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Understanding Anti-Terror Laws In Nigeria

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The importance of knowledge cannot be overemphasized, knowledge
is power and understanding makes for outstanding. Through knowledge, a house is
built and by understanding it is preserved.

What is terrorism?

The Webster dictionary, 11th Edition defines terrorism to
mean:

“the systematic use of terror especially as a means of
coercion”3

While the Black’s Law Dictionary, 7th Edition defines the
word as:

“the use of threat of violence to intimidate or cause panic
especially as a means of affecting political conduct”4

The U.S department of Defence defines the same word to mean:

“the calculated use of unlawful violence or threat of
unlawful violence to inculcate fear; intended to coerce or to intimidate
governments or societies in the pursuit of goals that are generally political,
religious, or ideological”5

To the FBI

“Terrorism is the unlawful use of force and violence against
persons or properties to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian
population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social
objectives”6

About 1992, the United Nations came up with their own
definition of what amounts to terrorism when they said that:

“Terrorism is an anxiety – inspiring method of repeated
violent action, employed by semi-clandestine individuals, group or state
actors, for idiosyncratic, criminal or political reasons, whereby – in contrast
to assassination – the direct targets of violence are not the main targets”7

The British Government also defined the same word to mean:

“…the use of violence for political ends, and includes any
use of violence for the purpose of putting the public, or any section of the
public, in fear”8

Common to these definitions are 3 (three) key elements,
Violence, fear and Intimidation.

The Prevention of Terrorism Act was enacted in 2011 by the
Nigerian National Assembly. It does not provide technically speaking, for the
definition of terrorism but it elaborately detailed out what the Act considers
as an act of terrorism. In the words of Section 1(2) of the Act, an act of
terrorism means; “an act which is deliberately done with malice, aforethought
and which:

(a)May seriously harm or damage a country or an
international organization;

(b) Is intended or can reasonably be regarded as having been
intended to –

(i)Unduly compel a government or international organization
to perform or abstain from performing any act;

(ii)Seriously intimidate a population,

(iii)Seriously destabilize or destroy the fundamental
political, constitutional, economic or social structures of a country or an
international organization, or

(iv)Otherwise influence such government or international
organization by intimidation or coercion; and

(c)Involves or causes, as the case may be:-

(i)An attack upon a person’s life which may cause serious
bodily harm or death;

(ii)Kidnapping of a person;

(iii) Destruction to a government or public facility,
transport system, an infrastructural facility including an information system,
a fixed platform located on the continental shelf, public place or private
property likely to endanger human life or result in major economic loss.

(iv) The seizure of an aircraft, ship or other means of
public or goods transport and diversion or the use of such means of
transportation for any of the purposes in paragraph (b) (iv) of this
subsection:

(v)        The
manufacture, possession, acquisition, transport, supply or use of weapons,
explosives or of nuclear, biological or chemical weapons, as well as research
into, and development of biological and chemical weapons without lawful  authority;

(vi)The release of dangerous substance or causing of fire,
explosions or floods, the effect of which is to endanger human life;

(vii)Interference with or disruption of the supply of water,
power or any other fundamental natural resource, the effect of which is to
endanger human life;

(d)An act or omission in or outside Nigeria which
constitutes an offence within the scope of a counter terrorism protocols and
conventions duly ratified by Nigeria.

The Act in Section 1(1) criminalized the following as an
offence under the Act.

(1) “A person who knowingly;

(a)Does, anything or threatens to do an act preparatory to,
or in furtherance of an act of terrorism;

(b) Any person who knowingly omits to do anything that is
reasonably necessary to prevent an act of terrorism; or

(c) Any person who knowingly assists or facilitates the
activities of persons engaged in an act of terrorism commits an offence under
the Prevention of Terrorism Act, 2011″9

Because of the nature of this crime, new line of offences
appeared to have been created by the Act. Under the regular criminal law,
conspiracy to commit an offence is an offence just like the act itself which
constitutes the offence. However, under the terrorism law, the law punishes not
only conspiracy and the main crime or offence but also, the law creates new class
of offences such as preparations for an act of terror, omission to do anything
to prevent an act of terror and also conspiracy to prepare for act.

It should be recognized that the law, and this is
understandably so, intends speedy intervention at an early stage of the
commission of an offence in order to prevent destruction of lives and
properties on a large scale.

This point is firmly captured by your President and
Secretary when they said in their letter of invitation that:

“in view of the key role the Editor played in information
dissemination, influencing, molding public opinion and conveying messages and
data, it is imperative that he or she is properly positioned to not only
understand the issues of National Security but also the Philosophy underpinning
them”10

The Editors occupy very strategic platforms in information
management. While a piece of information carefully and strategically managed
can make, build and construct a nation, on the other hand, a piece of
information carelessly or recklessly handled can destroy and set fire on it.
There is therefore the need I believe to strategically manage information if we
must together build our nation.

Several questions may present themselves to the Editor
particularly when in touch with a sensitive information.

Does he go ahead to publish or authorize the publication of
the information as raw as they are, adding nothing and subtracting nothing
having no regard for its consequences? Or does he tone it down? Or better
still, does he withhold the publication of the information outrightly,
particularly if it is capable of imparting negatively on public peace, public
safety and National security? How does he exercise this discretarion
particularly when dealing on sensitive and delicate security issues?

DUTY OF DISCLOSURE OF INFORMATION

Section 7 of the Prevention of Terrorism Act, 2011 talked
about information regarding Acts of Terrorism and how it should be handled.

In the words of the Section,

(1)“Subject to subsections (2), (3) and (4) of this section,
where a person has information which he knows or believes to be of material
assistance in –

(a)Preventing the commission by another person or an
organization of an act of terrorism; or

(b)Securing the apprehension, persecution or conviction of
another person for an offence under this Act, and that person fails to disclose
to a law enforcement officer the information as soon as reasonably practicable;
he commits an offence under this Act and shall on conviction be liable to
imprisonment for a maximum term of 10 years.

(2)It is a defence for a person charged und subsection (1)
of this section to prove that he has reasonable excuse for not making the
disclosure.

(3)Subsection (1) of this section does not require
disclosure by a legal practitioner of any information, which he obtained in
privileged circumstances.

(4)For the purpose of subsection (3) of this section, an
information is obtained by a legal practitioner in privileged circumstances
where it is disclosed to him by-

(a)His client in connection with the provision of legal
advice, not being a disclosure with view to furthering a criminal purpose; or

(b)Any person for the purpose of actual or contemplated
legal proceeding, and not with a view to furthering a criminal purpose”11

The law imposes a duty on any person who has any information
which he knows or believes to be of material assistance in preventing the
commission of an act of terrorism or any information which he knows or believes
to be material in securing the apprehension, prosecution and conviction of any
person for the commission of an offence of terrorism to disclose such
information to relevant authorities.

Failure to discharge this duty amounts to an offence under
the Act and it’s punishable upon conviction by imprisonment for a maximum term
of 10 years. The Act does not provide for a minimum term of imprisonment.
Therefore, it is safe to say that the presiding judge may impose a prison
sentence of any period between 1 day and 10 years on any person exercising his
discretion judicially and judiciously but certainly, not capriciously.

Section 7(2) however provides a saving grace by creating a
defence of reasonable excuse for non-disclosure of information. Reasonable
excuse was not defined by the Act and I think this is a serious omission. It is
my suggestion that the defence of “reasonable excuse” as provided in the Act,
ought to have the same meaning as the defence of “lawful excuse” provided in
Section 123 of the Criminal Law of Lagos State 2011. The Section states that;

“Any person who without lawful excuse, the proof of which
lies on him disobeys any lawful order issued by any person authorized by any
Act, Law or Regulation to make the Order, is guilty of a misdemeanor, unless
some mode of proceeding against him for such disobedience is expressly provided
by Act, Law of Regulation and is intended to be exclusive of all other
punishments”12

The test is both subjective and objective.

In the case of WONGPOOH YIN V. PUBLIC PROSECUTOR13 the
judicial Committee of the Privy Council laid down the rule that there are both
objective and subjective tests to be applied when considering the defence of
lawful excuse. The Defendants must honestly believe that they had a lawful
excuse to resist an order. Whilst objectively, the defendant must show that
they were reasonably justified in holding their view. This was a trial for an
offence of disobedience to a lawful order under Section 203 of the Code, the
section provided the defence of lawful excuse to the accused person if he can
show that he has lawful excuse to disobey the order.

In Cambridge Shaire Country Council V. Rust,14 the defence
of lawful excuse was interpreted to mean;

“Either an authority or a reasonable believe in the
authority:

According to the presiding judge in that case

“a very clear and simple way of describing “excuse” in this
context is a reasonable believe that you have the right to do what you seek to
do”15

I hasten to say that the above reference being a foreign
authority is only a guide.

The law will have to be interpreted by the Court in order to
know the extent of the defence provided for a person accused of non-disclosure
of information to be able to resist liability. Suffice it to say however, that
where the defence of reasonable excuse succeeds, it totally absolved the
accused from liability. Please note that the burden of proof lies on him who
seeks to raise the defence.

THE JOURNALISTS’ PRIVILEGE

It is a common knowledge that the journalists cannot be
compelled to disclose their sources of information. Often, they are anxious to
protect the confidentiality of their source, perhaps relying on the
Constitutional protection guaranteed them by Section 39(1) and (3) of the
Constitution.16

Section 39(1) provides as follows:

“Every person shall be entitled to freedom of expression,
including freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart ideas and
information without interference.

(3)        Nothing in
this section shall invalidate any law that is reasonably justifiable in a
democratic society-

(a)for the purpose of preventing the disclosure of inflation
received in confidence…”17

It is submitted that Section 39(1) and (3) of the
Constitution protect and guarantee the right to freedom of expression,
including the freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart ideas and
information without interference. (Emphasis is mine). This provisions
constitute the basis for what is generally referred to as the ‘Journalists’
privilege’.

Whether the provisions of Section 7 of the Prevention of
Terrorism Act compelling the disclosure of an information aimed at achieving
the objectives therein will be considered as protected by the Constitution and
therefore valid, in the sense that, it is a law reasonably justifiable in a
democratic society is a moot point until same has been subjected to the
interpretative jurisdiction of the court.

However, if I am permitted to postulate, it is my humble
suggestion that, as an enactment which touches on public safety and National
security, the courts are likely to uphold the validity of the section.

Sebastine T. Hon. SAN has argued in his book “Law of
Evidence in Nigeria Substantive & Procedural”18 that in addition to relying
on Section 39(1) of the Constitution quoted above; journalists could also rely
on Section 10 of the English Contempt of Court Act, 1981 through the window
provided by Section 5(a) of the Evidence Act.

Section 5(a) provides as follows:

“Nothing in this Act shall –

(a)Prejudice the admissibility of any evidence which would
apart from the provisions of this Act be admissible”19

In Maxwel V. Pressdram Ltd.20, the Defendants were sued for
libel. They pleaded justification and deposed to an affidavit that the
information leading to the publication was derived from “highly placed source”
The Plaintiff sought to compel the Defendants to disclose/reveal the source of
their information. The Defendants refused and relied on the provisions of
Section 10 of the Act. The Court held that the Defendants were perfectly
entitled to the protection offered by the section and that it was not in the
“interest of justice” to order the Defendants to disclose their source.

Also in X. LTD. V. MORGAN – GRAMPLAN PUBLISHERS LTD.21 The
House of Lord ruled that the Plaintiff who was suing for libel ought to be told
by the Defendant press house of a “mole” within the Plaintiffs organization
which had leaked the information to the press house. The House of Lords went
further to find the press house guilty of contempt for failure to name their
source of information and awarded damages. Similar decision was reached in the
case of CAMELOT V. GROUP PLC V. CENTAUR COMMUNICATIONS LTD.22 I think it is
important to make the point here that there is no definitive definition of the
phrase “in the interest of justice” If anything, the competing interest of both
parties must always be considered and balanced. It is submitted that the Court
must not make the habit of learning in favour of pressmen to the prejudice of
the other party, particularly when the security of the State is involved.

The phrase “National Security” came up for discussion in the
English case of SECRETARY OF STATE FOR DEFENCE V. GUARDIAN NEWSPAPERS LTD.23 In
this case, a document tagged “SECRET” was prepared in the Ministry of Defence
and addressed to the Prime Minister. A day after it was prepared, Guardian
Newspaper got a photocopy of the document and subsequently went ahead to
publish it. Nobody knew how the organization got the document.

In an action against the Newspaper to disclose its source of
information and return the document in the same way it got it, the Newspaper
organization sought refuge under Section 10 of the 1981 Act which effectively
restricted the powers of the court to order disclosure of source of
information.

The Court of Appeal held that on its true construction, the
cited law restricts the court’s inherent jurisdiction relating to the
disclosure of documents. However, that the court can order a disclosure where
it was necessary in the interest amongst other things of national security.
That the crown was entitled to the return of the document in question because it
had satisfied the court that there was a risk to national security, unless the
person that leaked the document to the press could be found. It was the further
opinion of the Court that the risk did not lie in the publication of the
document, but in the fact that a servant of the crown who was in a position to
handle a material classified as “Secret” was in breach of his duty of trust.

In the very words of Lord justice Griffiths;

“The press have always attached the greatest importance to
their ability to protect their sources of information,… I would therefore
construe this section as enjoining the court not to make any order that will
have the result of requiring a person to disclose the source of information
unless it is established to the satisfaction of the court that disclosure is
necessary in the interests of justice or national security or for the
prevention of disorder or crim. Prima facie, therefore, I would have held that
the Guardian was entitled to the protection of section 10.

However, in the particular circumstances of this case, I
have no doubt that it should be ordered to hand over the document forthwith
because it is in my view clearly established that it is necessary in the
interests of national security that the source from which this document came
should be identified…The threat to national security lies in the fact that
someone, probably in a senior position and with access to highly classified
material, cannot be trusted.”

Lord Justice Griffiths continued –

“Nobody knows what other documents of a far more sensitive
nature he may be prepared to copy or to whom he may be prepared to show them.
So long as he is unidentified he presents a very serious threat to our national
security”.24

Confirming this decision, the House of Lords the highest Court
in England had this to say:

“Finally, the last sentence, although elliptically
expressed, makes it, to my mind, clear that the risk to national security that
the government feared lay not in the publication of the particular document of
which the delivery up was sought, but in the possibility … that whoever leaked
that document might leak in future other classified documents disclosure of
which would have much more serious consequences on national security… My Lords,
that is why, after attempting to apply the necessary mental gymnastics, I feel
compelled to range myself with those of you who, in agreement with all three
members of the Court of Appeal, consider that the evidential material that was
before that Court at the interlocutory stage on 16th December, 1983 was
sufficient to establish that immediate delivery up of the document was
necessary in the interests of national security”.

It must be noted that the Courts in Nigeria are not bound by
the decisions of English Courts Stricto senso. However, they serve as
persuasive authorities. The cases cited above can serve as a useful guide in
construing the provisions of Section 7 of the Prevention of Terrorism Act, 2011
titled: information about acts of terrorism.

It does appear to me, that the provision of Section 7 of the
Act in view of the serious and compelling nature of the class of offence may
take precedent over what we generally know as journalist privilege or the
Editors/Reporters protection from being compelled to testify about confidential
information or to disclose sources of their information.

Other very significant sections of the Act include but not
limited to Section 9 which empowers the President of the Federal Republic of
Nigeria on the recommendation of the National Security Adviser or the inspector
General of Police to declare any person or organization to be involved in the
commission, preparation or instigation of acts of international terrorism or
any person who belong to an international terrorist group or who has a link
with an international terrorist group and he reasonably believes that the
person is a risk to national security to be a Suspected International
Terrorist.

Section 10 provides for suppression of financing to
terrorist organizations. Anyone who directly or indirectly provides or collects
funds with the intention or knowledge that they will be used in full or in part
to commit an offence under the Act shall be guilty of an offence on conviction
of which he shall be liable to imprisonment for a maximum term of 10 years.

So also any person who directly or indirectly provides or
collects funds with the intention or knowledge that they will be used, in full
or in part in order to do any act intended to cause death or serious bodily
injury to a civilian or any other person not taking active part in the
hostilities in a situation of armed conflict, when the purpose of such act is
by its nature is to intimidate a group of people or to compel a government or
an international organization to do or abstain from doing any act commits an offence
under the Act and shall on conviction be liable to imprisonment for a maximum
term of 10 years.

By virtue of Section 12(1) of the Act, the National Security
Adviser or the Inspector General of Police with the approval of Mr. President
may seize any cash where he has reasonable grounds to suspect that the cash is
intended –

(a)To be used for purposes of terrorism;

(b)Belongs to or is held on trust  for a proscribed organization.

The NSA or the IGP may seize the cash in the course of
conducting a search, or affecting an arrest or when the property is liable to
forfeiture upon Court Order pursuant to an application to that effect by the
Attorney General of the Federation, the NSA or the IGP with the approval of Mr.
President. An order of seizure shall last at first instance for 60 days or
until the production of the cash in Court in a proceeding against any person
for an offence with which the cash was connected. See Section 12(1) – (6) of
the Act. The Act defined “Cash” under section 12 (8) to mean coins, Notes in
any currency, postal order, Travelers cheques Banksers’ drafts or Bonds.

By virtue of Section 14 of the Act, a Financial Institution
or designated non-financial institution shall within a period of not more than
72 hours forward reports of suspicious transactions relating to terrorism to
the Financial Intelligence Unit which shall process such information and
forward it to the relevant law enforcement agency where they have sufficient
reasons to suspect that the funds;

(a)Are intended to be used for an act of terrorism whether
derived from legal or illegal sources.

(b)Are proceeds of crime related to terrorist financing or

(c)Belong to a person entity or organization considered as
terrorist.

Failure to comply with this directive, the Financial Intelligence
Unit can impose administrative sanctions once it is shown that the failure is
not deliberate. But where the institution continues with the breach indicative
of deliberate intention not to comply, it shall on conviction be liable to a
minimum of Five (5) Million Naira or imprisonment for maximum term of five (5)
years for the principal officers of the institution or the defaulting
officer.25

Section 24 empowers
the Attorney General of the Federation, the National Security Adviser or the
Inspector General of Police for the purposes of prevention or detection of
offences or the prosecution of offenders under the Act to give such directions
as may appear to him to be necessary to any communication service provider.
This is for purposes of intelligence gathering.

MONEY LAUNDERING

The Prohibition of Money Laundering Act No. 7 of 2003 is
also pertinent here. It is unlawful under the law for any person to make or
accept cash payment of a sum exceeding Five Hundred Thousand Naira in case of
any individual or Two Million Naira in case of a body corporate except in a
transaction through a financial institution26.

Similarly, a transfer to or from Foreign country of funds or
securities of a sum exceeding 10,000 US Dollars or it equivalent shall be
reported to the Central Bank of Nigeria indicating the nature and amount of the
transfer, the names and addresses of the sender and receiver of the funds or
securities.

Several obligations are imposed on the Financial
Institutions by this Act with accompany sanctions for their breaches by the
Financial Institutions such as the need to verify a customer’s identity and
address before opening an account.27 The need to seek information from the
customer as to the origin and the destination of funds in any transaction28, the
need to keep customers records i.e. customers identification and record of
transaction for at least 10 years.29 The financial institution is also
obligated to report to the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency within 7 days
any single transaction, lodgment or transfer of funds in excess of
N1,000,000:00 (One Million Naira) or its equivalent in the case of individual
and N5,000,000:00 (Five Million Naira) or its equivalent in the case of a body
corporate.30 The Agency has power under the law to investigate the source of
the fund and if found to be criminal or atleast questionable, may seek further
information on the transaction from the Financial Institution. Please note that
funds may be ordered to be blocked if an order stopping the transaction is obtained
by the Agency from the Federal High Court.31 Essentially, the motive behind
some of these draconian provisions I believe is to block sources of fund to
terrorist organizations or individuals suspected to be terrorist, apart from
creating the offence of money laundering simplicita.

THE CRIMINAL CODE

Let me spend some few minutes on the Criminal Code. This is
because some of the acts that have been classified as terrorist acts under the
specialized Laws discussed above are not totally uncovered by the Criminal Code
of the Federation or the Criminal Law of the States. Furthermore, it must be
stated that the offences of conspiracy and attempt which are inchoate in nature
are all provided for in our Criminal Laws.

For instance, Section 516 of the Criminal Code makes it an
offence for any person to conspire with another to commit any felony either in
Nigeria or any part of the world which if done in Nigeria would be a felony and
if found guilty on conviction will be liable to imprisonment of 7 (seven) years
if no other punishment is provided.

There is a similar provision in the Lagos State Criminal
Law32 and other States of the Federation. Conspiracy to commit an offence other
than felony (i.e. a misdemeanor) attracts imprisonment of 2 (two) years on
conviction.33 For the avoidance of doubt, felony is “any offence which is
declared by law to be a felony, or is punishable, without proof of previous
conviction, with death or with imprisonment for three years or more”34.

It is the law that conspiracy as an offence is the agreement
by two or more persons to do or cause to be done an illegal act or legal act by
illegal means. The actual agreement alone constitutes the offence. Prove can be
achieved through direct or circumstantial evidence including inference from some
proved acts. See OBIAKOR V. THE STATE35, POPOOLA V. C.O.P36 It must also be
noted that the agreement by two or more persons to do an illegal act or a legal
act by illegal means is sufficient, to ground an offence. The actual commission
of the offence is unnecessary. See MUMUNI & ORS. V. THE STATE37.

Similar argument goes for the offence of Attempt. Any person
who attempts to commit a felony or misdemeanor is guilty of an offence which
unless otherwise stated is a misdemeanor. Where it is an attempt to commit a
felony punishable with death or imprisonment of 14 (fourteen) years and above,
a person convicted of an attempt unless otherwise provided is liable on
conviction to 7 (seven) years imprisonment38. But where it is an attempt of a
misdemeanor, if no other punishment is provided, the punishment is one half of
the greatest punishment to which an offender convicted of the offence which he
attempted to commit is liable39.

Perhaps, The Prevention of Terrorism Act 2011 has only
captioned in one codified form, several offences in the Criminal Code of both
the Federation and the States although there is no direct heading titled
terrorism is the Code. However, a critical examination of the Code will reveal
that specific acts or omissions which constitute offences under the Act also
constitute offences under the Criminal Code (C.C). For example, Arson – Sec.
443 of C.C. Killing of human being – Sec. 306 of C.C. Attempt to destroy
property by explosive – Sec. 452 of C.C. Sending letters threatening to burn or
destroy property – Sec. 461 of C.C. Destroying or damaging an inhabited house
or a vessel with explosions – Sec. 451 of
C.C Attempts at extortion by threats – Sec. 407 of C.C. Kidnapping –
Sec. 364 of C.C. Disturbing religious worship – Sec. 206 of the C.C. etc.

CONCLUSION

From the above, can it be seriously contended that our
statute Books lack relevant provisions to outlaw and sanction acts that are
generally harmful or dangerous to the society and its people in Nigeria
including but not limited to the security challenges facing the nation today?

The Nigerian Police Force is saddled with the general
responsibility for “the prevention and detection of crime, the apprehension of
offenders, the preservation of law and order, the protection of life and
property and the due enforcement of all laws and regulations with which they
are directly charged” how effective has the Nigeria Police Force been able to
discharge these onerous responsibilities?

How far indeed can they go in this highly compelling
statutory assignment within the circumstances under which they presently
operates? What is the role of investigation of crime and enforcement of laws
including maintenance of law and order in all this? What is the place of prompt
intervention, thorough investigation, effective and efficient performance of
the Nigeria Police as we see in other Nations of the world?

Even for the respectable and respected 4th estate of the
realm, have they not dumped investigative journalism for ‘reportorial’
journalism? How much of Boko Haram phenomenon do we know? Mr. John Campbell the
former U.S ambassador to Nigeria said:

“Boko Haram once an obscure, radical Islamic court in the
North, is evolving into an insurrection with support among the impoverished and
alienated Northern population”.

For me this is very instructive because it raises yet a
number of questions. Is Boko Haram insurrection a fight against class
oppression? Is it driven by poverty and alienation? Alienation from what? From
power? Is it a fight against government over what the fighters regard as their
rights?

Another commentator said that if the insurrection and
confrontations in the northern part of the country are indeed reactions to
class oppression, why are mosques exempted from attacks? What are the specific
motives driving the Boko Haram? I have no answers to these questions. I believe
there is a compelling need for Nigeria authorities to scientifically and
intellectually identify the cause of this phenomenon and positively address
them. Afterall, it is said that “One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom
fighter.”40

I believe it is the duty of the press to dig up information,
thoroughly investigate it, publish their findings and focus the attention of
the public to the findings in other to change the society for the better. Yet
another question, how far can the press go in the face of patently innumerable
acts of self imposed censorship that we see and feel today? Can the Police
Force and other security agents function effectively and efficiently without
useful information from the public, particularly the gentlemen of the press? I
recognize that every great destiny rides on the wheel of information. This is
true not in the life of individuals but also in the life of a nation. There is
no substitute for information in our quest for change of position in life.
Information infuses motivation and motivation provokes action required to
arrive at a destination. Once you lack information, you will lack motion.

Being a paper delivered by Dele Adesina SAN at the 8th All
Nigerian Editors Conference held at Uyo, Akwa Ibom State on Friday, September
14th, 20121

 

Dele Adesina, SAN

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Law/Judiciary

As Nwanosike Resolves Protracted Chieftaincy Crisis In Elele…

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The protracted Traditional Chieftaincy crisis in Elele Kingdom in Ikwerre Local Government Area of Rivers State, which had defied all solutions, including the intervention of Supreme Council of Ikwerre Traditional Rulers, has finally come to an end with the intervention of the indefatigable, vibrant and hardworking Chairman of Ikwerre Local Government Council, Hon. Samuel Nwanosike.
The Mediation of three- year old Chieftaincy Crisis between His Royal Majesty Eze Jonathan Amadi, Nyewe-Ali Okaniali Ni Alimini and Chief Okechukwu Okah and his group took the diligent LGA Chairman and his committee comprising of erudite sons and daughters of Elele kingdom three consecutive days, lasting up to 8pm each day to resolve.
In an interview with journalists who visited the Ikwerre Local Government Council headquarters at Isiokpo, on a fact finding mission to ascertain the veracity of the panel under his watch, the executive Chairman of Ikwerre Local Government Council, Hon Samuel Nwanosike, stated thus: “Power comes from God; as far as we are concerned, peace has returned to Elele, lot of people misconstrued the disagreement between the persons in the traditional institutions in Elele, I didn’t want to go into the matter because it has been resolved, the Chairman, Elele Kingdom Council of Chiefs are here to thank us for the good works.”
The Ikwerre LGA boss noted that he had taken pains to ensure that total peace reigned in Elele and gave all the glory to God.
According to him, “the committee under my watch resolved that all indiscriminate titles according to the publication by His Royal Majesty on Guardian Newspaper of August 27, 2018 should be dropped.
His Royal Majesty affirmed that he conferred Chief Okechukwu Okah, Chief, (Barr) Emma, Chief (Barr) James O. Amadi as Palace Chiefs while Magistrate (Chief) Justice O. Amadi was conferred as Palace Legal Adviser.
Engineer Nwanosike also added that the palace had warned that no one should attach to himself any title not given to him by the Royal Majesty or state government in any form (either through electronic medium or inscribe such titles in their houses or cars), and noted that the position of the law was clear in Rivers State as only the governor has the instrument of the law to recognise or create stools of Royal Highness even as he confirmed that the panel recommended that the Council of Chiefs should  perform the traditional recognition of rites and royalties to his Royal Majesty, Eze Jonathan Amadi, Nyenwe-Ali Okani-ali-Ni-Alimini as well as all meetings should be at the palace of the Royal Majesty.
There was no peace in Elele prior to the intervention of the peace and reconciliation committee set up by Hon. Samuel Nwanosike. The rift between Ngwele stool, His Royal Majesty, Eze J.O.G Amadi  JP, Nyenwe- Ali Omenele Ni- Alimini and the Council of Elders (Nde Ohna) on one side and Elele Council of Chiefs (Nde Eze) on the other side was palpable.
Consequently, the Ikwerre Council boss formed a peace panel conmprising of few well-meaning sons and daughters of Elele, drawn from communities that make up Elele Kingdom to consider the remote and immediate causes of the misunderstanding.
The peace and reconciliation committee met with the  Council of Elders (Nde Ohna) on 20th May,2021 and the council of Chiefs (Nde Eze) on the 6th and 11th of June, 2021 to consider their grievances, and proffer solutions that will bring a lasting peace. The peace committee, having heard all the parties involved, and reached the following findings and resolutions as hereunder stated:
Council of Elders (Nde-Ohna)
That there exist two factions in the council of Elders (Nde-Ohna), one side for his Royal Majesty, Eze J.O.G., Amadi, (JP) Nyenwe-Ali Omenele Ni-Alimini and the other side for Chief Okechukwu Okah.
That some stools in the Council of Elders (Nde Ohna) are in contention
That the problem started when part of Elele Shrine (Igbo Onino) was acquired and compensation paid to the community by the company dualising Elele- Owerri road and some members of Ohna and Chiefs embezzled the money meant for the fencing of the place.
That a shop was erected at the front of the shrine which exposed the secret altar of the gods of the land which made Ohna Lawrence Elechi to insist that the shop must be removed but the custodian of Ngwele stool refused.
That the council of Elders was induced with money to do Chief Okechukwu Okah’s biddings, to which some of them confessed.
That committee observed that the exorbitant charge on the entrants into the Council of Elders (Nde-Ohna) was very worry-some.
B.  Resolution
The Council of Elders (Nde-Ohna) should perform the traditional recognition of rites and royalty to HRM Eze J.O.G Amadi, JP (Ogba- ban obiri, ya-ni orikota)
There should be no division between the Royal Majesty and the Council of the Elders (Nde-Ohna)
There should be no sectional or splinter meetings by any member(s) except the meetings that will be held in the palace of His Royal majesty.
All meetings of Nde-Ohna shall henceforth not be held without the express knowledge and approval of His Royal Majesty.
Person(s) that gained entrance into the Ohna Council due to altercations among the leadership of Omenele are therefore advised to withdraw and allow the bona fide members of the ohna to perform their traditional rites. This decision affects Police Inspector Marcus Elechi of Omukerenyi, Samuel Onyekeozu Ilo of Omuoluma and Samuel Umenwo of Omuohua.
His Royal Majesty should please in that vein accept all members of the council of Elders (Nde- Ohna) back to his fold as the tradtion demands.

  1.  Elele Council Of Chiefs (Nde-Eze)
    A.  Findings:
    That there appears to be many grey areas in the title holdings amongst the chiefs in Elele Traditional Council of Chiefs. These different titles had caused a break down in the unity and peace among the members of Elele Council of Chiefs. Such titles as Eze Ali, His Royal Highness, instead of the palace chiefs and palace legal adviser as conferred on Chief Okechukwu Okah, Chief Barr Emma Okah, Chief Barr James Amadi by His Royal Majesty.
    That there exist two factions in the Council of Chiefs (Nde-Eze); one side for his Royal Majesty, Eze J.O.G Amadi (JP) Nyenwe-Ali Omenele Ni Alimini and the other side led by Chief Okechukwu Okah.
    That the election conducted by Elele Council of Chiefs as approved by His Royal Majesty was Inconclusive due to ties of 10:10 votes on chairmanship position.
    That the committee observed that there were unnecessary lobbying by the two contestants. 
    That there is a matter in Choba Magistrate Court instituted by Chief Okechukwu Okah and Magistrate (Chief) Justice O. Amadi against His Royal Majesty, Elele Council of Chiefs (Nde-Eze) and Elele Council of Elders (Nde-Ohna). Also, a matter in the Isiokpo High Court by His Royal Majesty challenging the Court releifs granted to Chief Okechukwu Okah and Magistrate (Chief) Justice O. Amadi
    The committee observed that the exorbitant charges on the entrants into the Council of Chiefs (Nde-Eze) was worrisome.
     In view of the above therefore, the committee resolved as follows;
    All indiscriminate titles according to the publication by his Royal Majesty on Guardian Newspaper of August 27, 2018 should henceforth be dropped. His  Royal Majesty affirms that he only conferred Chief Okechukwu Okah, Chief (Barr) Emma Okah and Chief (Barr) James Amadi as palace Legal adviser and not the acclaimed “Eze Ali, His Royal Highness or His Highness”, of which Chief (Barr) James Amadi confirmed His Royal Majesty’s position as the true title he conferred on them.
    The panel warns that no one should attach to himself any title not given by the Royal Majesty or the State Government in any forms (either through Electronics media, inscribe such titles on their houses or cars etc) because the position of the law is clear in the River State Chieftaincy law which is the exclusive stool of Royal Highness or Highness.
    Henceforth, Chiefs coronated by His Royal Majesty either as family chief or ceremonial chief are entitled to attend Elele Council of Chiefs meeting as directed by the Royal Majesty. The hosting of meeting by the Chiefs should be done in order of their date of admission into the Council of Chiefs.
    Every Chief must be loyal to the Royal Majesty. Any act of insubordination to the Majesty shall attract disciplinary measures. Hence, the Council of Chiefs cannot take decisions on behalf of his Royal Majesty without his consent or approval.
    The council of Chiefs (Nde-Eze) should perform the traditional recognition of rites and loyalty to HRM, Eze J.O.G Amadi, (JP) (Ogba-ban obiri, ya-ni orikota)
    There should be no division between the Royal Majesty and Council of Chiefs (Nde Eze) any more: any sectional or splinter meetings by any member except the meetings that will be held in the palace of His Royal Majesty. 
    All parties concerned should withdraw all matters in courts with immediate effect
    Due to the unhealthy lobbying, the two contestants were disqualified in the interest of peace, hence election into chairmanship position was conducted and sir (Chief ) Gilbert Ndah, JP emerged as winner and was sworn in immediately.
    All other elections conducted to fill other offices in the Elele Council of Chiefs were upheld.

By: Chidi Enyie

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Law/Judiciary

Can NBA Fight For Self ?

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Does NBA really understand the difference between an Annual Conference and a regular Seminar/Workshop/Talkshow?
Dear Benchers, silks, Professors seniors and colleagues, please I have a question.The SPIDEL Annual Conference 2021 has come and gone. Question bothering me are, what specific benefits has the conference brought towards improving or promoting the welfare, security and economic advancement of lawyers in Nigeria? How would the outcome of the conference positively impact the lives of lawyers in Nigeria? Of what benefits to the welfare of members of the NBA, are the topics discussed at the conference? How for example has the presence of Bala Mohammed, Rochas Okorocha, Aisha Yesufu, Dino Melaye, Seyi Makinde, etc contributed to solving or will contribute to solving any one or more of the many challenges facing members of the NBA?
Recall that the NBA was set up primarily to: Advance the interest of lawyers in Nigeria; Create opportunities for lawyers to prosper; Promote peace, unity and oneness among the various segments within the profession. Redress any noticed injustice to any segments of the profession; Assist in making legal education and law practice in Nigeria better; Guard jealously all jobs and rights exclusive to lawyers in Nigeria; Make lawyers more relevant and useful to society; etc. Now, in what ways would the papers delivered and the talkshows witnessed at the Ibadan SPIDEL  conference 2021 help achieve any one of these and others objectives of the NBA? 
Meanwhile, you are not unaware that (1). Majority of Nigerian Lawyers are jobless, and indeed feel frustrated, disenchanted and disappointed as a result. Meanwhile countless untapped/unopened opportunities exist for employment for many lawyers in Nigeria.  Nigeria is the only country without legal departments in LGA’S and without lawyers working as full-time Legal officers in the LGA’s.  Nigeria is the only country without legal sections or Legal Departments in its police departments and formations. Happily, section 66 (3) NPFEA, 2020 has directed the mandatory posting of Lawyers as fulltime employees to all police Stations in the country. What is the NBA waiting for to liaise with relevant stakeholders to see that this beautiful mandate is implemented without any delays, with a view to creating job opportunities for lawyers in Nigeria as well as improving the human rights conditions and records of the various Police locations across the country in addition to decongesting our courts by controlling and minimising the filing of frivolous criminal charges? Why didn’t the SPIDEL Conference 2020 look at any of these? In Nigeria, over 90 percent of all the MDA’s (Ministries, Departments and Agencies) have no legal departments and no lawyers in their employment as Legal officers. Over 60 percent of all high and higher schools in Nigeria have no legal departments and no lawyers in their employment as legal officers. Beside these, many aspects of the traditional jobs of the Nigerian lawyers are being taken away (stolen) by intruding non lawyers and foreigners. Very soon, unless something drastic is done to stop this ugly trend, lawyers in Nigeria may have only little or no jobs to call their own. Even deeds, land agreements, tenancies are now drafted by non lawyers with impunity. Lest I forget, illiterate land agents charge and are paid much more than Lawyers are paid in conveyancing which is the lawyer’s traditional job space.
I had suggested and expected that the SPIDEL conference should have been devoted to talking about one or more of the many problems that weigh the NBA and Nigerian lawyers down with a view to dispassionately discussing same in a manner that would bring about some positive results that would directly and positively affect members of the NBA. Same suggestions I had made (without success) in 2019 and in 2020.
 In summary, what exactly is the benefit of the just concluded SPIDEL conference to the Nigerian lawyer? Which of the countless problems facing the Nigerian lawyers did the SPIDEL conference  look at? Do we really understand the difference between an Annual General Conference of a professional association and a mere seminar/webinar or worshop? I used to think that when an association organises a Conference for its members, it is devoted to looking at the various aspects of the internal affairs of the association and the lives of its members with a view to looking at ways of finding solutions to the association’s challenges and also discussing how to move the association and its members forward. I thought that an annual general Conference is akin to an “annual retreat” where only issues directly affecting the organisation/association and its members are focused on. Occasional webinars, seminars and workshops on the other hand may be devoted to discussing issues generally affecting society, in line with the objects of the affected association. In the case of the NBA, all of its Conferences, webinars, seminars and workshops are organised and devoted almost entirely to discussing problems bedevilling other people, with no or little attention paid to the challenges directly facing the NBA and its members. Please, I pray, can the promising Akpata administration, in line with its campaign promises, try to do something different for the Nigerian lawyers and his profession. My own survey shows that majority of Nigerian lawyers are disappointed with succesive NBA Leaderships, and are therefore disenchanted and rapidly loosing interest in the affairs of the NBA. Major reason: the NBA hardly cares about the internal challenges of its own members, but are more concerned about and fighting vigorously about the headaches of other people. Example: I commend NBA’s efforts towards ensuring financial Autonomy for the Judiciaries in Nigeria; I commend the NBA for assisting JUSUN over 90 percent of whose members are not Lawyers. I support financial autonomy for the Judiciary. But, please, don’t you think that if the NBA should apply the same vigour and energy with which NBA fights for JUSUN, towards fighting to (1) create more opportunities for employment for the teeming population of unemployed/jobless lawyers in Nigeria, things would be better for the profession. If the NBA should devote half of such efforts to fighting off worsening encroachments and intrusions by non lawyers into the legal practice Space, lawyers wouldn’t remain the same in Nigeria. Think about this, especially about the difference between a Conference and a seminar or workshop. My friend says NBA Conferences are achieving their Objectives because NBA Conferences are”for networking and closing deals”. Okay, my answer is this: _”are we saying it is not possible to discuss these critical issues directly affecting the organisization and its members (issues that promote our own welfare) and still do the (1) networking, (2) Closing of deals, (3) etc…? Please note that I am not against conferences. I am a lover of conferences. All I am suggesting is that topics discussed at these conferences  ought to focus primarily on issues directly affecting the NBA and its members.” Do not forget, the NBA was set up primarily to make lawyers better.  When would the NBA come home to start fighting for its members, as the NBA usually fights for other people—non lawyers? When?
I remain yours faithfully.

By: Sylvester Udemezue
Udemezue is a contributor

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Law/Judiciary

Appraising Contributions Of Justice Omereji To Rivers State Judiciary

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Honourable Justice George Omereji (rtd) is one judge that needs no introduction in the Rivers State Judiciary where he stood out in the bench like a colossus to dispense justice to all.
Justice Omereji was bold, astute and incorruptible. He was well acquainted with the real nitty-gritty of justice dispensation probably because he had served as a magistrate long before he was appointed a judge of the Rivers State Judiciary.
The legal luminary, who hails from Egbeda in Emohua Local Government Area of Rivers State, exuded an aura of discipline at the bench such that no attorney could go to his court unprepared. He also ensured that lawyers maintained both the dress code and courtroom decorum.
Sir Omereji was always in the news while he served as a judge because of his unwillingness to bend. He asserted himself well and carved out a niche in the annals of judicial officers.
The eminent jurist did not only preside over matters with clinical detachment, he taught lawyers what they ought to do or needed to have done in certain circumstances.
Speaking with The Tide in Port Harcourt on Monday, Blessing Enyie (Esq), noted that Justice Omereji while serving in the bench had established himself as a good judge.
Mr. Enyie, who resides at Elele in Ikwerre Local Government Area of the state, pointed out that the eminent jurist displayed proper judicial temperament, patience, courtesy, open-mindedness and tact as he conducted his trials.
He averred that Justice Omereji expounded the law in a manner that brought peace to parties in a conflict or dispute. 
Sir Omereji once remarked at one of his court sessions thus; “When you see parties disobeying the law, it is their lawyers that have encouraged them to do so. According to him, the ordinary person fears the coercive powers of the court.
He was ready to bring to book any person no matter how highly placed who was in breach of the law. Indeed, some lawyers dreaded to appear before Justice Omereji. 
However, his insistence on propriety and justice belied his benevolence. The legal luminary is a kind man and has touched many who have come in contact with him.
Justice Omereji, a graduate of the University of Lagos, was revered while in the bench because of his sagacity, boldness and forthrightness. He treaded where others could not. He so much believes in justice.
Throughout his career in the bench, the eminent, jurist had neither exhibited acts of nepotism nor tribalism little wonder then, that he was chosen as the Chairman of the judicial commission of inquiry to investigate RT. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi’ Amaechi’s administration over the sale of valued assets of Rivers State and other related matters.
At inception, Justice Omereji had assured that the commission would work within the law and grant parties fair hearing. He is a stickler to principles and an avid adherent to the rule of law.
As a fearless judge, he took over the trial of the alleged killers of Soboma George, the ex-agitator, when some other judges had declined to conduct the trial.
He concluded the trial, convicted and sentenced the three persons charged with conspiracy and murder of the ex-agitator, Soboma George and Joy John Ejims, a groundnut seller in Port Harcourt more than 10 years ago.
Justice Omereji had ruled that the three accused persons, Dougbra Ogbe, Emmanuel Gladstone, Bere Matthew, should be hanged on their necks till they are dead for conspiring and killing Soboma George and Joy John Ejims at a football field in Nembe Street in Borokiri area of Port Harcourt on the 24th of August, 2010.
Another landmark judgement delivered by the eminent jurist was the award of N10 million damages against the Divisional Police Officer of Eneka Police Division, Chief Superintendent of Police (CSP) Yahaya Bello -Sam for the violation of the fundamental human rights of a senior lawyer, Afolabi Olabisi.
He held that the police failed to prove that the lawyer committed any crime before he was detained and pointed out that the action of the police was oppressive.
Omereji described the DPO’s action as a flagrant violation of the law and condemned Olabisi’s detention in the same cell with suspected criminals.
There are a plethora of other judgements in which Justice Omereji awarded damages against the state and Federal Government over violation of individuals’ rights.
 During Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi’s administration, he awarded damages against the Rivers State Ministry of Transport for seizure of a truck belonging to a private company.
Justice Omereji is one man who did not mind whose ox was gored, whenever he delivered his judgements so long as justice was served. His lifestyle advocates probity and forthrightness.
He serves justice without fear or favour. He is reputed as one of the boldest judges to have served in the state judiciary. According to him, his mum in blessed memory had taught him how to be bold.
In tribute to his mum, at her funeral on November 7, 2020 Justice Omereji said, “You have taught me that one can only be remembered for what he has done and not by what he has”.
Apart from the fact that his mum had influenced him positively, Justice Omereji is also a devout Christian who believes in leading by example. 
His exemplary Christian leadership and contributions to his faith earned him his ordination as a Knight of the Anglican Church.
Interestingly, this belief has helped to make Omereji the diligent and forthright man he is today.
Consequently, when the Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike needed an impartial and bold umpire to manage the affairs of Rivers State Independent Electoral Commission (RSIEC) he looked for Justice Omereji and appointed him the chairman of the body.
Sir Omereji immediately swung into action with his commissioners, worked diligently and tirelessly to justify the confidence reposed in him by the people of Rivers State.
Indeed, the eminent jurist conducted the last local government elections in the state which has been hailed for being the only election that was neither marred by violence nor death. The RSIEC chairman was recently given an award by Rivers State youths for conducting a free and fair local council election. Justice Omereji who spoke at the award ceremony expressed gratitude to God for enabling him to achieve the feat.
He also thanked the youths for recognising the achievement of the electoral body.
Omereji, who spoke during the award ceremony, stated that the award though given to him could not have been achieved without the contributions of his able lieutenants and dedicated same to the entire electoral body.
A Port Harcourt-based journalist, Mr. Ralph Echefu, who spoke with The Tide in Port Harcourt at the weekend described Justice Omereji as nice team leader, who carried his lieutenants along.
Mr. Echefu, who also featured at the award ceremony, noted that by the chairman’s speech, he was a good manager and team leader.
There is no doubt, however that the retired judicial officers, has often demonstrated his ability to lead each time an opportunity availed itself.
The jurist was at a time, the chairman of all magistrates in the state. He led the organisation well with an avowed commitment and display of uncommon integrity. As a chairman of the magistrates association, he was then a chief magistrate in the state.
Having served creditably as a chief magistrate, Justice Omereji was found worthy to be appointed the Chief Registrar of the state Judiciary.
During his service as a chief registrar, he was instrumental to the rehabilitation of the state judiciary. He worked with former Chief Judge of the state, Hon. Justice Iche Ndu to bring about far reaching changes in the justice system.
Justice Omereji was later elevated to a judge of the Rivers State Judiciary, a position he held until he turned 65 and retired meritoriously on September 24, 2020, after 35 years of service to humanity.
A Port Harcourt based lawyer, Mr. Chijoke  Agi, described Justice Omereji (rtd) as one of the most fearless judges ever to have been appointed to the bench in recent times.
Mr Agi, who spoke with The Tide in Port Harcourt at the weekend, remarked that the current RSEIC chairman is a man well suited for leadership given his track record.
According to him, the eminent jurist is a charismatic leader and there are not many like him in the state.
The Port Harcourt lawyer also described Justice Omereji as an epitome of discipline and noted that he would go places because of his transparency and forthrightness.
He noted that many Port Harcourt-based lawyers who appeared at Justice Omereji’s court would no doubt hold the eminent jurist in high esteem because of the manner in which he dispensed justice.
Also speaking, another Port Harcourt-based lawyer, Endurance Akpelu (Esq) described the retired judge as a man of the people and noted that he was always ready to render a helping hand.
Mr. Akpelu pointed out that Justice Omereji was a man of integrity who would always justify the confidence reposed in him.
He said that the retired judge left legacies every where he went and added that he had begun to do same at RSIEC.
“Men like him are hard to find”, Akpelu stated.
Conclusively, Hon. Justice George O. Omereji, is straightforward, incorruptible, astute person as well as a an avid adherent to rule of law. Posterity will continue to reward him for his firm belief in justice for all.

By: Chidi Enyie

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