Reconsider Courts’ Annual Vacation, AJ Tells CJN, NJC
A non-governmental organization, Access to Justice (AJ) has called on the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), and the National Judicial Council (NJC) to reconsider the vacation periods announced by various heads of courts in the country, and make new policies regulating the length of time those vacations should last in order to get the courts back to business in the earliest possible time.
In a statement by its Convener, Joseph Otteh, and Project Director, ‘Deji Ajare, Access to Justice recommended measures that can be adopted to ensure that cases do not suffer undue delay during the period of annual vacation.
The body advised heads of courts to make new policies regulating the length of time those vacations should last in order to get the courts back to business in the earliest possible time.
They also recommended that judges handling criminal cases should not partake in the general vacation but arrange their own individual vacations so that criminal trials can continue uninterrupted across Nigeria.
According to them, that way, persons being held in detention during their trials can expect their trials to go on to conclusion without much more delay.
The body also urged the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court to ensure that there are vacation courts open in all of its judicial divisions, and not just in Lagos, the FCT and Port Harcourt, given that urgent matters can arise anywhere in the country.
Part of the statement read, “It is customary for courts to mainly shut down in the months of August and September each year to give Judges the opportunity to rest. During this period, only a few designated courts sit to adjudicate urgent matters.
“Access to Justice has, in the past, called for a reform of the judicial vacation system, so that courts’ businesses do not shut down en bloc, and allowing judges take individual vacations instead, in the way it is done in many other countries.
“Justices of the Supreme Court of Nigeria commenced their annual vacation on July 19, 2021, and will resume for the new 2021/2022 legal year in September. Judges of the Federal High Court commenced theirs from July 26, 2021, until September 17, 2021. The National Industrial Court of Nigeria also commenced its vacation from July 30, 2021, until September 27, 2021. The High Court of the Federal Capital Territory Judges will commence their vacation on July 23, 2021, and will last till September 3, 2021. State Judiciaries are also announcing their individual vacations.
“Most of the announced vacations for federal courts range from a period of (nearly) 1.5months to just about two months.
“The current legal year has been marked by extraordinary disruption: the Covid-19 pandemic, the #EndSARS protests that saw many court buildings and records destroyed, and the JUSUN strikes that shuttered courts for a little over two months. In addition to the enforced closures, Judges also enjoyed, at least, four additional vacations – the Christmas, Easter as well as two Muslim vacations. When the various vacations are summed up, many courts would have been closed for business for up to three months. When the periods of disruption are added to this figure, some courts would have been closed for business for a period of more than five months during the legal year.
“The length of time various heads of courts have appropriated to shut down courts for vacation purposes is of great concern. It would mean, in some cases that courts would be effectively shut down for close to six months in the legal year. While the factors leading to the enforced closure of courts during the legal year were not primarily the making of the Judiciary, yet, the Judiciary must be conscious of the impact these developments have had on those who use or “patronize” the courts, and on the delivery of judicial services nationwide.
“Given this, the Judiciary ought to fixate more eagerly and conscientiously on how to clear the case backlogs that have accumulated over the months that courts could not sit, create a sense of burning urgency among judges for more spiritedness in resolving cases, and thus, placing the needs of court users – who are the courts’ customers – well above its own.
“Taking extended court vacations at this time, therefore, appears insensitive to the interests of court users who have already endured much suffering from the closure of courts for many months.
“Some court users are in correctional centres or other detention places, either waiting for courts to hear and decide on the legality of their detentions or awaiting the hearing and conclusion of their trials. Many others who have pending cases before courts may suffer irreparable injury with more delays in the resolving their disputes or getting court orders, without which some serious harm might befall them.
“We are persuaded that the Judiciary ought to give a better public image of itself, and offer a higher level of accountability to the public which it serves. Where the Judiciary ignores the broader needs and stakes of the court user community, and takes any length of vacation periods it chooses, only just because it can, it gives the impression that it is more interested in preserving the vocational privileges of its members than it is committed to the cause of justice and realizing the constitutional rights of citizens to a fair and reasonably speedy trial.
“Where court users feel this way, they further lose faith in courts as vehicles of justice and see the judicial branch as just another impassive, spiritless player in the business of governance. For a Judiciary that has been reeling under a considerable weight of negative public perception, this can be further alienating.”
Judge Warns Against Text Messages In EFCC’s N5bn Suit
Justice Inyang Ekwo of a Federal High Court, Abuja, has warned those sending him private messages in the N5 billion suit filed by the EFCC against Sen. Stella Oduah and others to desist from intruding into his privacy.
Justice Ekwo gave the warning on Monday during the hearing of the matter.
The judge made this known after counsel for Oduah (1st defendant), Onyechi Ikpeazu, SAN, and lawyer to Crystal Television Ltd (7th defendant), Ogbu Onoja, SAN, informed that moves were ongoing to resolve the matter without going through trial.
The judge then said: “Somebody has been breaching my privacy on this matter by sending me messages concerning this matter saying it is part of a concerned group.
“I will send security agencies to fish him out. You cannot be intruding into my privacy.”
Justice Ekwo, who condemned the act, said his records were public documents that could be assessed by anybody after the public laws had been complied with.
Responding, prosecuting lawyer, Hassan Liman, SAN, who appeared for the office of the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF), also condemned the act.
He said even if the person was a party in the suit, he had no right to communicate with the judge.
Earlier, upon resumed proceeding in the matter, Liman told the court that the matter was slated for formal arraignment of the defendants pursuant to the order made in the last adjourned date.
He said he was ready to proceed.
But Ikpeazu said there were applications they planned to file and that they felt discussion should be had on this with the prosecution.
Onoja, who represented the 7th defendant, also informed the court that his client had approached the anti-graft commission and paid almost 95 per cent of the money alleged in the case.
“We are waiting for the commission’s response and almost about N80 million is remaining,” he said.
Liman admitted that it was true that counsel for the 7th defendant wrote to the EFCC, seeking for the discontinuance of the matter.
“I confirm also that Mr Ikpeazu spoke to me this morning,” he said.
The lawyer, who said that the matter was filed since 2020 said though he agreed that there was reconciliation move, he however argued that the defendants must take their plea once the matter had been filed in court.
“The money we are talking about is over N7 billion,” he added, saying it was not such amount Onoja was making allusion to.
Liman said though a letter had been written, he said the commission had not even considered it, despite making the payment.
He admitted that the delay in the prosecution of the matter was not the court’s fault.
“I urge my Lord to order them to take their plea,” he prayed.
Justice Ekwo, who said he was ready for the arraignment, said it would be better to dialogue with the defendants and if that failed, the trial could commence.
He consequently adjourned the matter until June 15 for report or commencement of trial.
Recall that the EFCC had sued Oduah, former Aviation Minister, alongside Gloria Odita, Nwosu Emmanuel Nnamdi and Chukwuma Irene Chinyere.
Others include Global Offshore and Marine Ltd, Tip Top Global Resources Ltd, Crystal Television Ltd, Sobora International Ltd and others.
The senator, who currently represents Anambra North Senatorial District at the National Assembly, was scheduled to be arraigned on alleged N5 billion fraud and financial misappropriation while she served as minister during President Goodluck Jonathan government.
In the 25-count charge marked: FHC/ABJ/CR/316/2020, they are accused of conspiracy, money laundering and maintaining anonymous bank accounts with a commercial bank.
RSHA Elects Amaewhule As Speaker
The Rivers State House of Assembly has elected former House Leader and the lawmaker representing Obio/Apkor constituency 1, Hon. Martin Amaewhule as the speaker of the 10th Assembly.
The House also elected the lawmaker representing Gokana constituency, Dumle Mao, as Deputy Speaker.
Amaewhule was elected yesterday after the 10th Assembly was proclaimed by Governor Siminalayi Fubara through a nomination by the lawmaker representing Okrika Constituency, Linda Somiari Stalwart and seconded by Major Jack of Akuku-Toru Constituency.
The Speaker in his speech, shortly after the oath of office, promised a top class Assembly that will come up with legislations that will stand the test of time.
Amaewhule commended members for voting him and assured them of a new assembly that Rivers people will be proud of.
He, thanked Governor Fubara for proclaiming the Assembly and also the immediate past governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, for his developmental strides in the state.
He also thanked the staff of the Assembly for assisting in the business of government.
Amaewhule is currently serving his fourth term as a legislator and was unanimously voted for by all members present.
The governor had earlier dissolved the 9th Assembly based on the constitutional provision as contained in the 1999 constitution as amended.
By: Ike Wigodo
Terrorism: Tinubu’s Charges Security Agencies On Synergy
President Bola Tinubu has charged security agencies in the country to share information in order to combat the negative effects of terrorism.
He said that hoarding such resources would be counter-productive in the fight against the menace.
The president stated this last Monday, during a tour of the new office of the National Security Adviser and facilities at the National Terrorism Centre (NCTC) in Abuja.
He said his administration recognised the relationship between security and economic revival, prosperity and development.
Tinubu said that terrorism is a global phenomenon that must be tackled with all resources in order to eliminate completely.
“If we as Nigerians are looking for economic revival, prosperity and development, then we have to give priority to security.
“What I have seen here is a demonstration of intelligence efforts to counter-terrorism. This must be backed by knowledge.
“Counter-terrorism that is not backed by knowledge and intelligence is not going to be of any service to any nation. We are going to work on that together.
“The effort of the entire armed forces of this country must be put together in a way that there will be one single focus on securing the country,” he said.
Tinubu, who described the tour of facilities at the new ONSA building as very important, said his administration would provide necessary support to the nation’s security architecture.
In his remarks, the NSA, retired Maj.-Gen. Babagana Monguno, thanked the president for making the visit his first engagement outside the Villa.
He said: “It reinforces his commitment, dedication and inflexible rigidity to ensuring that the security misfortunes of Nigeria and by extension the sub-region are overcome within the shortest possible time.”
Monguno pledged the total commitment and dedication of ONSA to ensuring that the president realises his promises to the people on security.
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