Connect with us

Law/Judiciary

Arming The State Counsel … Rivers Justice Ministry’s Giant Strides

Published

on

The greatest incitement to crime is the hope of escaping punishment – Marcus Tillius Cicero (Pro Millone)

A recent report published by the Federal Ministry of Justice gave very disturbing account of the nation’s prisons, one of which is that Awaiting Trial Inmates (ATI) account for more than 60 percent of the bloated prisons population.

This can mean any of many variables, one of which is that our criminal justice system is faulty or that the process of crime investigation and prosecution requires proper re-examination. It is even more so, when viewed from the now familiar haste in arresting, detaining and charging to court, suspects without proper police investigation, ill-prepared charge sheets and all the necessary evidence needed to separate felons from the civil society. The result has been the tendency among criminal investigators to arrest first, build around suspects, charges of unbailable nature, charge such accused felons, oppose bail, throw them into prison and then begin the search for evidence to justify eventual conviction.

In a recent jail delivery exercise conducted by the Chief Judge of Rivers State, Hon. Justice Iche Ndu, it was discovered that some inmates have remained in prison for periods far longer, than they would ordinarily have spent, if convicted of the charges for which they were originally held.

This scenario puts tremendous responsibility on not just the Police in Nigeria but also the Rivers State Ministry of Justice here at home, if it must reverse the ugly situation, that the Chief Judge found. The first step is to properly equip state counsels, through training and retraining on modern trends and legal requirements necessary to not just defend members of the public, often wrongly charged but also ensure that those they have sufficient reason to believe, deserved criminal trial, indeed face the full weight of the law.

Without such intervention, the easiest way for felons escaping punishment would be for the Police to build weak cases around an accused person and leave a presiding Magistrate or Judge with no other option than to discharge and acquit a criminal, only to wreck more havoc on the law-abiding society.

To address some of these issues and help members of the public lacking the wherewithal to seek Justice, the state Justice Ministry has, in the past few months, been convoking various forms of legal workshops and seminars, intended to technically equip state counsels, on whose shoulders rest this arduous task.

The state’s Solicitor-General and Permanent Secretary Ministry of Justice, Dame (Barr.) Mina Benebo pictured the scenario most apply when she said that the Criminal Act, operating in the Southern part of Nigeria, as distinct from the criminal procedure code operating in the Northern states of Nigeria, will fail unless those depended upon to prosecute offenders and defend the innocent are properly empowered to discharge their responsibilities.

Instructively some criminal cases fail because, according to her, either the offence is not clearly ascertained and spelt out to the understanding of the accused, or it is ambiguous, or simply that the issues were not properly investigated or at other times that the wrong offences are built around such accused persons.

The result of such ambiguity or even omission of a word used in the statute, is the likelihood of such a case being quashed and letting a potential felon off the hook.  This is clearly pointed out by Mbanefo EJC (as he then was) in Anu V I.G.P.

As regards ground (a) it was argued that the charge as laid, not having disclosed an offence was not only bad, but was no charge at all and consequently that the trial and conviction of the applicant was a nullity.  For this proposition, appellant’s counsel relied on Inspector-General of Police v. Okora 14 W.A.C.A. 170.  In that case the West African Court of Appeal held that where an accused was arraigned for a non-existent offence the trial must be regarded as void “abinitio”.  In Okora’s case an essential element of the offence was omitted from the charge.  The West African Court of Appeal took the view that omission “was such as could not be cured by an amendment because it would not be possible to comply with the provisions of Sections 164 and 165 of the criminal procedure code which laid down the procedure to be followed in cases where the court permits or directs an amendment to the original charge”.

The West African Court of Appeal was saying in Okora’s case that since the defect had passed the stage where it could not be cured by amendment, the trial was a void “ab initio,” and consequently a nullity.

It was in full knowledge of these imperative, having been fully equipped through training and retraining that the state Ministry of Justice successfully built a water-tight case in prosecuting two recent landmark cases and eventually secured conviction.  The cases are PHC/1987/2007, The State Vs Victor Fabiyi, Corporal Wafal and the second, PHC/1023CR/2008, The State Vs Sampson Michael, Ogechi Umah and Ibiyekaribo Dappa, all male Nigerians.

In the first case, the Port Harcourt High Court 10 presided over by Hon. Justice Boma G. Diepriye on April 26, this year sentenced two persons, Victor Fabiyi and Corporal Wafal Aminu to death for the murder of Nnamdi Ajikere, a final year Geology student of University of Port Harcourt.

Fabiyi, a taxi driver had an argument with the deceased, Nnamdi, his younger brother Ugochukwu Ajikere and two other female companions over the taxi fare.  Thereafter, the taxi driver proceeded to make a false report at a police check point alleging that the deceased and his companions were armed robbers and cultists

The taxi driver also alleged that he was threatened with a gun and that his phone and money were stolen from him by the deceased and his companions, all, allegations he knew were false.

CPL Wafal Aminu was dispatched with other police officers who gave the deceased and his companions a hot chase in the taxi of Victor Fabiyi, before over-taking them close to the Le Meridian Hotel, GRA, Port Harcourt.  Finding nothing incriminating on the youngmen and women, after a thorough search, the Police Corporal shot and killed the said Nnamdi Ajikere on that fateful day of September 17, 2006.

This example brings to fore the incessant and unwarranted killing of civilians by men of the Police Force.  But without the confidence vote by members of the public which the now rebranded state Justice Ministry today enjoys, it would have been unthinkable to have all the prosecution witnesses in court during sessions and so steadfast they also refused to compromise their stand during court hearing.

The State Counsel on the matter, and Director of Public Prosecution, Otonyetarie I. Okoye commended the witnesses for their steadfastness in helping the state get justice for the just. Of course, that judgment was well received by all in court that fateful April 26, 2010 and it is hoped that it will serve as a deterrent to other trigger-happy policemen.

In the second case, which is the State Vs. Sampson Michael and two others, the three accused persons on May 16, 2007 kidnapped one Omoro Oyo at Educare International School, 173 Woji Road, GRA, Port Harcourt and demanded a ransom of N150 million out of which they were paid over N3.4 million.

It was discovered in course of investigation that the kidnap was plotted by the first accused person, Sampson Michael who at the time was a domestic driver to Mr Akpovi – father of the victim.  Sampson had contacted the other accused persons and on the day in question, was taking the three-year old child to school when the kidnappers suddenly appeared from no where.

The kidnappers were later arrested and were thereafter, prosecuted at the High Court in Port Harcourt presided over by Honourable Justice G.O. Omereji.  In the end, after the convincing legal arguments and water-tight case prepared by State Counsel, C.B. Ekeh, all three accused persons were convicted on all four counts.

The first accused got six years on the first count as against five each to the second and third; on the second count, the first accused got eight years jail term as against seven years each for the second and third accused persons, on count three, all the three accused persons got three years each while on the fourth count, the first accused got 10 years while the two others got eight years each.

However, since the jail terms are to run concurrently, the first accused is to serve 10 years in jail while his two other cohorts will serve eight years each.

This, thus became the first kidnap conviction in Rivers State and along with other state efforts has helped to check the then incessant cases of kidnap.

Those favourable outcome would not have been possible if, as Dame Benebo rightly said, state counsels were not properly equipped and constantly reminded of their duty to the state and the citizenry, hence the frequent compulsory in-house-workshops and seminars.

In a paper presented at one such compulsory in-house legal training for all law officers, April 9, this year, the Director, Office of the Public Defender, Barrister (Mrs.) Ester O. Joe highlighted problem areas in the drafting of charges by state counsels and prosecutors.

Titled, The Rules Guiding The Drafting of Charges And Information In Criminal Cases In Nigeria; Mrs. Joe in that paper extensively spelt out the manner of information which a charge sheet must contain, and listed the following.

i)          A description of the offence charged in such information or where more than one offence is so charged, shall be set out in the information in a separate paragraph called a count.

ii)         A count of an information shall commence with a statement of the offence charged, called the statement of offence;

iii)        The statement of offence shall describe the offence shortly in ordinary language, avoiding as far as possible the use of technical terms and without necessarily stating all the essential elements of the offence, and, if the offence charged is one created by law, shall contain a reference to that written law;

iv)        After the statement of offence, particulars of that offence shall be set out in ordinary language provided that where any written law limits the particulars of an offence which are required to be given in an information nothing in this paragraph shall require any more particulars to be given than those so required.

v)         Where an information contains more than one count, the units shall be numbered consecutively.

For purposes of clarity, Mrs. Joe explained that ‘charge’ and ‘information’ virtually signifies the same thing.  Also, ‘charge’ and ‘count’ can also be interchangeably utilised to mean the distinctive offence for which an accused has been charged.

The nexus between a charge, a count and an information, she said was considered by the West African Court of Appeal, Per Verity, CJ in Rex V. Ijoma, where the distinguished jurist laid bare all the needed facts.

Mrs. Joe described charge sheet as “the whole document containing the charge or charges leveled against the accused person.”  While ‘count’ on the other hand, is a component part of the charge sheet.

But what seemed to the most needed armour for the state counsels was the aspect of the rules guiding the act of drafting charges and information, one of the key pillars of criminal or any other form of prosecution. While a good draft makes a good start to a good case a bad draft makes the exact opposite.

This loophole Mrs. Joe sought to avoid when she said, “In drafting charges, there are rules that must be adhered to.  That is, there are certain legal specificity to which the charge or information must conform to, failing which the charge or information may be invalid depending on the circumstance and nature.  The rules are those against Ambiguity, Duplicity, Mis-joinder of offenders and against the Mis-joinder of offences”, which she painstakingly addressed in detail.

But the work of the State Ministry of Justice is not only about criminal prosecution, it also includes enlightenment of the public on various topical issues of legal or constitutional nature and even offer legal advice to needy members of the public.

These, without doubt underscored the importance of an earlier workshop on the importance of Will-making, with a plan to undertake an extensive campaign tour of all public institutions and the local government areas.

The State Solicitor-General, Dame Barr Mina Benebo said that such a campaign became imperative in view of the need to help fight the phobia  for will-making among Nigerians, especially Rivers people who often, erroneously though, associate Will-Making to pre-knowledge of, and  basic preparations for death imminent.

The planned campaign will however, not be limited to will-making alone but will include all other services rendered by the State Ministry of Information, one of which is that of seeking and receiving legal advice to needy citizens in any form of conflict of legal nature or in the case of a criminal trial.

This thinking informed the training of the would-be foot-soldiers of the enlightenment tour on an aspect about which members of the public hitherto knew very little about legal advise, as service to both the courts and the public.

The Head, Directorate for the Citizen’s Rights, Mrs. Florence A. Fiberesima in her lecture Writing Of Legal Advice presented at the same compulsory in-house legal training, April 9, 2010 in Port Harcourt also extensively dwelt on the subject and concluded with the timeless words of Fola Arthur-Worrey Esq. in the book: The Prosecutor In Public Prosecution, Page 36, where the author states:

I do not presume to state here that once a legal advice is well written and bona fide, it would never be questioned.  To so argue would be to give lie to the notorious facts that the parties to a criminal case are very often highly emotional and blind to reason. But the critical issue of defensibility, to wit; that when such questions are raised, a well considered and thought-out legal opinion is much easier to defend and support than one which needs further education before the latent issues which were inadvertently or carelessly omitted can be highlighted. By this time, negative impressions would have been formed which are always very difficult to dispel. A legal advice from the Director General of Public Prosecution (DPP’s) office bears with it the stamp of finality with regard to the matter in review. It is therefore similar to a judgment and its construction should be approached from this perspective. Counsel must try to anticipate whether such a legal advice, if it were subjected to appeal would be upheld, it ratio deadendi must be manifest on its face.

These indeed, form the nucleus of the silent re-branding initiated by the duo of Rivers State Commissioner for Justice and Attorney-General Hon. Ken Chikere and his Permanent Secretary and State Solicitor-General, Dame Mina Benebo, reforms that now give Rivers people some measure of hope and also helps to build a stronger faith and confidence of the public in the Justice Ministry.

Commendable as the success story of the ministry appears, it must be restated that an even more commendable effort would be to help the police prosecutor ensure that no innocent citizen loses his freedom even for a day because of lapses on the part of prosecutors or avoidable delays in the course of administering justice.

To decongest the prisons and ensure that awaiting trial inmates do not over-populate our prisons, state counsels should continue to be equipped to record many more of the commendable convictions won in the very recent past. This is what a proactive Justice Ministry should do and always.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Continue Reading

Law/Judiciary

As Nwanosike Resolves Protracted Chieftaincy Crisis In Elele…

Published

on

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

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Continue Reading

Law/Judiciary

Can NBA Fight For Self ?

Published

on

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

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Continue Reading

Law/Judiciary

Appraising Contributions Of Justice Omereji To Rivers State Judiciary

Published

on

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

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Continue Reading

Trending