Contempt: Fresh trouble for Bawa as over 250 human rights lawyers ask NJC to direct rejection of EFCC cases by courts
• Urge aggrieved parties, candidates in 2023 polls to seek judicial redress, avoid sponsoring crises
The Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Abdulrasheed Bawa, may be in for fresh trouble as over 250 Constitutional and Human Rights lawyers have called on the National Judicial Council to direct all courts in Nigeria not to entertain cases brought before them by the EFCC.
The lawyers, who said this was part of the resolutions reached at the end of their Annual Conference, with the theme: “Democracy and the Rule of Law”, held in Abuja between March 20 and 21, 2023, said it would only be appropriate for Nigerian courts to entertain EFCC cases when Bawa must have purged himself of contempt by obeying all subsisting Court orders binding on him.
They made the call during the presentation of their annual communique on Tuesday just as they called on political parties in Nigeria and their candidates to be conscious of the need to preserve Nigeria’s democracy by adhering to the provisions of the law guiding post-election matters.
Reading the communique, the newly elected President of the Judicial Integrity Lawyers (JILAW), Barrister Idoko Godwin, said, “Politicians were advised against sponsoring crises across the nation to demonstrate their grievance as sponsoring post-election crisis will negate the supremacy clause of our constitution as stated in Section 1(2) of the 1999 Constitution.
“Rather, every aggrieved individual or groups of individuals who which to govern nigeria or any part thereof should give total consideration to Section 1(2) of the 1999 Constitution and anything to the contrary will amount to subversion of the supreme law of the land. Thus any aggrieved individual should seek judicial redress as enshrined in the constitution.”
The lawyers observed that the timing of the conference was of great importance, considering the fact that the nation was still battling with the fallout of the various elections, adding that many salient issues regarding the place of the rule of law in Nigeria’s “struggling democracy” had been thrown up.
They noted that the persistent abuse of power by public officials in Nigeria was an aberration, which had attained notoriety as part of the fabric of the Nigerian society, insisting that equality before the law was the only true protection against the spectre of oppression and undue influence that those in positions of authority would otherwise dangle over the heads of ordinary Nigerians.
About 25 lawyers, representing the six geopolitical zones of Nigeria jointly presented the communique on behalf of the over 250 lawyers in JILAW.
The communique stated, “You will recall that it took the direct intervention of President Muhammadu Buhari for the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria to obey a lawful judgement of the Supreme Court, the highest Court in the land, on the naira redesign policy of the CBN. This was after the flagrant disobedience to the preliminary judgement of the same Supreme Court before the presidential elections were held.
“Even now, our meeting agreed that the Federal Government has not fully complied with the judgement with regard to other aspects of the policy, which has continued to put Nigerians through untold hardship.”
On the EFCC boss, the lawyers maintained that an official whose conviction was made by an order of a Court or Courts of competent jurisdiction, was not considered fit to continue presiding over the affairs of a law enforcement agency, especially one constitutionally set up to fight corruption.
“Our over 250 members have therefore urged President Muhammadu Buhari to, within the limited time left in the life of his administration, urgently address the dangerous culture of disobedience to the rule of law, assault on our Judiciary and ultimately ensure appropriate sanctions for the violators of the dictates of our constitution,” they said.
The Communique read in part: “In conclusion, we are stating that a country that has no regard to the decisions of its court is heading toward anarchy. Hence, we call on the National Judicial Council to direct all courts in the country to henceforth not entertain any cases brought before them by any agency of the government that disobeys court orders, especially EFCC, until the Chairman of EFCC, Mr. AbdulRasheed Bawa, has purged himself by obeying all subsisting Court orders binding on him.
“As an official whose conviction was made by an order of a Court or Courts of competent jurisdiction, we do not consider him fit to continue presiding over the affairs of a law enforcement agency, especially one constitutionally set up to fight corruption. You cannot use the corrupting influence of power to enforce anti-corruption laws.
“We consider it a ridiculous aberration that a convict would be in charge of getting others convicted when he should be serving time for contempt of Court and when there has been no superior judgement against the conviction.”
The lawyers seized the opportunity to announce the constitution of a new leadership thrown up after the JILAW election held on Monday.
They are: Barrister Idoko Godwin, President; Barr. Suleiman Gwamba, Vice President; Barr. Gaius Inalegwu, Secretary; Barr. Genesis John, Publicity Secretary; and Barr. Ann Ikwuta Onyeke, Welfare Officer, among others.