The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Benin branch, on Wednesday commenced a three-day boycott of courts.
The boycott by the lawyers is to protest the kidnap of Justice Chioma Iheme-Nwosu.
Channels Television reporter upon arrival at the court premises in the state observed that the courtrooms were under lock and key. The Evboriaria Magistrate Court also in thee state capital is bereft of lawyers as well.
The Chairman, NBA, Benin branch, Collins Ogiebgean, said the court boycott would last till Friday.
He stated that if by then the abducted judge remained in captivity, members of the body would have no option but to extend the boycott.
“If judges can be kidnapped and taken away in daylight, what about us? It is for this reason that we have resolved as a mark of protest to embark on this boycott,” Ogiebgean said while speaking with journalists.
Justice Nwosu-Iheme was abducted last week in Benin City while on her way to court. The Benin Court of Appeal judge is known to be Nigeria’s first female judge to study law up to the Ph.D. level, specialising in the law of intellectual property.
Her abduction comes days after a federal high court judge in Akure, Ondo state justice Abdul Dogo, was freed by kidnappers who had abducted him on Tuesday last week at the border between Edo and Ondo states.
See photos of the empty courtrooms and premises below…
The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), has called for the unconditional release of the Appeal Court judge, Justice Chioma Iheme-Nwosu who was kidnapped last week in Benin City, Edo State.
NBA strongly condemned the kidnap of the Justice and the brutal killing of her orderly and tasked all security agencies in the country to fish out the perpetrators and bring them to book.
A strongly-worded statement by the President of the association Mr. Paul Usoro SAN read in part; “The utterly reprehensible kidnap of Honorable Justice Chioma Iheme-Nwosu of the Court of Appeal and the gruesome murder of his orderly should not only unnerve and agitate all of us but must also jolt our collective conscience.
“This kidnap incident is one too many and utterly condemnable by everyone for and from multiple fronts.
“The NBA not only condemns in the strongest terms the horrifying and criminal abduction of Honorable Justice Chioma Iheme-Nwosu, Justice of the Court of Appeal but calls more importantly for her immediate release and safe return.
Mr. Usoro added that “The law enforcement agencies owe their assassinated colleague, justice Iheme-Nwosu, orderly the debt and responsibility of fishing out and meting justice to the criminals who so brutally and heinously murdered him and abducted His Lordship.
“This crime must not end up as part of our crime statistics,” he added.
The Lagos State Special Offences Court has granted bail to two past chairmen of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Ikeja branch, Adesina Ogunlana, and Yinka Farounbi, accused of stealing N20.1 million from the Association.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had on May 22 arraigned the two alongside another of their colleague, a former treasurer of the branch, Aderinola Kappo, on a 30-count of conspiracy, stealing and money laundering.
They had all pleaded not guilty and despite the request of the EFCC that they be remanded in prison custody pending their trial, Justice Mojisola Dada ordered their release upon the presentation of their international passports.
She adjourned till Thursday, June 5 to hear their formal bail applications.
At the proceedings on Thursday, Justice Mojisola Dada granted the three lawyers bail in the sum of N500,000 each with two sureties each in like sum.
The court held that one of the sureties for each defendant must own a landed property within the jurisdiction of the court.
The three defendants have two weeks within which to perfect their bail, failing which they will be remanded in prison.
After the ruling, Justice Dada adjourned the case until July 3 for the commencement of trial.
In arriving at her ruling on bail, Justice Dada held that the EFCC failed to provide proof that the defendants, especially the first defendant (Ogunlana) tampered with prosecution witnesses.
The judge further stated that the anti-graft agency did not provide proof that the defendants jumped administrative bail or that the third defendant (Kappo) provided a fake address to the EFCC.
The court observed, The allegation that the three defendants jumped administrative bail was not proven; although the first and third defendants said they were not around on the last Friday they were supposed to appear before the EFCC.
They, however, presented themselves the next Monday for arraignment, despite not being served by the EFCC.
There is no evidence that shows that the EFCC investigated the claims of the third defendant that she was in a hospital in Badagry on that Friday.
The EFCC also failed to produce the second defendant (Farounbi) in court for arraignment, despite being in EFCC custody up until then.
Failure to appear on the last Friday should not be sufficient reason to deny them bail but they will not be granted bail on self-recognizance.
The EFCC alleged that the defendants between 2016 to 2018, converted the sum of N20million to their personal use by paying the said amount into Ogunlana’s First Bank account through the issuance of cheque ‘without authorisation’.
The EFCC also alleged that Ogunlana in other to facilitate the stealing dishonestly converted the money belonging to the branch via a cheque issued to Yinka Farounbi and Kappo.
The Commission says the offences are contrary to section 278 and 409 of the Criminal Law of Lagos State, 2011.
The defendants are also facing counts of money laundering contrary to Section 330 of the Criminal Law of Lagos State, 2011.
They, however, pleaded not guilty to the charge.
Farounbi served as NBA Ikeja Branch Chairman from 2014 to 2016 with Kappo serving as Treasurer during Farounbis tenure while Ogunlana succeeded Farounbi and served as NBA Ikeja Branch Chairman from 2016 to 2018.
The Nigerian Bar Association has said that the trial of Honorable Mr. Justice Walter S N Onnoghen, GCON (“CJN”) is an assault on the Judiciary.
According to the NBA, the media trial of the embattled chief justice does not follow the rule of law, hence should be stopped.
The NBA amongst other things decried the speed at which the case is being handled, claiming that all due protocols have been intentionally left unobserved.
“We have in total a record number of 3 (three) working days between the receipt and processing of the petition, investigation, preparation of Charge and ancillary processes and the arraignment! Such unprecedented speed and efficiency in Nigeria’s criminal justice administration!
It is clear, given the rush with which this matter was conducted by the CCB, that the NJC was not privy to it and did not conduct its mandatorily required disciplinary processes prior to the filing of the Charge before the CCT” the NBA said.
Below is the full statement containing the position of the NBA in the trial of Chief Justice of Nigeria, Honorable Mr. Justice Walter S N Onnoghen, GCON (“CJN”).
“Nigerians have witnessed again the targeted assault of the judiciary by agents of the Federal Government of Nigeria (“FGN”) epitomized by today’s media trial of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Honorable Mr. Justice Walter S N Onnoghen, GCON (“CJN”).
“According to media reports which have now been validated by the Statement of the Code of Conduct Tribunal (“CCT”) that was released today an application was “filed by the Code of Conduct Bureau to the CCT Chairman yesterday for the trial to commence against the Chief Justice of Nigeria on six count charges” and that the CCT “will commence the trial on Monday, 14th January 2019”.
“The Nigerian Bar Association unequivocally condemns this assault, intimidation, and desecration of the Judiciary by FGN agencies and demands that it be stopped immediately.
“In Nganjiwa v Federal Republic of Nigeria (2017) LPELR-43391(CA), the Court of Appeal made it very clear that any misconduct attached to the office and functions of a judicial officer must first be reported to and handled by the National Judicial Council (“NJC”) pursuant to the provisions of our laws. Only after the NJC has pronounced against such judicial officer can the prosecuting agencies of the Federal Government proceed against him.
“As the Court pointed out, these requirements of the law are anchored on the overriding principles of separation of powers between the executive, the judiciary and the legislature and on the need to preserve, promote and protect the independence of the judiciary.
“Our respective liberties and the rule of law are best protected and preserved if the judiciary remains independent and shielded from intimidation and assault by the other arms of the government.
“In Nganjiwa v FRN (supra), the Court of Appeal made reference to Rule 3 of the Revised Code of Conduct for Judicial Officers of February 2016 (“Code of Conduct for Judicial Officers”) and held that the said Rule 3 “makes provision in relation to fidelity to the Constitution and the Law”.
“The provisions in regard to assets declaration as they apply to all public officers including the CJN are contained in both the Constitution and the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act 1991, the enabling law that establishes both the Code of Conduct Bureau (“CCB”) and the CCT.
“The fidelity which judicial officers, therefore, owe “to the Constitution and the Law” pursuant to Rule 3 of the Code of Conduct for Judicial Officers encompasses compliance with the provisions relating to assets declarations as contained in the Constitution and the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act.
“Any infraction in that regard by a judicial officer, as the Court of Appeal rightly held, constitutes misconduct by the judicial officer and becomes the subject matter for discipline by the NJC as a condition precedent to any possible prosecution of the judicial officer by any of the FGN’s prosecuting agencies.
“Why has FGN decided to embark on this anomalous course of charging the CJN before the CCT without first presenting whatever facts it purportedly has against His Lordship to the NJC for its deliberation and determination?
“The Petition that triggered the CCB action was on its face received by the Bureau on 09 January 2019 and the Charge was promptly drafted and is dated the following day, 10 January 2019 – giving the CCB a record 24 hours for completion of its investigation and the drafting of the said Charge and ancillary processes!
“If one contemplates the fact that the CCT arraignment is scheduled to take place on 14 January 2019, we have in total a record number of 3 (three) working days between the receipt and processing of the petition, investigation, preparation of Charge and ancillary processes and the arraignment! Such unprecedented speed and efficiency in Nigeria’s criminal justice administration! It is clear, given the rush with which this matter was conducted by the CCB, that the NJC was not privy to it and did not conduct its mandatorily required disciplinary processes prior to the filing of the Charge before the CCT.
“We still wonder why the FGN choose to deviate from the laid down and explicit provisions of the law as expounded in Nganjiwa v FRN (supra). Could it be that it was misadvised? Or is this a naked show of power and force by agencies of the FGN? And why embark on the media trial of the CJN?
“This, unfortunately, is a predilection of the FGN’s prosecuting agencies with the possible exception of the Federal Ministry of Justice. As the NBA pointed out in its International Anti-Corruption Day Statement that was issued on 09 December 2018 “media trial of persons charged with corrupt practices . . . amount to corruption itself.
“Indeed, those orchestrated media trials degrade and corrupt the justice administration system quite apart from the incalculable (but obviously intended) damage that it does to persons who may ultimately be discharged and acquitted.
“In point of fact, it is corrupt practice to use as a license or hide under the cover of the fight against corruption to recklessly destroy the names, characters, and reputations of persons who have not been found guilty of corrupt practices by competent courts and who may ultimately be pronounced innocent of such charges.”
“These media trials must, alongside the on-going desecration and assault of the judiciary, cease forthwith.
“There are two final issues that we must touch upon in this Statement, albeit, briefly. First, could it possibly be a coincidence that the current assault on the judiciary is taking place only weeks to the 2019 National Election? Apart from the conduct itself being wrongful and deplorable, its timing is condemnable. FGN will find it difficult to convince any reasonable person that its assault against the CJN and by extension the judiciary is not aimed at emasculating that arm of the government and intimidating our Judges ahead of the 2019 National Elections.
“In our afore-referenced International Anti-Corruption Day Statement, the NBA had deplored “conducts that qualify as . . . political non-accountability, absence of transparency and impunity in public service.” The FGN’s conduct in this instance qualifies, amongst others, as “impunity in public service”.
“As a final point, it is also difficult for a disinterested observer not to see a pattern of consistent assault by agencies of the FGN on the heads of the two independent arms of government, to wit, the legislature and the judiciary, starting with the prosecution of the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, before the CCT and now, the ill-fated prosecution of the CJN before the same CCT.
“The impression must not be created that the agencies of the Executive arm of the FGN are interested in destabilizing and laying prostrate the other arms of the Government and in the process eliminating and destroying any and all voices of dissent and checks and balances.
“That is not desirable for the democracy that we strive to build neither is it good for the image of the Government. We urge restraint on the part of Government and demand that the CCB follow due process in proceeding against the CJN by complying with Nganjiwa’s Judgment (supra) and other similar judicial precedents.
“This continuing attack on the justice sector must cease forthwith.
“FGN and its agencies must desist from debasing the rule of law.
Lagos State Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr Kehinde Bamigbetan had on Wednesday, March 7 described the law as ‘a progressive enactment.’ He also clarified the figures on the Land Use Charge Law.
He decried the misconceptions and misinformation about the new law saying the ‘progressive enactment’ was duly made by the House of Assembly and handed over to the executive for implementation in the overall interest of the people.
The commissioner dismissed the humongous figures circulating on the social media, saying many of the calculations were based on arrears of many years of non-payment.
“The fact is that this law took a long process to be made,” he said.
“It started as a bill and went through the first reading, second reading, public hearing to which all stakeholders were brought together to debate it and some of the relieves we have seen were part of the debate expressed by the stakeholders about the need to protect the vulnerable segment of the society.”
It may not be the best of times for the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), as the Federal High Court in Abuja nullifies the Constitution of the NBA under which the current leadership came into power, declaring it null and void.
However, the court judgement has been appealed by the leadership of the NBA, who sought a stay of execution to Justice John Tsoho’s judgement.
The judgement had held that the amended NBA Constitution, under which the present executive was elected, breached Section 597 and 598 of the Company and Allied Matters Act, especially as it relates to the registration of the amended constitution.
The leadership of the NBA is seeking a motion for stay of execution of Justice Tsoho’s judgement.
The Yenagoa and Sagbama branches of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Bayelsa state, have raised an alarm over what they described as the denial of justice to the people of the region.
The Federal High Court and the Industrial High Court jointly addressed a press conference to inform the general public of their displeasure over the lack of legal activities at the Yenagoa division of both courts.
Hon. Justice Tersee Agbadu-Fishimi of National Industrial Court and Hon. Justice H. Nganjiwa of the Federal High Court, the judges of both courts which have been adjudged to be among the busiest in the country, are currently undergoing criminal investigation by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), hence their absence to preside over sittings.
Members of the association said they have since made appeals to the Chief Justice of the Federation and the National Executive of the Nigerian Bar Association to quickly fill up the void created by the investigation.
Among the agitators, was also the Attorney General of Bayelsa State, Kemesuode Wodu, who called for the immediate resumption of legal activities at the two affected courts.
He stated that his office had made serious efforts at ensuring that legal functions resume.
Meanwhile, the father of Ese Oruru, a 14 year old who was alleged to have been abducted by Yinusa, expressed worry over the fact that the lack of legal activities at the court would further stall the court proceedings.
Reacting to the matter, the Bayelsa State government, advised citizens to continue to exercise patient as well as remain law abiding.
The government also called on relevant authorities to post new judges to preside over the courts while awaiting the conclusion of the investigation of the accused judges.
The Chief Judge Of Edo State, Justice Cromwell Idahosa, has inaugurated the Edo state Multi-Door Court House as part of efforts to enhance justice delivery through alternative dispute resolution mechanisms.
According to speakers at the inauguration which took place in Benin city, the Edo state capital, the Multi-Door Court House concept will ensure speedy delivery of justice as it is cheaper and ensures harmony among litigants.
“The goals of the the Multi-door approach is to provide our people with easy access to justice and reduce delay by making options available through which disputes can be resolved.”
While stressing that the training of Judiciary staff is key to the success of the court, the Chief Judge also urged the Nigerian Bar Association to brace up to the alternative dispute resolution and process.
“A lawyer who is not skilled with ADR options, would send himself completely out of touch with no service to render to disputants who by choice, will prefer the Multi-door Court House, to the regular court.”
The Judiciary in Delta state and the Edo state governor, represented by the solicitor general of the Edo state, also gave support for the Multi-Door Court House concept.
“This Government supports the Multi-Door initiative because we recognize that the formal justice system can a-times be intimidating, unfriendly, expensive and so many other things to the masses of our society.
The highlight of the occasion was the unveiling of the Book “Practice Directions on Mediation”.
As of now about 16 states of the federation have set up the Multi-Door Court House scheme.
The acting Chief Justice Of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen, has advised newly admitted lawyers to the Nigerian Bar, to perform their roles as legal practitioners with integrity and competence.
Justice Onnoghen told the new wigs who have just completed their legal training from the various campuses of the Nigerian law school to not only cater to the interest of their clients, but that of the larger society while carrying out their judicial duties.
The acting CJN who was performing his first official call-to-bar ceremony since assuming office as the head of the country’s judiciary, also warned the new wigs that the body of benchers would not hesitate to throw out any erring lawyer from the legal profession.
While reminding the celebrants of the rules of professional conduct, Justice Onnoghen admonished the lawyers to shun any act that would bring the profession into disrepute.
He further charged the new lawyers to continue to educate and develop themselves professionally, so as to keep themselves abreast of latest legal developments in the country and across the globe.