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Judiciary: Bill to legalise Virtual Court proceedings passes 1st reading in Senate

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President of the Senate Ahmed Lawan.
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The Senate on Tuesday passed for first reading, a Constitution alteration bill seeking for legalisation of virtual court proceedings.

The bill was sponsored by Sen. Opeyemi Bamidele (APC-Ekiti) during plenary was entitled “1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (Alteration) Bill, 2020 (SB. adsbygoogle || []).push({}); adsbygoogle || []).push({}); 418).

A copy of the draft bill made available to news men was aimed at ensuring the corresponding amedment of relevant provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 as amended, in giving legal teeth to virtual court proceedings.

The provisions of the bill as contained in the draft copy, include Section 36 sub-section (3) which states thus ” this section is hereby amended by the addition of the following:

” Provided that nothing in this subsection shall invalidate proceedings of a court or that of a tribunal relating to matters mentioned in subsection (1) of this section.

” (including the announcement of the decisions of the court or tribunal) where same is held by remote hearing or any virtual means now in existence or yet to be developed.

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“Section 36 subsection (4) is hereby amended by addition of sub-paragraph (c) as follows: (c) nothing in the foregoing paragraphs shall invalidate proceedings of a court or the proceedings of a tribunal relating to matters mentioned in subsection (1) of this section.

“Including the announcement of the decisions of the court or tribunal where same is held by remote hearing or any virtual means now in existence or yet to be developed.

“Section 36 subsection (12) is hereby amended by addition of the following subsection (13): In this section, “remote hearing” means proceedings or hearing of court conducted via zoom, skype, whatsapp video or any other social media platform or technological innovation”.

The drafter of the bill explains further that section 36 (3) is sufficiently controversial enough now in terms of requirement of public hearing and determination of disputes.

This, according to Bamidele, endangers the results of proceedings eventually held virtually except the amendment is done urgently, the whole judicial functions of the nation will remain paralysed.

“The bill being an urgently needed one needs to be given expeditious consideration and passage .

” It is s a case of emergency now. Upon second Reading, the states can be given three days to make returns so that before the end of the month, the process is completed.

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“The National Judicial Council (NJC) in the wake of COVID-19 pandemic and the inability of courts to hold courtroom proceedings, had taken steps to ensure continued administration of justice.

”Which is through virtual proceedings in accordance with global best practices, with some state Chief Judges coming out to openly adopt and implement the NJC guidelines.

“However, lawyers have been divided over this issue as there has been an ongoing debate among legal practitioners as to whether or not virtual hearing is real hearing as provided for in the Constitution.

“While some are insisting that the word “public” in the Constitution shall continue to mean  physical court room or other designated place unless and until the relevant provisions in section 36 of the Constitution are amended”, he said .

However, Bamidele, member of the Body of Benchers, said that in the meantime, the NJC had a responsibility to work with stakeholders to manage the current situation.

“Until we rewrite our Constitution in this regard as neither the practice direction, rules of court, nor an Act of the National Assembly can change the legal position so that we do not bury our heads in the sand.

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Abdulrahman Obaje
Abdulrahman Obaje
Prince Abdulrahman Obaje is a Media, Information and Computer Technology Consultant. A quintessential Journalist, online marketer, social media strategist, Mathematician and Computer Scientist is based in Abuja, Nigeria. He is the Founder and the Publisher of The Informavores!. You can reach me on +234 805 939 5252 or send i-witness report directly to me on news@informavores.com.ng.
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Judiciary

N110bn Palliative to NASS Members: Why Falana Faults the Measure, Calls for Immediate Reversal

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N110bn Palliative to NASS Members: Why SAN Femi Falana Faults the Measure, Calls for Immediate Reversal
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A Prominent human rights lawyer, Femi Falana, yesterday  called attention to the blatant breach of the relevant provisions of the Nigerian Constitution  while condemning the National Assembly’s decision to allocate N70 billion as palliatives for its members, saying that it is illegal and contemptuous. adsbygoogle || []).push({}); adsbygoogle || []).push({});

The statement that is contained in a press statement issued yesterday, 16th July, 2023 urged the immediate reversal of the controversial measures

Recall that N70 billion was allocated and, disbursed among 306 newly elected members, plus N40 billion set aside for the purchase of bulletproof cars and Sports Utility Vehicles (SUVs) for principal officials and members, sparking public outrage. Falana, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) emphasized that these decisions blatantly contravene Section 70 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, which outlines the appropriate remuneration and allowances for members of the National Assembly. citing recent court judgments, including Monday Ubani & Anor vs Attorney-General of the Federation & Ors and the case filed by the Socio-economic Rights Accountability Project (SERAP), Enough is Enough (EiE), and BudgIT against the National Assembly, Falana affirmed that the judiciary had already ruled against such excessive allowances.

The Federal High Court, in both cases, declared that the National Assembly Service Commission has no authority to determine the remuneration and allowances of its members. The court emphasized the need for the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) to review and adjust salaries and allowances in line with the country’s economic realities. Falana stressed that these judgments remain valid and binding, and the National Assembly’s actions are therefore illegal and contemptuous.

He called on the leadership and members of the National Assembly to reverse the controversial allowances and the purchase of luxury vehicles. In the event that these actions are not promptly rectified, Falana urged the RMAFC to take immediate measures to prevent further usurpation of its constitutional functions. He warned that failure to do so would result in contempt proceedings against the Chairman of the RMAFC and the leaders of both chambers of the National Assembly. “Out of sheer insensitivity coupled with impunity, the members of the National Assembly, regardless of political affiliation, conspired to breach the relevant provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 by padding the Supplementary Appropriation Bill, 2023 to provide the so called palliative of N70 billion for 306 newly elected members.

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While the masses of Nigeria are groaning under the excruciating economic pains unleashed on them by the ruling class, the National Assembly has awarded N228.7 million to each of the newly elected legislators. “As if that is not enough, the members of the National Assembly have earmarked N40 billion to purchase 465 Sports Utility Vehicles (SUVs) and bulletproof cars for principal officials and members.

However, the legislators approved the sum of N500 billion for 12 million indigent people in a country where the National Bureau of Statistics has said that “62.9 percent of people (133 million) are multidimensional poor.”

“The callous and insensitive decisions of the members of the National Assembly constitute a flagrant contravention of Section 70 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 as amended, which stipulates as follows: ‘A member of the Senate or of the House of Representatives shall receive such salary and other allowances as Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission may determine’,” the statement read in part.

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Making reference to a previous case, Falana said, “In Monday Ubani & Anor. v AttorneyGeneral of the Federation & Ors (Suit No FHC/LA/ CS/690/ 2018), the learned trial Judge, Professor Chuka Obiozor had cause to interpret the above provision of the Constitution when he held that, “The national assembly service commission has no power whatsoever to fix and determine or allocate the remuneration, allowances, salaries, emoluments or monetary values to the members of the national assembly.” His Lordship observed that “Given many years of extreme poverty in the country, and the inability of several state governments to pay salaries of workers and pensions, the refusal or failure of the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission to review and cut the salaries and allowances of members of the national assembly is a gross violation of the 1999 Nigerian Constitution (as amended) and the commission’s own Act.”

“For the avoidance of doubt, the learned trial Judge held that, “The allowances of wardrobe, newspapers, kitchen travelling domestic and constituency project allowances of the members of the national assembly are never contemplated or in the intendment of the constitution which created them and specified how they can be remunerated.”

Consequently, the Court ordered the RMAFC to review the salaries and allowances of members of the National Assembly to reflect the country’s current economic realities.

“The epochal judgment was adopted by the Federal High Court in the similar case (Suit No FHC/LA/CS/943/2019) filed by the Socioeconomic Rights Accountability Project (SERAP), Enough is Enough (EiE), and BudgIT against the National Assembly on the same subject matter and assigned to the same Judge.

“It is pertinent to note that both judgments of the Federal High Court have not been set aside by any higher court. Neither has the execution of the judgments been stayed or varied either by the Federal High Court or the Court of Appeal. Therefore, since the judgments are valid and subsisting, they are binding on all members of the Legislative and Executive Organs of the Federal Government.

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“In view of the foregoing, it is crystal clear that by approving allowances in the form of palliatives for themselves without the approval of the Revenue Allocation Mobilization and Fiscal Commission the members of the National Assembly deliberately acted illegally and contemptuously. As such actions cannot be justified in a democratic society which claims to operate under the rule of law, we are compelled to call on the leaders and members of the National Assembly to reverse the scandalous palliatives and purchase of exotic vehicles.

“However, if the illegal decisions are not reversed, we call on the Revenue Allocation Mobilization and Fiscal Commission to take urgent steps to prevent the National Assembly from further usurping its constitutional functions. Otherwise, we are going to commence contempt proceedings against the Chairman of the RAMFC and the leaders of both Chambers of the National Assembly”., the statement concluded.

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Judiciary

CJN Charges Acting FCT CJ, Others To Be impartial, Fair To All

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The Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Tanko Muhammad has urged the Acting Chief Judge of the Federal Capital Territory High Court, Justice Husseini Baba-Yusuf  to be impartial, fair to all, and apply justice and equity in all his undertakings. adsbygoogle || []).push({});
 
Muhammad made the call during the swearing-in of Baba-Yusuf and five Khadis of the Sharia Court of Appeal whose appointments were  earlier approved by President Muhammadu Buhari.
 
Baba-Yusuf’s appointment took effect from Aug. 1, 2021 following the recommendation of the National Judicial Council (NJC).
 
The CJN while administering the oath of office said, ”the entire letters and words of the oath you have taken must reside in a prime place of your heart.
 
”Let it be generously applied in the daily management of both human and material resources. 
 
You are expected to conduct your affairs within the ambit of the law and the oath that has just been administered on you.
 
He urged them to rise and operate above every primordial sentiment that might blight their tenures.
 
There is no doubt that you all will definitely be tempted and even intimidated in different ways and guises but you should always remain firm and unshaken because good conscience fears no threat”. 
 
Informavores! gathered that Baba-Yusuf who was born in Ankpa Local Government Area of Kogi on June 1, 1962 attended the LGEA Primary School Ankpa from 1966 to 1971, from where he proceeded to St Charles College, Ankpa between 1972 to 1976 and did his A levels at School of Basic Studies, Ugbokolo, Benue State from 1977 to 1980.
 
He then proceeded to the University of Lagos in 1980 where he obtained his LLB in 1983 and  moved to the Law School and was called to the Bar 1984.
 
Baba-Yusuf after completing his NYSC in 1985, joined the services of the Judiciary in 1985 as Magistrate Grade II and rose through the ranks to become the Chief Registrar, Kogi State High Court in 1993.
 
He later joined the FCT Judiciary on transfer of service same year and was appointed High Court Judge in 1998 from which position he has just been appointed Acting Chief Judge.
 
Informavores! further gathered that the Khadis are Justices Salisu Garba, Bashir Danmaisule, Muhammad A. Sadis, Lawa Sule and Abdullahi Adam Al-Ilorin.
 
Source: NAN
ALSO READ  Kogi Acting Chief Judge Hails Establishment of Public Defender and Citizens Right Commission
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Kogi Acting Chief Judge Hails Establishment of Public Defender and Citizens Right Commission

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The Acting Chief Judge of Kogi State, Hon. Justice Henry Olusiyi, has commended Governor Yahaya Bello for the establishment of Office of the Public Defender and Citizens’ Rights Commission (PDCRC), aimed at providing legal service free of charge to indigent citizens. adsbygoogle || []).push({}); adsbygoogle || []).push({});

The chief judge gave the commendation when the Director General of the Commission, Barr. Abdullahi Zakari, led a team of lawyers in an advocacy visit to his office on in Lokoja yesterday.

Olusiyi thanked the governor for establishing the commission saying, ”by this singular action His Excellency, Gov. Yahaya Bello, has proved that he is people’s oriented and friendly governor especially to the downtrodden.

He also eulogised the state’s Attorney General and Commissioner of Justice, Ibrahim Sanni Muhammed SAN, for the initiative and the critical transformation in the sector.

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The chief judge promised by God’s grace to build on the past legacies of his predecessor and also surpass them.

He noted that Zakari’s appointment as the pioneer DG of the commission was putting a round peg in a round hole, noting that he is hardworking, knowledgeable and a committed legal officer.

He, therefore, urged the DG to ensure that he focus and deliver on the core mandate of the commission.

”Anytime you call on us we will make sure that your cases are giving expeditious action and speedy hearing.

”Our doors are widely opened and we will always stand by you to give you the necessary support”, Olusiyi said.

Earlier, the DG of the Commission, Barr. Abdullahi Zakari, said the team were in C.J’s office to introduce the commission to him, intimate him of their programmes, and solicit for his support, cooperation and advise on their activities.

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Zakari noted the State Government had recently posted 12 Lawyers to work in the commission with other supportive staff, aimed at speeding the dispensation of criminal justice act in the state

”Access to justice should be of great concern to every Government; the multipliers effect are delay in justice, prison congestion and increase in crime rate”, he said.

The DG explained that the core mandate of the commission is to provide free legal service to the citizens and residents of Kogi who mIght not be able to afford the service lawyers, and protect the right of every resident of Kogi across the 21 LGAs.

”The commission is also saddled with the responsibility to provide legal representation in court for both civil and criminal matters.

“The commission is independent as it is the creation of the statute and expected operate as such.

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”We solicit for your guidance, prayers and support including the area of integrity, to ensure that the commission lives up to her mandate or objectives.

”What will sustain the commission is the integrity of the staff; your patronage is key to the success of our work”, Zakari said.

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