By Onyebuchi Sampson
•Reveals why he didn’t indict Malami
•Tasks NBA on obedience of orders
Chairman, Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Section on Public Interest and Development Law (NBA-SPIDEL), Dr. Monday Ubani, has submitted his investigation report on the invasion of Justice Mary Odili’s residence.
Ubani was appointed by NBA President Olumide Akpata as a “Special Investigator” to unravel the circumstances surrounding the invasion of Odili’s premises by persons suspected to be security operatives.
In his report to an Emergency Meeting of NBA National Executive Council (NBA-NEC), he revealed why he did not indict Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami SAN over the invasion of the Supreme Court jurist. Ubani also narrated how he grilled the justice minister over the matter, adding that he could not use “tainted” evidence to indict the minister.
According to him, accus- ing fingers were initially pointed at the Minister when the invasion oc- curred, moreso when it was reported that the culprits were from the office of the Federal Ministry of Justice. He said: “This notion becomes more compelling when it is realised that the Honourable Attorney General admitted that he authorised the invasion of judges’ homes in 2016.
It was argued that if he authorised the invasion of 2016, then he must have authorised this latest raid by persons allegedly linked to the Ministry of Justice which he heads.
“The Minister therefore needed to offer elaborate explanations to exculpate himself and his office from the latest invasion.
“The Honourable Attorney General started by stating that there is a unit in his ministry called Asset Tracing, Recovery and Management Committee established sometime in 2019 pursuant to the Asset Tracing, Recovery and Management Committee Regulation 2019, The Trumpet gathered.
It is an inter-ministerial committee composed of representatives from ministries, depart- ments and agencies of Government. “
The committee coor- dinates the asset recovery and management system on properties of the Federal Government of Nigeria both locally and internationally.
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If the committee receives any information about illicit property or money of the Federal Government hidden anywhere, the Ministry will forward the information to the appropriate security agencies or law firms to handle.
The committee, according to him, does not on its own handle any sting operation. He therefore disassociated the Ministry from any al- leged Ghost Account, Local Whistle-blower, Joint Panel Recovery Unit or similar name the perpetrators may have called themselves.
“Mr. Malami also denied signing the Identity card of the said CSP Lawrence Ajodo. He stated that the Identity cards of those who work in the Ministry of Justice are signed by the Director of Human Resources or his delegate and not by him.
He denied that any unit in his ministry worked with the Nigerian Police officers especially in the way and manner the present invasion took place.
“He denied knowing Lawrence Ajodo or having any private or official dealings with him. He challenged Ajodo to produce any letter given to him officially either by himself or any of his subordinates to carry out any official duty on the Ministry’s behalf.”
Passing his verdict, the NBA-SPIDEL boss said that Ajodo’s testimony was unreliable in many respects, adding: “Having arrived at this conclusion, it will be untenable to use his tainted and mostly oral evidence to implicate anyone without any corresponding documentary evidence.”
Ubani also exonerated Chief Magistrate Emmanuel Iyanna, who signed the controversial search warrant, adding that the Magistrate took rigorous steps to document the procedures, leading to the grant of the warrant, aside from immediately an- nulling it when Ajodo failed to return to regularise the documents.
He said: “There is perhaps no way the learned Chief Magistrate could have deciphered the alleged criminal intent of the deponent, the same having been concealed from him. “When the Chief Mag- istrate’s eyes were opened to the nefarious intent of the invaders, they refused to honour his invitation to clarify the issue of conflicting addresses.
“They proceeded to carry out their intended action even when the search warrant had been revoked. The revocation on record was done the same day, signifying promptness in addressing the grave error His Honour committed insigning a search warrant with vague details.
“The legal implication of executing a revoked search warrant and a search warrant on a property different from the address on record should be a culpability attributable to those who executed it and not to the person that issued and signed it, moreso when the issuer discovered his own mistake and took immediate steps to correct it.” Ubani, however, recommended that.
“The Chief Magistrate should be cautioned to be more circumspect whenever signing processes that may be subjected to abuse.
“There were red flags inherent in the affidavit and inconsistencies that should have put him on enquiry and made him to be a bit more careful before signing the Search Warrant.”
The former second vice president of the NBA stated that “pure greed” was at the heart of the invasion, noting that “Mr. Ajodo got an unverified information that large sums of money, perhaps in billions of Naira, were at No. 9 Imo Street, Maitama, Abuja.
“To make the story palatable, they informed Mr. Ajodo that the whistleblower had gotten an af- fidavit backed with EFCC, sworn to at the High Court of FCT, Abuja. Mr. Umar Ibrahim was introduced to Mr. Lawrence Ajodo, the ‘hitman’, who obviously was known in the circle of whistle-blowers.
He took over from there and became the kingpin.” Further in his recommen- dations, Ubani, urged the NBA to press for obedience to court orders and respect for the rule of law until all arms of government adopt such core values.
He said that substantive and procedural laws with elaborate processes and procedures for the issu- ance of search warrants, arrest warrants, detention orders, extension of deten- tion orders among others should be enacted for the states and the FederalGovernment to obviate a repeat of the worrisome incident.
According to him, the independence of the Judiciary must be sustained through administrative, operational and financial autonomy.
He said: “The NBA must continue to press for obedi- ence to court orders and respect for the rule of law until all arms of government adopt these as core values.
“The independence of the Judiciary should not be a matter for negotia- tion. It is either we have an independent judiciary or we choose not to have it.
The advantages of an independent judiciary cannot be overemphasised. “The Federal and State governments should not be allowed to pay lip service to the independence of the Judiciary.
“Government Agencies or Security Agencies, which tolerate or harbour criminal gangs, touts or law-breakers in and around their offices should be made to answer to their illegal activities bybeing summoned by the various committees that superintend over them in the Legislature.”
Ubani emphasised that ensuring obedience to Court Orders and respect for the rule of law should remain the eternal pursuit of NBA and other professional bodies until these become abiding principles by every government in Nigeria.
He also suggested that the special investigator will hold a watching brief on behalf of NBA over the invasion matter, which has commenced at the Federal High Court, Abuja and would come up April 8, 2022.
He, therefore, thanked the NBA president and the NEC for the privilege of serving the Bar as a Special Investigator. Recall that Nigerian Police have arrested several persons, including lawyers, security agents, a journalist and other professionals that allegedly carried out the invasion.
They were arraigned on December 15, 2021. They all pleaded “not guilty” to the charges preferred against them. The first hearing on the case was held on January 17, 2022 when the first prosecu- tion witness gave evidence and was cross-examined.
The matter was adjourned to March 1, 2022 and further adjourned to April 8, 2022, as the court did not sit on March 1, 2022. The NBA had engaged Maxwell Okpara of NBA Bwari Branch to work with Ubani on the case by holding a watching brief on behalf of the NBA.