Wednesday, 4th October 2023

Test for Nigeria’s Themis as Trump faces trial

By Joseph Onyekwere, Deputy Editor
05 April 2023   |   4:20 am
As former President of America, Donald Trump, yesterday, pleaded not guilty to 34 criminal charges against him in a Manhattan criminal court, the nation’s judiciary has been tasked to show courage in the discharge of its duties and dispense justice no matter whose ox is gored.

Former US president Donald Trump appears in court at the Manhattan Criminal Court in New York on April 4, 2023. – Former US president Donald Trump arrived for a historic court appearance in New York on Tuesday, facing criminal charges that threaten to upend the 2024 White House race. (Photo by Andrew KELLY / POOL / AFP)

• Ex-president pleads not guilty to 34 criminal counts
• Nobody should be above the law, say Oyebode, Omoregie
• Ogunsanwo: No comparison, Nigeria not in the league of U.S.

As former President of America, Donald Trump, yesterday, pleaded not guilty to 34 criminal charges against him in a Manhattan criminal court, the nation’s judiciary has been tasked to show courage in the discharge of its duties and dispense justice no matter whose ox is gored.

Reacting to Trump’s arraignment, a professor of jurisprudence and international law, Akin Oyebode, said the Americans have done the unthinkable by putting an ex-President on trial.

“It shows that in America, everyone is equal under the law, from the highest to the lowliest. The simple lesson from this is the need for our judicial system to ensure equality before the law and do away with privileges and immunity for the high and mighty.

“I can only yearn for the day when our high public officials will recognise that they are not higher than everyone else and our own Themis is truly blind-folded and is ready, willing and able to apply the law fairly to all without any consideration for class, status or estate,” he said.

Also. Edoba Omoregie (SAN), professor of comparative constitutional law and governance, described the development as a triumph for the rule of law, which is part of the democratic process.

“It has taken America over 250 years of democratic rule to get to the point of arraigning a former President for an alleged crime. Many other democracies, both emerging and advanced, have since done this to former Presidents found to have ran foul of their criminal laws. This has happened in France, Germany and in South Africa.

“The lesson for us here in Nigeria is that we must continue to strengthen our institutions, including our justice system. This way, nobody can get away with any violation of the law, no matter how highly placed.

“If that person is a former President, the law should take its course as well, irrespective of the person’s status. This is when the legal aphorism, ‘the law is no respecter of persons’ would make real meaning.

“I strongly believe that as we continue to sustain our democratic process and fine-tune it, what’s happening to Mr. Trump with his arraignment can also happen here in Nigeria if a former President is indicted for allegedly committing any crime,” he stated.

However, Emeritus Professor of International Relations at Lead City University, Alaba Ogunsanwo, said: “I don’t see any lesson Nigeria can learn from Trump’s trial in America. Nigeria is not the same as America, so, there is no comparison. But I think we should wait for the process to unfold in the court so we can see the actual charges against him.”

Trump had arrived at the Manhattan district attorney’s office earlier Tuesday afternoon, where he was placed under arrest and in police custody before his arraignment. The arraignment in the Manhattan courtroom represented a surreal and historic moment in American history.

News outlets were not able to broadcast the arraignment live, as a judge on Monday night had rejected a request from media organisations, including CNN, though it allowed five still photographers to take pictures of Trump and the courtroom before the hearing began.

The indictment returned last week by a grand jury against Trump will provide the public – and Trump’s legal team – with the first details about the specific charges he will face. The investigation stemmed from a hush money payment made to adult film actress, Stormy Daniels, during the 2016 presidential campaign.

It remained to be seen whether Trump will speak in New York. Chris Kise, one of Trump’s lawyers, said he expects the former president to speak to the cameras in the hallway outside of the courtroom after his arraignment. Advisers have warned him, however, that any unplanned remarks may put him at high risk of hurting his case.

Trump is slated to fly back to Florida following his court appearance and will hold an event at Mar-a-Lago on Tuesday evening (U.S. time) that gives the 2024 Republican presidential hopeful a chance to respond to the charges.

While Trump’s comments will signal how he intends to fight the charges against him in the political arena, the former president is also preparing for the fight in court: He added a new attorney, Todd Blanche, to serve as lead counsel on his defence team.

Manhattan District Attorney, Alvin Bragg’s indictment marks the first criminal charges against Trump, but it’s not the only potential legal trouble in front of the former president. Special counsel, Jack Smith is still moving forward with an investigation into Trump’s role in the January 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol and a Fulton County special grand jury has completed its investigation into efforts to overturn the 2020 election in Georgia.