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Sowore: SANs Seek Judicial Inquiry Into Court Invasion

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The Body of Senior Advocates of Nigeria (BoSAN) yesterday asked President Muhammadu Buhari to set up a Judicial Commission of Enquiry to reveal the identities of those who invaded courtroom number 7 of the Federal High Court, Abuja.
The Department of State Services (DSS) last Friday re-arrested Omoyele Sowore, convener of RevolutionNow, a situation that has generated local and international criticisms.
BoSAN warned that unless the truth is unravelled, Nigeria would lose respect and become an object of ridicule among the comity of Nations.
The body gave the warning on Thursday in a speech made at a special valedictory court session to mark the retirement of Justice Kumai Aka’ahs from the Supreme Court.
The event held at the headquarters of the Supreme Court in Abuja.
Chief Onomigbo Okpoko (SAN) who delivered the body’s Speech remarked that the incident with similar ones in the last three years points to the level of disregard to the rule of law and the judiciary.
“The Nigerian Bar Association has come up with a statement from the bar condemning the action. As members of the Nigerian Bar Association, the Body of Senior Advocate of Nigeria, associates itself with the condemnation of the show of shame.
“It will, however, go one step further to suggest that this matter should not be swept under the expanding carpet of deceit in Nigeria.
“The pertinent question is who was responsible for the action in the courtroom? This is a task that the government must carry out to ascertain the truth”, he said.
While stating that the Nigeria Police being a sister organisation cannot investigate the matter thoroughly, he said even the Nigerian Army, Nigerian Customs and other paramilitary forces in the country cannot also not do a thorough job.
Okpoko (SAN) added that even the National Assembly is not sufficiently equipped to investigate the matter.
“The way out is an Independent Commission of Enquiry under the law. This can be achieved. The Body of Senior Advocates hereby demands that Mr. President considers without delay, the setting up of a Judicial Commission of Enquiry to hear publicly and determined the perpetrators of the acts, their sponsors and their objectives.
“Unless this is done, Nigerians are unlikely to be convinced by any other explanations that the act was not the work of the DSS.
“It is the result of any such judiciary inquiry that will lead to the re-establishment of discipline in the society. The DSS and its officers are not above the laws of the land and the Constitution.
“In Nigerian law and in the Common Law, the Superior Orders is no defence to a criminal conduct. It has never been and this administration must not allow it to be”, the body said.
Also speaking at the occasion the NBA President, Paul Usoro (SAN) condemned the persistent disobedience and flouting of court orders by the authorities in the country.
“We desecrate the temple of justice when we blatantly flout and disobey the orders of courts. A court that is made to be helpless in the face of flagrant disobedience of its orders is as useless to society as a toothless bulldog is to its owner.
“No one fears a bulldog that is known to be toothless, it has no capacity to keep away a marauding army or a band of invaders”, he said.
In a related development, the Sultan of Sokoto and President-General of the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar has warned that disobedience to any court order is a recipe for lawlessness and chaos.
In a veiled reference to the arrest of the #RevolutionNow convener, Omoyele Sowore by the Department of State Services in violation of a court order, Abubakar stated that “everyone must be law-abiding in the interest of national development.”
He gave the warning yesterday in Abuja at the 2019 fourth quarter meeting of the Nigeria Inter-Religious Council with the theme: ‘Religion and Civil Authorities in Dialogue for Nation-Building.’
The monarch said, “We must regularly obey and respect the laws of our land. We should never disregard the laws to avoid the consequences. If a court makes a judicial pronouncement on a particular matter, it should be obeyed to the letter.
“If you have any problem or disagree with the pronouncement, the next step is to appeal the pronouncement instead of disregarding or violating court judgments.”
Speaking further, the Muslim leader noted, “If you are served a court order and you deliberately refused to obey it because you are a governor, president or any influential person, then you are setting a dangerous precedent.”
“There’s no society that will prosper through lawlessness; Citizens must be law-abiding so that we can achieve the desired development,” Abubakar said.
The NSCIA President-General also stressed the need for inter-religious dialogue in the country, noting that it would foster a better understanding among the people.
He admonished the citizens to be wary of extremism and prevent extremists from causing trouble in the polity.
Abubakar further emphasised the importance of education and particularly stressed the need to enrol street children in school and to combat the rising menace of drug abuse in the country.
Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr Boss Mustapha commended the Co-Chairmen and members of the NIREC for being steadfast in maintaining the peace and harmony in the country.
He said the Federal Government recognised the efforts of NIREC in bringing the two major religions together and providing religious leaders and traditional rulers a veritable forum to promote greater interaction and understanding among the leaders and their followers as well as lay foundations for sustainable peace and religious harmony in the country.
The SGF stated, “The time has now come for governments at all levels to sit down and discuss the issue of religious tolerance and peaceful coexistence with our religious and traditional rulers because the success or failure of security administration in the country depends largely on both institutions.
“You, therefore, remain in the frontline of stakeholders in the business of peacebuilding in every community.”
The NIREC Executive Secretary, Prof. Cornelius Omonokhua said justice and good governance remained the most effective means for promoting peace, harmony, mutual co-existence and development.

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Rivers, Peaceful State Because Of God’s Blessing -Wike

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The Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike has declared that Rivers State is one of the most peaceful States in the country because of the blessings of God that flow from the prayers of Christians.
Speaking during the 2020 Diocesan City-wide Mega Crusade of the Diocese of the Niger Delta North in Port Harcourt, last Saturday, Wike said the relative peace in Rivers State was because God has honoured the prayers of the servants of God.
The governor said: “All through last year, despite the security challenges in the country, Rivers State remains relatively peaceful. The security of Rivers State is not because of the security agencies, but due to God’s enablement.
“The peace that comes from God is necessary for all business activities to thrive and people to engage in education.”
Wike said that his administration would continue to partner with the church to further the development of the state.
He noted that Rivers State remains a Christian state and would continue to do exploits for the good of the people.
“You have heard this several times before and I will repeat it here before thousands of Christian faithful who are Anglicans. Rivers State is a Christian state.
“No matter the intimidation and conspiracy, we will continue to declare that Rivers State is a Christian state. We are reaping the blessings of God”, he said.
Wike urged Christian faithful not to relent in their prayers for the peace, security and development of Rivers State.
The Rivers State governor commended the management of Elechi Amadi Polytechnic for providing the venue for the all-important city-wide crusade.
He lauded the Anglican Diocese of Niger Delta North for the city-wide crusade which has blessed the souls of thousands of Rivers people.
Speaking at the crusade, Rev Uma Ukpai said that God was one of the citizens of Rivers State, noting that God would continue to fight the battles of Rivers people.
He thanked God for the life of Rivers State governor for his commitment to the work of God, and urged Rivers people to continue to praise God to attract more blessings.
The Guest Preacher, Rev Uma Ukpai prayed specially for the peace, security and development of Rivers State, and committed Rivers State to God for the prosperity and peace of the state.
The 2020 Diocesan City Wide Mega Crusade of the Diocese of the Niger Delta North in Port Harcourt had the theme, “All Things Are Possible”.
Popular Gospel Musician, Chioma Jesus, led a medley of praise and worship songs at the crusade.

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Order Buhari, 36 Govs To Publish Assets, SERAP Asks Court

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The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has filed a lawsuit asking the Federal High Court, Abuja, to order President Muhammadu Buhari; the Vice-President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo, 36 state governors and their deputies to “make public details of their assets, specifically property and income, contained in their asset declaration forms submitted to the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) since assuming office.”
In the suit number FHC/ABJ/CS/65/2020 filed last Friday, SERAP is seeking: “an order for leave to apply for judicial review and an order of mandamus to direct and/or compel President Buhari, Vice President Osinbajo, 36 state governors and their deputies to make public their summary of assets; disclose whether they have had any reason to review and update their asset declarations submitted to the CCB, and if the declarations have been made as constitutionally and statutorily required.”
SERAP is also seeking: “an order to compel President Buhari, Vice President Osinbajo, 36 state governors and their deputies to disclose whether they have received any confirmation of the verification of their asset declarations by the CCB and to disclose whether they have taken any steps to encourage members of their cabinet to also submit their asset declarations to the CCB, and to make such declarations public.”
The suit followed SERAP’s Freedom of Information (FoI) requests dated January 3, 2020, expressing concern that: “The non-public disclosure by public officials of their summary of assets undermines the effectiveness and integrity of the constitutional and statutory obligations to submit asset declarations, especially given that declarations are designed to curb grand corruption, and weakens the public trust in the asset declaration regimes.”
According to SERAP, only two states — Lagos and Niger states — have responded to its FoI requests.
But both states declined the requests to make public the assets of their governors and deputies, on the ground that “the FoI Act is inapplicable to state governments, their agencies and officials, and that only houses of assembly of states are constitutionally empowered to make laws on public records of states.”
Also, while reacting to SERAP’s FoI request to President Buhari, the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, had said: “SERAP asking the president to declare assets publicly, on the basis of what law? The president will do what the law requires of him and what the law requires is that he should declare his asset which he has done. Declaring publicly is not in our laws; it can only be a voluntary thing.”
SERAP is also seeking: “a declaration that the failure of President Buhari, Vice President Osinbajo, 36 state governors and their deputies to provide SERAP with the requested information on their assets constitutes a breach of SERAP’s right under the FoI Act, 2011, and such further order(s) the honourable court may deem fit to make in the circumstances.”
The suit filed on behalf of SERAP by its counsel, Kolawole Oluwadare, read in part: “The advantages that the general public would gain from being informed about the summary of assets declarations submitted to the CCB outweigh any perceived privacy or inconvenience, if the court orders the details to be made public as sought by SERAP.
“By a combined reading of the Constitution of Nigeria 1999 (as amended), the FoI Act, and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, President Buhari, Vice President Osinbajo, 36 state governors and their deputies ought to be directed and compelled to make public their asset declarations as submitted to the CCB.
“The reliefs sought are constitutionally and statutorily grounded and based on Nigeria’s international transparency obligations. The reliefs sought do not clash with the rights to privacy and data protection. Both rights are not absolute and can be restricted provided there is a basis in law and a legitimate public interest justifies the restriction. Prevention of grand corruption and exposing unexplained wealth of officials are serious and legitimate public interests.
“SERAP and indeed the general public have a legitimate interest in ascertaining and scrutinizing the veracity, exactitude and honesty of information contained in asset declarations submitted by public officials to the CCB. Without public disclosure of summary of assets, this would have no practical importance.
“Public disclosure of summary of assets submitted to the CCB would help uncover any irregularities and trigger formal verification of declarations by the CCB and other anti-corruption agencies, be entirely consistent with government’s expressed commitment to prevent and combat corruption, provide a safeguard against abuse, and serve as an incentive to public officials to provide exact information when filing and submitting their asset declarations.
“Any perceived claim of interference with the right to privacy is sufficiently foreseeable for the purposes of the legal requirements for asset declarations by public officials, given that public-disclosure of summary of assets would undoubtedly contribute to the legitimate aim of asset declaration regimes to prevent corruption, as it would ensure transparency regarding the details of those assets.”
No date has been fixed for the hearing of the suit.

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Death In Cell: Force Hqtrs Orders Fresh Autopsy On Late Mechanic

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The Police High Command has ordered that a fresh autopsy be conducted on late auto-mechanic, Chima Ikwunado, who died in police custody in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, with his family present this time around.
The Force Public Relations Officer (FPRO), DCP Frank Mba, disclosed this when he appeared on a live television programme monitored by The Tide in Port Harcourt, at the weekend.
Mba said the force was yet to carry out any disciplinary action on the officers alleged to have tortured Chima to death because, according to him, investigations are still ongoing.
He, however, admitted that the head of the Eagle Crack Team of the police in Rivers State has been summoned to Abuja for questioning.
According to Mba, “The officer-in-charge of that crack team has been summoned to Force Headquarters, Abuja. I am significantly involved. He has made his statements; he has furnished us his case files. He has tendered some documents, including a post-mortem report that was conducted on the body (late Chima’s)
“But we needed to complete our investigations. We are also proposing repeating the post-mortem examination, and perhaps, this time around, we want to make sure that the representatives of the family of the deceased are involved.”
Mba, however, condoled with the family of late Chima Ikwunado and the people of Rivers State, pointing out that it was the duty of the police to ensure that the life of every Nigerian was preserved.
“The only thing I can tell the deceased family, friends of the deceased and every citizen out there, particularly in Port Harcourt, is to say that our heart goes out to the family.
“The death of any Nigerian is painful, it doesn’t matter how it occurred. Even when we engage with kidnappers, armed robbers, and perhaps, in course of the shootout they die, we don’t celebrate such deaths. Because, our core calling is not to take live. Our core calling is to preserve life,” the FPRO explained.
In the same vein, the Rivers State Police Command says it was yet to release the copse of the late mechanic because his family has not come to claim it.
The Tide recalls that the family of late Chima Ikwunado had accused the police of refusing them access to his remains.
But spokesman of the Rivers State Police Command, DSP Nnamdi Omoni, while speaking on a live radio programme in Port Harcourt, at the weekend, denied the allegation, and urged the family members to visit the commissioner of police to demand his corpse.
“When you want to discuss, it is not by castigating the police or saying police didn’t do this or that. It is important that the family should come and see the commissioner of police, and say that ‘we want the body of our son that died in police custody’.
“But they have not done that. They have not seen the commissioner of police. So, are we going to release the body to a ghost?
Omoni, also denied that police operatives tortured the suspect (late Chima) in order to get a confession from him, insisting that torture was not part of its procedure.
“Torture is not part of our procedure in eliciting confessions from suspects. If someone commits an offense, interview and interrogations are what we do. I worked in Critical Investigation Departments like State Criminal Investigation Department (SCID), even Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS).
“I was officer-in-charge of Legal (O/C Legal) sometime before I was made the PRO. If you want a suspect to tell you the truth of what happened, you don’t need to torture him. You don’t need to subject him to any kind of harsh treatment.
“By the time you are asking him questions, he will be playing into your hands. He will be telling you what he did without even knowing it,” Omoni stated.
However, the Rivers State Council of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), has warned journalists in the state against any form of romance with the police over the killing of Chima Ikwunado and the continued detention of his four colleagues who are currently remanded in prison custody.
This was contained in a statement signed by the council’s Secretary, Mr Ike Wigodo, and made available to newsmen, at the weekend, in Port Harcourt.
The statement noted that journalists should shun any form of invitation by the E-Crack Police Team, but should concern themselves more on how to unravel the circumstances behind the death of the mechanic in police custody.
It also advised on what it described as team work in order to resist any sort of temptation that may arise in the process of interacting with the police.
“It has come to the notice of NUJ, Rivers State Council that the E-Crack unit of the police is inviting some journalists, including some national dailies to come and see a video”, it warned.
It further charged members of the council to ensure fairness and balance in their reportage, rather than taking sides.
According to the statement, any invitation from the police should be via the NUJ leadership in the state to ensure proper and thorough work and to promote team work.
“Please, disregard such invitation as such should come through the NUJ. Members of NUJ should beware that any invitations from E-Crack on this matter is unacceptable. NUJ should fight together as a family”, it appealed.
Some journalists who reacted to the alleged police invitation, condemned it in its entirety, and said it must stop forthwith.
Others described it as “blood envelop invitation”, which they said ought not to be heard within journalism circle.
The Tide learnt that the leadership of Ohanaeze Ndigbo in the state is hell-bent in their support of the Ikoku traders to shut down operations today, should the police fail to release the corpse of late Chima to his family.
It would be recalled that the E-Crack unit of the Rivers State Police Command has been in the news since last week over the death of a mechanic in their custody during alleged ‘torture’ to extract confessional statement.
The Tide gathered that some of the remaining four suspects, arrested along with Chima, also had fresh injuries allegedly sustained during interrogation to extract confessional statements while in custody at the E-Crack Team’s Mile 1 Police Station base.
Chima’s colleagues now remanded in prison custody following their arraignment in court, include, Victor Ogbonna, Osaze Friday, Ifeanyi Osuji, and Ifeanyi Onyekwere.

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