Implementation Of Judicial Autonomy Must Comply With Constitutional Provision -Wike …Says ‘No Work, No Pay’ Order Now In Force In Rivers
The Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike has accused the Federal Government of playing politics with judicial autonomy in total disregard to constitutional provisions.
The governor made the observation at the inauguration and handover of the National Industrial Court Judges’ Quarters in Old Government Residential Area, Port Harcourt, yesterday.
Wike explained that under a federal system of government, it is only the Executive arm of government, at all the tiers, that has the powers to present the annual budget to either state, LG Legislative or National Assembly and also sign it into law.
According to him, the new narrative that a presidential implementation committee has been set up and will direct governors to sign budgetary allocations for the Judiciary is purely unconstitutional.
Wike said a Federal Government that was promoting autonomy of the Judiciary should not have allowed the nation’s courts to be shut for about two months by Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN).
“Is it true that the Federal Government wants the autonomy of the judiciary? If the Federal Government wants the autonomy of the Judiciary, how can a government say that the courts should be shut down for almost two months now? Which country can survive when its courts are shut down for two months?”
Speaking further, the governor said his administration has fully implemented the autonomy of the Judiciary and the Legislature with releases of their financial entitlements as captured in the budget up till 2021.
Wike explained that the funds released by Rivers State Government to the Judiciary far exceeds the planned deductions by the Federal Government.
He further declared that his administration is not owing parliamentary workers who are also currently on sympathy strike.
He proclaimed that already the no-work no-pay policy has come into force in Rivers State and all Judiciary and parliamentary workers cannot sit at work and expect salary anymore.
Speaking on one of his motivations to provide judges with official residences, Wike recalled how, when he was Chief of Staff, he received a call at about midnight that a judge was locked out of his rented apartment by a landlord.
“From that day, I had this feeling that judges should not be so exposed to this kind of things that could lead to lose of their life. We have also acquired land to build for judges of the Federal High Court who are in rented apartment. And I know that the landlord has told me that they have not paid him for several years.
“That comes to tell you the kind of autonomy of the Judiciary that the Federal Government says they believe in. We agree but the rent of their judges is there, they have not brought the money to pay.”
Inaugurating the facility, Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad, noted that Wike has remained a strong voice in the clamour for judicial independence and financial autonomy.
Represented by Justice Mary Odili of the Supreme Court of Nigeria, Justice Muhammad, said Wike’s affection and innate passion for the welfare and wellbeing of the Nigerian Judiciary was worthy of emulation.
“The Wike model should be holistically espoused and replicated by other governors in the country for rapid development and growth of the Nigerian Judiciary.
“I would love to see this mind-blowing gesture, which I refer to as the emblem of humanitarianism, replicated all over the nooks and crannies of the country with a view to lifting the Nigerian Judiciary out of the current squalor which is, largely, inhibiting the seamless and speedy dispensation of justice.
“With this astounding feat, you have, for the umpteenth time, profoundly hoisted the banner of a true statesman.”
The CJN declared that without any ambivalence, that Wike remains a shining example in the comity of contemporary Nigerian political leaders who have the interest and welfare of the Nigerian Judiciary at heart, both in words and in action.
“You are not doing this because you are a lawyer, as we have several lawyers occupying influential political offices in the country, but simply because you are a habitual care giver and development-conscious political leader.”
The President of the National Industrial Court, Justice Benedict B. Kanyip, said Wike has made history in Nigeria by being the first to build a court and residential apartment for judges of the Industrial Court.
Similarly, the Chief Judge of Rivers State, Justice Simeon Amadi, stated that Wike, by providing conducive accommodation for judges, has further expanded the frontiers of the access to justice.
On his part, Rivers State Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Prof. Zacchaeus Adangor (SAN), said Wike was spurred to provide accommodation for the judges of the Industrial Court because of his quest to provide access to justice to people and residents of Rivers State.
The newly inaugurated Industrial Court Judges’ Quarters comprise of four duplexes with five bed rooms each, a club house and swimming pool.
Again, RSG Begins Unveiling, Flag-Off Of Nine Key Projects, ’Morrow
A statement by the state government said that the process is in continuation of the commissioning and flag-off of projects by Governor Nyesom Wike.
It indicated that Rumuola flyover would be commissioned tomorrow, while the GRA flyover would be commissioned on Saturday.
The also stated that the government would commission the Ezimgbu Road on Monday, December 13, 2021; with another commissioning of Tombia Road Extension scheduled for Tuesday, December 14, 2021.
The statement said that the governor would commission the Safe Home, Borikiri, Port Harcourt on Wednesday, December 15; while on Thursday, December 16, 2021, the governor would commission the Odokwu internal roads.
Also, the governor would continue the flag-off of key infrastructure projects with Chokocho-Igbodo Road slated for Monday, December 20, 2021; Oyigbo-Okoloma Road on Wednesday, December 22, 2021; and Magistrates’ Court Complex, Port Harcourt on Thursday, December 23, 2021.
Wike Justifies N7bn Libel Suit Against THISDAY
Wike said he was in court to seek justice and clear his name as a person from the malicious publication by THISDAY Newspaper, which portrayed him as deceitful, untrustworthy person, who exerts subterranean influences on judicial matters and over court sittings in Port Harcourt.
It would be recalled that Wike had in August, 2020, slammed a N7billion suit being damages for libel written and published in THISDAY’s Tuesday, June 23, 2020 edition captioned, “With Wike, Obaseki Meets His PDP’s Waterloo; Almost.”
The defendants in the suit are THISDAY Newspapers Limited, Leaders and Company Limited, Davidson Iriekpan, Chuks Okocha and Adibe Emenyonu.
Wike, while testifying as witness in suit No. PHC/1505/CS/2020 before the court presided over by Justice A. Enebeli, asserted that the defendants maliciously and falsely portrayed him as an unreliable friend/person.
“When you say somebody cannot be trusted; that cannot be a fair comment. When you say somebody is influencing the Judiciary, that cannot be a fair comment”, the governor said.
In his written statement on oath, Wike had stated that the defendants had accused him of influencing the decision of the court sitting in Port Harcourt that granted an injunction restraining Godwin Obaseki from participating in the primaries of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Edo State in 2020.
He stated that the defendants maliciously accused him of undemocratically exerting influence on the primaries process of PDP in Edo State in aid of his ally, Omoregie Ogbeide-Ihama, who was the beneficiary of the court order restraining Obaseki from participating in the PDP primaries.
The governor, who told the court that he was not even aware of the aforementioned suit by Ogbeide-Ihama against Obaseki, said the publication was reckless, false and without regards for the truth.
According to him, contrary to well-known journalistic tradition and practices, the defendants did not investigate properly to ensure the information they relied on was accurate.
“They did not seek to verify the facts from me or in any manner oblige me with the opportunity to state my own side of the story before proceeding to make the false publication” the governor argued.
Wike stated that the defendants further denigrated him before the entire world as a fake democrat, who engages in meddling in the internal affairs of All Progressives Congress (APC) in order to get at his political foe, Chibuike Amaechi.
The governor explained that he was not a member of the APC and has had no hand in the internal crisis which has bedevilled the party both in Rivers State and all over Nigeria.
“By the letter of Messrs E.C. Ukala and Co., Solicitors, under the hand of Emmanuel C. Ukala, SAN, dated 23rd June, 2020, the defendants were given opportunity to retract, and recant the publication as well as to offer apology for the false publication but the defendants spurned the opportunity and ignored the letter completely.”
The governor, while responding to claim by lawyer to the defendants, Turudu Ede, SAN, that the essence of the lawsuit was to intimidate and harass his clients, said the whole essence of the suit was to get justice and clear his name as a man of substantial character, honour and repute.
“The essence of the suit is to get justice since they (defendants) refused to retract the publication or apologise. So, I sued them to clear my name.”
Speaking to journalists outside the court, one of the lawyers to Wike, Mr. Mark Agwu said his client was in court to seek legal redress.
“To challenge him as a person, it means you have made him untrustworthy, a deceit, a cheat, an influencer of the court, because the publication they made was that he had a role to play in influencing the outcome of that Federal High Court case. Nobody will take that lightly, and especially for a man who believes in the rule of law”, Agwu added.
The court adjourned the matter for further hearing to 12th, 13th and 14th of January, 2022.
$130m Fraud: Rivers Sues Saipem SPA, Saipem Contracting Firm, Others
In a 16-count criminal charge filed by the Director of Public Prosecution, C.F. Amadi for the Rivers State Attorney General, the state alleged that after collecting the said sum as advanced payment between 2011 and 2018, the defendants have not kept their obligation under the contract.
Others charged alongside the companies were Walter Peviana; Kelechi Sinteh Chinakwe; Giandomenico Zingali; Vitto Testaguzza and Davide Anelli, who are directors and officers of the companies.
The defendants are charged with various offences ranging from conspiracy, cheating and obtaining credit by false pretence, contrary to Section 518 (6) and (7) and punishable under Section 518 of the Criminal Code, Cap 37 Vol. 2 Laws of Rivers State of Nigeria, 1999, section 419A and punishable under Section 419 (A) (1) (b) of the Criminal Code, Cap 37 Vol. 2 Laws of Rivers State, amongst others.
Already, the Rivers State Government has issued a fiat to the law firm of Godwin Obla (SAN) to prosecute the matter before the state High court.
The defendants are equally charged for the offence of false Statements by Officials of Companies contrary to and punishable under Section 436 (b).
The prosecution specifically accused the defendants of obtaining credit of $130million by false pretences or other fraud contrary to Section 419A and punishable under Section 419 (A) (1) (b); obtaining credit of $20,467,942.00 by false pretences or other fraud contrary to Section 419A and punishable under Section 419 (A) (1) (b), obtaining credit of N7,000,000,000.00 only by false pretences or other fraud contrary to Section 419A and punishable under Section 419 (A) (1) (b).
They are charged for obtaining credit of N318,640,173.54, by false pretences or other fraud contrary to Section 419A and punishable under Section 419 (A) (1) (b); attempt to cheat $97million contrary to Section 508 and punishable under Section 509; attempt to cheat $15million contrary to Section 508 and punishable under Section 509; conspiracy to receive a credit of $97million by false pretences contrary to Section 518 (6) and punishable under Section 518; cheating $11million contrary to Section 421 and punishable under Section 421; cheating contrary to Section 421 and punishable under Section 421; cheating N110, 097, 416.51 contrary to Section 421 and punishable under Section 421; cheating by collecting sums attributable to shared facilities already paid for in AFAM Phase I in AFAM Phase II contrary to Section 421 and punishable under Section 421.
Obtaining N20, 467, 942 contrary to Section 421 and punishable under Section 421; obtaining credit of $60,168,936.00 by false pretences or other fraud, contrary to Section 419A and punishable under Section 419 (A) (1) (b); obtaining credit of $1,512,034.00 by false pretences or other fraud contrary to Section 419A and punishable under Section 419 (A) (1) (b) all of the Criminal Code Law of Rivers State, Cap 37 Vol. 2 Laws of Rivers State of Nigeria 1999.
According to the Proof of Evidence attached to the charge and the statement made by the Head, Power Generation/Mechanical of the Rivers State Ministry of Power, one Mr Temple Azunda M., the facts constituting the case in hand are as follows:
Saipem SPA and Saipem Contracting Nigeria Limited and other officers of the duo, herein the Defendants, are Italian companies which services have been retained by the Rivers State Government, herein RSG, in several projects, prominent amongst which is the AFAM Phase II Power Plant Project.
By an initial tripartite agreement made on the January 20, 2010, the RSG under the auspices of the Rivers State Ministry of Power entered a contract with Saipem Contracting Nigeria Limited, Saipem SPA for the construction of the OGCT power plant in Port Harcourt at a total cost of $119million consequent upon which the Rivers State Government made advance payments, in instalments, to Saipem Contracting Nigeria Ltd and Saipem SPA amounting in total to a sum of $130million in all which the Defendants have acknowledged receipt of.
The Defendants were to be given an initial mobilization of 20per cent of the total contract sum which the RSG paid.
It was part of the initial agreement – and indeed a condition sine qua non – that, to access the 2nd tranche of payment of 25per cent from the Rivers State Government, the Defendants would mandatorily have installed the Gas Turbine into the foundations as referenced in ATTACHMENT 1 to VO 007 which states that:
CONTRACTOR shall be entitled to a payment corresponding to 20per cent of the VO No. 007 LS PRICE upon mobilisation to site and commencement of bush clearing activities at SITE.
Upon commencement of bush clearing activities at the site, the contractor shall issue the invoice relevant to the above payment and the owner shall pay such invoice within 14 days from its issuance.
The parties agree that no deduction for recovery of advance payment shall apply on the payment due to the contractor for invoices issued by the contractor in accordance with this paragraph.
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