And I say to such lawyers claiming to defend human rights, where were our rights when their clients were sucking our national patrimony dry?
NO, No, No, forget it. This has nothing to do with last week’s politico-judicial abracadabra at the Code of Conduct Tribunal in Abuja. But those who surreptitiously inspired that theatre of absurd in which Nigerians were cast as simpletons, should please not add to our anguish, claiming they want to appeal it. Enough of that tomfoolery by the office of the Attorney-General, PACAC and the EFCC, an anti-corruption agency the government is increasingly presenting as toothless to the entire word by its several, curious rapprochement. Enough of all these political paddy paddy and welcome then to the next President of Nigeria, Olubukola Saraki, who has shown again, that he is always one ahead of his ‘traducers’. Okay, you don’t believe the CCT saga has nothing to do with this article and therefore need a proof? I assure my readers that the title, chosen way back Monday of the past week, was the result of these two reports in The Nation of that very day, Monday, 11 June, 2017: Supreme Court outlaws stay of proceedings in criminal trial, and the other, AGF, EFCC get court’s order to prosecute Ifeanyi Ubah, Capital Oil.
Unfortunately, long before that, Chief Justice Walter Onnoghen and his National Judicial Council, NJC, – yes, he owns it, doesn’t he, given the structure of the NJC? – has opened the hornet’s nest when at the body’s 82nd meeting on June 1, it recalled judges who had been suspended consequent upon a sting operation by the DSS during which it was discovered that homes of some of the judges were more financially buoyant than banking halls, swimming with cash, in diverse currencies, stocked up in bundles, with the judges looking like mere bank cashiers. On this subject, I would recommend no more than a good reading of Kunle Abimbola’s: ’Vandals at the court gate”, The Nation, 13 June, 2017 from which I take the following sampler: “But the courts themselves are no fiat from space. They are a creation of society: a set of legal Leviathans created by law to adjudicate disputes and punish crime. Remove that societal moral cover, and all the courts, with their arcane procedures and scholarship, become hollow jokes. If that would affect judges and lawyers alone, it would be fair comeuppance for NJC’s rashness. As the Yoruba would say, you don’t counsel a wilful child against growing crooked fore-teeth. The paralysing ugliness would impress him soon enough! Rather, it is the sad case of a wayward child, whose rascality soon entraps his community in avoidable ruin.”
Unfortunately, all that philosophical musing was beyond the cognition of the NJC. Pity.
Other than the above, one would have, with considerable justification, started to celebrate the Onnoghen era, which in some critical instances has already started reminding one of the golden era of the Nigerian judiciary; the days of Taslim Elias, Chukwudifu Oputa, Kayode Esho and the other greats this country has witnessed. A look then at the crucial instances.
SUPREME COURT OUTLAWS STAY OF PROCEEDINGS IN CRIMINAL TRIAL
Femi Falana SAN, if he is not pouring champagne already, must be so happy a horse could ride in his stomach. Or what have some rogue lawyers not done to make a complete mess of the Administration of the Criminal Justice Act (ACJA)? So nauseating was their roguery and near complete bastardisation of the Act that Biodun Jeyifo, a Professor, and highly regarded columnist with The Nation on Sunday, took weeks to interrogate ACJA in form of a dialogue with Femi Falana SAN. Against the opponents of the act who claim that the provisions in Sections 306 of ACJA and 40 of the EFCC Act prohibiting courts from staying proceedings in criminal trials was a violation of the constitutionally guaranteed right to appeal, the Supreme Court held, unequivocally, that granting a stay was unlawful, violating, not only the provisions of Section 306 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA), 2015,but Section 40 of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (Establishment) Act, 2004 as well. Justice Clara Ogunbiyi actually held that staying proceedings was violently in conflict with those provisions. The court further added that “the provisions of both laws were in conformity with the constitutional provision in Section 36(4), which provides that any person charged with a criminal offence “shall be entitled to fair hearing in public within a reasonable time.” That was the ruling of the apex court on the application for stay of proceedings brought by ex-spokesman of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP), Olisa Metuh.
EFCC must feel quite relieved with this noose off its neck as it has been one of the greatest tools in the hands of the lawyers who, in sheer moral depravity, have chosen to be arrayed against the anti corruption war which trumps every other election promise by President Buhari to the people of Nigeria. These lawyers, mostly of the silk category, some of who run to the television networks at prime time, spewing grammatical inanities on issues on which they smell the possibility of briefs, have done the greatest disservice to our country, representing, as they do, those who are hauled to courts for the heaviest heists ever. And I say to such lawyers claiming to defend human rights, where were our rights when their clients were sucking our national patrimony dry?
Their comeuppance will be inescapable.
AGF, EFCC GET COURT’S NOD TO PROSECUTE UBAH, CAPITAL OIL.
If anything would show, beyond a shadow of doubt, the utter depravity of the Goodluck Jonathan era, it must be this or the Ibori case as both are archetypical of the depth to which the judiciary of that era sank. It was an era in which those who held Jonathan captive throughout his forgettable years in power actually got away with murder. In the particular case of Ifeanyi Ubah, the man who kick started Jonathan’s campaign a whole one year ahead of INEC permission, using Transformation Ambassadors of Nigeria (TAN) as his special purpose vehicle and who would later, deservedly, profusely weep at the Villa on Jonathan’s defeat, curious would be an inadequate word to describe what happened. As in the Odili case, Ubah and his firm, Capital Oil, via separate letters from the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and a report by the ad-hoc Committee of the House of Representatives, were protected from being investigated or prosecuted over their alleged complicity in the massive petroleum subsidy scam Nigerians saw under a listless President Goodluck Jonathan. Can any word sufficiently describe this legal debauchery to which a permanently corrupt Nigerian National Assembly lent its awesome weight? It was this shame of a judicial decision that the court, in a unanimous judgment by a three-man panel, smashed to smithereens while giving its decision in the appeal initiated by the Chairman of the EFCC and AGF against the judgment of the Federal High Court, Abuja delivered on July 25, 2013 in a fundamental rights enforcement suit filed by Ubah and his firm. It was prosecuted by Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), with Ajibola Oluyede and Babs Akinwumi representing Ubah and Capital Oil. According to The Nation’s report, court documents revealed that trouble started for Ubah and his firm when the Presidential Committee on the Verification and Reconciliation of subsidy payments to petroleum marketers queried the payment of about N43.291billion subsidy payment to them on the ground that the process leading to the payment was suspicious. The case was referred to the Special Fraud Unit for investigation and it issued two interim reports dated November 2, 2012 and November 3, 2012, claiming that the transactions were suspicious. Then the Jonathan machine went to work and the following happened: the police, on February 28, 2013 issued a third report exonerating Ubah and his firm, the House of Representatives gave a similar verdict in its report of April 18, 2012 and the ever available AGF, in a legal advice to the EFCC Chairman and the IGP, dated October 2014, exonerated Ubah and his company from criminal liability.
Chief Justice Walter Onnoghen deserves plaudits – acclamation, acclaim and éclat – for leading the Nigerian judiciary that washed the county clean of that judicial rapacity and we look forward to more from where this came.
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