I Won’t Appear Before Senate Until Court Ruling – Customs CG

customsReprieve may have come for the Comptroller General of the Nigerian Customs, Colonel Hameed Ali (rtd), who was ordered to appear in complete uniform before the Senate on March 22.

The development, follows a suit filed by an Abuja based lawyer, Mohammed Ibrahim, seeking a perpetual injunction restraining the National Assembly from compelling the CG to wear uniform in performance of his duties.

Mr Ali, who acknowledged receipt of the court summons, told a news conference that the Attorney General who is a co-defendant in the suit, has written to the National Assembly advising lawmakers to maintain the status quo, pending the outcome of the suit.

“Based on the summons before the court, all matters relating to the issue are now subjudice so status quo is “anti” which means I will not appear until the court makes a pronouncement therefore the situation remains as it is”.

The CG had been summoned to defend the payment of retroactive duties by motorists whose vehicles have no genuine import duties.

Although he eventually appeared before the Senate on March 16, he made good on his word of not appearing in his uniform.

The House, however, refused to engage him and fixed another date (March 22), for him to appear as required; failure to which the Senate leadership might be forced to issue an arrest warrant as initially threatened.

Meanwhile, more reactions have continued to trail the issue.

A Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mr Femi Falana, in a statement condemned the summoning of Mr Ali.

He said that although the Senate should not be treated with disdain, the Upper Chamber should have appreciated the limit of its powers under the constitution.

According to Mr Falana, instead of playing into the hands of the Customs boss by invoking the provision of Section 88 of the Constitution, the Senate could have summoned the Minister of Finance, Mrs Kemi Adeosun, to justify the policy of the Nigeria Customs Service, a parastatal under her supervision.

“No power exists under the section for general investigation, not for personal aggrandizement of the House. So the appellants were not entitled to have invited the respondent in the first instance,” Mr Falana said.

Falana Berates Senate For Customs Boss’ Summon

Falana Berates Senate For Customs Boss' SummonMore reactions continue to trail the summoning of the Comptroller-General of the Nigeria Customs Service, Colonel Hammed Ali (rtd), who was asked to reappear before the Senate in appropriate uniform on Wednesday, March 22.

This time, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mr Femi Falana, in a statement condemned the summoning of Mr Ali by the Senate.

He said although the Senate should not be treated with disdain, but the Upper Chamber should have appreciated the limit of its powers under the constitution.

According to the senior lawyer, instead of playing into the hands of the Customs boss by invoking the provision of Section 88 of the Constitution, the Senate could have summoned the Minister of Finance, Mrs Kemi Adeosun, to justify the policy of the Nigeria Customs Service, a parastatal under her supervision.

“No power exists under the section for general investigation, not for personal aggrandizement of the House. So the appellants were not entitled to have invited the respondent in the first instance,” Mr Falana said.

He noted that the Senate was not conducting an investigation but challenging the policy of the Service on payment of duties.

“With respect, the summons served on the CGC (Mr Ali) is illegal and unconstitutional as it cannot be justified under Section 88(2) of the Constitution”, he stated.

The lawyer stressed that the Senate engaged in another illegality when it exceeded its powers by asking the CGC to appear before it in customs uniform.

He added that neither the constitution nor the rules of procedure of the Senate has conferred on the Upper Chamber, the power to compel Mr Ali to wear Customs uniform when he is not a serving customs office.

Mr Falana said the directive was a reckless usurpation of the powers of the board which was the only competent body to decide on the wearing of uniform by Customs officer.

He noted that the Nigeria Customs Service should be directed by the Minister of Finance to cancel the illegal policy on payment of appropriate excise duties.

The senior lawyer stated that if the Federal Government fails to do so, he will challenge the policy at the Federal High Court.

This followed the uproar that trailed the Customs’ directive that duties be paid on imported vehicles.

While Nigerians expressed concerns on the issue, their representatives in the Senate were livid over the insistence of the Nigerian Customs Service to go ahead with the policy.

Although Mr Ali honoured an invitation by the lawmakers, the Senate refused to engage with him for his failure to wear the Service’s uniform as earlier directed.

The lawmakers consequently asked Mr Ali to reappear before them on Wednesday in appropriate uniform.

Falana Condemns Arrest Of Peace Corps Commandant

Falana Condemns Arrest Of Peace Corps Commandant Human rights lawyer, Mr Femi Falana, has condemned the recent arrest and subsequent parade of the National Commandant of the Peace Corps of Nigeria, Mr Dickson Akor, by the Nigerian Police.

After securing the release of Mr Akor, Mr Falana told journalists that the police invasion of the headquarters of the Peace Corps of Nigeria was illegal and unconstitutional.

The human rights activist said he was also negotiating for the re-opening of the office of the Peace Corps of Nigeria.

“They must be allowed to operate under the law and we will get to that state where the police will appreciate that Nigeria is under-policed.

“We need volunteers, young men and women who should be organised by the state to handle those duties that will not require the intervention of the police,” he added.

Furthermore, he emphasised that acts of terrorism, herdsmen attack, armed robbery and kidnapping, have remained because the nation has been under-policed.

“As at 2011, the Federal Government of Nigeria decided to engage the services of 380,000 police personnel, between then and now, only 10, 000 are being employed.

“There is no way you can police about 180 million people with barely 380, 000 police personnel out of which about 120, 000 are guarding the elite and corporate bodies in the country.

“I thought the police should have embraced a body like the Peace Corps of Nigeria to make their job easier because the Nigerian Police operate under very difficult situations.

“Most communities are not policed, so herdsmen move into farms and kill people.

“Nigerians have not developed a litigation culture of challenging the killing of every citizen either directly or indirectly for which the government can be blamed,” the lawyer stressed.

The Public Relations Officer of the Corp, Milicent Umaru, had earlier confirmed that the National Commandant and 47 other officers were arrested at exactly 11:59 pm on Tuesday, without a warrant of arrest and without providing any reason for the raid.

Members of Corp also alleged that the raid left three of their personnel critically injured.

The incident followed the commissioning of the Peace Corp headquaters, also on Tuesday, by the Minister of Youth and Sports.

US Restates Commitment To Nigeria’s Recovery Of Abacha Loot

US Restates Commitment To Nigeria's Recovery Of Abacha LootThe United States government says it has begun dialogue with the federal government on the release of the 458 million dollar Abacha loot but that the legal process for its recovery will take extra time.

The Deputy Chief of Mission, Mr David Young, made this known at a conference to mark the International Anti-Corruption Day in Abuja.

In a no-holds barred dialogue at the US Embassy, corruption as an enemy of development was part of discussions but the issue of Nigeria’s inability to recover her stolen funds generated more concern.

Human rights activist, Mr Femi Falana echoed his disappointment at the US’ handling of the Abacha loot but the US Deputy Chief of Mission underlined the procedures involved.

“The US government has filed an objection to the release of 458 million dollars of the Abacha loot before the high court in the UK.

“The court would have released the money by now but the US government is raising an objection that the money should be given to the US government; they are going to manage the money for us,” Falana said.

US Restates Commitment To Nigeria's Recovery Of Abacha Loot

David Young, in his response said: “We know that the recovery of stolen assets within the United States and other countries is an important part of that effort and we are committed to partnering with the Nigerian government, moving forward.

“This is obviously a systemic effort that takes its time. We have legal processes that we have to go through in order to recover these stolen assets but we are committed and involved in dialogue with the Nigerian government to move forward in this effort.”

He underscored the United States’ alignment with the Nigerian government in its drive to weed out corruption and entrench transparency in the system.

He also lauded series of efforts by the Presidency to weed out corruption.

Several groups have also joined in the call for better co-ordination, including the loot stashed in Swiss banks to recover the nation’s monies and ease the impact of the recession.

Kaduna Govt. Orders Arrest of Shiites’ Spokesman

Shiites, Islamic Movement Nigeria, Ibrahim-MusaThe Kaduna State Government has ordered the arrest and subsequent prosecution of one Ibrahim Musa who has owned up to being the spokesperson of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN).

An order declaring the IMN as an unlawful society in Kaduna State went into effect on Friday, October 7, 2016. Violation of this order attracts penalty of imprisonment for seven years or a fine or both, according to sections 97a and 97b of the Penal Code.

A statement released on Sunday by the Senior Special Assistant to the Governor of Kaduna state, Samuel Aruwan, says that Musa, a few hours after the commencement of the Order, admitted to being a member of the outlawed group, and subsequently identified himself as its spokesman in widely publicized statements.

According to the statement, Musa’s utterances are deemed as a deliberate and determined affront to the government order, hence the law has to take its course.

The government’s statement also directs the state Commissioner of Police to ensure the arrest of Ibrahim Musa to enable his prompt prosecution by the Kaduna State Attorney-General and Commissioner of Justice.

All security agencies in the state have been directed to vigorously enforce the law, and demonstrate clear resolve by arresting the said Ibrahim Musa, who is further advised to report himself to the nearest police station or any of the security agencies.

Kaduna State Bans Islamic Movement In Nigeria Group

Shiites-protestThe Kaduna State Government has issued an Order declaring the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN) as an unlawful association.

A statement issued on Friday by the spokesman for the state governor, Samuel Aruwan, says the government secured an order from the State Executive Council to ban the Islamic Movement from either existing or operating in the state with immediate effect.

In proscribing the group, the government invoked Section 45 (1) of the Nigerian Constitution which empowers the state Governor to take such measures and actions for the promotion and protection of public safety, public order, public morality or public health, or the rights and freedom of all persons in the State.

The statement further explained that the action was to ensure that all persons and organisations were guided by lawful conduct and with due allegiance to the Nigerian state and its Constitution.

With the ban, the statement warns that any citizen of the state, who under any appellation or mutation with the propensity of causing the breakdown of law and order, or operates in a manner dangerous to the good governance of the State, shall be prosecuted in accordance with the Laws of Kaduna State.

The statement reaffirms the commitment of the state government to upholding the right of citizens to practice the religion of their choice as enshrined in Sections 38 and 40 of the Constitution.

Danger To Peace

The statement noted that the Judicial Commission of Inquiry into the Zaria Clashes of 12 December, 2015 indicted the movement as an illegal organisation, operating an illegal paramilitary outfit and having total disregard to the laws of the country and constituted authorities that have the responsibility to secure and administer the country.

The Declaration Order noted that since the clash between members of the movement and soldiers in Zaria in which at 347 persons were alleged to have been killed, the IMN “has overtly continued with unlawful processions, obstruction of public highways, unauthorised occupation of public facilities including schools without regard to the rights of other citizens and the public peace and order of the State”.

The Order noted that “these acts, if allowed to go unchecked would constitute danger to the peace, tranquillity, harmonious coexistence and good governance of Kaduna State”.

In a reaction to the ban, the group said it ‘totally rejects’ the state government’s decision.

A spokesman for the groups, also referred to as Shiites, Ibrahim Musa, said that the group would “give an appropriate response at the appropriate time in appropriate ways” to what he called an affront on their rights”.

After the December 12 clash between the group members also referred to as Shiites and the Army, the leader of the group, Mr Ibrahim El-Zakzaky, was taken into custody.

Since his arrest, he filed a case against the Department of State Service (DSS) that had held him since December 2015.

On Wednesday, a Federal High Court in Abuja hearing Mr El-Zakzaky’s Fundamental Human Rights suit advised parties in a suit to explore the option of resolving the issue through alternative dispute resolution.

Ibraheem Zakzaky, court, Shiites
Ibraheem Zakzaky was arrested in December 2015 after his group clashed with officials of the Army

Mr El-Zakzaky is challenging his arrest and continued detention by the DSS.

At the resumed hearing of the suit, lawyer to El-Zakzaky, Mr Femi Falana, told the court that his client was being held against his wish without trial since December 14, 2015.

He further claimed that El-Zakzaky was not at the scene of the clash between members of the Islamic Movement and the Nigerian Army on the December 12, 2015.

Lawyer to the DSS, Mr Tijani Ghazali, however, told the court that Mr El-Zakzaky was being held under protective custody due to intelligence report which revealed that his life was under threat.

Since his arrest, members of the Islamic group have continued to call for the release of their leader, holding several protests since he was taken into custody.

The Shiites had held protests in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital, Kaduna and kano among other states.

On september 10 in Kaduna, members of the group, comprising of women, youths and children, gathered at the popular Leventis roundabout in the state capital, demanding for the unconditional release of their leader and other members.

Chanting songs and blocking major roads, the Shiites feared that the health condition of Zakzaky is deteriorating due to gunshot wounds he sustained.

They vow never to rest until their leader and others are freed.

El-Zakzaky, DSS Suit: Court Asks Parties To Explore Alternative Resolution Means

Ibraheem Zakzaky, court, ShiitesA Federal High Court in Abuja has advised parties in a suit filed by the leader of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria, Mr Ibrahim El-Zakzaky, to explore the option of resolving the issue through alternative dispute resolution.

Mr El-Zakzaky had filed a Fundamental Human Rights suit, challenging his arrest and continued detention by the Department of State Service (DSS).

At the resumed hearing of the suit on Wednesday, lawyer to El-Zakzaky, Mr Femi Falana, told the court that his client was being held against his wish without trial since December 14, 2015.

He further claimed that El-Zakzaky was not at the scene of the clash between members of the Islamic Movement and the Nigerian Army on the December 12, 2015.

Lawyer to the DSS, Mr Tijani Ghazali, however, told the court that Mr El-Zakzaky was being held under protective custody due to intelligence report which revealed that his life was under threat.

He added that the service had been taking adequate care of him and had never denied him access to members of his family and legal team.

Justice Gabriel Kolawole, after listening to arguments from both counsels advised them to explore the option of resolving the issue through alternative dispute resolution.

He, thereafter, adjourned the suit to November 25 for judgment in case the parties were unable to resolve their differences.

Members of the Islamic group have continued to call for the release of their leader, holding several protests since he was taken into custody.

The Shiites had held protests in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital, Kaduna and kano among other states.

On september 10 in Kaduna, members of the group, comprising of women, youths and children, gathered at the popular Leventis roundabout in the state capital, demanding for the unconditional release of their leader and other members.

Chanting songs and blocking major roads, the Shiites feared that the health condition of Zakzaky is deteriorating due to gunshot wounds he sustained.

They vow never to rest until their leader and others are freed.

Falana Advocates Budget Scrutiny Across States

falanaCivil rights activist and Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mr Femi Falana, has expressed concern over matters arising on the discrepancies in the figures of 2016 budget.

Mr Falana spoke to Channels Television in Cape Town, South Africa where he also said that President Muhammadu Buhari must be encouraged to resist pressure to devalue the Naira.

“He should be supported but at the same time he must invest in the Nigerian people. You must support farmers, you must support the youth, you must create jobs and you must encourage Nigerians to believe in the country and themselves.

“Fighting corruption is good but what I think we should be fighting in impunity because its impunity that leads to corrupt practices. Its because of impunity we make a mockery of the budget law or the Appropriation Act.

“While the National Assembly should be commended for critically examining the budget, we must also get the Nigerian people to mobilize each of the states’ houses of assembly to also adopt a critical approach in passing budgets,” he said.

ECOWAS Court To Toughen Up On Human Rights Protection

ecowasThe Court of Justice of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) is making plans to set up a legal aid scheme to assist indigent citizens of West Africa.

The West African Union is also looking to use the scheme to secure the protection and enforcement of their fundamental human rights in member states.

According to the President of the ECOWAS Court of Justice, Justice Maria  Monteiro, series of meetings of Council of Ministers are underway to concretise the plans and ensure that citizens are aware of their rights and the availability of the regional court for their protection.

Equal Opportunity To Access Justice

At the opening of the 2015/2016 legal year of the ECOWAS Court on Saturday, Human Rights Lawyer, Mr Femi Falana, said that the legal aid scheme would ensure that access to the regional court was not limited to a privileged few.

The focus for the 2015/2016 legal year is the creation of enabling legal environment for regional integration and the consolidation of the human rights mandate of the ECOWAS Court of Justice.

To ensure the realisation of the targets, the court must ensure that every West African citizen in the sub-region, has equal opportunity to access justice through the court.

The President of the Court, however, said that West African citizens must first know their rights and the opportunities the court holds towards their protection.

Justice Monteiro also explained that the court was meeting with Council of Minister of member states and also creating awareness among citizens to improve access.

The human rights mandate of the ECOWAS Court came into force in 2005, with the responsibility to resolve conflicts between citizens and their member states.

So far, over 150 cases of violation of human rights have been decided by the court.

Given the high rate of conflicts in the West African region, a legal aid scheme would undoubtedly flood the court with more cases of violation, a development Justice Monteiro said the regional court was set to deal with.

The opening of every legal year of the ECOWAS Court of Justice is often a time for the regional court to set targets for the sub-region and make projections towards a firmer and more progressive integration of the ECOWAS sub region, where justice and the respect for the fundamental human rights of West African citizens are respected and protected.

EFCC Prosecutor, Oblah, Femi Falana Speak On Freedom Of Hamza, Shofolahan

This edition of Law weekly looks at some of the issues in the court of appeal judgment which freed Major Hamza Al-Mustapha and Mr Lateef Shofolahan. Both men had been handed the death sentence for the murder of Alhaja Kudirat Abiola.

Mr Femi Falana shares his perspective on the lessons from the judgment and one of EFCC’s foremost prosecutor, Mr Godwin Obla speaks about the challenges of prosecution in Nigeria and other issues.

Reactions are still trailing the July 12 judgment of the court of appeal which quashed the death sentence passed on major Hamza Al-Mustapha, the former chief security officer to late general Sani Abacha and Alhaji Lateef Shofolahan, the former aide of the late Kudirat Abiola.

A senior advocate of Nigeria, Mr Femi Falana also shares an interesting perspective to the matter.

FCT Minister stalls hearing on demolition of Minanuel Estate

Hearing of the suit filed by residents of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) against the Minister of FCT over alleged illegal demolition of Minanuel Estate along Airport Road in Abuja has been stalled following a request by counsel to the Minister that he needs more time to study the case file.

The demolished 500 units of Minanuel Estate allocated to the Senators

The residents under the aegis of Minanuel Estate subscribers instituted the N5billion suit against the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) over alleged breach of due process in demolishing 500 housing units in the estate without a valid court order.

Although the suit had to be adjourned till the 29th of November after the FCT minister’s lawyer asked for more time to study the brief.

Counsel to the plaintiffs, Mr Femi Falana however prayed the court to expedite action on the suit.

 

SERAP petitions Gambia’s Attorney-General over Nigerians on death row

The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) have urged the Gambian Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Mr. Lamin Jobarteh, to prevail on his country from going ahead with the planned execution of two Nigerians.

Gambia's President Yahya Jammeh has said he will execute all the convicts on death row before the end of September.

According to the civil rights group, the two Nigerians, Micheal Ifunanya and Stanley Agbaeze, are condemned to death in The Gambia.

SERAP, in a letter by its counsel, Mr. Femi Falana, on behalf of the convicted men, has instituted a suit before the ECOWAS court, asking for a stay of action pending the final determination of the suit filed on September 11, 2012.

Challenging the Gambian authorities on its legal obligation to comply with the protocol and not to engage in any action that will prejudice the outcome of the ECOWAS court suit, Mr Falana said doing the contrary will amount to a fundamental breach of the Article 22 (2) of ECOWAS protocol.

The Gambian government recently commenced the execution of all convicts on it death roll and the Gambian president, Yahya Jamme, was quoted stating that all the convicts on the nation’s death roll will be executed before the end of September.

The executions has since commenced despite the outcry from the international community and civil rights organizations.