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Discordant tunes over plea bargain for looters

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Whistle-blowing policy of the federal government is already yielding result in view of millions of naira including dollars being recovered by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). Is there also the need for a wider application of plea bargain in the recovery of looted funds? AKEEM NAFIU asks

 

 

Ted. C Eze, a lecturer from the Faculty of Law, Anambra State University, Igbariam and Eze Amaka G. of the Nnamdi Azikwe University, Awka’s Faculty of Law, who are both holders of Ph.D while x-raying the concept of plea bargain in criminal justice system, said “plea bargain” is a new phenomenon in the Nigerian legal system. It has been trailed with a lot of controversy. The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission has recently been applying the concept to release many corrupt public officers who should have been in jail.

“The idea is that they agree to plead guilty for a lesser charge with minimal punishment in exchange for the return of most of their stolen wealth. “The opponents of this practice believe that the end result of the practice would be counter-productive in the fight against corruption as it will encourage other public officers to steal public money.”

This, however, at the weekend became a subject of discourse following a request by a Justice of the Supreme Court, Justice Kumai Bayang Aka’ahs that there was the need for a wider application of plea bargain if the war against corruption must be won.

Akaahs specifically said that if the country must get out of its corrupt practices, President Muhammadu Buhari must make greater use of the plea bargain concept in the ongoing war against corruption especially by focusing more on ensuring that monies embezzled by public officials were returned. He said: “I think in the long run instead of having so many people behind bars, it will help our economy if they return what they have stolen. We can tell them to go and sin no more.

Then if they repeat, they will be sanctioned. “Most of those who steal these funds do so because they want to run for governorship or such other positions. If they know that they will be bared for some time, they will be de-terred. I think we need a wider understanding of the concept of plea bargaining.”

But this again spark of another round of controversy as lawyers including Senior Advocates of Nigeria could not agree on why plea bargain should be incorporated into the anti-corruption crusade of the Muhammadu Buhari-led administration.

While some believe that plea bargain arrangement would hasten the recovery of looted funds and get justice for the society and the offender, others said it must be discouraged as looters of the treasury must face the full wrath of the law.

Plea bargain Plea bargain, according to The Black’s Law Dictionary is “a negotiated agreement between a prosecutor and a criminal defendant who pleads guilty to a lesser offence or to one or more multiple charges in exchange for some concession by the prosecutor usually a more lenient sentence or a dismissal of other charges.

The concept of plea bargain was introduced in 2004 under Section 13 (2) of the EFCC Act, with a view to expeditiously recovering funds looted by public officers. In other words, plea bargaining was born out of expediency. The advent of the Lagos State version of plea bargain in 2007 could also be traced to Section 79 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Law (ACJL) of Lagos State, 2011.

Plea bargain was also provided for in Part 28, Section 270 (Subsections 1 – 18) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) 2015, as one of the possible pleas available to a person charged with crime. Section 270(1) provides two ways through which plea bargain may be initiated, being by an offer made by either the prosecutor or the defendant.

In the case of defendants, the offers can be made directly or on their behalf. However, the consent of the victim of crime must be sought either directly or indirectly. A defendant’s plea under plea bargain arrangement is taken ‘during or after the presentation of the evidence of the prosecution, but before the presentation of the evidence of the defence’.

Conditions for the making of the plea were enumerated under Section 270 (2) as follows: ‘Where the evidence of the prosecution is insufficient to prove the offence charged beyond reasonable doubt; ‘Where the defendant has agreed to return the proceeds of the crime or make restitution to the victim or his representative, or ‘where the defendant in a case of conspiracy has fully cooperated with the investigation and prosecution of  the crime by providing relevant information for the successful prosecution of other offenders.’ However, Section 270 (2) (a) makes it clear that a crime that is provable is not subject to plea bargain.

Despite this, there is always a consideration for which the state would make a bargain in all cases. Besides, an accused person remains a convict despite plea bargain and in the event that he or she commits another or similar crimes in the future, the records available at the Central Criminal Registry which its creation was provided for in Part 2, Section 16 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) will be evidence to disallow leniency in the future. Section 270 (2) (b) (c) also pins down the guilt of the defendant.

It is therefore impossible for an accused person to turn around and change his or her mind about plea bargain. It is therefore evident from the above that the concept is not alien to the country. Although, outrage had trailed introduction of plea bargain as a corrupting influence which enables the rich to escape sanction at the expense of the poor, the call by Justice Aka’ahs on the need for the federal government to have a second look at its provisions with a view to accommodating it in the graft war cannot be treated with kid gloves.

Lawyers speak Should the federal government incorporate plea bargain in the graft war as being championed by Justice Aka’ahs of the Supreme Court? Lawyers say yes, no To some of them, who bared their minds on the issue with New Telegraph Law at the weekend, plea bargain in the fight against corruption would aid corrupt practices rather than extinguish its fire.

While some of them gave their backings for the adoption of plea bargain in the corruption fight as being canvassed by Justice Aka’ahs, others dismissed it, saying its wider application would facilitate corrupt practices among public office holders.

For instance, Tayo Oyetibo (SAN), Chief Niyi Akintola (SAN), Wale Adesokan (SAN), Adekunle Ojo and Malachy Ugwumadu, who believe plea bargain was a must in the war against corruption, said there the need for the federal government to ensure that plea bargain in corruption fight was encouraged and developed.

They, however, added that the focus should be more on recovery of looted funds than offenders’ prosecution. According to them, once sanctions provided for in the plea bargain arrangement were fully adhered to, it should suffice for the society to adhere to them rather than embarking on endless litigation that would lead to nowhere.

Adesokan and Ojo, who are against Justice Aka’ahs’ suggestion, said the right to prosecute which belonged to the state should not be taken away under whatever guise as it was the prerogative of the state to ensure that at every point in time the state decided it was worth the while to prosecute an individual from who it had recovered some loot.

To Oyetibo, there must be a proper mechanism for the wider application of plea bargain if Justice Aka’ahs’ request must be strictly followed. He said: “Plea bargain should be encouraged and developed. But there should be mechanism for the application of that regime. The procedure should not be haphazard but well thought out and guided by rules.

“Allowing those who are willing to surrender their loot to go will have to be subjected to rules and it depends on the mechanism. It should not be arbitrary. But above all, plea bargain should be encouraged.” Also speaking in same vein, another Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Akintola said federal government should move away from endless litigations and embrace plea bargain in its corruption fight. “Let me say straightaway that plea bargain is not a new phenomenon.

That is the practice in civilized world. In any case, the Constitution has made provisions for sanctions against public officers. Once a public officer is indicted and convicted, whether through plea bargain or not, he will remain convicted.

“To that extent, he will be barred from holding public office for ten years. If that punishment is there in addition to his returning the loot, I think that should suffice for the society rather than embarking on endless litigations that will lead to nowhere.

“Like we have seen in recent time, our anti-graft agencies don’t have sufficient manpower and capacity to do a thorough investigation before going to court as reflected in a case of a former Adesokan Ojo Head of Service of the Federation, Steve Oronsaye, who was recently let off the hook. If you see the charge, you will be wondering who put it before the court in the first place and how will it be sustained? Most of the time, they go to court on mere suspicion without any thorough investigation.

“So, I think if government embraces plea bargain and ensure that anyone convicted remain convicted, in addition to retrieving their loot, they will still be barred for holding public office for ten years, it is good enough.” Ugwumadu urged government to adopt the provisions of plea bargain in the fight against corruption.

He said: “You will appreciate that the whole concept of plea bargain has now gained legislative approval not just in the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015 but also in the administration of Criminal Justice Law of Lagos State 2011. Those were legislative backings of this policy that is prevalent in the United States.

“The main purpose of it is to weigh the cost implications of full trial as against the recovery of looted funds with a substituted penalty which may not secure maximum punishment for the offence. It is also aimed at recovering for the nation as much looted fund before the lighter sentence is passed. “So, the focus is on recovery and not punishment. However, it’s been a polarized position in the sense that there are those who are of the view that if that line is towed, there is a tendency that it is abused.

“There are also people, particularly in our socio-economic circumstance that are prepared to walk into prison if they can secure a minimum sentence and then keep as much as they can even if the country wants to recover as much as it can.

“There are also others who are of the view that despite its advantages, plea bargain arrangement must be closely monitored and implemented to prevent its abuse. “I think the views of the Justice of the Supreme Court are reasonable in the sense that if the aim of plea bargain is to recover as much loot as possible as against the imprisonment terms, then, it can be limited to the issue of financial crimes.

So, I am persuaded and swayed by the judge’s suggestion.” But Adesokan differed. He said that the existence of a plea bargain arrangement should not deter the prosecution from carrying out its duties. Adesokan said: “I have a lot of respect for Justice Aka’ahs. His views are always very sound but I will differ slightly on this occasion. My view is that each case should be taken on its own merit.

Whether or not prosecution will be completely forgotten, a lesser offence will be in place or a lesser sanction will be imposed and should be done on case by case basis. “Part of what informs plea bargain are the sense of remorse and quality of evidence. For instance, if the prosecution was able to lay its hand on quality evidence, even if an accused person want to return the loot, it will not be good enough for the prosecution to drop its case against the accused person because it will amount to a slap in the wrist. In essence, what I am saying is that it should be done on case by case basis.”

Adesokan was echoed by a former Vice-President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Mr. Adekunle Ojo, who described Justice Aka’ahs’ suggestion as misplaced He said: “With due respect to the judge, I think the suggestion is misplaced because it is contrary to the law.

The EFCC Act says you can make the man who has looted the treasury return every fund he has looted and still be sentenced to 10 years imprisonment without an option of fine. “It should not even come from a judge because basically if all the cases were settled at the level of the prosecutor, then, what cases will the judges be attending to? “The right to prosecute belongs to the state.

This means that at every point in time, the state decides whether it is worth the while to prosecute an individual from whom it has recovered some loot. It is actually a subject of prosecutorial discretion to decide whether to prosecute or not. “Even if a man was caught red handed and the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) chooses to enter a ‘nolle prosequi’, there is nothing anybody would do about it.

“By and large, plea bargain has always been part of the system and I believe that the right to prosecute a case should not be hampered by anybody. So, I don’t think the suggestion should be made official and I am not in support of it.”

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Re-instatement: NRC’s MD risks arrest

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Justice Mojisola Olatoregun of a Federal High Court in Lagos has threatened to issue a bench warrant against the Managing Director of Nigeria Railway Corporation (NRC), Mr. Fidet Okhiria, over his failure to appear before the court.
The judge frowned at Okhiria’s refusal to show up in court to face a committal proceedings slammed on him by a former employee of the Corporation, Benedict Iheakam, for allegedly disobeying a court’s order.
Iheakam had through his lawyer, Johnson Esezoobo, asked the court for an order committing Okhiria and NRC’s Secretary/Legal Adviser, Canise Oklahoma, to prison over their alleged refusal to comply with a court’s order handed down more than 14 years ago.

Justice Dan Abutu (Rtd) had on February 18, 2003, while delivering judgement in a suit marked, FHC/L/CS/926/95, ordered the NRC to reinstate Iheakam into its fold and pay all his entitlements.
At the last hearing of the matter, Oklahoma’s lawyer, Opeyemi Igbayiloye, informed the court of his meetings with Esezoobo but did not file any document before the court in that regard.
He said: “At the last proceedings, the court directed that our client should show cause why he did not comply with the court’s order. It is unfortunate that we did not have documentary evidence that there is a cause to resolve the matter and comply with order of court.”

In his response, Esezoobo while confirming Igbayiloye’s submissions regarding the meetings added that he was informed by the NRC’s legal adviser that the MD is currently in China.
Piqued by the development, Justice Olatoregun asked if Okhiria is bigger than the law.

“Order of the court must always be obeyed. He must not show himself to be above law. Is he too big to appear in court? I give him a week to obey court”, the judge said
The matter has been adjourned to February 21 for Okhiria to appear in court.

Justice Abutu had in his judgement held that a purported retirement letter of Iheakam, a Principal Technical Officer at NRC, dated November 1, 1994, is contrary to his contract of employment and is therefore unlawful, null and void.
The judge noted that NRC had sometimes in 1992, nominated Iheakam as one of those to attend a three-month Commonwealth sponsored course in Zambia.

“During the three months period, they were given $500 per month. The total amount for the three months was $1,500, given to them in Zambia currency. They were not given estacode, but were orally told that on their return to Nigeria, they would be paid all entitlements.

“I have carefully perused the standard conditions of service of the defendant, which govern the appointment of the plaintiff admitted as exhibit 2 in this case and I am unable to see any provision thereof, which permits the retirement of an employee for no reason.

“I hold that the retirement of the plaintiff is invalid, null and void. The plaintiff is entitled to continue to have right to be treated as an employee of the defendant, notwithstanding his purported retirement vide letter dated 1st November 1994 admitted as Exhibit 11A in this case.

“The defendant is hereby ordered to reinstate the plaintiff forthwith to its employment and to restore him to his rank as Principal Technical Officer 1(Metal) with full salary and all entitlements from October 1994 to the date of judgment herein.

“The sum of $21,285, being the total of estacode allowance for 93 days is hereby awarded for the plaintiff to be paid by the defendants,” the judge ordered.
The management of NRC has refused to comply with the court’s order till date despite losing out in all their motions to appeal the judgment from 2005 to 2014 when the last application was struck out for incompetence.

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Row over reordered sequence of elections

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AKEEM NAFIU writes that although lawyers were at the weekend unanimous that the National Assembly was constitutionally empowered to make and amend laws for the good of the country, they, however, faulted the assembly’s committee on Electoral Act (amendment) Bill for a reordered sequence of 2019 general elections

 

 

Notwithstanding last week’s disagreement among members of the National Assembly on a report of an amendment carried out on the Electoral Act which reordered sequence of the 2019 general election, lawyers at the weekend expressed disgust for the National Assemblymen to dabble into the issue when the elections were already near.
They said the amendment was carried out in bad faith while querying the rationale behind the lawmakers’ action for the amendment.

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had on January 9 at a news conference in Abuja released guidelines and schedule of operations as well as the time-table for the 2019 elections.
Its chairman, Professor Mahmud Yakubu, said the notice of the general election would be out on August 17 in accordance with Section 30 (1) of the Electoral Act 2010 which provided that the notice of election be made not later than 90 days before the elections.
Besides, the INEC chairman said the conduct of party primaries including resolution of disputes arising from the primaries would take place between August 18 and October 7.
Yakubu said: “The campaigns of political parties for Presidential and National Assembly elections should begin by November 18 while that of governorship and House of Assembly is December 1.”

According to Yakubu, the last day for the submission of nomination forms by political parties for the presidential and the National Assembly elections was December 3, while the governorship and the House of Assembly was December 17.
However, going by the schedule and guidelines, the presidential and the National Assembly poll would hold on February 16, 2019 while the governorship and the House of Assembly elections were fixed for March 2, 2019.
But, these guidelines and time-table for the 2019 general election as released by INEC on January 9 had already set the stage for an unending clash between the National Assembly and the electoral umpire over which of them had the power to actually fix time-table for a general election following an adoption of the National Assembly’s committee report which had reordered sequence of the 2019 elections.
The adoption of the committee’s report had reversed the time-table already released by INEC.

Following the adoption of the reordered sequence of elections, the presidential election would no longer hold on February 16, 2019 should President Muhammadu Buhari give assent to the proposed bill.
Although the adoption of the reordered sequence of the elections had caused a sharp disagreement among member of the National Assembly, it is believed that such tinkering with the sequence of the elections would no doubt trigger an unending legal disputes ahead of the 2019 general election especially when such adoption was coming a few weeks after the assemblymen amended the Electoral Act 2010 with an inclusion of Section 25(1).

The amendment would now reorder the sequence of the elections to begin with the National Assembly, followed by the governorship and the state Houses of Assembly and ending it with the presidential election.
However, a twist was added to the development when the House of Representatives began a process to amend the Electoral Act 2010 with the inclusion of Section 25(1) in the law.

This was to reorder the sequence of the elections, to commence with the National Assembly, followed by the governorship and State Houses of Assembly, and presidential as last.
This, however, countered the sequence announced by INEC which had put the presidential and the National Assembly elections first and the governorship and the states assembly second.
The exercise reached its climax last week when the National Assembly Conference Committee on Electoral Act (amendment) Bill adopted the reordered sequence of the 2019 general election.

The Chairman of Senate Committee on INEC, Suleiman Nazif, insisted that the bill did not in any way violate any provisions of Section 76 of the 1999 Constitution which empowered INEC to fix dates and conduct elections.
He said: “Empowering INEC to that effect was duplicated in the bill just as powers conferred on the National Assembly by Section 4 (2) of the Constitution were exercised in relation to rescheduling of elections.”

Nazif was of the view that the inclusion of Section 25(1) which changed the sequence of election different from the one earlier released by INEC had not violated any provision of the laws governing the operations of the electoral body.
He was echoed by the House of Representatives’ chairman Committee on INEC, Edward Pwajok, who said that the House concurred with the Senate on the issue because of the need to give credibility to the electoral process.
Pwajok said: “The sequence of election provision in the bill is not targeted at anybody but aimed at giving credibility to the electoral process. This is by giving the electorate the opportunity to vote based on qualities of candidates vying for National Assembly seat.

“Whether it would be assented to or not by the president, as far as we are concerned, remains in the realm of conjecture for now but if such eventually happens, we will know how to cross the bridge.”
According to Pwajok, the National Assembly would have no option than to go ahead and adopt the reordered sequence of the elections should President Buhari refuse to sign the amended bill.
A Senator representing Kogi West Senatorial District and member of the committee, Dino Melaye, also shared the same view.

He said that while date for election was within the prerogative power of the electoral umpire, extant laws had also given schedules for such elections as sole responsibility of the National Assembly.
“So, contrary to reports and comments by some Nigerians on the reordered sequence of election, National Assembly has not overlapped its boundaries,” he said.

But INEC insisted that it had the sole power under the Electoral Act 2010 to fix dates for elections as released on January 9 as it was a follow-up to the announcement of dates for the elections that was earlier made on March 9, 2017.
INEC chief Yakubu said the commission had arrived at the schedule of activities after its meeting held on the same day.
He said: “In a clear departure from past practice when dates were

announced close to elections, the commission decided that henceforth our Presidential and National Assembly elections will hold on the 3rd Saturday of the month of February of each election year, while governorship and State Assembly elections will hold two weeks later.

“When the end of tenure of the FCT Area Councils coincides with the general election, the FCT Council elections are to be combined with the governorship and State Assembly elections.
“By these decisions, the commission has fixed Saturday, February 16, 2019 as the date for Presidential and National Assembly elections while governorship and the States Assembly elections will hold on Saturday, March 2, 2019.

“Since the tenure of FCT Chairmen and Councilors will end in 2019, the Area Council elections will also hold on Saturday, March 2, 2019. Consequently, while other Nigerians elect their governors and members of States’ Assemblies, citizens in the FCT will elect Chairmen and Councilors for the Area Councils.”

Meanwhile, the Senate last Wednesday passed the conference committee report on amendment to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Act.
The passage of the report was followed by dissenting voices calling for points of order within the chamber.

The amendment to the electoral act, if approved by President Muhammadu Buhari, will uphold the change in the order of election as adopted by the lawmakers.
The federal lawmakers want their election held first in 2019, before that of the state lawmakers and state governors, with the last being the presidential election.

Since 2003, the presidential and National Assembly polls were being held first on the same day, followed by governorship and state legislative polls on the second day of the general election.
The House of Representatives was the first on January 23 to amend the Electoral Act and effect a change in the order of the 2019 general election.

The change recommended by the lower chamber came barely a month after the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) released the time-table for the general election.
The amendment by the House was made at the Committee of the whole House, presided over by Deputy Speaker, Yussuff Lasun.

The lawmakers amended the Act while considering the report of the House Committee on Electoral Matters which proposed amendment of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended).
The House amended Section 25 of the Principal Act and substituted it with a new Section 25 (1).
According to the section, the elections shall be held in the following order: (a) National Assembly election (b) State Houses of Assembly and Governorship elections (c) Presidential election.
Similarly, Section 87 was amended by adding a new Section 87 (11) with a marginal note “time for primaries of political parties.”

Lawyers speak
Apparently fumed at the engineered reordered sequence of elections by the National Assembly, lawyers at the weekend said the assemblymen erred by their action.
Notwithstanding the National Assembly’s view on the reordered sequence of the elections, lawyers were unanimous that neither Mr. President nor the National Assembly had legitimate powers to dictate to INEC on how it would organize and conduct general election.

To them, since INEC would always rely on its powers as guaranteed by the Electoral Act 2010 and its guidelines without recourse to the other arms of government, the power to roll out guidelines and time-table for the general election was exclusively within INEC.

Besides, the lawyers in separate telephone interviews with New Telegraph Law at the weekend while acknowledging that the lawmakers were indeed empowered by the provisions of Section 4 of the Constitution to make and amend laws, said the rationale behind the amendment to the Electoral Act 2010 and the purported adoption of the reordered sequence of the elections was self-serving.

For instance, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) Chief Mike Ozekhome, believes that nothing stops the National Assembly from altering the election sequence through an amendment of the Electoral Act.
He said: “What the National Assembly is not allowed to do is to change this law less than six months to any election. We still have 14 months before the election, so they can amend the law to change the order.

“But, beyond it, it is more responsible and more politically correct to put lesser elections first before the biggest election. The little masquerade first dances in the village square before the biggest of them all comes out.
“It will have a negative effect if you hold the presidential election first before others. Others like governors or senators would want to go where the president had gone so that they would not be in opposition.
“Not only that, the person who has won the presidency can decide to muscle others and remove those they don’t want within one week.

“So, let the small elections come first, which will make the presidential candidate to lobby, work very hard and go down to the remotest parts of Nigeria to campaign, because he cannot take anything for granted. So, I think the National Assembly is right in terms of political correctness and morality.”

But another Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Mr. Seyi Sowemimo, disagreed with Ozekhome’s view.
Sowemimo while acknowledging the power of the lawmakers to make laws for the country, berated them for putting their interests above those of other Nigerians they claimed to represent.
He said: “Definitely, if they alter the time-table that INEC has done, they are acting in bad faith. The situation of the country is one that public office holders no longer act in public interests. As we have it now, the lawmakers are only interested in having their own elections when their interest will be protected.

“The lawmakers are entitled to make any law, even when the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) says it is acting within the law, the National Assembly can change the law. They are the lawmakers and they can change the law to suit themselves.

“However, what I think is more important is to focus on the fact that what we are dealing with is a political matter. It is one in which all the parties are interested in having a time-table that serve their best interests. The lawmakers will want their own election to occur when their interests will be protected.

They would not want to support some other people in other elections and those ones succeed and when their own time comes, the rules of the game would have changed.
“So, I think the action of the lawmakers is more of political expediency than any other thing. The lawmakers are trying to adopt a political strategy. They make the laws and whatever the law is at every point in time they can always alter it to suit their purpose.”

Sowemimo was echoed by a rights activist, Mr. Jiti Ogunye, who noted that the silence of the law in mandating the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to fix the order of election was what the legislature now exploited to stipulate the order in which election will be conducted.
However, ogunye berated the legislators for changing an electoral law for selfish reasons and political survival in office.

He said: “There are issues that have arisen in the action of the lawmakers. This is because we can debate the reasonableness with respect to all the members of the National Assembly of the act that they have done. Why will you stipulate the order of elections and then not allow INEC to exercise its discretionary powers as to the order in which elections should be held? What is the good reason behind this action? INEC should fix the election date and when we are saying this, the implication is that it should fix the order in which the election is to be held.

The silence of the law in mandating INEC to fix the order of election is what the legislature is now exploiting to stipulate the order in which election will be conducted. If you ask me, that shouldn’t be the business of the legislature.
“What I think the National Assembly is trying to do is to protect the interest of its members who are interested in contesting election and those who are members of the ruling party who will soon fall out and all of that.

“What they are trying to do is to put the presidential election last. In which case, it would not be possible for the executive branch of government and the party leadership to compel them and coerce them to work for the candidate of their party, indeed, presumably, the current president.

“So, they want to secure their position first and leave the current president if he is going to contest election in the cold to sort out himself. This is bad for party politics. Look, you don’t change an electoral law for selfish reasons and political survival in office. It is an indication that the lawmakers are allowing personal interest and consideration to override their sense of duty to the country. There is no good reason to stagger the election that way.

“With this arrangement, we are going to spend more money and shut down the economy for at least a month, among other attendant implications. This is ridiculous. The Nigeria people do not exist for legislators. But on the contrary, the legislators exist to serve the Also speaking in that line, lawyer and National President of the Campaign for the Defence of Human Rights (CDHR), Malachy Ugwumadu, disclosed that the action of the lawmakers was self-serving and self-centered.

He was of the view that the promulgation of the Electoral Act 2010 has put the burden of specific business of general management and conduct of elections in Nigeria on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
He said: “If you take it from the angle of the constitutional provisions of the core mandate or responsibility of the legislature, you will be tempted to argue that the lawmakers are at liberty to do what they have done. The legislature under Section 4 of the Constitution is empowered to make and amend laws. With this, one may think that the lawmakers are in order to make laws reordering the sequence of elections.

“However, if you take a closer look at the Act of the National Assembly already promulgated by the same legislature, which is the Electoral Act 2010, you will found out that the specific business of general management and conduct of elections in Nigeria is the sole responsibility of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). If this is the case, you cannot isolate the issue of the sequence of elections from that global responsibility of INEC.

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‘I had uneventful first court appearance’

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Funke Adeoye, an alumnus of the University of Benin (UNIBEN), was called to the Bar in 2013. She tells AKEEM NAFIU how her journey into the legal profession began

 

Background
Funke Adeoye is an associate lawyer at Azright Legal, a full service law firm in Abuja. She was called to the Bar on November 28, 2013. Adeoye, who attended Gladys College, Ketu, Lagos and LL.B at UNIBEN, is an associate of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (CIarb) UK as well as a member of Young International Council for Commercial Arbitrators (ICCA).

I am ‘Funke Adeoye (Mrs), called to the Nigerian Bar on November 28, 2013. I currently practice law at Azright Legal, a full service law firm in Abuja. I am also the Executive Director of Humans Behind Bars Aid Initiative, a social-profit organization that offers legal, medical and restorative aid to women and juvenile awaiting trial in Nigerian Prison.

I had my O’levels at Gladys College, Ketu, Lagos and my LL.B degree from University of Benin. I am an Associate of Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (CIarb) UK as well as a member of Young ICCA (International Council for Commercial Arbitrators)”.

Why law?
I chose to study law because I love writing, reading and talking. At the time I made my choice, law seemed like the best option suitable for my ability.
Speaking on challenges confronting her as a female lawyer, Adeoye regretted inability of some male clients to distinguish between professionalism and their dealings with female lawyers. This she said had made her to always assert her stance in every discussion with male clients.

“In my experience, people especially the male folks consider female lawyers to be incredibly smart, and at times some male clients find it hard to draw the line between a professional and a pleasure seeker. Most times, I have to go out of my way to assert my stance that I am a female, I have brains and beauty but I never mix business with pleasure,” she said.

Though she managed to move a motion for substituted service on her first appearance as a lawyer in court, Adeoye could not forget how she was frightened on her first appearance in court while trying to announce her appearance.
She said: “My first solo appearance in court was uneventful. I had accompanied my senior colleagues quite a number of times before my “baptism”. Apart from having cold and shaky feet before I announced my appearance, every other thing went well. I overcame the shaky feet as soon as I announced my appearance and went straight up to move my motion Her fond memory revolved round an event in 2016 where her determination helped in securing freedom for 20 persons accused of murder.

She relived the memory this way: “One time in 2016, while I was practicing in Lagos, My senior colleague asked me to stand down a criminal matter we had both been handling at a Federal High Court presided over by Hon. Justice Abang. The prosecution counsel had informed my learned senior that he had an emergency and will be late for court and my senior colleague had a contentious motion to argue at the High Court.

“My lord had always granted us the grace of standing down the said matter as we had 20 accused persons arraigned and the courtroom was very small. I went to court and announced my appearance, after which I intimated the court on the state of things. The court’s words after my plea to stand down the matter was resounding “stand down refused, counsel go on with your case or I will adjourn this case till after vacation”
The accused persons at the time had been denied bail and had been in prison for close to two years. We were lucky to have a day-to-day trial and an adjournment since vacation was never contemplated.

So, despite my not been mentally prepared to go on with the trial, I called our next witness to the box (one of the accused persons) and went on with examination-in-chief and tendering of documents. In the course of that, the prosecution counsel appeared suddenly and cross-examined the witness why I made my objections where necessary.

Needless to say, the court commended my grit in front of my senior colleague and other lawyers at the next adjourned day. Today, the accused persons have been discharged and acquitted of all the charges filed against them which included but not limited to murder, pipeline vandalisation and conspiracy and every time I think of it, I can’t help but smile that I fully participated in letting justice run its full course.

On her dream judiciary, Adeoye said she envisioned a truly independent judiciary devoid of executive or legislative interference which is willing and ready to apply technology in dispensing justice.
She said: “A judiciary independent of the other arms of government (executive and legislature) as well as a judiciary that would make the most of technology in swift dispensation of justice is the judiciary of my dream.”

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