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Crime/Justice

On Inibehe Effiong’s Plight Amid The Stalking-Horse Argument

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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 [1975] 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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Crime/Justice

That Public Hearing On Two Bills By RSHA: Matters Arising

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Discrimination against women and the girl-child in Nigeria has been a very serious issue of concern. Most people in the country, leverage on the erroneous belief that women are not to roll or compete with the men folk and treat the women and the girl-child with a kind of less regard.
These very beliefs have further empowered traditional practitioners to vent their anger on women by subjecting them to genital mutilation even at their old age.
This very act of genital mutilation has been outlawed by the Rivers State Government years ago, but surprisingly, it is still held and celebrated at some quarters in the state.
Section 42 of the Nigerian Constitution, 1999 (as amended), calls on Nigerians at all levels not to discriminate against any one due to the circumstances surrendering their births.
To us from the Ikwerre extraction of the state (other tribes, may not be free from this too), it is a taboo to allow women share in their father’s inheritance, just because they are women.
They will not remember that they are women when the men folk will invite the women to intercede on their behalf in the event of serious communal issues.
This, to my mind calls for serious attention from concerned and relevant authorities in an urgent attempt to nip the ugly development in the bud.
Thanks to the Nigeria Association of Women Journalists, NAWOJ, Rivers State Chapter, who on Tuesday, March 15, 2022, approached the 9th Assembly, led by the honourable Speaker, Rt. Honourable, Ikuinyi-Owaji Ibani DSSRS,KSC, to make their position known to the lawmakers on the need to streamline the issues of obnoxious traditional practices and discriminatory laws against women and the girl-child in the State.
NAWOJ, applauded the State Assembly for the bold step taken to pass the bill on Compulsory Treatment and Care for Victims of Gunshots 2022.
It further expressed hope that the bill, when passed into law, will bring relief to families of those who have passed on and innocent people who suffered from raids and robbery attacks as a result of stray bullets.
The association also believed that the bill will as well keep the hospitals on their toes, because demanding for police report before treatment is like placing document above life.
As a group pushing for rights of women to share in family property, they commended the Assembly for considering the Curtailment of the Rights of Women to Share in Family Property Bill, 2022.
All these, are targeted at bridging the gap between the male and female folks in terms of inheritance-sharing cum allocation.
Projecting itself as a spring board for women emancipation, it was of the view that the bill when passed into law, will end all sorts of discriminations against women and girls in sharing of inheritance and explicitly, will allow females to inherit property and land on an equal basis with males.
This may not go down well with many. Going by the global practice, women are now seen as equal with their male counterparts and not the other way round.
No one wants to be left behind in the global trend of things. Everyone wants to own an iPhone, latest this, latest that, but not everyone in this side of the hemisphere (especially the men), wants to depart from the parochial belief that women are not meant to even stand and talk or argue with men.
Thanks to the Susan Serekara-Nwikana led NAWOJ, who appealed with the RSHA to consider the bill, and reminded the Assembly that State Civil Laws should have supremacy over customary laws and practices that discriminate against women and girls in the society.
In most cases, people play down on the above point. They juxtapose traditional belief with the safety and health of the people, wherein, Customary laws and practice are put forward to the detriment of the people, because it is our Custom and Tradition. It ought not to be so.
The association, also want the legislation to include that, upon remarrying, a surviving spouse retains the full rights in any property she inherited from the deceased husband’s estate.
The Association equally gives her profound gratitude to the Executive Governor of Rivers State, Chief Barr. Nyesom Wike, for championing the upliftment of women in political positions in the state.
They pointed out the Governor’s insistence on women to be voted in as Vice Chairpersons in all the 23 Local Government Areas in the State, as paramount.
Another issue of concern about Governor Wike’s care and concern as the female pen pushers noted, was that of ensuring that his Deputy is a woman.
According to them, Gov Wike, has fought for the protection and security of some daughters of the soil, using that of the one-time Acting Chairman of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Joi Nueih when harassed by an agent of the Federal Government in the past, as a case study.
They were of the opinion that women deserve all round protection and care from the people, especially public office holders.
Appreciating the Governor for assenting to the Violence Against Person Prohibition Law (VAPP), among others, they want also a violence-free environment that will enthrone the promotion of rule of law.
Their position was to make the state rank as the best gender-friendly state in Africa. This is another way to market the state.
The state must not wait until some investors have come to announce it to the world. Such ‘cheap’ points cannot make the state popular.
Women are very powerful warlords. Bible scholars would recall what Deborah and Jael did (Judges Chapters Four and Five). Male war champions suffered not only defeat in their hands, but death.
The time to give attention to women requests/ prayers is now!
NAWOJ as an association is the first respondent to issues of abuses, discrimination and neglects in collaboration with sister agencies.
They have continued to champion the cause of women and girls in the society by making sure that their voices are heard, using its various media platforms.
Onunwor, is a Reporter with The Tide Newspaper.

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Crime/Justice

New Imo Police Boss Pledges To Sustain Fight Against Crime

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The new Commissioner of Police, Imo State Command, Mohammed Ahmed Barde, has pledged to consolidate and improve on the achievement recorded by his predecessors in areas of combating crimes, criminality and sustaining stability in the state.
He stated this on his assumption of duty at the Command Headquarters in, Owerri, after being drafted to the state last week.
Spokesperson for the Command, Chief Superintendent of Police (CSP) Michael Abattam, in a statement, quoted Barde as saying he would explore modern intelligence and tactical strategies that would guarantee adequate security in the state.
Abattam described the new Police boss as a seasoned, passionate, versatile and experienced police officer, who has earned accolades for his meritorious services and professionalism in the force.
He disclosed that the Imo CP, who hails from Niger State, joined the Force in March 1990, as a Cadet Assistant Superintendent of Police.
He holds a Bachelor of Science Degree (B.Sc) in Political Science from Usman Danfodio University and a Masters Degree in Peace and Conflict Resolution.
He said: “CP Mohammed Ahmed Barde was the Commissioner of Police, Force Criminal Intelligence Investigation Department (FCIID) Annex, Enugu, and until his recent posting to Imo State Police Command, he was the Commissioner of Police, Adamawa State Command. His dint of hard work and professionalism in the job has earned him many accolades.”
Barde took over from CP Rabiu Hussaini, who recently retired from active service after attaining the retirement age of 60.

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Crime/Justice

Rumuji DPO Bags Outstanding Security Award

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Sequel to his doggedness in crime fighting and management, the Divisional Police Officer in charge of Rumuji Police Station, CSP Nnaemeka Didigwu has been bestowed with the Outstanding Crime Fighter/Security Management Police Officer of the Year Award by the leadership of the Coalition of Niger Delta Journalists.
The award was handed over to Didigwu by the Chairman of the Union Mr. Wariso Wariso who led a delegation of the group to Rumuji Police Station in Emohua Local Government Area over the week.
Wariso who recalled how terrible the area was before the arrival of the officer and his team said that they have brought down crime rate in that axis of the state.
He hinted that many who left the area as a result of insecurity had since returned for their lawful business operations.
The leader of the team, said Police officers of such rating ought to receive support from all and sundry in a bid to spur them to action.
According to him, criminals operating in that axis of the state have since chosen relocation as an option due to the continuous bombing of the brushes and forests by the officer and his team in search of the miscreants.
“It is based on this fact findings that we as professional Media group, resolved to bestow an award of honour to this hard working and experienced gallant officer”, he said.
Didigwu, who codedly hinted on part of his activities in the area under his watch, said most of the notorious criminals in the area have repented.
He pointed out that crime fighting should be business of all and not to be left in the hands of a selected few.
The officer also warned against rising of false alarm by the people as such could jeopardise security.
Meanwhile, he has assured the group and the general public of his determination to do more and thanked the group for indentifying with him and the entire Police Force.
The Tide learnt that the East-West Road and the Emohua-Kalabari Road now enjoy peace due to the effort of the officer and his team.

By: King Onunwor

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