Mr Nkereuwem Anana is a former prosecutor for the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). In this interview, he speaks on the constitution and stance against a proposed amendment of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) by the Senate and sundry issues. Excerpts:
There are moves by the Senate to amend some provisions of the ACJA 2015 for convicts to be considered innocent until the conclusion of their appeals. What is your view?
There are so many things we do not need to embark on as a country because of the far-reaching consequences and so as not to make us more miserable before other nations.
If that succeeds, the psychological impact on prosecutory agencies, individual prosecutors and the judges cannot be remedied. In fact, Nigeria would be the first country in the world where no act is criminalized.
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Are there constitutional provisions to support your position?
Certainly there are; it is trite that no Act of the National Assembly can amend the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria or any of its sections. Section 4(8) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria states as follows:
“Save as otherwise provided by this Constitution, the exercise of legislative powers by the National Assembly or by a House of Assembly shall be subject to the jurisdiction of courts of law and of judicial tribunals established by law, and accordingly, the National Assembly or a House of Assembly shall not enact any law, that ousts or purports to oust the jurisdiction of a court of law or of a judicial tribunal established by law.”
Are you suggesting that the move by the Senate is contrary to the law, if so, what do you think is the reason behind the move?
Of course, the said contemplated legislation seems to oust the jurisdiction of the court in criminal matters.
All this is happening because two senators have been convicted and currently serving prison terms. Nigerian laws are basically for the poor and not the rich.
This is a country where a court will order a person to appear before it but because the individual is greater than the court, he will refuse to appear and no consequences attached to such impunity.
Section 35(1) says, “Every person shall be entitled to his personal liberty and no person shall be deprived of such liberty save in the following cases and in accordance with a procedure permitted by law: ‘in execution of the sentence or order of a court in respect of a criminal offence of which he has been found guilty.
Section 36 (5) states (5) Every person who is charged with a criminal offence shall be presumed to be innocent until he is proven guilty.
What are your final words in this regard?
The constitution, without equivocation, has stated the circumstances wherein a person shall be convicted which is not on appeal. It is only in football where a goal scored is not celebrated in some circumstances until the verdict of the VAR.
That system cannot be adopted into the Nigerian legal system to wait for the appeal court before the conviction is celebrated by the prosecution.
The shameless effort to amend the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria by way of an enactment is a nullity and shall not stand. Without a clear amendment of the constitution itself, our legislators who embark on the journey of using an enactment to amend our constitution become the authorities contemplated by Section 1(1) of the same constitution.
The court has powers where a statute is enacted in breach of the constitution which is to declare such statute illegal and unconstitutional. See the case of Nwokedi v. Anambra State Govt & Anor (2022) LPELR-57033(SC).