The Umuokpara Ahiasa Women in Umuahia South Local Government Area of Abia, Tuesday embarked on a protest to demand the immediate release of Prof. Uwadinachi Iweha, abducted on June 5.
The protesters, led by Mrs Victoria Asomugha, marched to the palace of the Traditional Ruler of Ezekele Autonomous Community, Eze Godfrey Ibeakanma.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that it was the second protest by the women, who had held a similar action on July 25.
Iweha, a former Chief Medical Director, Abia State University, Aba, is the Provost, Gregory University’s Medical College, Amachara, Umuahia.
In a speech during the protest, Asomugha said the women were not happy that nine weeks after Iweha was abducted by gunmen, his whereabouts were yet unknown.
“We, the Umuokpara women, Ahiasa, are not happy because of the kidnapp of our son.
“Our son went to church but he did not come back.
“We want him alive because he has a lot of work to do for us.
“We want Gov. Okezie Ikpeazu and the security agencies to please, search and locate our son wherever he is,” she said.
Addressing the women, Ibeakanma commended the women for their doggedness and concern, describing their action as proper.
He said he had not forgotten that they thronged his palace on the same issue about two weeks ago.
He said that although the State Government, the Police and other security agencies were trying their best, they should redouble their efforts to secure the victim’s release.
“We know that the governor has tried and promised to pay N5 million to anyone that could provide the information on how our son could be found.
“Since we are alive, there is still hope because somebody is not supposed to miss in the house of God.
“It is only God that performs miracle and we expect his miracle in this matter that hurts us so severely,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Police Public Relations Officer in the state, SP Geoffrey Ogbonna, told NAN that the command had intensified its search for the victim.
Also, the President-General of the community, Mr Odimba Maduakolam, appealed to the government and security agencies to help quicken the release of Iweha.
In a speech, the victim’s family stated that it was still in shock over the abduction of their patriach.
The speech, which was issued to newsmen by the victim’s son, Chukwudi, confirmed that a ransom was paid a day after their father was abducted.
He, however, regretted that the family had yet to hear anything from the abductors.
“As a family, we had not been able to discern the motive behind this act or point accusing fingers at anybody.
“We have our trust in God that he will return and be reunited with us in good health,” Chukwudi said.
NAN recalls that the Nigeria Medical Association, Abia State chapter, had held several protests to also push for the release of their member.
The body later declared a strike every Tuesday to reinforce its call on the abductors to release the victim.
2023: GOC 2 Div. Warns Soldiers Not To Aid Electoral Malpractices
The General Officer Commanding (GOC) 2 Division of the Nigerian Army, Maj.-Gen. Aminu Chinade, has warned soldiers not to aid or abet electoral malpractices in 2023.
Chinadu issued the warning on Tuesday, when he paid familiarisation visit to the Headquarters of 4 Brigade in Benin.
He said that involving oneself in electoral malpractice at any level would bring the image of the Nigerian Army to utter disrepute.
He said that his tour of the military formations was to acquaint himself with all the units under his jurisdiction.
The GOC said that he was impressed with the briefs he received about the conduct of the officers and men of the division.
He, therefore, urged them to sustain their efforts and not lower the standard, while discharging their duties, especially during the upcoming General Elections.
“I want to commend you for your commitment and dedication to duty as indicated in the brief I got even before coming.
“I am encouraged by your behaviour and professional conduct.
“I want to imploy you to work closely with the host community and contribute to the security of lives and property in the area, especially in this election period.
“Remain apolitical in order not to dent your career.
“Whenever you are called upon during the elections, you should remain neutral and apolitical,” Chinadu said.
He further charged them to maintain professionalism and shun any act of partisanship in the discharge of their assignment.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Chinadu assumed office as the new GOC of the division on August 12.
Bizman Calls For Better Security Apparatuses In Rural Areas
A Port Harcourt-based businessman, Pastor Pioneer Omereji, has called for better security architecture in rural communities.
Pst. Omereji, who made the call while speaking with newsmen in Port Harcourt on Monday, noted that rural communities were facing greater danger as a result no police presence.
He pointed out that cultism, armed robbery and kidnapping took place more in the rural areas than in city centres.
Omereji explained that most criminals live in the rural areas where the standard of living was abysmal.
He said criminals usually took cover in suburbs, where they live in shanties and raided city centres.
“We must understand that more people live in the rural communities than in the cities, therefore government must provide adequate security for a percentage of our population. There is a grave danger in limiting our security apparatuses to urban centres.”
He noted that the time had come when government had to rise to its responsibilities.
“Some villages had become the hotbed of crises. Many villagers are pitted against themselves. Killings have become daily occurrences yet still government appears indifferent”, he stated.
Pst. Poineer remarked that Ibaa community in Emohua Local Government Area of Rivers State facing a difficult time as cultists had continued to wreak havoc in the area.
The clergyman averred that unless the government to urgent steps to stem the situation, insecurity in rural areas would continue to fester.
Also speaking, Mr. Prince Okeoma, a Port Harcourt-based businessman attributed the the spate of crime in the rural communities to lack of Job opportunities and the rising level of poverty.
Mr. Okeoma stated that if government wanted to address the issue of crime it must provide enabling environment for the youth to acquire meaningful vocation.
On Inibehe Effiong’s Plight Amid The Stalking-Horse Argument
These are not the best of times for Nigeria’s Law profession! A story for another piece.
Meanwhile, my Lord, Hon. Justice Maurice Eneji, rtd was reported to have written thus on a platform that goes by the name, Confederation of Bekwarra Lawyers:
“But we must realise that the law empowers the Chief Judge to assign cases to all other Judges within her state. Thus, any application for transfer of a case is subject to the Chief Judge’s discretion. The Chief Judge can decide to transfer or not to transfer. He/she cannot be forced to do so, else it will amount to disarming the judicial power of the court. Now, if the Chief Judge refuses to transfer, then the case must go on before the Chief Judge or any court it was pending the end of hearing, if the case goes against the applicant, then the applicant has right to appeal. It is wrong for anyone to wrestle with an authority such as a court to exercise discretion in favour of any one particular person(s) or party/parties to a case. That will amount to commanding the court! May that day never come.
Respected Hon Justice Maurice Eneji (rtd), Sir, with the greatest respect to you, I think you have turned upside down all of law, equity, justice, reason and common sense.
1. You say the Chief Judge cannot be forced to transfer the case. You missed it, Sir. Such does not arise and does not apply in the present case. Under professional legal ethics, there appear to be four options available to any party who thinks he has a proper cause for complaint against a judicial officer:
(I). Send a petition to the Chief Judge of the court, for transfer of the case to another judge; or
(II). File a formal Application for Recusal, this is by Motion on Notice, Affidavit and Written Address; or
(III). Wait and make such a complaint a ground of appeal (see Sunday Okodua V. State); or
(IV). In extreme cases, report to NJC for disciplinary action.
Now, dear Hon Justice Eneji, rtd, from available reports, it appears that the option relevant to the Inibehe Effiong scenario is point Number (II), not point number (I) as you have erroneously suggested. As reported, and no one has refuted this, Inibehe Effiong as a counsel in the case, had filed a formal application praying the Hon Chief Judge to recuse himself from the case. Whether the Chief Judge likes it or not, the Chief Judge has/had an obligation to hear and determine the application, one way or another. It is on record that when Inebehe Effiong drew the attention of the judge to the Application for Recusal, instead of taking the application (which was the proper thing to do in the circumstances), at least to either dismiss or grant it, the judge had rather waved it aside, directed that the application be kept one side while trial should proceed. Inibehe complied. Thus, the lawyer, Inibehe Effiong, was ready to move the application but the judge refused to take the application.
With due respect to the Chief Judge, this is a very wrong procedure, perhaps a further testimony to his alleged personal interest or bias in the case.
Dear Hon Justice Eneji rtd, Sir, with due respect, your argument is premature; the judge had a duty to hear the application for Recusal, even if the judge planned to dismiss it. In exercising this all-important duty, the judge who happens to be the Chief Judge of Akwa Ibom State, failed woefully, leading to so many implications, imputaions, inferences and then raising so many questions, two of which are:
(A). Did the Hon Chief Judge of Akwa Ibom State forget his professional duties as a presiding judge? A presiding judge should always appreciate that he is an umpire and as such should never enter into the arena of conflict – so that he does not have a befogged vision of the case. The presiding judge must also bear in mind the need to not be a “Hippy Harliet”. See Uso v. The Police (1972) 11 S.C. 37; Okoruwa v. The State  ANLR 262 See also Onuoha v. The State (1989) 2 N.W.L.R (Pt. 101) 23; Ayub-Khan v. The State (1991) 2 N.W.L.R (pt172). 127.
(B). What then becomes of Nemo Judex In Causa Sua?
“The court looks at the impression which would be given to other people. Even if the judge was as impartial as could be, nevertheless if right-minded persons would think that, in the circumstances, there was a real likelihood of bias on the part of the judge/adjudicator/arbiter, then he should not sit. and if he does sit, his decision cannot stand. It is irrelevant whether he was in fact biased, because justice is rooted in public confidence, and confidence is destroyed when right-minded people go away thinking that the judge was biased”. See: “The Suspension Of NBA General Secretary By The National Executive Committee: Corollary Legal Issues” By Sylvester Udemezue (TheNigeriaLawyer: 15 August 2022).
2. Hon Justice Eneji (rtd’s) argument over the Akwa Ibom State Chief Judge’s non-release of record of proceedings in Inibehe Effiong’s case: Hear Justice Eneji (rtd):
“Concerning the delay in providing records of proceedings, it must be borne in mind that:
1. Soon after the unpleasant episode, the court proceeded on vacation. So his Lordship will not be expected to stay back to vet and issue the records of proceedings. To do so during vacation will clearly be illegal!! It is only a Vacation Judge that has the power to treat only urgent applications during vacation!! No other person can! Therefore, if counsel had been diligent, they would have approached the Vacation Judge to reach out to the Hon Chief Judge to speed up issuance of the requested record of proceedings, and even better still, approach the vacation court for bail of the convict/contemnor pending appeal.
My Lord, Sir, with due respect, you missed it. In a commentary titled, “It Is A Violation of Litigants’ Fundamental Right for A Court to Make Litigants Pay to Obtain A Copy of the Court’s Judgment” (see: Barrister NG: 6 August 2021), I wrote, ‘Section 294(1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, provides that “Every court established under this Constitution shall deliver its decision in writing not later than 90 days after the conclusion of evidence and final addresses and furnish all parties to the cause or matter determined with duly authenticated copies of the decision within seven days of the delivery thereof”. Similarly, Section 36(7) of the same Constitution requires that “… the accused person or any persons authorised by him in that behalf shall be entitled to obtain copies of the judgment in the case within seven days of the conclusion of the case”. It is submitted that the court has a duty to make a copy of the judgment available to the parties free of charge either in the open court on the date of judgment or through the bailiffs within seven days of the judgment, or through email or other virtual platforms (the last is most preferable)’.
Continuing, I said, “This being the case, the court has a duty to make available to the parties, duly authenticated copies of the judgment. This must be done free of any charge and within the time stipulated by law, or where no time is stated, within a reasonable time. Time is of the essence here. Failure to do this is a gross breach of the fundamental rights of the affected parties and a violation of due process, rule of law and the interest of justice…. By the way, why not the court sends a copy of the judgment through the court’s official email to (all the litigants and) the lawyers in the case? Why not we expect to see a copy of every judgment of court posted on the court’s website within 24 hours or not later than seven days from the date of the judgment? Why not? Are these not where the world is at present? Why are we left behind in everything? Is it that we do not have funds to get things done right or that we do not have the foresight to see that only the right things should be done, or that “fantastic” corruption has taken away the money we need to have things done right? Where in a civilised, developed 21st century compliant country, are parties still queuing up in the court’s registry to apply for, pay through the nose (typical of Nigeria) to obtain a copy of judgments of court in their own case? Should we not at least upgrade– even if it is one step forward? What does it take the court to send a copy of its own judgement to litigants?’
My Humble Opinion:
The delay by the Chief Judge of Akwa Ibom State (who happens to be the presiding judge in this case) in releasing the record of proceedings in the Inibehe Effiong scenario is a deliberate ploy to frustrate Inibehe Effiong’s lawyers’ efforts to get justice. It is a violation of Inibehe Effiong’s fundamental rights. It is a violation of the Chief Judge’s oath of office and the code of conduct for judicial officers. Further, it is a gross breach of the Chief Judge’s duty of impartiality as an adjudicator. Such is also irregular and amounts to a gross deceleration of the Constitution. Section 36(1) of the Nigerian Constitution provides that “In the determination of his civil rights and obligations, including any question or determination by or against any government or authority, a person shall be entitled to a fair hearing within a reasonable time by a court or other tribunal established by law and constituted in such manner as to secure its independence and impartiality”. While section 36(6)(b) requires that “Every person who is charged with a criminal offence shall be entitled to be given adequate time and facilities for the preparation of his defence”.
With due respect, as I suggested, Hon Justice Eneji (rtd), is muddling issues up, instead of facing relevant issues and calling a spade by its name! I see the argument as a poor excuse for a gross desecration of law, justice, ethics and procedure by a judicial officer from whom a high standard of professional discipline was expected. Justice Eneji may well be described as a stalking-horse, looking more as one advanced to becloud the mode relevant and serious questions bordering on these gross violations of law, justice and procedure.
By: Sylvester Udemezue
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