•Ozekhome condemns attack on Justice Odili
By Davidson Iriekpen
The Supreme Court has scheduled hearing for Wednesday, February 26, in the application by the All Progressives Congress (APC) seeking among others, a review of its February 13, 2020 judgment disqualifying the party’s candidate in the last governorship election in Bayelsa State, David Pereworimin Lyon.
The announcement came just as a constitutional lawyer, Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN), described the attack on Justice Mary Peter-Odili as dangerous for the independence of the Supreme Court.
It was gathered yesterday that the Registry of the Supreme Court has communicated the date of hearing to parties in the case.
It was, however, not clear whether or not respondents to the APC’s application have filed their responses.
In the application filed on February 20 by its team of lawyers led by Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), the APC wants the Supreme Court to set aside some portions of its judgment.
They include where it “wrongly” held that the Federal High Court disqualified its governorship candidate along with its deputy governorship candidate and where it held that joint ticket of its candidates was vitiated by the disqualification of the deputy governorship candidate and that both candidates are deemed not to be candidates in the election.
It is also the APC’s prayer that the Supreme Court sets aside the portion of the judgment where it ordered INEC to declare as winner of the governorship election, candidates with the highest number of lawful votes and where it ordered INEC to withdraw the certificate of return issued to Lyon and issue a fresh one to the candidate who had the highest number of lawful votes.
The APC argued that it was wrong for the Supreme Court to have voided its candidates’ participation in the election, because the judgment by the Federal High Court, which disqualified its deputy governorship candidate, was stayed as at when the election was conducted.
It also wants the Supreme Court to set aside the “wrong” interpretation given to its judgment and the subsequent execution by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
It is APC’s contention, among others, that the Supreme Court, in its judgment, misinterpreted the November 12, 2019 judgment of the Federal High Court, Abuja which it (the Supreme Court) affirmed.
The APC argued that the Supreme Court acted without jurisdiction and denied it (the party) fair hearing when it proceeded to disqualify its governorship candidate even though the Federal High Court, in the judgment by Justice Inyang Ekwo, which the apex court affirmed, refused the plaintiffs’ prayer to disqualify Lyon.
The party also faulted the interpretation given to the Supreme Court judgment by INEC in deciding to issue a certificate of return to the candidates of the PDP.
The APC queried the premises on which the Supreme Court disqualified Lyon when the Federal High Court did not grant the reliefs for his disqualification.
It accused the Supreme Court of acting without jurisdiction by disqualifying its candidate and breaching its right to fair hearing.
Meanwhile senior lawyer, Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN), has described the attack on Justice Mary Peter-Odili as dangerous for the independence of the Supreme Court.
He said it was sickening that Justice Odili’s residence was singled out and attacked by hired political hoodlums, miscreants and thugs, just for merely carrying out her judicial functions of heading a five-member panel that delivered the judgment sacking the Governor-elect of Bayelsa State.
Justice Odili had chaired a five-man panel of the Supreme Court that sacked David Lyon of the APC as Bayelsa State governor-elect on the grounds that Biobarakuma Degi-Eriemienyo, his running mate, presented forged credentials to INEC.
In a statement sent to THISDAY, Ozekhome berated the attacks on Odili, saying that the attack was “highly condemnable, provocative, uncalled for and is certainly dangerous for the independence and courageous decisions template of the Supreme Court of Nigeria, which is the apex court.”
He lamented that Odili was singled out and attacked by hired political hoodlums, miscreants and thugs, noting that Odili did not even write or deliver the lead judgment.
He said, “The lead judgment was written and delivered by the Justice Ejembi Eko.
“More significant is the fact that the entire judgment was a unanimous decision and pronouncement made by the entire five members of the Supreme Court panel that heard the matter.
“Why would she be singled out just because she is from Rivers State, near Bayelsa State?” Ozekhome said.
The senior advocate stated that the attack on Odili was not an ordinary one as it should not be ignored and swept under the carpet.
He urged the police and authorities to investigate the attack and bring anyone found culpable to book.
He said, “The government, through the DSS, the Inspector-General of Police must immediately rise to the occasion and fish out the ignoble perpetrators that committed this heinous crime and this desecration of the citadel of Justice.
“They must be singled out and prosecuted immediately; and where found guilty, be given adequate punishment that they richly deserve.
“No attempt must be made by any political party, or by any person or group of persons, however so highly placed, to intimidate the judiciary and beat it to submission in such a way and manner that decisions of courts are procured by the executive or political fiat.
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South-west States to Pass Amotekun Bill This Week
•Oyo, Ondo, three others hold public hearings today
Kemi Olaitan in Ibadan, James Sowole in Akure, Yinka Kolawole in Osogbo, Victor Ogunje in Ado Ekiti and Kayode Fasua in Abeokuta
Barring all unforeseen circumstances, the bill for the establishment of the Western Nigeria Security Network (WNSN), a regional security outfit codenamed ‘Operation Amotekun’, will be passed into law this week in the six South-west states, THISDAY has learnt.
In preparations for the passage of the bill, it was also gathered that Lagos, Oyo, Ondo, Ogun and Osun state Houses of Assembly will hold public hearings on the draft bill this week.
Ekiti State is ahead of these five states as the state legislature had since passed the bill into law and is awaiting the assent of Governor Kayode Fayemi.
Investigation revealed that Ekiti State is waiting for the other states to conclude work on the bill so that the governors will assent to the bill simultaneously.
The Lagos State House of Assembly had committed the bill to the House Committee on Information, Publicity, Security and Strategy for a public hearing scheduled for today (Monday).
To accommodate Amotekun, the state government had proposed a bill for the amendment of the Lagos State Neighbourhood Safety Corps (LNSC).
The bill is entitled: ‘A House of Assembly Bill No. 5 Lagos State Neighbourhood Safety Corps (LNSC) Amendment Bill 2020 and for Connected Purposes.’
THISDAY gathered that the Oyo State Assembly will today also hold public hearing on the bill, which was sent to it by the executive.
The Majority Leader of the House, Hon. Sanjo Adedoyin, who confirmed this development to THISDAY, added that the bill will be passed into law after the public hearing.
“The bill will be passed this week, like other states in the South-west, the House would on Monday organise a public hearing on the bill. So, latest by Tuesday or Wednesday, it would be passed,” Adedoyin said.
In Ondo State, the bill, which has passed second reading at the state House of Assembly, will also be subjected to public hearing today.
The Senior Special Assistant to Governor Oluwatotimi Akeredolu on Security Matters, Mr. Jimoh Dojumo, confirmed the development to THISDAY at the weekend.
In Osun State, the Chief Press secretary to the state governor, Mr. Ismail Omipidan, also confirmed that the state lawmakers will hold a public hearing on the matter this week.
According to him, until the state legislature passes the bill into law, there is nothing the government can do for now.
The Ogun State House of Assembly is also expected to hold a public hearing on the bill today.
Speaking exclusively with THISDAY, the Chief Press Secretary to Governor Dapo Abiodun, Mr. Kunle Somorin said: “The state government has approved the draft bill setting up Amotekun and the bill is before the state House of Assembly.
“It is the lawmakers that will determine whether it is the police or the army that will train the Amotekun personnel. Such a decision should naturally come with the passage of the bill.”
He added that the government had not got to the stage of recruiting personnel for Amotekun, noting that such would follow once the bill is passed by the House and signed into law by the governor.
Also, Special Adviser on Security to the Governor of Ekiti State, Brig. Gen. Ebenezer Ogundana (rtd), said Fayemi would assent to the Ekiti State Security Network Bill along with other South-west states.
He said the governor was desirous of being on the same page with other states and that must have accounted for the delay in assenting to the bill, which the House of Assembly has passed into law.
“The governor had while receiving the draft bill from the Attorney-General of the state, said the bill would be signed into law across the six states in the South-west simultaneously.
“I believe this must have caused the delay in the process of signing the bill into law apart from the fact that the governor has been having a busy schedule,” he stated.
Meanwhile, Christian leaders under the aegis of International Christian Conscience Initiative (ICCI), has commended the governments of the South-west for the formation of Amotekun, noting that the level of insecurity in the region has become worrisome.
The group stated this in a communiqué after a meeting in Lagos at the weekend.
In the communiqué signed by its Coordinator, Prof. Olakunle Macaulay and Secretary, Rev. Moses Ajayi, the ICCI said since the federal government could not ensure the safety of lives and property, the constituent states were in order to wade in.
“If the federal government that has a responsibility to protect lives and property cannot discharge the function effectively, then the states should act.
“The truth is that the federal government has failed to stem the tide of kidnapping and raping that lately stalked the southwestern territory of the country. This is evident in the inability of the police to bring the situation under control; therefore, the Amotekun is an alternative police, since the police have proved inefficient to meet public expectations,” Macaulay added.
He advised the federal government to increase the police personnel, saying that most communities are under-policed while modern weapons should be provided for them to make them efficient.