The kidnapper, a senator and his President
Three significant legal events have taken place over the past few weeks. The Senate President’s no-case submission was upheld by the code of conduct tribunal, a notorious alleged kidnapper was apprehended after which has followed a most impressive PR blitz and INEC confirmed that it had received the required number of signatures to proceed with the referendum on whether or not Senator Dino “Ajekun-Iya” Melaye is to be recalled. He is reported to have instructed a lawyer to seek to halt the process.
As is customary with the Nigerian police, their announcement of the apprehension of the kidnapping suspect was followed by a parade of the man, Evans, his accomplices and the grand home allegedly built with ransom money. With what appeared to be bruises on his face, Evans confessed on camera.
Things however took a turn for the more bizarre when his wife and children released a tearful video pleading that he be spared. This was followed by one of the most peculiar campaigns ever on social media, pushing for an apparently contrite Evans to be freed and, even worse, a statement credited to the police where they purportedly admit to be under pressure ‘from some quarters’ to release Evans. Hopefully, this is not really the case and the police have gathered enough evidence for a conviction to follow very quickly. There’s no point in states passing laws prescribing death penalties for kidnapping if acquittals are all that follow the numerous trials by media.
Speaking of a discharge that was not an acquittal, after appealing the jurisdiction of the code of conduct tribunal at every stage, applying for the tribunal chair to recuse himself on a few occasions and doing everything he legally could to prevent the trial from going ahead, the Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki’s faith in the judicial system has been restored, as he said in the statement that followed the tribunal upholding his no-case submission. The full text of the tribunal’s ruling was a very interesting read. In law school, and in practice, when a no-case submission is made, the court is required to examine the sum of the evidence before it i.e. all the oral, physical and documentary evidence. The tribunal dismissed the oral testimony of the 3 prosecution witnesses, identifying the various things that made them unreliable.
However, apart from a fleeting mention of the 48 items admitted into evidence there was no similar analysis of what they showed, if anything. To the non-litigation specialist eye, the analysis seems incomplete. Of course, when 2 of your 3 star witnesses in such a high profile case claim that they lost files in a fire and testified on hearsay, respectively, it shows that the Attorney-General’s office and the EFCC are still missing a trick or two. The government has filed an appeal and it will also be interesting to see how that progresses.
Also progressing, perhaps far too smoothly for the liking of the distinguished Senator in question, is the process of his recall. According to the constitution, a senator may be recalled if at least half of the persons registered to vote in his constituency present a petition to the Chairman of the electoral commission, alleging their loss of confidence in him or her. The commission must organise a referendum within 90 days of receiving the petition, which may be affirmed by a simple majority of those who vote at the referendum. In his summons seeking to halt the process, Senator Melaye alleges amongst other things that the number of signatures did not cross the constitutional threshold, that some of the purported signatories had long since died and that the petition was fuelled by a political vendetta and not in good faith.
While that may indeed be so and without prejudice to his rights to seek redress for perceived wrongs, the law suit seems a little premature, not unlike the distinguished Senator’s outburst on Remita and the Federal Government’s single treasury account. INEC issued a statement before the Senator took out the summons, acknowledging receipt of the petition and stating that its next step was the verification of the signatures. It seems a little curious that the same summons that alleges spurious signatories seeks to truncate the process of verification that would validate the claim. Additionally, given that the courts have repeatedly rejected academic questions, the court’s consideration of the issue of the petition being underpinned by malice and a personal vendetta will be very much looked forward to.
Good governance watches will no doubt be watching how each of these issues progresses very closely.
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