By Jimitota Onoyume
PORT HARCOURT—Port Harcourt branch of the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, has shunned the Rivers State Commission of Inquiry on politically motivated killings in the state, saying the commission lacked powers to investigate crime and make recommendations for appropriate punishment for those found guilty.
Chairman of the body, Mr Dennis Okwakpam, in a letter to the commission’s Chairman, Prof Chidi Odinkalu, said it was unfortunate that Prof Odinkalu accepted to preside over the commission when he should rather be investigating cases of rights abuses in the state as Chairman, National Human Rights Commission, NHRC.
According to him, some of the abuses include closure of the courts since June 10 last year.
He said: “It seems to us that your commission is being asked to unwittingly investigate crime. You will recall that the statement by the governor on your inauguration explained that the reason for setting up the commission was to investigate why the victims were killed, who killed them, under what circumstances and for the commission to recommend appropriate punishment for the perpetrators and to make useful recommendations that will help government forestall future reoccurrence.
“We submit that the power or authority to investigate crime or criminal activities is vested in the Nigeria Police Force. While the power or authority to adjudicate and make pronouncement as to the guilt or otherwise of any person is exclusively vested in the courts of justice established under law. Your commission is neither the police nor a court and cannot, under any guise, be vested with any authority to investigate or adjudicate over criminal matters.”
The NBA said it would not be part of the activities of the commission, insisting that it would not serve any useful purpose.
“We contend that the more pressing incident of human rights abuses has to be the continued closure of the courts in Rivers State. The courts have been under lock and key since June 10, 2014 with the consequence being total denial of access to justice and the failure and collapse of one arm of government in Rivers State, the effect of the shutdown is obvious to all and thoroughly devastating,” he added.