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More Trouble for Bawa as 250 Human rights Lawyers petition NJC to reject EFCC cases

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More Trouble for Bawa as 250 Human rights Lawyers petition NJC to reject EFCC cases

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The Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Abdulrasheed Bawa, may be in for fresh trouble as over 250 Constitutional and Human Rights lawyers have called on the National Judicial Council to direct all courts in Nigeria not to entertain cases brought before them by the EFCC.

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The lawyers, who said this was part of the resolutions reached at the end of their Annual Conference, with the theme: “Democracy and the Rule of Law”, held in Abuja between March 20 and 21, 2023, said it would only be appropriate for Nigerian courts to entertain EFCC cases when Bawa must have purged himself of contempt by obeying all subsisting Court orders binding on him.

They made the call during the presentation of their annual communique on Tuesday just as they called on political parties in Nigeria and their candidates to be conscious of the need to preserve Nigeria’s democracy by adhering to the provisions of the law guiding post-election matters.

Reading the communique, the newly elected President of the Judicial Integrity Lawyers (JILAW), Barrister Idoko Godwin, said, “Politicians were advised against sponsoring crises across the nation to demonstrate their grievance as sponsoring post-election crisis will negate the supremacy clause of our constitution as stated in Section 1(2) of the 1999 Constitution.

“Rather, every aggrieved individual or groups of individuals who which to govern nigeria or any part thereof should give total consideration to Section 1(2) of the 1999 Constitution and anything to the contrary will amount to subversion of the supreme law of the land. Thus any aggrieved individual should seek judicial redress as enshrined in the constitution.”

The lawyers observed that the timing of the conference was of great importance, considering the fact that the nation was still battling with the fallout of the various elections, adding that many salient issues regarding the place of the rule of law in Nigeria’s “struggling democracy” had been thrown up.

They noted that the persistent abuse of power by public officials in Nigeria was an aberration, which had attained notoriety as part of the fabric of the Nigerian society, insisting that equality before the law was the only true protection against the spectre of oppression and undue influence that those in positions of authority would otherwise dangle over the heads of ordinary Nigerians.

About 25 lawyers, representing the six geopolitical zones of Nigeria jointly presented the communique on behalf of the over 250 lawyers in JILAW.

The communique stated, “You will recall that it took the direct intervention of President Muhammadu Buhari for the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria to obey a lawful judgement of the Supreme Court, the highest Court in the land, on the naira redesign policy of the CBN. This was after the flagrant disobedience to the preliminary judgement of the same Supreme Court before the presidential elections were held.

“Even now, our meeting agreed that the Federal Government has not fully complied with the judgement with regard to other aspects of the policy, which has continued to put Nigerians through untold hardship.”

On the EFCC boss, the lawyers maintained that an official whose conviction was made by an order of a Court or Courts of competent jurisdiction, was not considered fit to continue presiding over the affairs of a law enforcement agency, especially one constitutionally set up to fight corruption.

“Our over 250 members have therefore urged President Muhammadu Buhari to, within the limited time left in the life of his administration, urgently address the dangerous culture of disobedience to the rule of law, assault on our Judiciary and ultimately ensure appropriate sanctions for the violators of the dictates of our constitution,” they said.

The Communique read in part: “In conclusion, we are stating that a country that has no regard to the decisions of its court is heading toward anarchy. Hence, we call on the National Judicial Council to direct all courts in the country to henceforth not entertain any cases brought before them by any agency of the government that disobeys court orders, especially EFCC, until the Chairman of EFCC, Mr. AbdulRasheed Bawa, has purged himself by obeying all subsisting Court orders binding on him.

“As an official whose conviction was made by an order of a Court or Courts of competent jurisdiction, we do not consider him fit to continue presiding over the affairs of a law enforcement agency, especially one constitutionally set up to fight corruption. You cannot use the corrupting influence of power to enforce anti-corruption laws.

“We consider it a ridiculous aberration that a convict would be in charge of getting others convicted when he should be serving time for contempt of Court and when there has been no superior judgement against the conviction.”

The lawyers seized the opportunity to announce the constitution of a new leadership thrown up after the JILAW election held on Monday.

They are: Barrister Idoko Godwin, President; Barr. Suleiman Gwamba, Vice President; Barr. Gaius Inalegwu, Secretary; Barr. Genesis John, Publicity Secretary; and Barr. Ann Ikwuta Onyeke, Welfare Officer, among others.

FULL TEXT

Dear Colleagues,

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

Gentlemen of the Press.

We want to formally welcome you to the Post-Annual Conference press briefing of Judicial Integrity Lawyers.

JILAW is a group of over 250 Constitutional and Human Rights lawyers who have, over the years, distinguished themselves in the defence of constitutional and human rights within the confines of Nigerian law.

Over the past few years too, Nigerians have looked forward to our interventions and positions, on several salient national issues, prominent among which, are issues regarding the laws of our lands, and our roles as legal practitioners.

The timing of this conference is of great importance, considering the fact that the nation is still battling with the fallout of the various elections, from Presidential to National Assembly, Governorship and the State House of Assembly polls. Accordingly, many salient issues regarding the place of the rule of law in our struggling democracy have been thrown up.

At our meeting, which started around 8pm on Monday and ended in the early hours of today (Tuesday), the need to protect the integrity of the Judiciary as aggrieved political parties and their candidates approach the courts was top on the agenda bearing in mind the fact ours is not a perfect society but our imperfection can be corrected by the strict adherence to the rule of law especially the decisions emanating from our courts.

Other issues raised were the need for candidates and political parties to be conscious of the need to preserve Nigeria’s democracy by adhering to the provisions of the law guiding post-election matters. Politicians were advised against sponsoring crises across the nation to demonstrate their grievance as sponsoring post election crisis will negate the supremacy clause of our constitution as stated in section 1(2) of the 1999 constitution. Rather, every aggrieved individual or groups of individuals who which to govern nigeria or any part thereof should give total consideration to Section 1(2) of the 1999 Constitution and anything to the contrary will amount to subversion of the supreme law of the land. Thus any aggrieved individual should seek judicial redress as enshrined in the constitution.

The worrisome trend of disobedience of court orders by officials saddled with the responsibility of piloting the affairs of the nation at different levels was also discussed at our meeting.

The Nigerian Constitution is the fon est origo of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and our legal system and the foundation of its government. To this end, its provisions are believed to be sacred and binding on all authorities and persons throughout the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

In addition, Section 9 of Part 1 of the Fifth Schedule of the Nigerian Constitution states clearly that “A public officer shall not do or direct to be done, in abuse of his office, any arbitrary act prejudicial to the rights of any other person knowing that such act is unlawful or contrary to any government policy.”

The above provision of our constitution points to the fact that the Nigerian constitution specifically bars public officers from acting in ways that may be oppressive to a citizen of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The constitution also, without prejudice to specific public office or officer under reference, bars public office holders from acting in ways that may be considered unlawful and contrary to any government policy.

Further more, one of the cardinal tenets enshrined by the constitution is the principle of separation of powers where each arm of government – Legislative, Judiciary and Executive – is an equal partner in the running of a successful nation.

It is for this reason that we are constrained to speak, on some recent actions of subversion of the principle of separation of powers, and the rule of law by some agencies of the Federal Government of Nigeria, some of which, have attracted the fury of Nigerians across the Civil Society, Media and even eminent senior lawyers, who consider the act of the disobedience to the rule of law, particularly the orders of our courts, as an assault on our constitution, that the President and every appointees of the government, in Nigeria, have sworn to uphold and defend.

We believe, that the persistent abuse of power by public officials in Nigeria is an aberration which has attained notoriety as part of the fabric of our society. We wish to state that equality before the law is the only true protection against the spectre of oppression and undue influence that those in positions of authority would otherwise dangle over the heads of ordinary Nigerians.

You will recall that it took the direct intervention of President Muhammadu Buhari for the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria to obey a lawful judgment of the Supreme Court, the highest Court in the land, on the naira redesign policy of the CBN. This was after the flagrant disobedience to the preliminary judgement of the same Supreme Court before the presidential elections were held.

Even now, our meeting agreed that the Federal Government has not fully complied with the judgement with regard to other aspects of the policy, which has continued to put Nigerians through untold hardship.

Another disturbing example of one of those institutions that have become notorious for totally disregarding the sanctity of our Courts and continuously infringing on the human rights of citizens, is the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

The implications of the continued disregard for Nigeria’s Judiciary and disobedience to our laws, are beyond individual victims or the integrity of these agencies. Both at home and abroad, this badge of shame stains our collective national consciousness and makes a daily mockery of Nigerian laws.

Our over 250 members have therefore urged President Muhammadu Buhari to, within the limited time left in the life of his administration, urgently address the dangerous culture of disobedience to the rule of law, assault on our Judiciary and ultimately ensure appropriate sanctions for the violators of the dictates of our constitution.

In conclusion, we are stating that a country that has no regard to the decisions of its court is heading toward anarchy. Hence, we call on the National Judicial Council to direct all courts in the country to henceforth not entertain any cases brought before them by any agency of the government that disobeys court orders, especially EFCC, until the Chairman of EFCC, Mr. AbdulRasheed Bawa, has purged himself by obeying all subsisting Court orders binding on him.

As an official whose conviction was made by an order of a Court or Courts of competent jurisdiction, we do not consider him fit to continue presiding over the affairs of a law enforcement agency, especially one constitutionally set up to fight corruption. You cannot use the corrupting influence of power to enforce anti-corruption laws.

We consider it a ridiculous aberration that a convict would be in charge of getting others convicted when he should be serving time for contempt of Court and when there has been no superior judgement against the conviction.

Finally, we wish to use this opportunity to announce the constitution of a new leadership for the Association, which is to be led by Barrister Idoko Godwin, President, Barr. Suleiman Gwamba Vice President, Bar. Gaius Inalegwu, Secretary, Bar. Genesis John Publicity Secretary and, Bar. Ann Ikwuta Onyeke as Welfare Officer.

Nigeria is under a democracy, and all forms of impunity must be tackled by those who genuinely love our country and are interested in the survival of our democracy. The rule of law cannot be selectively applied.

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