By: Kingsley Omonobi-Abuja.
…Reinforced Independence of the Judiciary.
Constitutional Lawyer and Human Rights Activist, Chief Mike Ozekhome SAN has thrown his weight behind the Court of Appeal Judgment in Lagos, which ruled that the EFCC does not have the powers to investigate or prosecute serving judicial officers except where they had been first dismissed by the National Judicial Council (NJC).
Describing the verdict as one that has asserted the independence of the judiciary as contained in the constitution, Ozekhome said, “I totally support the Court of Appeal in this Landmark judgment that has the effect of clipping the tyrannical claws of the EFCC and its sister agencies in always viewing the judiciary as an annex of the Aso Villa.
In a statement he signed last night entitled ‘Kudos to The Judiciary in Asserting its Assaulted Independence’ the Senior Advocate of Nigeria said, “On December 11, 2017, the Court of Appeal, Lagos division, in the lead judgment delivered by Justice Adejumo Obaseki, quashed the 14 count charge against Justice Hyeladzira Nganjiwa before the Lagos state High court and ruled that the EFCC does not have the powers to investigate or prosecute serving judicial officers except where they had been first dismissed by the National Judicial Council (NJC).
“For the records, it is the NJC that has disciplinary control over judges as provided for in section 158 and paragraphs 21 (b) and (d) of the third Schedule to the 1999 Constitution, as altered.
“Some commentators have either disagreed with, or supported this decision. I support it. I will give my reasons anon.
“As held by the intermediate court, there is such a principle of law known as the doctrine of separation of powers (thank you, Baron de Montesquieu, for your 1748 treatise that has shaped governance and division of powers within government itself. Thank you Adam Smith for the concept of division of labour).
“The doctrine of separation of powers is a complete bar to the Executive riding slipshod on judges (belonging to the judiciary), in spite of the clear provisions of section 158 of the 1999 Constitution as altered and paragraphs 21 (b) and (d) of the third schedule to the said 1999 Constitution.
“This doctrine has received the constitutional imprimatur in sections 4, 5 and 6 of the same 1999 Constitution.
“We must all unite to rescue the brazenly buffeted judiciary from the despotic jackboots of the Executive, which traduces judges with untrammelled impunity.
“To do this, we need more of such creative judicial interventionist activism.
Judges in Nigeria today are no longer safe, or free to deliver judgments without looking over their shoulders, for fear of rampaging Executive agencies that break down their houses in ungodly hours of the night, and terrorize and dehumanize them and their families.
“Judges now operate under a situation of fear, not wanting to deliver judgments against an intolerant Executive, even where the law is as clear as Chrystal.
“They operate under morbid fear of blaring sirens of power and executive lawlessness, an Executive that treats judicial orders with disdain and utmost contempt.
“Remember the Dasuki’s and El-Zakzaky’s of this world? Numerous courts, including the sub regional ECOWAS Court, has since ordered their immediate release with payment of damages for unlawful detention, but the Executive has flagrantly refused to obey the said orders.
“This is an obvious invitation to chaos and anarchy.
“Any attempt by the EFCC rely on its enabled law, the EFCC (Establishment) Act, 2004, a far inferior law to the grundnorm, to undermine the clear provisions of the Constitution, is liable to be struck down, by virtue of section 1 (3) thereof.
“Lord Denning, MR, in Comb v Comb, once famously declared in the following words, or words to the like effect: “What is the argument on the other side? Only this. That no case appears in which it has been done before. That argument does not in the least appeal to me. If we never do anything because it has not been done before, the society will move on and the law will stand still, and that will be bad for both”.
“It was with this rare insightful activist orientation that he ploughed new fields and opened up new legal vistas that resulted into imperishable creations such as the doctrines in the “High Trees” case, Mareva Orders and Anton Pillar Orders.
“I totally support the Court of Appeal in this Landmark judgment that has the effect of clipping the tyrannical claws of the EFCC and its sister agencies in always viewing the judiciary as an annex of the Aso Villa. I salute the rare courage, daring bravado”.