Constitutionality Of Virtual Court Hearings: Supreme Court Set To Hear Ekiti Attorney General’s Case


The Supreme Court has fixed tomorrow, 14th July 2020 for the hearing of the suit brought by the Attorney- General of Ekiti State, Olawale Fapohunda against the Attorney-General of the Federation and Attorneys- General of Lagos and Ogun States respectively.

In the suit brought pursuant to Order 3 rule 6, Supreme Court Rules (as amended in 1999), section 232(1) of the 1999 constitution (as amended) and sections 1(3), 36(3) and (4) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended), the Attorney-General of Ekiti State is asking the Supreme Court to determine whether the directive issued by the Attorney-General of the Federation, vide its directive issued on the 20th of April, 2020 to the Head of Courts at Federal and States level, in conjunction with Guidelines, issued on the 7th May,2020, by the National Judicial Council specifically as it relates to the conduct of virtual proceedings in court is not only a violation of the federalism provisions of the 1999 Constitution but also in violation of the constitutional provisions on fair hearing specifically as it relates to the conduct of criminal trials in public.

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The Ekiti State Attorney- General is also asking the Supreme Court to set aside, or strike down so much of the said directive of the Attorney-General of the Federation and National Judicial Council Guidelines, as it relates to Virtual or Remote Court sittings to the extent that they purport to be binding on the Ekiti State High Court for being inconsistent with Section 1(3), 4(6), 5(2), 6(2), 36(3) and (4), 272 and 274 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended).

The issue of the constitutionality or otherwise of remote or virtual court hearing has dominated national discussion since the publication of the guidelines of the National Judicial Council which recommended virtual court proceedings for courts in response to the COVID-19 Pandemic.

Opinion has been divided among lawyers on the legality of the directive. A number of High Courts including those in Lagos, Ogun, and Borno States have proceeded to implement the guidelines while many States have been adamant in their opposition to the directive insisting that only a constitutional amendment or pronouncement by the Supreme Court can ensure the legality of virtual court hearings.

Chief Justice Wants Judgement’s Appeal To Be By Leave

Acting CJN Swears In New Supreme Court JusticesThe Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen, has made a case for all appeals to the Supreme and the Appeal Courts to be by leave and not by right.

Justice Onnoghen made this suggestion on Monday at the official commissioning of the remodeled and upgraded Court of Appeal complex in Lagos.

The building was first commissioned on October 1, 1963 by the First President of Nigeria, Dr Nnamdi Azikwe.

At that time, it was the seat of the Supreme Court. But following the Federal Government’s directive in 1994 that all ministries and parastatals should be relocate to Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory, the Supreme Court moved and the Court of Appeal came to occupy the complex.

Now, the court wears a new look and the Acting CJN, some other judges, the state government, Senior lawyers, the court staff and many others were at the official commissioning.

Addressing the gathering, the Acting CJN said he did not believe that creating more courts or appointing more judges would decongest the courts.

The court of appeal was established in 1976 as the second highest court in the country.

The Lagos division presently has eight justices who seat two panels to hear appeals from all trial courts, State and Federal, in Lagos.

Constitution Amendment: Parties To Resolve Dispute Out Of Court

Constitution Amendment Dispute between FG and National AssemblyThe Supreme Court of Nigeria has given the Federal Government and the National Assembly 48 hours, to resolve the dispute arising from the 4th amendment of the constitution out of court.

The apex court directed the two parties to meet and harmonise their position on the ground that the issues in dispute, are so simple and can be resolve without the court’s intervention.

The Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Mahmud Mohammed, gave the directive after the counsel to the Attorney-General of the Federation, Bayo Ojo, agreed to explore an out of court settlement of the issue, after the court drew his attention to the fact that his application was defective.

The Supreme Court, however, asked the counsel to the National Assembly, Adeboyega Awomolo, to give an undertaking that he would advise his clients appropriately to maintain status quo, so as to explore an out of court resolution.

With both parties agreeing to meet and harmonise their position, the court adjourned the matter to Wednesday, May 27 for report on settlement or for further hearing.

The trouble started when the National Assembly threatened to veto the powers of President Goodluck Jonathan, for his refusal to sign the 4th amendment of the constitution into law.

The Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Barrister Mohammed Adoke, then approached the court which in turn granted an order, urging both parties to maintain status quo, following an application by counsel to the Federal Government to substitute the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) with the President as the plaintiff in the case.

Mr Ojo was against the application by Mr Awomolo, that the originating surmount was defective as such, it should be struck out.

The court also disagreed with the Presidency on motion to substitute the plaintiff on the ground that even if the names were substituted, the originating surmount was still defective because the affidavit was deposed on behalf of the AGF.

On that ground, the AGF was advised to withdraw the summon and come before the court afresh or in the alternative explore out of court settlement.

The inability of Mr Awomolo to give an undertaking that the status quo will be maintained to preserve the last order, prompted the court to ask them to go and reconcile and report to the court on Wednesday.

Supreme Court To Hear Constitution Amendment Suit May 25

Goodluck-Jonathan-and-House-of-Representatives-in-NigeriaThe Supreme Court of Nigeria has rescheduled the ‎hearing of the case between the National Assembly and the Presidency on constitution amendment to Monday, May 25.

The rescheduling of the hearing date was done to ensure the resolution of the face-off between the National Assembly and President Goodluck Jonathan over the dispute on the legality of the Fourth Alteration Bill for the amendment of the constitution which the President had refused to sign into law.

The apex court had earlier adjourned the suit between the two parties to June 19, when the current National Assembly would have ceased to exit.

The National Assembly through its lawyer, Mr Adegboyega Awomolo, had appealed to the Supreme Court to have the case re-listed for hearing before the expiration of the tenure of the current National Assembly.

A copy of the new hearing notice, which was obtained by Channels Television reads: “Take notice that the above motion will be listed for hearing before the Supreme Court of Nigeria sitting in Abuja on Monday, ‎25th day of May 2015”.

The National Assembly is asking the apex court to discharge the interlocutory orders of injunction made on May 7, which barred the lawmakers from overriding the President’s veto.

In the application, they are also asking the court to dismiss the originating summons filed by the Attorney General of the Federation, Barrister Mohammed Adoke, on the grounds that: “the originating summons dated  April 22 is incompetent, fundamentally and incurably defective and thereby robs the Supreme Court of its jurisdiction”.

They also argued that “there is no known or reasonable cause of action disclosed in the originating summons to ground jurisdiction of the Supreme Court”. They claimed that it was improper and a reckless invocation of the original jurisdiction of the Supreme Court.

They also insisted that the Attorney General was not competent to invoke the original jurisdiction of the apex Court under the Supreme Court Act.

Ekiti People Will Defend Their Mandate – Fayose

Ayo Fayose-Ekiti Ekiti State Governor has described his return to the office of Governor of the state “as a mandate freely and wholeheartedly given by Ekiti people”.

“Ekiti people who are the owners of my mandate will defend it against political usurpers, whom they had rejected twice in the last nine months,” Governor Ayodele Fayose said in a statement by his Special Assistant on Public Communications and News Media, Lere Olayinka.

He also urged the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Mahmud Mohammed, to sustain his stand of not allowing the use of the judiciary to change the outcome of elections.

Governor Fayose described the noise of impeachment and Supreme Court judgment being made by the All Progressives Congress (APC) as a plot to distract him from concentrating on governance and also from the coming Saturday’s House of Assembly election.

He however, called on members and supporters of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the state not to be distracted from their goal of delivering all the 26 Assembly seats in the state to the party.

He said “Sovereignty belongs to the people and the people of Ekiti State on June 21, 2014, surrendered their sovereignty to me to be their governor for four years.

“Instead of respecting the wish of Ekiti people, which they again affirmed on March 28 and will further affirm on April 11, the APC people that were rejected in two free and fair elections have been trying all tricks to return to power through the back door.

“They filed several cases in their bid to stop my inauguration as Governor and even committed murder in the process.”

Speaking further, Governor Fayose said; “The Speaker of the State House of Assembly then, Dr Adewale Omirin, was assured of assuming office as Acting Governor and that informed his non-attendance of my inauguration, as he was still hoping that even on October 16, 2014, a court order would be gotten to stop my inauguration.

“Their evil plots against the mandate of Ekiti people failed then, but up till now, they are not relenting.

“Today, even though Omirin has been duly impeached, he still believes he can be Acting Governor, while Dr Kayode Fayemi that was roundly rejected by Ekiti people is also boasting that he will return to power through the instrumentality of the court.”

“However, let me warn the APC as a party to respect the wish of Ekiti people as the PDP and President Goodluck Jonathan respected the wish of Nigerians on the election of Major General Mohammadu Buhari (rtd).

“Any attempt to undermine the sovereignty of Ekiti people, using whatever instrument will be resisted by the people themselves because power belongs to the people and they have handed it to whom they desire to exercise till October 16, 2018.

“The APC gladiators in Ekiti should therefore emulate President Jonathan and the PDP by waiting till 2018 to try their luck again.”

Court Reinstates Senator Representing Abia Central

The Supreme Court today waived the Court of Appeal’s decision that ordered the removal of the Chairman Senate Committee on Gas, Senator Nkechi Nwogu, as the duly elected Senator representing Abia Central Senatorial District.

Presiding Justice Francis Adebiyi while setting aside the lower court’s decision of December 13th, 2011, said the sole ground for removing Senator Nwogu from office was not on election irregularities and non-compliance but a question of whether Osisioma Ngwa Local Government Area is part of the senatorial district.

The court held that “The 1st respondent, Hon. Emeka Atuma sought to explore victory by relying on an issue that is purely on delineation on Federal constituency. The lower court was wrong to have determined that Osisioma Ngwa was not part of the Abia Central Senatorial District”.

Osisioma Ngwa, according to the counsel to Senator Nwogu, Mr Lawan Rabbana, Osisioma Ngwa has always been part of Abia Central Senatorial District since the return to democratic rule in 1999 and wondered where Honourable Atuma obtained a purported letter which delineated Osisioma Ngwa out of the senatorial district in the 2011 general elections.