Corruption: Civil Society Groups Seek Overhaul Of Nigeria’s Judiciary

Court JusticeThe Coalition of Civil Society Groups have appealed to President Muhammadu Buhari and the Chief Justice of Nigeria to overhaul the nation’s judiciary in order to weed out corrupt judicial officers.

Addressing a news conference in Abuja on Sunday, the National President of the Coalition, Comrade Bassey Edim, said there was an urgent need for judicial reforms.

He expressed the belief that the reforms would restore the confidence of all Nigerians in the sector.

Comrade Edim particularly advised the Chief Justice of Nigeria and the National Judicial Council to critically examine the activities of members of Election Petition Tribunals across the federation.

Group Blames Judiciary For Indulging Corrupt Public Officers

JUDICIAL COURT STRIKEThe Technical Unit on Government and Anti-Corruption Reforms (TUGAR) has identified corruption and weak judicial system as the reason why mismanagement of public finances continue to thrive in Nigeria.

TUGAR made this declaration in Abuja during the public presentation of a report on GAP analysis of anti-corruption initiatives in public finance management system in Nigeria.

The survey, which was the third phase of similar exercise by the agency, covers ten Nigerian states, including Cross River, Jigawa, Nasarawa and Katsina.

The report says that fiscal indiscipline was prevalent in the states and attributes the mismanagement in the states to weak judicial system.

A Professor of Criminology and Sociology of Law, Etannibi Alemika, while reviewing the report, noted that legal regulations practice and implementation of anti-corruption measures in public finance management were weak in most states of the federation.

Past and present administrations in states and federal levels have set up various anti-corruption initiatives to fight corruption and public finance mismanagement. However, these efforts were deemed not to have yielded much result.

The Executive Secretary of Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI), Zainab Ahmed, advised that citizens must take advantage of such initiatives and reports like TUGAR’s to put more pressure on government for a change.

As a way of finding solution to financial corruption in public offices, the report recommends among others, that anti-corruption agencies should use audit reports regarding affairs of government at all levels to prosecute infringements on due processes.

Substitution Of Defence Lawyer Stalls Trial Of Suspected Bomber Of Thisday Office

The trial of the suspected bomber of Thisday Newspaper’s office in Kaduna, Mustapha Umar could not commence at the Federal High Court in Abuja as his lawyer, Nureni Sulaiman said that he had just been briefed by the suspect.

The trial judge, Justice Adeniyi Ademola citing the interest of fair hearing, consequently adjourned the case till 29 April.

Mr Umar was accused of bombing SOJ Plaza in Kaduna state occupied by Thisday, The Moment and The Sun Newspapers.

At the last hearing, the suspect was represented by Felix Umai and Mohammed Umar, both of Manga chambers in Abuja; he however had changed counsel as he was represented at the resumed hearing by Mr Sulaiman who told the court that he was just briefed on the case in court.

Before the adjournment, the prosecutor, Simon Labaran had asked the court to hear his application to exclude members of the public except the press and the parties to the case, from hearing the proceedings.

The defence counsel however objected saying that the constitution mandated the trial to be in the open.

The judge therefore directed the defence counsel to file his response to the application. He also directed him to file the defence of his client to the charges and front load it to enable the court handle the case with dispatch.

He also ordered that the suspect be remanded in Kuje prison even as he directed the prison officials to allow the suspect access to his lawyer and family to enable him prepare his defence adequately.

Justice Ademola also directed the prison officials to make sure that the accused was brought to court at the appropriate time.

The suspect is been charged on a one count of terrorism related act.

He was alleged to have driven a white Honda academy car with registration number AL306MKA with improvised explosives devices into the premises of SOJ Plaza and detonated same.

Blame The NJC, AGF For Salami’s Debacle — Lawyer

On our Saturday breakfast show Sunrise; taking a look at the judicial arm of government and issues surrounding it, the anchors Kayode Akintemi had a lawyer Tayo Olatunbosun and Debo Adeniran; a campaigner against corruption and corrupt leaders to look at the National Judicial Council which stands as an advisory board to the executive, on the Justice Salami saga.

However, the suspension of the president of the court of appeal; Justice Ayo Salami was what caught Kayode Akintemi’s fancy.

Justice Salami was suspended by the executive after a petition was written against him.

Reasons for that? Could it be Indiscipline or corruption? It was stated that he mishandled an election petition which amounted to misdemeanour. During his suspension, investigation was carried out and it was concluded that Salami had done nothing and this was after Salami was already suspended due to an earlier recommendation by the National Judicial Council. A new recommendation was reported to the Executive by a new set of panel made out of the NJC so as to rescind the suspension of justice Salami which is yet to be put aright by the executive.

Olatunbosun  analysed the whole issue from genesis with less blame alloted to the Executive arm as he berated the NJC and the AGF who couldn’t clearly define their roles.

He said the President was also ill-advised on the issue.

NJC, Executive And Justice Salami: The Impasse

On our Saturday breakfast show Sunrise; taking a look at the judicial arm of government and issues surrounding it, the anchors Kayode Akintemi had a lawyer Tayo Olatunbosun and Debo Adeniran; a campaigner against corruption and corrupt leaders to look at the National Judicial Council which stands as an advisory board to the executive, on the Justice Salami saga.

However, the suspension of the president of the court of appeal; Justice Ayo Salami was what caught Kayode Akintemi’s fancy.

Justice Salami was suspended by the executive after a petition was written against him.

Reasons for that? Could it be Indiscipline or corruption? It was stated that he mishandled an election petition which amounted to misdemeanour. During his suspension, investigation was carried out and it was concluded that Salami had done nothing and this was after Salami was already suspended due to an earlier recommendation by the National Judicial Council.

A new recommendation was reported to the Executive by a new set of panel made out of the NJC so as to rescind the suspension of justice Salami which is yet to be put aright by the executive.

Watch Complete Interview for more details.

Nigerian Judicial Council Axes 3 Controversial Judges

The National Judicial Council (NJC) on Thursday recommended to President Goodluck Jonathan the compulsory retirement of Justice Charles Archibong of the Federal High court Lagos and Justice Thomas Naron of the High Court of Justice Plateau State.

The decision was reached at a meeting that dragged till late on Wednesday. The meeting which was held at the Supreme Court Complex, Abuja was presided over by the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Mariam Alooma Mukhtar and it was recommended that the justices should retire on ethical grounds.

Justice Archibong was recommended for compulsory retirement pursuant to the ‘findings” by the council on the following complaints levelled against him:

• that the judge dismissed the grievous charges against an accused without taking his plea;

• that he refused to release the certified true copy of his ruling to the lawyers;

• that the judge issued a bench warrant on some officials of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for contempt even when the counsel who was directed by the court to serve them filed an affidavit that he had not been able to serve the contempt application;

• that he made unfounded and caustic remarks on professional competence of some Senior Advocates of Nigeria;

• that there were glaring procedural irregularities which showed that he did not have a full grasp of the law and procedure of the court; and

• that he granted the leave sought for in the originating summons that had no written address of the parties and without hearing both parties in the originating summons after he had earlier overruled the preliminary objection.

On the other hand, Justice Naron of High Court of Justice, Plateau State was recommended for compulsory retirement to Governor David Jonah Jang sequel to the ‘findings’ by the council that there were constant and regular voice calls and exchange of multimedia messages and text messages between him and one of the lead counsel for one of the parties to the suit in the Osun state governorship election tribunal contrary to the code of conduct for judicial officers of the Federal Republic of Nigeria section 292(1((b) of the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended.

Pending when the recommendation is enforce the NJC has in the exercise of its disciplinary powers under the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended, suspended the two judges from office with immediate effect.

The council also set up a ‘fact finding’ committee to investigate the allegations levelled against Justice Abubakar Talba of a Federal Capital Territory (FCT) High Court in the police pension case between the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and John Yusuf and other.

Justice Talba recently sentenced Mr Yusuf who pleaded guilty to embezzling billions of pension funds to 2 years imprisonment with an option of N 250,000 fine for each of the 3 counts against him.

Money Laundering: Lagos Speaker Back To Court Tomorrow

The trial of the speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly, Adeyemi Ikuforiji will resume tomorrow (Tuesday) with the continuation of the testimony of the first prosecution witness.

The Speaker of Lagos State House of Assembly, Adeyemi Ikuforiji

At the last sitting of the court, last year, the Witness, Adebayo Adeniji, an investigating officer with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had told trial judge, Justice Okechukwu Okeke that several cash registers were recovered from the accounts department of the Lagos House of Assembly, confirming the alleged money laundering charges against the speaker.

Mr Ikuforiji and his personal assistant, Alade Atoyebi are facing a 20 charges of misappropriating about N500 million of the Lagos State House funds, an offence which contravenes Section 18(a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act 2011.

The EFCC on Monday however moved an application to halt temporarily, the trial of both men pending the response of the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court to a letter seeking the re-assignment of the criminal trial to another judge.

According to the prosecution, the letter to the Chief Judge was based on the fact that the trial judge, Justice Okechukwu Okeke is due to retire in May 2013 and may not conclude the matter before then.

Counsel to the Speaker, Tayo Oyetibo however urged the court to dismiss the letter and continue with the trial. He argued that the right to speedy hearing is an indisputable aspect of fair hearing.

In a bench ruling, Justice Okeke held that the letter before the Chief Judge for re-assignment is not an appeal neither does it constitute a stay of proceedings. He ruled that until the Court hears from the Chief Judge, it would continue with the matter and subsequently adjourned to the 19, 20 and 21 of February for continuation of trial.

EFCC Re-arraigns Former NIMASA DG

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on Monday re-arraigned the former Director-General of Nigeria Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Raymond Temisan Omatseye on a 27-count criminal charge bordering on contract scam.

The former Director-General of Nigeria Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Raymond Temisan Omatseye

Mr Omatseye was earlier arraigned before a Federal High Court in 2011 but his trial was stalled due to the transfer of the trial judge, Justice Binta Muritala Nyako to Makurdi, Benue State.

The former DG was said to have between 2009 and 2010, transferred 300, 000 pounds sterling from NIMASA’s Barclays Bank Account in London without lawful approval, purportedly to fund the campaign of one Mrs Mbanefo as Secretary-General of International Maritime Organisation (IMO).

The EFCC said Mr Omatseye’s action was contrary to and punishable under Section 14(a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2004, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria.

After hearing the allegations against him, Mr Omatseye pleaded not guilty, while his lawyer, Olushina Shofola urged the court to allow him continue with the former bail granted him by Justice Murtala-Nyako.

The judge granted the request and fixed February 7, 8 and 9 for commencement of trial.

Some of the charge against the accused reads:

“That you Temisan Omatseye whilst carrying out your duty as the Director-General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) on the 16th Day of February, 2010, split tenders for, and approved, three contract awards to Wabil Nig. Ltd., to wit: Contract Nos: (a) NIMASA90127/02/2010 (b) NIMASA90137/02/2010 (c) NIMASA90139/02/2010 For supply office accessories, to enable you evade your official limit of monetary thresh hold of contract approval, and thereby contravening the provision of Section 58(4)(d) of the Public Procurement Act, 2007 and punishable under Section 58(5)(a)(b) of the same act.”

“That you Temisan Omatseye whilst carrying out your duty as the Director General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency(NIMASA) on the 29th day of January, 2010, split tenders for, and approved, two contract awards to Franxeel Limited wit: Contract Nos: (a) NIMASA90084/01/2010 (b) NIMASA90085/01/2010 For supply of computer accessories, to enable you evade your official limit of monetary thresh hold of contract approval, and thereby contravening the provision of Section 58(4)(d) of the Public Procurement Act, 2007 and punishable under Section 58(5)(a)(b) of the same Act”

“That you Temisan Omatseye whilst carrying out your duty as the Director-General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency(NIMASA) on the 16th day of February, 2010 split tenders for, and approved, two contract awards to Layol Commercial Serv. Nig. Limited wit: Contract Nos: (a) NIMASA90128/02/2010 (b)NIMASA90136/02/2010 For supply of office equipment, to enable you evade your official limit of monetary thresh hold of contract approval, and thereby contravening the provision of Section 58(4)(d) of the Public Procurement Act, 2007 and Punishable under Section 58(5)(a)(b) of the same act.”

Ibori’s Bribe Money: Court Sets 28 January For Judgement

A Federal High court in Abuja will on 28 January decide whether or not to grant the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) leave to furnish it with more facts on why the Delta State Government should not have a $15 million dollars bribe traced to the convicted former governor of the state James Ibori.

The anti-graft agency is alleging that once the money is released to the Delta State Government, it will have it transferred to the convicted ex-governor of the state to address his current ordeal at a London prison.

When the hearing resumed on the case, a heated arguments ensued between lawyers representing the EFCC and the Delta state government over claims by the commission that the state is pursuing a malicious and dubious interest in laying claims to the bribe proceeds.

The EFCC went further to declare in an application for leave that it needs more time to prove its claims that indeed the state wants the money in order to do the bidding of Mr Ibori who it said is bent on wriggling out of a London detention.

The Delta State counsel, the state’s Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Charles Ajuyah, had vehemently refuted the allegations of the EFCC.

He further faulted the anti-graft agency for including claims that the state was paying pension to the ex-governor which he insisted was not true.

According to Mr Ajuyah the Delta State Government plans to use the money for infrastructural development.

The Court had on July 24, 2012, granted an interim order forfeiting the $15 million to the Federal Government.

The money had been kept in the strong room of the Central Bank of Nigeria as an unclaimed property since August 2007.

In seeking to claim the cash, the Federal Government had claimed that the said sum, “if left untouched and unspent in the state it was kept in the strong room since April 2007, may eventually be destroyed, defaced, mutilated and become useless.”

As part of the interim order, the court had ordered anyone interested in the property to appear before it to show cause within 14 days why the final order of forfeiture should not be made in favour of the Federal Government of Nigeria.

As a result, the Delta State Government applied to claim the money, saying it belonged to the state.

Compel Jonathan To Remove Fuel Subsidy, Man Asks Court

A former Governorship candidate in the 2007 elections in Anambra State, Stanley Okeke has sued President Goodluck Jonathan before an Abuja Federal High Court asking it to compel the President to remove forthwith the subsidy being paid on fuel in the country.

Protesters displaying placards during the January 2012 subsidy removal protest in Lagos

In the suit filed through his lawyers, M.A Ebute and U.B. Eyo and dated December 21, Mr Okeke is also seeking an order compelling President Jonathan to refund to the Federation Account such sum earlier appropriated and or approved under the sub-head of fuel subsidy funds or money as according to him “cannot be justified in the face of the pervasive corruption, perennial fuel shortage and long queues being witnessed in the country.”

The Minister of Petroleum, Diezeni Alison-Madueke and her counterpart in the Finance ministry, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala were Cited as second and third defendants in the suit.

The plaintiff is also asking the court for an order directing the 3rd defendant (Mrs Okonjo-Iweala) to stop further payment of fuel subsidy money predicated on the corrupt, illegal and unlawful fuel subsidy regime.

Mr Okeke is asking the court to declare that the fuel subsidy currently being funded by the Federal Government is a waste of public funds and therefore unlawful and illegal to sustain.

The plaintiff further asked the court for:

“A declaration that the pervasive corruption inherent in the fuel subsidy scheme has caused untold hardship to the masses of the country and therefore is an abuse of the rights of Nigerians as guaranteed by the provision of the 1999 Constitution as amended.

“A declaration that the fuel subsidy scheme having failed to achieve the purpose for which it was meant should be out rightly abolished as same has violated the Nigerian people’s rights as guaranteed by the provision of the 1999 Constitution.

“A declaration that the failure of the 2nd and 3rd defendants in their Ministerial duties to ensure a corrupt free subsidy regime is a breach of public trust and a violation of their oaths of office as contained in the seventh schedule to the 1999 Constitution.”

Mr Okeke also asked the court to determine:

“Whether in view of the official corruption and abuse of office inherent in the fuel subsidy regime as evidenced by the in-going trial of certain individuals in the Federal High Court Lagos, the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is validly competent to order the removal and or abolish the fuel subsidy scheme.

“Whether consequent upon the perennial fuel shortages ad the attendant long queues on our roads, it would be proper and lawful for the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to completely remove and abolish the fuel subsidy regime.

“Whether having regards to the near infrastructural collapse in our country, it would be proper to re-channel funds meant fuel subsidy scheme into the building of infrastructural facilities.

“Whether the 2nd and 3rd defendants being appointees of the President by not ensuring a corrupt free subsidy regime have not failed in their principal duty to Nigerians.”

The plaintiff in a 27 paragraphed affidavit he deposed in support of the originating summons averred that Nigeria now under the leadership of President Jonathan now imports fuel from various oil producing nations for local consumption by Nigerians and that said importation is highly subsidized by the Federal Government running into billions of Naira.

He further declared that “recently in December 2012 the President 1st defendant submitted a supplementary budget of over N161,000,000,000 to the National Assembly for the payment of additional fuel subsidy money to the fuel importers and marketers.”

The plaintiff suggested that the only way to stop the high level of abuse of the fuel subsidy scheme is the removal of the policy by the Federal Government.

No date has been fixed for the hearing of the case.

Absence Of Prosecutor stalls trial of Arepo Pipeline Vandals

The trial of six men arraigned by the police over alleged vandalism of petroleum pipelines located in Arepo, Ogun State was on Tuesday stalled at the Federal High Court sitting in Lagos.

The assistant commissioner of police, Friday Ibadin who is prosecuting the case was absent in court.

An Assistant Superintendent of Police, Justin Enang who represented him in court told presiding justice Mohammed Idris, that his boss could not be in court because he missed his flight from Abuja. He therefore sought an adjournment to enable the prosecution put its house in order.

One of the defence lawyers, G.O Nnachor faulted the excuse of the prosecution describing it as untenable. He also alleged that the police was not taking the matter seriously.

The defence team also complained that the prosecution had not served them with the proof of evidence to enable them adequately prepare their case.

The six accused persons were arraigned on the 29th of November for oil pipeline vandalism and the murder of three Engineers of the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).

Among the accused is a 60-year-old community leader, Oluwole Reuben.

They all pleaded not guilty to the charges and are to remain in prison pending the hearing of their bail applications which Justice Idris has fixed for the 25th and 28th of January 2013 for trial with an order to the prosecutor to serve the proof of evidence on the defence

Lagos: Court sentences man convicted for traffic offence to 8 hours labour

A 29 year old man, Joseph Nwudu arrested by the Lagos State governor, Babatunde Fashola was on Thursday arraigned before an Alausa, Ikeja Special Offences Court for road traffic offence.

Mr Nwudu was arrested by the Policemen in the convoy of the governor for driving one-way on November 2, 2012 when he ran into the convoy of the governor.

The Lagos state Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Ade Ipaye was the prosecutor in the suit filed before a Special Magistrate Court presided by Senior Magistrate E. M. Johnson.

The commissioner for Justice who led two other lawyers, George Okeke and Femi Alabi for the prosecution alleged that the defendant was accosted by the policemen working with the governor for driving his Honda Accord IV- TEC model marked XW 646 AGL against on-coming traffic at about 1.05 am on the day of the incident.

He said that the defendant, who faced a one count offence of violation of road traffic offence, was coming from Campbell Street inward to J.K. Randle road on the Lagos Island.

Mr Ipaye said that the defendant’s vehicle was impounded and brought to the office of the Task Force at Alausa while he was subsequently charged to court.

The commissioner urged the court to proceed to apply the Lagos Traffic Law 2012 against the defendant.

When the charge was read, the defendant pleaded guilty as charged and to the facts of the case as narrated by the state Attorney General.

His counsel, Segun Ayodele however pleaded for leniency for the defendant who he said is a first offender and has no record of breach of traffic law of the state.

Ayodele said that the defendant does not reside in Nigeria but in Dubai and that he was in Nigeria to attend to his ailing father who died five minutes before his arrest.

“He is remorseful having realised what he did is against the traffic laws of the state” Mr Ayodele told the magistrate adding that on the day in question, he just lost his father about five minutes before his arrest.

According to Ayodele, the defendant had on the day preceeding his arrest, took his ailing father to St. Nicholas Hospital and was with him till he suddenly passed on during the night.

He said the defendant was going to his hotel room to pick some things, including money to be paid before the body of his father could be admitted into the morgue.

“It was in this emotional condition that the defendant set out to go to his hotel room when he inadvertently went into one-way against on-coming traffic.

“The route he even took that day was a longer route to the alternative route available”, he said adding “in view of this, I urged the court to be compassionate with the defendant”.

Mr Ayodele pleaded with the court to take the situation of the defendant into consideration and for the magistrate to use her discretion in determining judgement in accordance with section 36(3) of Road Traffic Law 2012.

Delivering judgement, the magistrate found the defendant guilty as charged having considered the facts of the case as stated by the AG and admitted by the defendant.

She thereafter sentenced the defendant to eight hours of community service.

The magistrate said she was mindful of the circumstances on hand and the emotional shock the defendant was going through as at the time the offence was committed in arriving at her decision.

She however stated that the defendant must also give an undertaken that he would not violate Lagos Traffic laws again.