Group demands reconstitution of Corruption Trial Monitoring Committee

Posted by News Express | 1 November 2017 | 964 times

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•CJN, Justice Walter Onnoghen

The Value and Integrity Group (VIG) has urged the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Honourable Justice Walter Onnoghen, to reconstitute the 15-member Corruption and Financial Crime Cases Trial Monitoring Committee (COTRIMCO).

In a petition forwarded to Justice Onnoghen and signed by the General Secretary, Popoola Ajayi, the coalition said having conducted background checks on members of the Committee, it founds out that the past and current leaders of the Nigerian Bar Association are not qualified to serve in the body on grounds of conflict of interest.

The petition reads: “Following a publication in the Punch newspaper on September the 28th, 2017, which revealed that a new 15-member Corruption and Financial Crime Cases Trial Monitoring Committee (COTRIMCO) has been established, the Value and Integrity Group (VIG) wishes to commend your office and entire members of the National Judicial Council for this remarkable initiative towards a speedy dispensation of justice in the trial of corruption and financial crimes related cases.

“As a patriotic and committed group, we hereby pledge our support to the National Judicial Council and the Judiciary as a whole in achieving the noble objectives behind the establishment of the committee.

“My Lord, from our understanding, this Committee is expected to regularly monitor and evaluate the proceedings of the courts designated to try corruption and other financial and economic crimes in the country.”

VIG said after conducting background checks on members of the Committee, it found that the past and current leaders of the Nigerian Bar Association are not qualified to serve in the body on grounds of conflict of interest.

“Whereas, some are presently handling high profile corruption cases involving Politically Exposed Persons (PEPs) before the various trial courts others are under investigation by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

“My Lord, to ensure that the integrity of the Committee is not undermined on account of conflict of interest of some of the members please find below, Sir, the report of our findings on the former and current Presidents of the Nigerian Bar Association in the Committee;

“Chief Wole Olanipekun SAN has frustrated the trial of many corruption cases. In the civil case filed by Access Bank against Mr. Akingbola in the United Kingdom, the English court delivered judgment  in 2012 and awarded damages of N212 billion in favour of the bank. In opposing the registration of the judgment by the Lagos high court Chief Olanipekun said that the federal high court was the competent forum for the registration of the judgment.

“The Lagos high court agreed and struck out the registration. The judgment was set aside. When the Central Bank of Nigeria took steps to register the judgment at the Federal High Court, Chief Olanipekun again objected and said that the Federal High Court lacked jurisdiction to register the judgment. The objection was upheld and the judgment was not registered.

“Furthermore, after the dismissal of Mr. Akingbola’s criminal case by the federal high court Chief Olanipekun turned round to argue that the Lagos High Court cannot try him because the offences committed by him are federal offences as they arose from the capital market.

“The Court of Appeal upheld the objection but the Supreme Court has rejected such frivolous objection in another case but Akingbola’s case is still suspended because his appeal has not been determined by the Supreme Court. The case of Mr. Ebong, ex-bank Managing Director of Union Bank has also been subjected to undue delay by Chief Olanipekun.”

It noted further that, “Chief Olanipekun has also tried but failed to set aside the judgment of the Lagos high court in the case of Emmanuel Nwude who led a team of 419 kingpins to trick the bank manager of a Brazilian bank to part with $242 million which led to the collapse of the bank. Even though Nwude pleaded guilty and was convicted and jailed 5 years, Chief Olanipekun recently approached the Court of Appeal to return the ex-convict’s forfeited assets.

“Chief Olanipekun has successfully frustrated the trial of Senator Adolphus Wabara who was charged with corruption by the ICPC in 2005. The senior lawyer is currently defending the accused persons in the cases of FRN v Tukur; FRN v Wagbasoma and FRN v Dokpesi which are pending at the trial courts and appellate courts.”

The group submitted that, “Since Chief Olanipekun is defending such suspects and others being prosecuted by the EFCC and ICPC the prosecution will be put in an advantaged position if he is allowed to monitor the judges trying the cases. The judges are equally going to be intimidated by the presence of the lawyer in their courts for fear that he may write adverse reports on them. We also wonder how the Chief can be asked to ensure that the judges trying corruption cases do not delay trials which are caused by him and fellow bar leaders.

“On Mr. J. B. Daudu SAN, VIG said: “He led the defence team for Chief James Ibori at the federal high court, Asaba, Delta state. They advised the accused to plead not guilty to the 170-count charge. He did and the lawyers ensured that the charge was struck out.

“But when faced with similar charges in London Chief Ibori’s British lawyers advised him to plead guilty as he had no defence. He did. He was convicted and jailed. Although the Court of Apela has set aside the controversial discharge of Chief Ibori by the federal high court the handling of the case has exposed the Nigerian judiciary to ridicule. Mr. Daudu also frustrated the trial of FRN v Mohammed Abacha who was charged with stealing N464 billion. The case was delayed in the court for 14 years.

“The federal high court barred him from prosecuting cases for the federal government because of the poor prosecution of the criminal case of Mr. Erastus Akingbola. The prosecution of the suspects in the Halliburton case which was handled by him was also struck out for want of diligent prosecution.

“After the criminal case of the suspects who collected bribes from Halliburton has been struck out by the federal capital territory high court Mr. Daudu proceeded to collect millions of dollars as professional fees from Halliburton in a questionable plea bargain. For his role in the Halliburton scandal Mr. Daudu is currently under investigation by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.

“An online newspaper, The PremiumTimes of September the 27th, 2017 reported that Mr. Daudu had rushed to the Court of Appeal to seek an ex-parte order to prevent the Code of Conduct Tribunal from sitting, because his client Senator Bukola Saraki did not appear at the Tribunal.

“The Senate President later disclosed to Nigerians that his non-appearance at the tribunal was due to his lawyer’s advice and that he did not intend to treat the Code of Conduct Tribunal with contempt. This serious allegation of professional misconduct made by his client was never challenged by Mr. Daudu.

“Mr. Daudu is also the defence Counsel in the case of FRN v Sambo Dasuki. He has adopted all manners of delay tactics to frustrate the trial of his client in the case. He is also currently defending the accused person in the case of FRN v Suswan. How then can a suspect in the Halliburton scandal and a defence counsel in the corruption cases of Messrs Dasuki and Suswan corruption be tasked with the duty of monitoring judges who are trying corruption cases?”

Speaking on Mr. Olisa Agbakoba SAN, the coalition noted that, “He applied for the bail of the notorious 419 leader, Mr. Fred Ajudua on medical grounds. It turned to be a ploy for the escape of Mr. Ajudua from trial. The suspect was released on bail but he jumped bail and abandoned his trial. He was only rearrested about 7 years later and was charged afresh.”

It also noted that, “Mr. Okey Wali SAN is being investigated by the EFCC for a failed contract awarded to him and his brother by the Niger Delta Development Corporation. Both brothers are currently on bail. The allegation being investigated is that the contract sum of N100 million was collected even though the contract was not executed. As a suspect who is on bail in a corruption case Mr. Wali SAN cannot be a member of a Committee set up to monitor judges handling corruption cases.

On Mr. Austin Alegeh SAN, VIG said: “He assisted Mr. Daudu SAN in the controversial trial of Chief Ibori at the federal high court. Apart from his role in the Ibori saga which exposed the Nigerian legal system to ridicule before the  whole world Mr. Austin Aleghe SAN is under investigation for alleged diversion of funds belonging to the Nigerian Bar Association. The complainants are two legal practitioners.

It also picked out the current President of the Nigerian Bar Association, Mr. M. B. Mahmoud SAN, saying: “He is involved in the prosecution of the former bank executives. He is also handling the appeal in the case of FRN V Dr Peter Odili. The appeal which was filed almost 10 years ago has not been pursued diligently.”

VIG said from its brief narration of the negative roles of the above mentioned leaders of the Nigerian Bar Association in the nation’s fight against corruption and other economic and financial crimes, the CJN: “Will agree with us that they lack the moral right to monitor judges who are trying corruption and other economic and financial crimes. Since the bar leaders are either prosecuting or defending suspects in corruption cases they ought to be disqualified on grounds of conflict of interest.

“It is particularly incongruous that the suspects among them who may soon be charged before the judges that they are going to monitor.

“In order to avoid allegations of conflict of interest we urge Your Lordship to remove the former and current Presidents of the Nigerian Bar Association from the 15-member Corruption and Financial Crime Cases Trial Monitoring Committee. If our request is granted Your Lordship may wish to replace them with retired judges of proven integrity. However, if the Committee is not reconstituted

“Your Lordship should not be surprised if some accused persons decide to file applications objecting to the appearance of the monitors in cases of corruption and other economic and financial crimes to prevent them from intimidating and influencing the trial judges,” VIG said.

Source: News Express

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