Code of Conduct Tribunal: Lawyers Network Against Corruption Questions CCT Compliance with Due Process and Likelihood of Bias in Azinge Trial

In a statement released on the 3rd January, 2019, via its official Twitter handle @lawnacng, the Lawyers Network Against Corruption (LAWNAC) revealed that it has filed a Freedom of Information Act Request to determine whether the administrative predication for the charge against Lady Azuka Azinge is in compliance with the provisions laid out in the 5th Schedule to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended), the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act and the Code of Conduct Practice Directions 2017.

The tweets state that LAWNAC is concerned about the allegations of bias, ethnic targeting and abuse of process in the commencement and prosecution of charges against Lady Azuka Azinge by the Code of Conduct Tribunal.

LAWNAC is of the firm view that justice must not only be done, it must manifestly be seen to have been done. This means that the Code of Conduct Tribunal must never place itself in a situation where the confidence reposed on it by the public to do justice to all parties before it in all circumstances is eroded. The stream of justice must be kept clean and clear without any suspicion of pollution.

LAWNAC is more particularly concerned about these weighty allegations following the shocking use of ex parte orders by the Tribunal, noting that the Court of Appeal recently chided the Tribunal and the Chairman for conduct creating a likelihood of bias.

LAWNAC is concerned that the current trajectory on which the Tribunal is headed is against the spirit and letter of the laws establishing the Tribunal and will derail the Tribunal and erode any public confidence reposed in the Tribunal.

LAWNAC recognizes that the Learned Justices of the Court of Appeal have had course to reprimand the Chairman of the Tribunal in the case of Rasheed Owolabi v. FRN, Suit No: CA/A/623C/2016 decided on the 2nd March, 2018, where the Court of Appeal overturned the ruling of the Tribunal headed by Chairman Danladi Umar against the Defendant, Mr. Owolabi.

In the words of the Court of Appeal “The pertinent question is whether in the circumstances of this case, it may not be inferred that right-minded persons of the public would have the impression that there is a real likelihood of bias against the appellant. Any reasonable man observing the proceedings will definitely have the impression, in the prevalent circumstances of this case, that the appellant will not get a fair trial from such a Tribunal whose chairman has had some grievance or embattlement with the appellant.”

“It is in fact noteworthy that the chairman was not completely absolved of blame in the petition filed against him to EFCC by the Appellant. Though the EFCC, after investigation had concluded that there were no sufficient facts to prosecute the chairman of the Tribunal, Justice Umar over the allegation of graft made against him by the Appellant, yet he was vilified for “a most unethical and highly suspicious conduct in his part” for the chairman meeting privately with the Appellant in his chambers at the Tribunal. It is also significant to note that the Personal Assistant to the Chairman is being prosecuted for some amount of money paid into his account by the Appellant over the same matter. See E.F.C.C. Investigation Report at pp. 68-69.”

Part of the EFCC Report specifically stated thus “There are indications that the tribunal Chairman might have demanded and collected money from the complaint through his said personal assistant. However, efforts made to recover the telephone handset used by Justice Umar proved abortive, as he claimed that he had lost the telephone in 2012. This has made it impossible to subject it to independent scientific analysis with a view to corroborating the allegation. Justice Umar also admitted that he met privately with the complaint in his chamber at the tribunal. This is unethical and highly suspicious conduct on his part.” (See p. 69 of the Record of Appeal)

The Lawyers Network Against Corruption is a network of Legal Practitioners in public and private practice from all 36 states of the Federal Republic of Nigeria dedicated to the fight against corruption Nigeria, and especially in the legal profession and the justice delivery sector.

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