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Assault, Intimidation and Desecration of the Judiciary Must Stop – Nigerain Bar Association

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President Muhammadu Buhari and CJN-Walter Onnoghen

President Muhammadu Buhari and CJN-Walter Onnoghen


1. 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.

2. 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.

3. 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 theConstitution 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 a 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.

4. 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.

5. 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 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.

5. 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”.

6. 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.

Paul Usoro, SAN
President

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NABDA Set To Develop Sustainable Value Chain For Gum Arabic-DG

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BY SARAUNIYA G USMAN, ABUJA

The National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA) says the agency is poised to use biotechnology tools in developing
a sustainable value chain for improved productivity of gum Arabic in the country.

The acting Director-General of NABDA,Prof. Alex Akpa,said this at the 1st National Gum Arabic Biosciences and Biotechnology Stakeholders Session on Monday in Abuja.

The theme of the session is “Sustainable Exploitation of Gum Arabic for Socio-economic Development of Nigeria’’ which has in attendance, experts from
different fields as genomics, phylogeny, agronomy and related areas.

According to him, the goal of the session is to aggregate the perspectives and research results of experts in the fields on the best approach to carry out
the exploration and exploitation for gum Arabic for socio-economic development.

He said that “potentially, gum Arabic is an export crop that can add value to various sectors of Nigeria’s economy, most especially in the food
industry, biomedicine and afforestation, thereby contributing to national Gross Domestic Products (GDP).

“Gum Arabic is one of the most important crops in the mitigation of climate, hence the priority need for its massive cultivation in strategic areas of the country at the time in our history.

“NABDA is positioned to lead the use of biotechnological tools in developing a sustainable value chain of the crop for improved productivity.

“Specifically, shortening the maturity age of the crop, massive production of the seedling using tissue culture, enhancing the quality of the product
at molecular level, phylogenetic studies, among others, shall be our priorities.’’

Akpa said that the engagement was expected to lead to the development of actionable work plans on the crop to the benefit of the nation at large.

The acting Director, Agricultural Biotechnology Department, NABDA, Dr Nasiru Ibrahim,said that the meeting was to get all those involved in one way or the other in the field to make impactful inputs that would lead to sustainable research and development of the crop.

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Buhari speaks on INEC, elections, as details of meeting with EU observers emerge

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President Muhammadu Buhari

President Muhammadu Buhari

President Muhammadu Buhari, Tuesday, in Abuja told the European Union Observer Mission (EOM) to Nigeria’s elections starting in February, that he was impressed by the preparations made by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, and was optimistic that the electoral body would deliver on its mandate of a credible poll.

Receiving the EOM, led by the Chief Observer and member of the European Parliament, Maria Arena, at the State House, the President said he had listened earlier in the day, to the INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, when he briefed the National Council of State.

He said, “I am happy and impressed with the briefing he gave. I hope that the confidence he exuded and the intellect he brought to bear on the Report will be justified at the end of the day.”

The President told the EU delegation that Nigeria had grown its electoral system incrementally, getting better, year after year.

“Having participated in elections four times in the past, I would say that since 2015, technology has helped the credibility of our elections,” he said.

Buhari said that Nigeria with over 250 cultural groups across religions and ethnic groups, with each group canvassing for identity and primacy in the affairs of the nation, “patriotism demands that we identify the nation’s best interest and go with it.”

He stressed that the governing All Progressives Congress, APC, administration had the good sense of identifying the national interest to include security, peace and stability, improved economy, jobs creation and the campaign against corruption, noting that the party was not wrong in 2015, and is not wrong going into the election this year with the same issues in its campaigns.

The President thanked the delegation for taking interest in Nigeria’s elections, and in the affairs of the nation generally.

The EOM team, accompanied by Ambassador Ketil Karlsen, Head, European Delegation to Nigeria and ECOWAS, said that the EU had observed every election in Nigeria since 1999, and had come here again for the next one, following an invitation by INEC.

The delegation promised impartiality and neutrality in the monitoring of the elections.

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Housemaid exposed her boss for allegedly trying to use her for ritual

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A housemaid, Mary Mulembe reported her madam a business woman named Bridget Banda and a single mother of one to the police of ritual activities after she overheard her over the phone planning to sacrifice her life and a fellow worker.

Officers later followed up the issue yesterday morning and got the woman arrested after shocking the police with some fetish items found at her residence in Kabulonga area of Lusaka, Zambia. Believed to be used for rituals.

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