Lawyers urge courts to reject EFCC cases over alleged contempt by Bawa
Over 250 constitutional and human rights lawyers under the auspices of Judicial Integrity Lawyers (JILAW) have called on the National Judicial Council (NJC) to direct all courts not to entertain cases brought before them by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
They said the call followed convictions of the anti-graft agency’s Chairman, Abdulrasheed Bawa, for allegedly disobeying court orders.
The lawyers also disclosed that the plea was part of the resolutions reached at the end of their yearly conference, with the theme: “Democracy and the Rule of Law,” which held in Abuja between March 20 and 21.
Presenting the communiqué to journalists in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), yesterday, newly elected President of JILAW, Idoko Godwin, 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 orders binding on him.
He noted that the persistent abuse of power by public officials was an aberration, which had attained notoriety as part of the fabric of the Nigerian society, insisting that equality before the law is 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.
He maintained that Bawa, 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.
Godwin said: “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 violators of the dictates of our constitution.
“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 NJC 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 the EFCC chairman, 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 judgment against the conviction.”