✕ CLOSE Online Special City News Entrepreneurship Environment Factcheck Everything Woman Home Front Islamic Forum Life Xtra Property Travel & Leisure Viewpoint Vox Pop Women In Business Art and Ideas Bookshelf Labour Law Letters
Click Here To Listen To Trust Radio Live

‘Supreme Court will decide conflicting decisions on card reader’

‘Supreme Court will decide conflicting decisions on card reader’ John Chuks Azu Onion Odia is an Abuja-based lawyer and human rights activist. In this interview,…

‘Supreme Court will decide conflicting decisions on card reader’

John Chuks Azu

Onion Odia is an Abuja-based lawyer and human rights activist. In this interview, he says only the Supreme Court will resolve the conflicting opinions by governorship election tribunal judges on the card reader. He also speaks on the recent drama at the hearing of Senate President Saraki’s case, NBA stamp policy, special courts for anti-corruption, among others. Excerpts:

The NBA says it has fished out hundreds of fake lawyers under the stamp and seal policy, yet the opposition against the policy persists. What is your take on this?

Well, I also agree that the stamp is too expensive because as practicing lawyers, there are other dues we pay. We pay branch due, annual practicing fee etc. We pray they should be able to reduce the fee for lawyers, or if they cannot, they should be able to subsidise the cost of doing the seal for lawyers. But that is not what is happening. The one we bought now will expire next March and you are supposed to buy another set of seals.

For me, it is outrageous. But it is a step in the right direction being that it will actually checkmate the spate of fake lawyers in the system. Otherwise, it is expensive. I also agree that it should have an expiration date, but on expiration, one should not be paying the money they are demanding. I know they are using it to raise money for the bar, but there should be accountability. They should be able to tell us the consultant that is producing the seal, the cost they are producing it and what it takes to produce it per seal, and all that so that we now know whether they are cheating us or not; let us have all the details.

There are calls for the establishment of special courts for the anti-corruption campaign of the federal government on the basis that the judiciary as presently constituted cannot handle it?

I am an advocate for special courts to try corruption. You will agree with me that corruption has become a cankerworm in our system. For the president to bring in special courts would be a step in the right direction. But before you do that, you have to sanitise the judiciary because if you don’t sanitise the judiciary, and you still go ahead with the special courts, it is still members of the judiciary that will man those courts. They will bring in their corruption vices and those antics into play. But before then they should as a matter of urgency sanitise the judiciary, otherwise it will be an exercise in futility.

The federal government has also said it does not have enough funds. Will special courts not amount to duplicating the bureaucracy?

The government should look at other areas to generate revenue. Mr President should stop bad-mouthing us in the external world that we are corrupt, broke or this or that. I am of the school of thought that he is de-marketing us, so they should call him to order. Having said that, areas like agriculture, textiles, solid minerals and internally generated revenue should be explored.

The new Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) makes it mandatory for prosecutors to be lawyers, unlike what obtains that non-lawyer police officers are used to prosecute criminal cases. It has been suggested that this will create employment for young lawyers. How do you view this?

I agree that it will empower lawyers to have employment. There is a serious problem at the bar right now, so many lawyers don’t have a place to do pupillage. Those that have a place to serve, they don’t have enough cases to give them. I want to believe that these cases should not be given on ad hoc basis like they did in the prison decongestion programme. These lawyers should be engaged as staff of Ministry of Justice. That way it will create jobs. Not to give the prosecution to consultants.

Some police officers believe they are more knowledgeable in criminal law and prosecution than most of the young lawyers. How do you see an improvement in the capacity of lawyers in prosecution?

I know we attend our bar meetings monthly in Abuja. And in some of these meetings, they bring people to come and train lawyers. There is continuing legal education already at the bar.

Another thing is that those privileged to be nominated as senior advocate of Nigeria should be made to undergo exams, and once you pass that it will be a matter of merit. As for training, we have enough of continuing training.

The governorship election petitions tribunals have given conflicting rulings on card reader pertaining to its application or otherwise in the governorship elections. What is your opinion?

The issue of card reader is new in our electoral history. So we are bound to experience this kind of teething problems – especially as it affects conflicts of opinion in interpreting the use of the card reader. I want to believe that at the end of it all, these cases will crystallise at the Supreme Court, the apex court in the land. Then we will have the opportunity to deal with the issue so that most of the issues will not arise in subsequent elections.

Do you support calls for merger of ICPC and EFCC in a bid to save funds?

They should be allowed to function separately. The more the merrier. If you merge the two agencies there will be duplication of functions and so many people will lose their jobs. Rather I believe they should strengthen the two agencies because right now they are underfunded.

The two are not strictly having the same functions, but there are areas where the functions overlap. There are several government agencies which functions overlap.

Election Petition:

Kalu calls for constitutional amendment

By Adelanwa Bamgboye

A Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) Awa Kalu has called for amendment of both the 1999 Constitution and Electoral Act 2010.

He made the call in an address at the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) workshop on the march towards a culture of peaceful, free and fair elections held recently at Tamara Hall, Yenagoa, Bayelsa State.

He said that for justice through the courts to prevail for the purpose of building a culture of peaceful, free and fair elections, the constitution as well as the Electoral Act must be amended.

This according to him, is to accommodate a timescale for the holding of all grades of elections so as to prevent the winner of such elections from entering the office that is contested until the hearing and determination of a petition or appeal arising therefrom.

“What this means, is that a level playing field will be created enabling an equilibrium to be maintained between all contestants whether petitioner or respondent.

“The timescale must take into account the need to avoid a vacuum in the office in relation to which the election is contemplated in the first place. Where one of the contestants is also an incumbent, then scrupulous care must be taken in enforcing campaign financing regulations.

“In addition, the expenditure profile of such incumbent campaigner will be scrutinised in order to ensure that not a mite or a dime from public funds is diverted for electioneering purposes”, he said.

“The constitution and all other instruments which regulate the conduct of elections must be adjusted to make it reasonable for a petition to be meaningful.

“Accordingly, it is recommended that a presidential petition ought to be filed within 45 days from the date of the announcement of the result; 30 days for a gubernatorial petition; and 21 days for a petition arising from an election into any legislative house.

“An election petition arising from the presidential election ought to be determined within one calendar year from the date it is filed; a governorship petition 9 months; and other petitions ought to be resolved within 180 days,” he said.

Suswam loses bid to stop probe

A former governor of Benue, Mr Gabriel Suswam, on Monday lost his bid to stop the probe instituted against him by his successor, Samuel Ortom, at the state’s High Court.

Ortom constituted an investigative panel to determine the actual state of indebtedness of the state and to verify government’s assets.

Suswam had dragged Ortom and the commission to court, seeking leave of the court to disband and set aside the administrative commission of inquiry instituted against him.

He averred that the commission was incapable of exercising judicial powers and lacked constitutional powers to investigate or adjudicate upon the issues submitted to it for inquiry.

The commission was expected to make findings of those responsible for lease or allocation of real property belonging to the Benue Government public.

Suswam in his application alleged that the commission was set up to witch-hunt and smear his name and destroy his legacy.

He had claimed that his administration was transparent and rendered periodic account of its stewardship to the state throughout his eight years in office.

The former governor argued that the resources of the state were judiciously used and that the impact could be seen all over the state.

He, therefore, prayed the court to grant his application by quashing the commission.

It will be recalled that the state’s Chief Judge, Justice Iorhemen Hwande, had on Oct. 12, ordered a stay of proceedings on the commission, following Suswam’s suit.

But giving his ruling on the suit on Monday, Justice Adam Onum, vacated the order on the commission and ordered resumed sitting of the commission with immediate effect.

Onum declared that the commission could issue letters of summon on individuals.

He, however, agreed with the applicant that the commission was not vested with the power to issue warrant of arrest on anyone. (NAN)

VERIFIED: It is now possible to live in Nigeria and earn salary in US Dollars with premium domains, you can earn as much as $12,000 (₦18 Million).
Click here to start.