Law News
Falana dares Daudu over contempt proceedings threat

A Senior Advocate Nigeria, Mr. Femi Falana, has challenged the lead counsel for the Senate President Bukola Saraki, Mr. Joseph Daudu (SAN), to go ahead to initiate the contempt proceedings which he threatened against lawyers who had criticised the ruling of the Supreme Court, halting Saraki’s trial before the Code of Conduct Tribunal.

Falana said in a statement on Tuesday that the contempt suit threatened to be initiated by Daudu would enable him to join issues with lawyers who were allegedly fond of manipulating the criminal justice system to favour members of the ruling class that are facing trial for “grand corruption”.

Defending the rights of every Nigerian citizen to criticise any decision of the Supreme Court, he cited the provisions of Section 36 of the Constitution and past decisions of the apex court which he said had “always appreciated constructive criticism of its decisions, having regards to their finality and overall impact on the nation’s legal system”.

He said what was not allowed was to “scandalise” a court or level allegation of misconduct against judges without any proof, even as he accused Daudu of having more than any Nigerian lawyer, “consistently lampooned sitting and retired judges for engaging in massive judicial corruption without supplying any scintilla of evidence to substantiate his claim.”

He recalled that the Federal High Court had freed a former Governor of Delta State, James Ibori, on the basis of preliminary objection raised by his (Ibori’s) legal team, led by Daudu, only for him (Ibori) to be later convicted by a British court to the embarrassment of the nation.

Falana explained further that following the concern expressed by the Federal Government over “the manipulation of the legal system by politically exposed persons”, heads of Supreme Court, Court of Appeal and the Federal High Court had issued various practice directions to fast track trials and appeals arising from corruption, money laundering, human trafficking, kidnapping, rape and terrorism cases.

He said the practice directions issued by the courts predated by the enactment of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015, which in its sections 306 and 396 completely abolished granting of stay of proceedings with respect to criminal cases.

He said, “It is abundantly clear from the foregoing that the Federal High Court and both appellate courts in the country had, before the enactment of ACJA, adopted measures to discourage parties and their counsel from resorting to interlocutory appeals to frustrate the hearing and determination of cases of economic crimes and terrorism.

“To that extent, it is of no moment to insist that the abolition of stay of proceedings and interlocutory appeals by the ACJA is illegal and unconstitutional.

“Therefore, the contempt proceedings being initiated by Mr. Daudu will certainly provide an opportunity for me to join issues with the lawyers who are manipulating the criminal justice system to shield members of the ruling class from prosecution for grand corruption while indigent suspects are railroaded to jail over minor economic offences.”

Falana also accused a former President of the Nigerian Bar Association, Mr. Olisa Agbakoba (SAN), and Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN), of being hypocritical in their argument that the provisions of the ACJ Act were not applicable to the Supreme Court, having held contrary opinion as members of the Committee on Law, Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Reforms of the 2014 National Conference.

He said, “With respect, the contributions of some senior counsel to the debate smack of hypocrisy. For instance, both Messrs Agbakoba and Ozekhome and I were members of the Committee on Law, Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Reforms of the 2014 National Conference. The committee headed by the Honourable Justice George Oguntade (retd.) had recommended, inter alia, the establishment of a special anti-corruption court, devoid of niceties and technicalities of the conventional courts, such as preliminary objections and interlocutors appeals.

“The recommendations and several others on judicial reforms were unanimously adopted by all conference delegates. Although an anti-corruption court has not been created, the recommendations of the National Conference on the abolition of stay of proceedings and interlocutory appeals in criminal proceedings have emerged as sections 306 and 396 of the ACJA. All the lawyers who had campaigned for the abolition of interlocutory appeals are morally stopped from questioning the legal validity of the relevant provisions of the ACJA.

“Those colleagues who think, rather erroneously, that they are defending the Supreme Court ought to be reminded of the state of the law on stay of proceedings before the enactment of the ACJA.”

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