A few days ago, the Supreme Court of Nigeria delivered a 4:3 majority judgment in the appeal filed by PDP’s candidate Jeg-ede, SAN, against APC’s candidate Akeredolu, SAN over the last Governorship elections in Ondo State. Mr. Jegede and his party had asked the apex Court to nullify Akeredolu’s candidacy on grounds that the nomination of the latter was void by virtue of violation of section 183 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 by APC in having appointed GovernorBuni , a serving Governor, to hold office as the Chairman of the National Caretaker Committee of the APC. The Supreme however declined Mr. Jegede’s request holding that Mr. Jegede had failed to make the said Governor Buni a party to the suit; you can’t shave a man’s hair behind his back, the Supreme Court must have told Mr. Jegede. Controversy has, since the judgment, broken out regarding the “the effect on APC, of a serving Governor holding or occupying the position of APC’s National Caretaker Committee Chairman against the backdrop of the provisions of s. 183 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 which provides that “The governor shall not, during the period when he holds office, hold any other executive office or paid employment in any capacity whatsoever”.
I have read the opening salvo (the legal opinion) by Hon Minister Festus Keyamo (SAN, Notary Public) as well as the comeback (a counter-opinion) by the respected Honourable Attorney-General of the Federation (HAGF), Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN, Life Bencher). I respectfully consider each and both opinions to be well-considered, very illuminating, but especially thought-provoking. Further, I presume that each of the two legal opinions was given in an attempt to try to resolve a perceived crisis in the ruling party, All Progre-ssives Congress (APC), arising from the said judgment of the supreme court. However, a careful reading of Festus Keyamo’s salvo and the respected HAGF’s response, has, rather than resolving the matter as anticipated, thrown up some further and more critical questions, the resolution of which (I humbly suggest) is at the root of any resolution to the entire hullabaloo crises (if any):
- Is the legal status of the Chairmanship of APC’s National Caretaker Committee exactly similar/synonymous with the legal status of the Chairmanship of an association like the Nigerian Governors’ Forum or of the Progressive Governors’ Forum, as suggested by the HAGF? This question is critical considering that APC is a full-fledged legal person (juristic person of fully legal capacity) recognized by law as such, unlike the other two. Besides, occupation of the position of the Chairmanship of the National Caretaker Committee of the APC is exactly corteminous with occupation of the office of the National Chairman of the party. The occupation of the office of the National Chairman of the APC is a full-time employment as opposed to occupation of the office of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum or of the Progressive Governors Forum which is not a full-time employment.
- Is the election, selection, appointment or employment as the National Chairman or Chairman of the National Caretaker Committee of the APC not in the form of a full-time, executive, salaried employment? If yes, then does it make any difference that the person currently occupying that office elects (of his own volition) to not collect salaries? In other words, does the revelation (referred to by the HAGF in his rejoinder) that Governor Buni as the Chairman of APC’s National Caretaker Committee, doesn’t currently collect any salaries, diminish the legal status of that office as a full-time, executive, salary-paying/salaried office? Recall that in 2015, each of President Buhari and VeePee Prof Osinbajo had written the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, undertaking to forgo 50 percent of their respective annual salaries (see: “Buhari, Osinbajo take 50% pay cut”, Premium Times, 10 July 2015). Even if the duo had undertaken to forgo their entire salaries, would that have adversely affected the full-time, salary-paying/salaried nature/status of their offices?
- Although I agree with the HAGF that the Supreme Court (in the Arakunrin Akeredolu case), tje majority decision, did not resolve on merit the question whether or not section 183 CFRN 1999 was violated by Governor Buni’s current occupation of the office APC’s National Caretaker Committee Chairman, yet one question refuses to go away: should APC not prefer to err on the side of caution and wisdom, instead of acting as if there were no unresolved legal issues raised, and the resolution of which could ultimately go either way, which then might leave hanging in the balance, the fate or legality of actions being taken by the great party under Gov. Bunmi as caretaker Chairman?
Example, what if, just what if, APC is ultimately taken to the law on these issues and the same issues are resolved by the judicature against Governor Buni’s occupation of that office, what would be the fate of decisions previously taken by the party under his leadership?
4. NOW, AN APT ANALOGY: Section 868(1) of CAMA 2020 defines “director” to include ”any person occupying the position of director by whatever name called….” Is this not somewhat akin/similar to the position of the law with respect to the office of the National Chairman of a Political Party in Nigeria, such that anyone who occupies the office of the National Chairman of APC in whatever capacity or by whatever name called (including as “National Caretaker Committee Chairman”) would or could be treated as the APC National Chairman? If the office of the National Chairman is a full-time, salary-paying/salaried job, does the legal status diminish only because you now refer to the occupant of that office by another appellation, namely: “Chairman of the National Caretaker Committee”? Are the functions of a person holding both appellations not one and the same? See these: Gen. Sani Abacha was “Head of State”. General Babangida was “President”. Ernest Shonekan was “head of the Interim National Government.” Alhaji Tafawa Balewa was the “Prime Minister”. Is there any difference among these offices? Was each (by whatever name called) not the head of the government of the Federation? Was Ernest Shonekan in his capacity as the Head of the Interim National Government (ING) not the executive President of Nigeria with all the powers of the Head of government?
- OFFICE OF THE APC NATIONAL CHAIRMAN IS AN EXECUTIVE OFFICE: Article 14.1(i) of the APC Constitution provides that “The National Chairman shall be the Chief Executive, Accounting Officer and shall preside over the meetings of the National Executive Committee and the National Working Committee of the Party”. Article 18 establishes Standing Committees and Adhoc Committees for the party while Article 19 provides for the powers of the various standing and adhoc committees. Neither the National Working Committee (NWC) nor the National Caretaker Committee or the National Executive Committee (NEC) is listed in the Constitution of the APC as an “adhoc” or “standing” committee. Besides, the Chairman of the National Caretaker Committee exercises all the powers of the substantive National Chairman as set out in Article 14.1 of the APC Constitution.
Another question that arises is this: is the Chairman of the National caretaker committee not in the same shoes as the National Chairman in terms of their legal status and powers? If anyone says that Governor Buni is currently not the Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), please, I pray, who else is? And if you agree he indeed is, then why not agree that he actually occupies the office of the national chairman, which is an executive position in the nature of a full-time employment, quite unlike the office of the Chairman of the Nigerian Governor’s Forum (NGF) or of the Progressive Governors Forum (PGF) or of the Old Boys’ Association of a School or of the Integrity Group (lol >Ø#Ý) in the National Assembly or of the Association of Attorneys-General in Nigeria or of ALGON or of the League of Speakers of State Houses of Assembly in Nigeria, etc.
6 . May I restate that I agree entirely with learned silk and Life Bencher Hon AGF Malami that the Supreme Court judgement (by the majority decision) did not make any pronouncements on the merit of the effect of section 183 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, on GovBunmi’s (caretaker) Chairmanship of the APC. On the other hand, I agree entirely with learned silk and Notary Public Festus KEYAMO that the issues raised in the affected Supreme Court judgment (although reportedly not yet determined with finality on their merit) are nevertheless so weighty as to put the ruling party on notice, that stakeholders in the party should make hay while the sun shines especially because a stitch in time saves nine while a word is enough for for the wise! Writer AnkalaSubbarao captured it better: “A stitch in time saves at least nine lawsuits, but only if the patient goes to the doctor early!”
Please take note, for the avoidance of doubts, I am neither of the APC nor of the PDP nor indeed of any political party in Nigeria; the truth is, I am for none but for all. Mine is just a perfect case of a major stakeholder in the Nigerian Rule of Law Advocacy Club (RULAC) thinking aloud, albeit unsolicited. Besides, Satchel Paige had warned, “don’t pray when it rains if you didn’t make hare while the sun shines”. Ernest AgyemangYeboah said, “If you take steps based on fantasies and illusions, you shall meet realities and remember the ‘had I known’ in sorrow” What’s more? The Holy Bible in Leviticus 26:20 has opened one’s eyes (like an advance warning) on what might happen if one fails to make a stitch in time: “Your strength will be spent uselessly, for your land will not yield its produce and the trees of the land will not yield their fruit. Put differently, in Jeremiah 4:30, the Bible says: “And you, O desolate one, what will you do? Although you dress in scarlet, Although you decorate yourself with ornaments of gold, Although you enlarge your eyes with paint, In vain you make yourself beautiful” I have said my own!
Long live us all. God help Nigeria!
Udemezue is a Lecturer with the Nigerian Law School.
By: Sylvester Udemezue
Oil Wells Ownership Battle: S’ Court Fixes Nov 1 For Hearing
The Supreme Court yesterday fixed November 1 for definite hearing in the legal battle between Rivers and Imo States over the ownership of 17 oil wells.
The apex court fixed the date after the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) as 1st defendant and Imo State as 2nd defendant formally made appearances through their lawyers, Remi Olatubura, SAN and Chief Olusola Oke, SAN, respectively.
Justice Kekere Ekun set the stage for determination of the suit instituted by Rivers State against its Imo State counterpart shortly after identifying some of the processes so far filed for and against the legal action.
Ekun who led a panel of seven Justices of the court in a short ruling ordered parties in the suit to file and exchange fully their respective processes between now and Nov. 1 when the suit would be heard.
At the proceedings, Imo State’s Lawyer informed the court that he had filed a motion on notice challenging the jurisdiction of the apex court to hear the suit as a court of first instance.
He predicated the challenge on the fact that the suit was instituted against actions of some federal government agencies and not the Federal Government itself and as such, the place to hear the matter is a Federal High Court and not the Supreme Court.
However, counsel to the AGF said he had filed a counter affidavit against the writ of summons of Rivers State.
Lead counsel to Rivers State, Mr Joseph Daudu, SAN, in his response demanded for seven days to file reply on points of law to the motions of the two defendants.
The apex court had on July 14 granted an order of injunction stopping the Federal Government and it’s agencies from ceding the 17 disputed oil wells located at Akri and Mbede to Imo State.
The order of injunction was granted to stop an alleged implementation of the ceding of the 17 oil wells to Imo State pending the determination of the suit brought before it by the Rivers State Government.
The Supreme Court had in a chamber ruling by an ex-parte application argued by Emmanuel Ukala, SAN, restrained the AGF and the Attorney General of Imo State from taking any further action on the ownership of the disputed 17 oil wells till the ownership disputes surrounding them are resolved.
It also barred the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and the Fiscal Commission, RMAFC, and the office of the Accountant General of the Federation from approving, implementing, or giving effect in any manner to a letter from RMAFC office, with reference number RMC/O&G/47/1/264 of July 1, 2021, which canceled the equal sharing of proceeds from the 17 oil wells by Rivers and Imo States.
Rivers through its Attorney-General had dragged the AGF and the Attorney General of Imo State before the Supreme Court praying for declaration that the boundary between Rivers State and Imo State, as delineated on Nigeria administrative map , 10, 11 and 12 editions and other maps bearing similar delineations are inaccurate, incorrect and do not represent the legitimate and lawful boundaries between Rivers and Imo States.
Plaintiff also sought a declaration that as far as Nigeria’s administrative map 10,11 and 12 editions and other maps bearing similar delineations, relate to the boundaries between Rivers and Imo, are unlawful and void.
The plaintiff also said the maps cannot be relied on to determine the extent of the territorial governmental jurisdiction of Rivers State and to determine the revenue accruing to Rivers State from the federation account, including the application of the principle of derivation and other revenue allocation principles as contained in the 1999 Constitution.
It further applied that the Supreme Court declare that the correct instrument maps and documents, to be relied on determining the boundary between Rivers and Im States, are those used by the plaintiff in delineating the boundary line between Rivers and Imo States.
Plaintiff also sought declaration that all the oil wells within Akri and Mbede communities are wrongly attributed to Imo State.
The plaintiff also said that they are all oil wells within the territory of Rivers state and form part of Rivers State and that it is only Rivers that is entitled to receive the full allocation of the distributable revenue from the oil wells on the basis of the 1390 derivation as contained under section 162 of the 1999 constitution.
Rivers State therefore sought order of mandatory injunction directing the AGF to calculate, to its satisfaction, and refund to it all revenue that have been wrongly attributed to or paid to Imo state on account of the limit or extent of their territories, including earnings due to it from revenue derived from Akri and Mbede oil wells.
The plaintiff also sought order of Injunction directing the AGF to withdraw from circulation its administrative map 10,11 and 12th editions and to refrain from relying on any of the said maps for the purpose of determining the boundary between Rivers and Imo state.
Rivers also applied for another order of mandatory injunction directing AGF to produce administrative map bearing the correct boundary between Rivers and Imo state.
A sum of N500,000,000 naira was also sought as cost of prosecuting the case.
Court Orders Mortuary To Release Corpse For Burial
A Customary Court sitting in Choba Community in Obio/Akpor Local Government Area of Rivers State has ordered Delight Mortuary and Home Service Limited, to release the corps of Late Rose Amah to her family for burial.
The two member Customary Court, headed by the Chairman, Ndamati, in their ruling on exparte application brought by the counsel to the claimants, E. Worlu sought the order of the court for the release of the corps for burial.
Friday Amah and Hope Amah who are claimants in the suit had asked the court to direct Achor Acheru, the son of the deceased and the mortuary management to release the corpse of their sister as directed by the court.
The Tide reports that the court, following report of the refusal of the first defendant to release the receipt for the corpse of the late woman and reporting the claimants to Ogbakiri Council of Chiefs, granted the exparte order requested by the claimants counsel which the court emphasised must be obeyed.
By: Akujobi Amadi
Chef Jailed 28 Years For Killing Lawyer In Lagos Hotel
An Ikeja Special Offences Court yesterday sentenced a 23-year-old chef, Joshua Usulor, to 28 years’ imprisonment for killing a 34-year-old lawyer, Mrs Feyisayo Obot.
The chef killed the lawyer on January 26, 2019 at the Citiheights Hotel, Opebi, Lagos, where both of them lodged in different rooms.
Usulor murdered Obot, an Abuja-based mother of two, by slitting her throat while robbing her in her hotel room.
The tide source reports that Justice Oluwatoyin Taiwo sentenced Usulor after he approached the Lagos State Directorate of Public Prosecution (DPP) for a plea bargain agreement in which he would plead guilty to the crime.
The DPP had in the agreement, approved a term of 21 years’ imprisonment which would begin from the date of Usulor’s remand.
However, during Tuesday’s proceedings, the judge rejected the proposed prison term, saying that it was too lenient.
The judge said she would exercise the power conferred on her by Section 75 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Law to increase the prison term to 30 years.
She eventually reduced Usulor’s prison sentence to 28 years, following allocutus (plea for leniency) by his counsel, Mr Spurgeon Ataene.
In the allocutus, Ataene told the court to temper justice with mercy.
He submitted that Usulor was remorseful, adding that he was a young man with a promising future.
While sentencing Usulor, Taiwo asked why he killed the lawyer.
“It was a mistake, I didn’t know what got into me,” he responded.
“Your mistake has cost someone her life,” the judge said.
The Tide source reports that the prosecution led by Mrs O.A. Bajulaiye-Bishi had said that Usulor, a resident of No. 30, Fadiya St., Ketu, Lagos, went into Obot’s hotel room to rob her in order to offset his outstanding hotel bills.
Obot, an employee of an Abuja-based non-governmental organisation – Save the Children – was in Lagos to write a project management examination.
She was killed on the day she was due to checkout of the hotel.
The prosecution was still presenting witnesses in the case when Usulor proposed a plea bargain agreement.
Prosecution witnesses who testified so far are – the hotel receptionist, Ms Lateefat Adebayo; the hotel Operations Manager, Mr Olabanji Ibitunde; brother of the deceased, Mr Ige Afolabi; and the Investigating Police Officer, Insp John Babalola.
Usulor was arraigned on a count charge of murder contrary to Section 223 of the Criminal Law of Lagos, 2015.
The law prescribes death sentence for any individual found guilty of murder.
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