that “A fifth man remains at imminent risk of execution”.

Lucy Freeman, deputy director for Africa at the organization, said:

“If confirmed, these executions mark a sudden, brutal return to the use of the death penalty in Nigeria, a truly dark day for human rights in the country.

“We again urge the Nigerian authorities to stop all executions immediately and return to the moratorium on executions in the country. We oppose the death penalty in all cases without exception, as it is the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment.”

According to Amnesty International’s Death Sentences and Executions 2012 report, Nigeria sentenced 56 people to death last year, and approximately 1,000 people are reportedly on death row in the country.

Legal Defence and Assistance Project (LEDAP) in a statement by its National Coordinator, Mr. Chino Obiagwu, said: “The Attorney-General of Edo State and the prison authorities were duly served with the court processes, comprising the notice of appeal and motion for stay of execution.

“Under Nigerian laws, an appeal and application for stay of execution should restrain further action until the appeal is determined.

“By executing the prisoners, Nigeria government has demonstrated gross disregard to the rule of law and respect for the judicial process.”

 

Court Fixes Hearing On Asset Declaration Case

The National Coordinator of the Legal Defence And Assistance Project (LEDAP), Chino Obiagwu has said that the hearing for the case filed by the organisation against the Code of Conduct Bureau has been fixed for April 4 2013 by the Federal High Court Abuja.

LEDAP had filed a suit in July 2012 against the Code of Conduct Bureau demanding copies of the asset declarations of all federal ministers, state governors, the President and Vice President.

LEDAP had filed the suit to enforce its request to the bureau under the Freedom of Information Act.

However, the bureau claimed in its response that the Freedom of Information Act exempted it from disclosing declaration of assets of public officials because the asset declaration forms contain personal information about the assets of the officials and of their spouses and unmarried children.

In a letter signed by the Chairman of the bureau to LEDAP in July 2012, the agency said that it would not allow the public to know about the personal information of public officials because it has been exempted under sections 13(1)(v) and 15(1)(ii) of the Freedom of Information Act.

The Code of Conduct Bureau in the letter stated that “we note that Section 1 of the Freedom of Information Act, as a general principle, guarantees the right of any person to access or request for information whether or in written form, which is in custody of Code of Conduct Bureau or indeed any public agency.  However, by Section 13(1)(v) of the Act, the Code of Conduct Bureau has power to decline your request as it will constitute an invasion of the personal privacy of the honourable ministers under section 15 of the Act. The asset declaration forms contain personal information about them and their properties, assets and liabilities and those of their spouses and unmarried children under the age of 18 and consequently comes under the exemption
under Section 13(1)(v) and 15(1)(ii) of the Act.”

In a statement released to Channels Television, LEDAP’s lawyer, Chino Obiagwu says that the claim by the bureau is not correct under the law. The information that the Bureau says are exempted under the FOI Act are the main target of the asset declaration law.

According to Mr Obiagwu, “the purpose of assets declaration laws is to enable the public and citizens know the worth of its public officials and their close relations so as to monitor how they acquire assets while in office and whether or not public funds are used for such acquisitions. This purpose cannot be achieved if the declarations are not accessible to the public. There is nothing private about the assets declaration. Any person who assumes public office must be ready to face public scrutiny”

LEDAP has now called on the judiciary to decide once and for all on the right of citizens to know the assets of their elected leaders and their spouse in order to monitor and report unlawful acquisitions. There is no way we can tackle corruption in this country if the civil society and indeed the citizens cannot have access to information on assets declared by the public officials and their dependants who they can use for unlawful acquisition of assets from misappropriated public fund”.