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Lawyers, DPO bandy words over assault

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Days after her encounter with the police in Anambra State while attempting to secure bail for her client, an activist lawyer, Chiamaka Nwangwu recalled how she was allegedly assaulted, battered and dehumanised by a Divisional Police Officer (DPO) in charge of the station, Jane Frances Mbanefo. JOHN CHIKEZIE reports

 

As a lawyer and the constitutional responsibility placed on her, an Anambra state activist lawyer embarked on a journey to one of the state’s police station to secure a bail for her client allegedly detained by the police over an alleged rift with his landlord.
But the planned constitutional bail, however, turned awry as her encounter with the police allegedly landed her on hospital bed.
Reason: The police in Nkwelle Ezunaka Police Station, Anambra state, according to the activist lawyer, Chiamaka Nwangwu allegedly manhandled her, stripped her naked following a brawl which followed the encounter in the course of performing her constitutional duty.

Nwangwu said she was not only allegedly battered, but stripped naked by the police on an alleged instruction of DPO Jane Frances Mbanefo.
Chiamaka, who painted graphic picture of the encounter to New Telegraph, said that the Divisional Police Officer allegedly handled her like a common criminal after stripping her naked for daring to seek bail for her detained client.
She narrated her encounter this way: “My colleague in Abuja called me and pleaded with me to go to 3-3 Police Station Division, Nkwelle Ezunaka, Anambra State, on the 22nd day of January, 2018, to help his younger brother who was about making a statement there. According to my colleague, his younger brother was beaten up by his landlord and boys.

“When I got there around 10a.m, I met the young man making a statement at the IPO’s office, I approached him and asked him what exactly happened and he narrated everything to me.
“He told me that his landlord came a made a statement against him on the 21st night and I was also informed by his parents that his landlord has been with the DCO1 since 6a.m.
“I called the DCO2, met him outside and asked him if the DPO came to work that day, he told me that she was not around that morning but may come to work later.

“A huge woman on native clothes, who I later learned is Jane Mbanefo, the DPO became very aggressive and ordered me to leave the office.
“I had never seen her before; it was my first time of coming to that Police Station. She started shouting at me, asking me my interest in the matter and who I was to tell the boy that I came for on the kind of treatment he would get; I was very shocked and embarrassed.

“I was angry and on my way out of the admin office, when the woman continued talking, insulting lawyers generally, telling me that she is equally a lawyer of 20yrs Post call.
“She slapped me and one of my recommended glasses’ springs disfigured and fell off, other junior police officers joined hands and beat me up mercilessly. My black gown was torn and I was stripped naked, I managed to get my Phone out of my handbag to record and video the scene, but one of the policewomen, took my Gionee A1Phone from my hand, smashed it and seized it. My middle finger was broken and I sustained internal injuries. People were watching outside including the young boy I came for and his parents.

“I was detained at the police station and was asked to write a statement. Another policeman slapped me and threatened that he would send his juniors to beat me up, before pushing me into the cell, while another policewoman who just came in then, slapped me and pushed me from the counter. She said she would have done worse if she were the other policewomen that beat me up.

“I was asked to write a statement, when my client’s dad brought my bag from the scene where the incident took place and I discovered that #5,000 was missing from my handbag. They also threatened to shoot me or poison me if I sleep in the cell, till the next day.

“I made a statement and was thrown inside the Cell for about 6hrs before my parents were contacted, with my NBA Chairman, my Principal and I later learned that the DPO fabricated stories against me, saying that I slapped her and took their walkie-talkie away.

“When I was in the Cell, some police officers were forcing the person I came to see to write down implicating statements about me, but the young boy raised his voice and took his ground that they should rather shoot him to death instead of him making such statement; that they beat me up and stripped me naked for nothing: he vehemently refused.

“They later took me from the Cell to the DPO’s office and the NBA Chairman turned to me and said that she heard a nasty report about me and I told them they were all lies, in the presence of my father, mother, my Principal and another senior lawyer.
“I narrated everything that happened in front of them but my NBA Chairman didn’t even allow me to finish because he turned to me and said “If I were you, I should not be talking.” My mother asked me to keep calm and I did. He did not even bother to check my smashed phone which was before him.
“My NBA Chairman asked me to go out of the office and the IPO took me back to the Counter. After my NBA Chairman finished discussing with the DPO, he asked her what could be done for peace to reign and the DPO insisted I must write an apology letter of which the NBA Chairman agreed and made his final decision.
“I was forced to write an apology letter afterwards before I could leave the cell of which I did after much pressure from my mother who is very sick and could not stand her only daughter sleeping over in the cell, especially after I was threatened by the DPO and her juniors.
“I was released after I wrote the apology letter thrice which the DCO dictated to me. The DCO2 was the person that dictated all the contents in the letter with the help of the female IPO in-charge.
“I have never experienced this type of thing as a legal practitioner and if something is not done, this impunity will continue. Police are meant to protect the citizens and not to turn them into Punch bags.
“Up till now, I am still unable to understand why NBA Chairman conceded to my writing an apology letter? Why did he not inspect my Phone which was smashed, that was placed on the DPO’s table, right before his eyes?
“Attached are some photographic evidence and a medical report of my ordeal. I demand justice.”

NBA chairman reacts
But the NBA chairman of the Onitsha Branch, Ikenna Chibuzor, who was allegedly fingered at the centre of the storm when contacted, said that he had already given his reaction on the matter to the national body of the association, while claiming that he had been instructed not to speak to the press until investigations were concluded.
According to the Chairman, all the allegations levelled against him by Miss Chiamaka were malicious lies.
Chibuzor said: “I want the matter to be handled by the national body. However, I have been instructed by the national body not to comment on this issue especially to the press. So, it would be wrong for me to comment before the national body of the NBA releases a statement.
“But for the record, all those allegations she made against me are all lies. I couldn’t have gone to the police station if it wasn’t for the best interest of one of the lawyers in my branch. If what she alleged was true, I would not have gone there in the first place.”
DPO Mbanefo speaks
Mbanefo dismissed the lawyer’s allegation, describing it as blatant lies.
In an interview with New Telegraph, the Divisional Police Officer, Mrs Jane Frances Mbanefo, denied the allegation on the claims that nobody touched Chiamaka.
Instead, she accused the lawyer of allegedly assaulting her and a police woman on duty, saying she was yet to understand what Chiamaka had hoped to achieve by laying such allegations against her.
Mbanefo said: “When I arrived the station on that day, I met two injured persons at the counter and I immediately ordered that the officers on duty to take them to the hospital.

“I also saw a woman, whose face was not familiar, making noise at the counter. On seeing me, the police officers called her to order, telling her to keep quiet that a superior officer was around.
“She ought to have known that a superior officer has entered the station but she continued making noise. So, when I gave the order to take the injured men to the hospital, the lawyer intercepted and said that only her client deserved treatment.
“She said that the other man stabbed her client and so insisted that the officers should not take the other person to the hospital.

“When I refused granting her request, she continued making noise and the officers told her that she cannot be raising her voice while the DPO is around.
“The officers reminded her that she was in a police station and that they were sure she won’t dare try this at the law court. She was also advised to come to my office to lay her complaints if she had any grievance but that she should not intercept the orders of the DPO. But she ignored all warnings and shielded the entrance to prevent the officers from taking the other man to the hospital.

“And when she refused to move, they had to force her to move. Being a woman, she had to push a police woman and they both started having problems.
“I then ordered that they sheathe their sword and thereafter called the NBA chairman to ascertain if the woman was actually a lawyer as she claimed. I was the one that personally invited the NBA Chairman to my office.
“The NBA Chairman arrived with her principal from the same office and her parents.

“When they were all seated, waiting for me to narrate what happened, I insisted that they listen to all those who witnessed the incident, including the parents of her client, before taking my version.
“All those that were brought to my office said that I didn’t do anything to her.”
When asked about her reaction to the pictures Chiamaka posted as evidence showing injuries on her body, the DPO said “we also have our own pictures too. She never took pictures during the incident. Besides, anybody can post anything to back up any false claim”.
Also reacting to the doctor’s report on Chiamaka, the DPO queried, “who gave her a doctor’s report? Which hospital did she report to? The supposed report came from one doctor Nwangwu, her brother at the General Hospital.
“I am a police officer and I know how all these things happen. Even the NBA chairman, her principal and her mother, an elderly retired magistrate begged me to forgive her. And I told them that if she was remorseful of what she did then the apology should come from her.”

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Law

$45m, N3.38bn loot: FG’s gain, Diezani’s loss

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AKEEM NAFIU writes that of the trillions of naira President Muhammadu Buhari at the weekend boasted to have recovered from alleged corrupt politicians, about $45 million and N3.38 billion was recovered from former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke

 

When President Muhammadu Buhari said three years ago that he would rid the nation of corruption and recover funds looted from the treasury, not many trusted his resolve to so do.

In his resolve, however, to tackle corruption head on, many powerful politicians accused of looting the nation’s treasury are facing charges in various courts.

Apart from their trial, many have forfeited property including cash running into billions of naira to the federal government.
Just last week, apparently expressing satisfaction on his administration’s war against corruption, President Buahri said “this is another milestone in our determined and collective fight against corruption.”

He went on: “Throughout my journey in national service and since 2015, I have made a very conscious decision to pursue a vigorous fight against corruption in public life.

“This is another milestone in our determined and collective fight against corruption.
“Since 2015, we have made significant progress in the fight against corruption. Everyone now knows that corrupt officials will be held to account, no matter how long it takes.

“We have recovered and are still recovering trillions of naira that were stolen in the past few years by people without conscience.
“We are pursuing recoveries everywhere and are making sure that anyone who has been found culpable is made to answer for his or her crime under the law.

“It is my hope and expectation that the judiciary, which is a critical stakeholder and partner in the war against corruption, would continue to collaborate with the executive to bring corrupt people to book.”

Of the trillions of naira already recovered from corrupt officials, N45million and N3.38billion had so far been recovered from a former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), being led by Ibrahim Magu had instituted several cases against the former minister, occasioning court pronouncements leading to her forfeiture of several property worth billions of naira to the Federal Government.

The former minister, who was also the first female President of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), has so far forfeited $45 million and N3.38 billion to the Federal Government.

Mrs. Diezani, who has been in London after leaving office, has however continued to deny any financial misdeed.
She accused the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) of severely maligning and persecuting her.

Cases leading to the forfeiture of Diezani’s property began on August 7, 2017, when Justice Chuka Obiozor of a Federal High Court in Lagos ordered permanent forfeiture of her $37.5 million mansion in Banana Island.

The judge had earlier on July 19, 2017, while granting of an ex-parte motion filed by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) directed the temporary forfeiture of the property designated as Building 3, Block B, Bella Vista Plot 1, Zone N, Federal Government Layout, Banana Island Foreshore Estate to the Federal Government.

The property containing 24 apartments, 18 flats and 6 penthouses were allegedly paid for in cash by Mrs. Diezani in 2013.
In making the final forfeiture order on the property, Justice Obiozor held “in the face of the publication, which I find in Exhibit B of the affidavit of compliance before me and there being no responses from any interested party, I have no other option but to grant the orders as prayed.”

The court equally directed the permanent forfeiture of $2,740,197.96 and N84, 537,840.70 realized as rents on the property to the government.
Giving further insight into how the property was acquired, the anti-graft agency in a 41-paragraph affidavit deposed to by one of its investigative officers, Abdulrasheed Bawa, averred that a lawyer, Nwokedi in alleged connivance with Diezani purposely incorporated a company, Rusimpex Limited on September 11, 2013 to facilitate the alleged fraud scheme.

Bawa averred further that upon Nwokedi’s interrogation, he explained that he had approached Diezani for opportunities in the oil and gas industry with the ex-minister suggesting that owing to his profession, it would be better if he would delve into management of landed property.

Bawa added that after accepting the offer, Nwokedi later registered Rusimpex Limited at the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC).
A lawyer in his law firm, Adetula Ayokunle and a Russian, Vladmir Jourauleu, were listed as Directors of the company, while the address of Nwokedi’s law firm in Ikoyi, Lagos was registered as the business address of Rusimpex Limited.

The deponent added that when Ayokunle was questioned by the EFCC, he explained that he only appended his signature on the CAC documents at Nwokedi’s instruction, while Jourauleu denied knowledge of the company.

“Sometimes in 2013, the former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, invited Nwokedi, the Principal Counsel of Stillwaters Law Firm, to her house in Abuja for a meeting where she informed him to incorporate a company and use same as a front to manage landed property on her behalf without using her name in any of the incorporation documents.

“She further directed Mr. Nwokedi to meet with Mr. Bisi Onasanya, the Group Managing Director of First Bank of Nigeria Plc., for that purpose.
“Mr. Stephen Onasanya was invited by the commission and he came and volunteered an extrajudicial statement wherein he stated that he marketed a property at Bella Vista, Banana Island, Ikoyi, Lagos, belong ing to Mr. Youseff Fattau of Ibatex Nigeria Limited to Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke and Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke later bought the property from Mr. Youseff Fattau, through her lawyer, Mr. Nwokedi, whom she introduced to him after which a payment for the said property was made through the Abuja office of First Bank of Nigeria Plc.

“First Bank of Nigeria Plc., through Mr. Barau Muazu, wrote to the commission and also volunteered an extrajudicial statement in writing that they made the payments totaling US37,500,000 to Ibatex Nigeria Limited & YF Construction Development and Real Estate Limited on behalf of Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke as they collected the entire cash from Alison-Madueke at her residence of No. 10, Fredrick Chiluba Close of Jose Marti Street, Asokoro, Abuja and paid into the First Bank of Nigeria Plc. accounts of Ibatex and YF Construction Development and Real Estate Limited on her instruction”, the deponent averred.

On October 11, 2017, another judge of Lagos Division of the Federal High Court, Justice Abdul-Azeez Anka, also ordered the permanent forfeiture of 56 houses situated in Lagos, Port Harcourt and Abuja valued at $21, 982, 224 (about N3.3 billion) allegedly linked to Mrs. Diezani to the Federal Government.
The houses were allegedly bought between 2011 and 2013 by the former minister from proceeds of suspected unlawful activity during her tenure in office

The forfeited property included 21 mixed housing units of 8 numbers of four bedroom penthouse apartment; six numbers of three bedroom apartments; two numbers of three bedroom apartment and one number of four bedroom apartment, all en suit and located at 7, Thurnburn Street and 5 Raymond Street, Yaba, valued at N937 million and bought through Chapel Properties Ltd.

Others are 16 numbers of four bedroom terrace, located at Heritage Court Estate, Omerelu Street, Diobu GRA, Port Harcourt, River States, valued at N928 million and bought through Blue Nile Estate Ltd; 13 numbers of 3 bedroom with one room maid’s quarter, situated at Mabushi Gardens Estate, Plot 1205, Cadastral Zone B06, Mabushi, Abuja, valued at N650 million and bought through Azinga Meadows Ltd and six flats of three bedroom and one boys quarter, located at Plot 808 (135) Awolowo Road, Ikoyi, Lagos, valued at N805 million and bought through Vistapoint property Development Ltd.
The order followed a motion by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), seeking the permanent forfeiture of the property.

The motion was brought pursuant to Section 17 of the Advance Fee Fraud and other Fraud Related Offences Act No. 14, 2006, Section 44 (2) (B) of the Constitution and the inherent jurisdiction of the court.

The anti-graft agency while urging the court to grant the motion argued that the property sought to be attached were reasonably suspected to be proceeds of unlawful activities.
Having listened to the submissions of EFCC’s lawyer, Anselem Ozioko, Justice Anka granted the motion as prayed.
In granting the motion, the judge noted that there was no response to the applicant’s motion on notice for final forfeiture by any of the respondents despite been served with the hearing notice.

“The only document seen in the court’s file is a motion filed by one, Nnamdi Ezewochi of the chambers of Babajide Koku (SAN) since September 7, 2017, seeking an order of court for the applicant to serve the 3rd to 6th respondents an earlier ex-parte motion already filed and granted by the court.
“The motion also seeks extension of time to hear the final forfeiture proceedings for the respondents to come and show cause. Their grouse was that the applicant failed to serve them the ex-parte motion.

“With due respect to the counsel, ex-parte motions by their nature, are not meant to be served, except when ordered by the court in line with the Federal High Court rules. The respondents’ applicants are however not before the court today to proceed with their application despite the service of hearing notice on them.
“The motion seems to have been abandoned by the respondents’ applicant and it is accordingly strike out.
“I have also read the affidavit of the 2nd respondent, Donald Chidi Amamgbo, explaining the role he played in the entire transaction and that he cannot stand in the way of the court to make any order it deemed fit to make in relation to the property.

“I have gone through the affidavit attached to motion for final forfeiture as well as the submissions of the EFCC’s counsel, A. B. C. Ozioko. The court has no option considering the incontrovertible evidence filed by the EFCC than to grant the application. The motion for final forfeiture is accordingly granted as prayed. All parties have a right of appeal”, Justice Anka held.

Joined as respondents in the suit are Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke (1st respondent), Donald Chidi Amamgbo (2nd respondent), Chapel Properties Limited (3rd respondent), Blue Nile Estate Limited (4th respondent), Azinga Meadows Limited (5th respondent) and Vistapoint Property Development Limited (6th respondent).
The last of such forfeitures happened on February 28 when Justice Mojisola Olatoregun of a Federal High Court in Lagos ordered permanent forfeiture of two penthouses valued at $4.764 million belonging to Alison-Madueke to the Federal Government.

The judge had earlier on December 5, 2017 after granting an ex-parte motion filed by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), ordered the temporary forfeiture of the two buildings described as Penthouse 21 building 5, Block C, 11 floor (Bella Vista Estate) Banana Island, Ikoyi and Penthouse 22, Block B (Admiralty Estate) also in Ikoyi, Lagos to the Federal Government.

In granting the final forfeiture of the houses, Justice Olatoregun said: “I have observed the facts and exhibits attached and I am also mindful that the second, third and fourth respondents have no objections to the application. I therefore, have no hesitation in ordering a final forfeiture of the property to the Federal Government.”

Joined as respondents in the suit marked, FHC/L/CS/1793c/17 are; Diezani Alison-Madueke, Donald Amamgbo, Schillenburg LLC and Sequoyah Property Limited.

In an affidavit in support of the motion deposed to by an investigative officer of the EFCC, Abdulrasheed Bawa, it was averred that during investigation into the ownership of the two property, one, Mr. Fadi Basbous, the Deputy Managing Director of YF Construction Development and Real Estate Limited, volunteered extra-judicial statement, wherein he stated that the two property which were sold at $3.570 million and $1.194 million respectively was owned by Sequoyah Property Limited and Schillenburg LLC.

The deponent also stated that the payments for the Penthouse 22, Block B, 8, Gerrard Road, Ikoyi and Penthouse 21, Building 5, Block C, 11 floor, Plot1, Zone N, FGN layout, Banana Island, Ikoyi, were made by one, Mrs. Angela Jide-Jones and Atlantic Energy Drilling Concept Limited.
It was further averred that the said Mrs. Angela Jide-Jones, was the wife of Jide Omokore, while the said Atlantic Energy Drilling Concept Limited, was registered and promoted by the said Jide Omokore.

The deponent also stated that Omokore paid for the property through his wife, Angela, and one of his companies and directed the developers of the property to sign agreements with Schillenburg LLC and Sequoyah Properties Limited, both of which were linked to Allison-Madueke.
According to the deponent, Schillenburg LLC was registered in Hong Kong, and was on March 30, 2012 transferred to Donald Chidi Amamgbo as the sole owner.

He further averred that Sequoyah Property Limited was registered in Nigeria on October 11, 2011 with fictitious names of Chukwudima Nwako and Olisa Eloka, as shareholders and directors.

The deponent added that Donald Chidi Amamgbo stated in his extra judicial statement that he incorporated Schillenburg LLC and submitted same to Allison-Madueke for a transaction.

The former minister was also named in some cases involving some politicians and officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
In one of such cases, an INEC official, Yisa Olanrewaju Adedoyin was on March 5, 2017, convicted by Justice Mohammed Idris of a Federal High Court in Lagos for receiving N70.05 million from the $115 million allegedly shared by Allison-Madueke to compromise the 2015 general election.
He was convicted based on a plea bargain arrangement he had with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

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Interview

Ofoke: How Ebonyi revived justice system

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Ebonyi State Justice Commissioner and Attorney-General, Chief Cletus Ofoke in this interview with UCHENNA INYA, speaks on justice delivery system, rule of law, police, prison reforms, among others

 

How has it been as Chief Law Officer in Ebonyi State?
Well, God has been faithful and government is a continuum. When I met activities in the ministry, I quickly adapted to them and started discharging my duties accordingly. So, it has been God all the way.

That ministry belongs to a lawyer and as a trained lawyer, nothing is strange to me. In terms of administration, I have the experience. I have run my law firm for seven years before I got the appointment. I have also held many positions of trust that had to do with administration. So, combining administration with practice of law to me is not a strange thing.

What is your assessment of justice system in the state?
In Ebonyi state judicial system, the spirit is very high. The justice sector to me, is living up to its expectations; it is not a one way traffic. There are stakeholders in the justice system; the judiciary, the prison and others. Those bodies brought together have been collaborating to ensure that justice is done to all manner of people in the state.

But as a ministry, we have been discharging that which the Constitution says we should do; we have been vetting files, filing information, ensuring that people who are not connected with any offence are discharged accordingly because that is our mandate and ensuring that people that has one case or the other in court are prosecuted accordingly.

Immediately I came in as Commissioner, I had a series of meeting with Heads of Departments of the ministry and in those meetings, we were able to marshal out points on how to deliver effectively on the issue of justice dispensation in the state and they all agreed that those points were apt and that they were going to abide by it.

I think the HODs are doing their best. One, no file from police stays more than a day in our ministry without being vetted. Immediately it is vetted, if we find out that there is a prima facie case established against the accused person, we charge that person accordingly. I have also made sure that the Department of Public Prosecution (DPP) is unburdened. In other words, I met backlog of cases files that were not given attention but immediately I came on board, I ensured that that those files were given urgent attention.

Again, the Department of Public Prosecution is a life wire of this ministry in terms of justice sector dispensation. Because of this, we injected more people into that department so that it will not lack manpower and that has really paid off because the law officers in that very particular department has to do with justice sector we are talking about and they are up and doing.

So, we brought on board people that are seasoned, people that have done the job for years and people that know what it takes to prosecute and what it takes to counsel where necessary. It has not been without challenges anyway but we have been able to surmount them.

The problems we are having is that at times we don’t get case files from police as quickly as possible the way they are supposed to be doing and that hinders the operation of justice dispensation in the ministry. By and large, the ministry is doing very well.

In what way would you say the backlog of case files you inherited affected justice delivery system?
The effect although we have cleared them, innocent people were languishing in prison. People that were not connected to the offences they were charged with were languishing, praying that God should intervene on their behalf. But with the promptness and with the zeal the people we have deployed to the ministry have shown, we have been able to clear those backlogs and that is what gave rise to filing of information.

In fact, more than 60 informations have been filed since I came on board and I can assure that authoritatively that we have discharged not less than 20 people.

This has to some extent decongested our prisons. Like I told you, justice sector is not about ministry of justice alone; we have other critical stakeholders. So, in terms of prison decongestion, that has really helped. Situations up to 50 files have been given attention by way of filing information and more are still coming. As a matter of fact, last week, the Department of Public Prosecution filed eleven information awaiting assignment by the state Chief Judge.

For the other ones, we discharged them because we looked at the files, why they were brought to prisons and we saw that they were innocent of the offences they were charged. When I came on board, we had about 70 case files that were not given attention but we have cleared them.

What role is the state government playing in prison decongestion?
The governor has done a lot in the area of prison decongestion. He is constructing an ultra-modern building for the state federal prisons which is about 90% completion.

He has also charged the state Advisory Committee on prerogative of mercy to be up and doing and that committee is headed by myself the Honourable Attorney General. The Advisory Committee on prerogative of mercy has met with the Chief Judge of the state; we have met up to three times and part of it is the release from prisons about 26 inmates sometime in February this year.

You can agree with me that a situation whereby 26 inmates were release from prisons will go a long way to decongest the prisons. So, the government is doing quite a lot. The Advisory Committee on prerogative of mercy is currently looking at cases of inmates who deserve to be granted state pardon.

How cordial is the relationship between your ministry and the security agents in the state?
The relationship is very cordial. Of course, we are all partners in justice delivery and when I came on board, the first point of call was to meet with the state Commissioner of Police, Titus Lamorde and we had a robust discussion on how to be getting case files from police as when due so that we can vet them accordingly in line with the directive court. And I can assure you that that meeting has yielded positive result because the office of the officer in charge of legal gives us attention. Anytime my ministry staff goes there to get those files for vetting, he treats that as a priority.

In respect to the prison, we are very strong partners in progress; the relationship is very cordial. In fact, you cannot talk about prison decongestion without involving the prison officials. The Controller of prisons is a wonderful woman; Mrs. Oputa is a good woman. She came up with an idea of decongesting the prison and that position of her gave birth to a meeting with the Chief Judge of the state which resulted to releasing of 26 inmates like I told you. If the relationship is not there, that wouldn’t have been possible. Other security agencies; SSS,
Civil Defence are good partners and we have not had any challenge resulting from their various offices. We work hand in hand to make sure that our state remains number one in terms of prison decongestion.
Is rule of law on trial in the state?
Well, you already know the answer. In Ebonyi state, everything is done according to the rule of law and the dictates of the law.
Our governor believes in due process and let me inform you that he has not only been acknowledged in Ebonyi state, in the south east, but in Nigeria. He has won prestigious award of Ambassador of rule of law, good governance and anti-corruption.

That summarizes the state of rule of law in Ebonyi state. For somebody to have won the laurels among other states, tells you that in Ebonyi state law is supreme.

In terms of checks and balances, in terms of accountability, in terms of due process, our governor is number one. Whatever he does, he ensures that it is backed up by law. He is a man that listens to the wise counsel of not only jurists but also the ministry of justice which primary role is to advise government on law. And you can see that in the state, people can sleep with their eyes closed because of the attention he has given to security, because of the attention he has given to human empowerment.

In terms of the legislature, the Ebonyi state House of Assembly is an organ of government that does its own constitutional job the way it pleases the Honourable members. His Excellency, the governor does not interfere with the running of the House of Assembly.

They are free to legislate on any matter that has direct positive bearing on the people of the state and that is democracy and that is the rule of law we are talking about.

So, if our governor does not believe in rule of law, he would have been interfering with the functions of the legislative arm of government and that of the judiciary. Our Judges go about dispensing justice; our government does not interfere with how judgments are giving. In fact, some judgments are even given against government and government obeys them. We advise government and government to obey them. So, rule of law reigns supreme in Ebonyi state.

What role would the newly created Criminal Prosecution department play in justice system?
It is to monitor the inflow of criminal cases in all the courts in the state. I told you that we vet files and other things we do to ensure that there is justice delivery in the state.

The department is a very vital department in the ministry of justice and it has helped to a very large extent in ensuring that criminal prosecution go very well in the state.

The job of the Senior Special Adviser to the Governor on Criminal Prosecution, who is in charge of that department, does not stop at criminal prosecution. It looks at other cases that of interest to both government and individuals.

In other words, inferring with the police, the office of the O/C legal, the Nigerian prisons, the DSS because these are the agencies responsible for apprehension of criminals. He interfaces with those security agencies in respect to criminal matters that are to be given attention by both the agencies and the ministry of justice.

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Law

‘Why pupilage is sacrosanct’

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Emmanuel Oche Ochai attended Benue State University, Makurdi and was called to the Bar on November 13, 2007. He speaks on his career, judiciary, fond memories, among others. AKEEM NAFIU met him

 

Background
He was called to the Bar about a decade ago having obtained his LL.B degree from the Benue State University and a BL after one year compulsory training at the Nigeria Law School.

Emmanuel Oche Ochai, now an associate partner at the law firm of B. Aguegbodo & Co., attended Boys’ Secondary School, Gindiri, Plateau state for his secondary education.
He, however, shared his foray into the legal profession with New Telegraph this way:

“My name is Emmanuel Oche Ochai. I had my primary school at the National Veterinary Research Institute staff Nursery/Primary School, Vom, Plateau State between 1986 and1995. I proceeded from there to the Boys’ Secondary School, Gindiri, Plateau State between 1995 and 2001 and Benue State University, Makurdi, where I studied law from 2001 to 2006. Thereafter, I moved to the Nigerian Law School, Lagos Campus, between 2006 and 2007. I am presently pursuing my Masters at the University of Lagos, Akoka. I was called to the Nigerian Bar on November 13, 2007. I practice presently in Lagos with the law firm of B. AGUEGBODO & Co.”

Why law?
Growing up as a kid, I watched a lot of movies and was privileged to read a lot of novels as well. Whenever I came across a character in those books and movies who was a lawyer I really admired those characters especially the ones I saw in those movies. All I wanted was to be like those lawyers I watched and read about. I guess that was a major factor in my decision to be a lawyer today.

First day in court
My first day in court was at the High Court of Ondo State, in Akure, as a corps member. I was asked by my principal to move a motion ex-parte. I participated in moot court sessions in my university days and as such I was familiar with the procedure of moving a motion and being the most junior counsel in court that day, my matter was called last. By then, I had watched senior and experienced lawyers move different applications, so, I learnt a lot. When it got to my turn, it was a smooth ride.

Embarrassing moment
My most embarrassing moment in court was years back when I newly started practice. I was arguing an application and I relied heavily on a particular law. Unknown to me, the law had been repealed. The court drew my attention to the fact that the law has been repealed. People in court were all laughing at me. It was really embarrassing.

Fond memories
I have a lot of fond memories in this profession, like the first case I handled a case from beginning to the end and judgment was delivered in my favour. But one that will always stand out for me happened in my very early days in practice. I appeared before the High Court in Lagos and the matter was for hearing. The counsel on the other side was a very experienced and senior lawyer. I was appearing in the case for the first time that day. The other counsel noticed my inexperience and naivety, so he decided to take full advantage of the situation. The judge noticed what was going on and stylishly hinted me to take an adjournment so I can be better prepared. The experience really gave me faith in the system and the icing on the cake was that judgment was delivered in my favour in that case.

Pupilage
There are a lot of things that cannot be taught in the classroom as far as this profession is concerned and that is where pupillage comes into play. It is advisable that young counsel should find good law firms and attach themselves where they can learn a lot of things. Pupillage is very important and I support it.

Judiciary of my dream
Autonomous judiciary, an impartial judiciary, a judiciary that dispenses justice without fear or favour and without delay is my dream judiciary that will embrace the development and innovations in the I.T. world, where one will from the convenience of his office file a process in court. Also, my dream judiciary is the one that will be the last hope of the common man.

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