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Ononghen appeals CCT decision

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Suspended Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) Justice Walter Onnoghen has appealed Monday’s decision by the Code of Conduct Tribunal to delay ruling in his applications challenging its jurisdiction and its impartiality in the criminal case against him.

CCT Chairman, Danladi Umar, in a ruling on March 11, ordered a day-to-day trial in the charge of non-declaration of assets against Onnoghen and said the ruling in the two applications by the defendants would be delivered at the time of judgment.

Onnoghen, in a three-ground notice of appeal filed on Tuesday, argued the CCT erred in law in its interpretation of Section 369(2) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) when it ruled that its decision in the applicant’s applications shall be given at the point of judgment.

The suspended CJN argued that it was wrong for the CCT to refuse to deliver ruling after hearing the application challenging “constitutional jurisdiction” of the tribunal to hear and determine the charges filed against him.

He also faulted the tribunal for withholding its decision on the other application which challenged the “independence and impartiality of the chairman of the tribunal as his conduct in the proceedings showed bias and prejudiced against the appellant”.

Onnoghen argued that Section 396(2) of ACJA could only be the basis for adjourning rulings on such interlocutory applications till the conclusion of the trial if the applications had to do with the validity of the charges filed against the defendant.

He stated that his applications “raised a threshold issue of jurisdiction which should not wait until the conclusion of trial” adding that it “did not relate to the validity of the charges”.

“The decision (deferment of rulings) is a violation of the right of the appellant to a fair hearing,” the notice of appeal also stated.

Onnoghen noted that the same CCT, had in earlier proceedings in the case of Justice Sylvester Ngwuta, delivered ruling in a similar application.

He added that the CCT erred in the interpretation of Section 396(3) of the ACJA when objections of the appellant to impartiality and independence of the tribunal, particularly the Chairman, whose conduct in the proceedings gave an indication of bias and absence of independence in the determination of the right of the appellant.

Onnoghen argued that the application he filed “is not one of the interlocutory applications covered by Section 396(4) of the ACJA. The decision is a violation of the right of the appellant to the fair hearing.”

He urged the Court of Appeal to allow his appeal and “set aside the order of the tribunal made on March 11, 2019”.

Onnoghen also urged the Court of Appeal to proceed to invoke the provisions of Section 16 of the Court of Appeal Act, which he noted, empowers the court to hear and determine the applications in respect of which the CCT declined to rule.

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Court grants former INEC chair, N1bn bail

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A former chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Prof Maurice Iwu, who was charged with an alleged fraud of N1.23bn, has been admitted to bail in the sum of N1bn with two sureties in like sum.

Justice Chuka Obiozor said, in his ruling on Friday, that one the sureties must own a landed property in Lagos while the other must be a professor or a civil servant not below Grade Level 16.

The judge said both sureties must furnish the court with the statement of their bank accounts, showing a minimum balance of N1bn.

The sureties are also to submit their recent passport photographs. In addition, Iwu was ordered to deposit his passport with the Deputy Chief Registrar of the court.

The judge ordered that he should be remanded in the prison custody pending the fulfillment of the bail conditions.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission had on Thursday arraigned the ex-INEC chairman on four counts bordering on fraud before the Federal High Court in Lagos.

The anti-graft agency alleged that Iwu committed the offence in the build-up to the 2015 general elections in which President Muhammadu Buhari defeated then-incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan.

According to the EFCC, Iwu, between December 2014 and March 27, 2015, “aided the concealment of N1.23bn in the account of Bioresources Institute of Nigeria Limited with number 1018603119, domiciled in the United Bank for Africa.”

The EFCC said Iwu “ought to have reasonably known that the N1.23bn formed part of proceeds of an unlawful act, to wit: fraud.”

The prosecuting counsel for the EFCC, Mr Rotimi Oyedepo, told the court that the ex-INEC chairman acted contrary to sections 18(a) and 15 (2) (a) of the Money Laundering ((Prohibition) Act 2011 and was liable to be punished under Section 15(3) of the same Act.

But when the charges were read to him, Iwu pleaded not guilty.

While moving Iwu’s bail application on Friday, his lawyer, Mr Ahmed Raji (SAN), urged the judge to admit his client to bail in liberal terms but the EFCC vehemently opposed the bail application.

The EFCC counsel, Oyedepo, told the judge that Iwu might likely interfere with the witnesses assembled to testify in the case as they were INEC officials with whom he had worked closely

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Produce ‘two prominent and reliable persons’ as sureties – Kaduna court tells El-Zakzaky

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The Kaduna State Government has ordered leader of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria, Sheikh Ibrahim El-Zakzaky; and his wife, Zeenat, to produce “two prominent and reliable persons” as sureties, being one of the conditions the couple must fulfill before they would be allowed to leave the state for overseas treatment.

“One of the sureties must be a first class chief or emir of national repute and the other a prominent person within Kaduna State, who shall undertake to produce the defendants whenever they are needed,” the News Agency of Nigeria quoted the government as saying.

The Kaduna Government also said it respects the court’s ruling granting permission to the couple to travel to India for treatment.

Commissioner, Internal Security and Home Affairs, Mr. Samuel Aruwan, disclosed this in a statement in Kaduna on Wednesday, NAN said.

Quoting the statement, NAN wrote: “An appeal will be lodged on the matter, but a stay of execution will not be sought as the state government believes that a person may choose to travel abroad for any medical condition at his own cost.”

He said the government respects the right of anyone to seek treatment anywhere in the world, “even for malaria or common cold, so long as they are paying for it.

“But in the case of persons facing trial for serious offences, necessary safeguards are required to ensure that such persons do not become fugitives from justice or frustrate trial by claiming asylum or the status of political prisoner in the host country.”

According to him, in compliance with the court ruling, the state government has filed at the Kaduna High Court, terms for strict supervision of the medical leave granted El-Zakzaky.

Under the terms, the state government wants the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to confirm the appointments of the applicants with the Medanta Hospital, India.

It also asked the ministry to undertake all necessary diplomatic arrangements and protocols to ensure compliance with the conditions of the medical leave.

The statement also said each of the applicants should be made to make an undertaking to return to Nigeria to continue their trial as soon as they are discharged from the hospital.

The government also wants El-Zakzaky and his wife, Zeenat, to be responsible for the cost of their travel, treatment and living expenses while on their medical leave.

“Each of the defendants/applicants shall produce two prominent and reliable persons as sureties, one being a first class chief or emir of national repute and the other a prominent person within Kaduna State, who shall undertake to produce the defendants whenever they are needed.

“The sureties must also produce evidence of landed property within Kaduna State.

“The Federal Government of Nigeria shall obtain from the Government of India an irrevocable guarantee that it will not entertain any application by the defendants/applicants.

“Or any third party seeking asylum under any guise or conferring the status of political prisoners or any other status aside from being medical patients on the defendants/applicants and shall also restrain the defendants/applicants from any act inimical to the corporate existence of Nigeria.”

News Agency of Nigeria recalls that a Kaduna High Court, on Aug. 5, granted El-Zakzaky and his wife, leave to travel out of Nigeria for urgent medical treatment at Medanta Hospital, India

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Politics

Court sacks representatives for not participating in NYSC

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Nigeria’s Supreme Court has sacked Abdulra’uf Abdulkadir Modibbo of the All Progressives Congress (APC).

Modibbo is representing Yola South/Yola North and Girei federal constituency, Adamawa state in the national assembly

In a unanimous judgment on Tuesday, a five-man Justices of the apex court, held, in the appeal marked: SC/790/2019 that Modibo was not qualified to stand for an election, having not properly participated in the mandatory one-year National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), scheme.

The judgement affirmed the earlier judgment of the Federal High Court in Abuja, which held that the lawmaker had beside presenting doubtful credentials, he also did not participate in the NYSC scheme.

Justice John Okoro, who read the unanimous judgement, ordered that Jafar Suleiman Ribadu of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), who came second in the polls be issued a certificate of return by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

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SECURITY

Court declares Shiites’ movement a terrorist group

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The Federal High Court in Abuja on Friday ordered the proscription of the Shiites’ movement, declares it a terrorist group.

Saturday PUNCH reports that Justice Nkeonye Maha issued the order in a ruling in which she also designated the activities of the Shiite organisation in any part of Nigeria “as acts of terrorism and illegality.”

The court restrained “any person or group of persons” from participating in any form of activities involving or concerning the IMN “under any name or platform” in Nigeria.

To complete the process of the proscription of the group, the court ordered the Attorney-General of the Federation “to publish the order proscribing the respondent (Islamic Movement in Nigeria) in the official gazette and two national dailies.”

The judge gave the order following an ex parte application by the Federal Government.

A copy of the ex parte application marked FHC/ABJ/CS/876/2019 which was sighted by Saturday PUNCH on Friday, was filed in the name of the ‘Attorney-General of the Federation.’

Justice Maha granted the four prayers contained in the application shortly after the Solicitor-General of the Federation and Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Justice, Mr Dayo Apata, argued the application on Friday.

The IMN was the sole respondent to the application but the group was not represented by a lawyer on Friday since it was an ex parte hearing.

Ruling on Friday, the court made “a declaration that the activities of the respondent (Islamic Movement in Nigeria) in any part of Nigeria amounts to acts of terrorism and illegality.”

The court said, “An order of this honourable court proscribing the existence and activities of the respondent (Islamic Movement in Nigeria) in any part of Nigeria, under whatever form or guise either in groups or as individuals by whatever names they are called.

“An order restraining any person or group of persons from participating in any manner whatsoever in any form of activities involving or concerning the prosecution of the collective intention or otherwise of the respondent (Islamic Movement in Nigeria) under any other name or platform howsoever called or described in any part of Nigeria.

“An order directing the applicant (the AGF) to publish the order proscribing the respondent (Islamic Movement in Nigeria) in the official gazette and two national dailies.”

The Federal Government had filed the application before the court on Thursday, barely 72 hours after a protest by members of the group in Abuja led to a bloody clash between them and the police.

The Deputy Commissioner of Police in charge of Operations, Federal Capital Territory Command, Usman Umar, and a Channels Television journalist, Precious Owolabi, died in the clash with many others injured and property destroyed.

The Shiites have for over two years been regularly taking to the streets particularly in Abuja to demand the release of their leader, Sheikh Ibrahim El-Zakzaky, and his wife, Zeenat.

The couple has been in the custody of the Department of State Services since December 2015 after a bloody clash between members of the group and soldiers in the convoy of the Chief of Army Staff, Lt.-Gen. Tukur Buratai, in Zaria, Kaduna State.

In the application for the proscription of the group, the Federal Government accused the group of carrying out coordinated violent protests in the country.

It alleged that the “aggressive activities” of members of the group had led to the loss of lives and destruction of private and public property in the Federal Capital Territory and other cities in northern Nigeria.

The Assistant Commissioner of Police in charge of Operations in the FCT Command, Nyinnaya Adiogu, who deposed to the affidavit filed in support of the application, also alleged that the Shiites engaged in series of illegal activities, “which are inimical to the corporate interest of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”

Such activities, according to Adiogu, who said he was briefed by the Inspector-General of Police and the Solicitor-General of the Federation included setting up of a para-military guard called ‘HURRAS’.

The group was also accused of “nefarious activities”, murder, attacks on security agents and provocative preaching and hate speeches while working towards an agenda of creating an Islamic State in Nigeria.

The affidavit, which highlighted what it described as “series of violent and unlawful activities” of the group since 1991, stated that the activities of the IMN members under the guise of clamouring for the release of their leader had not only heightened tension and insecurity in the country but also earned the country negative rating globally.

The affidavit stated in part, “On July 22, 2019, the respondent’s members again launched another vicious cycle of violent protests around the Federal Secretariat (Abuja), during which they set a sub-station/Ambulance Bay of the National Emergency Management Agency, containing a truck and an ambulance on fire.

“A Deputy Commissioner of Police, Usman Umar, in charge of Operations in the FCT; a national youth corps member by the name of Precious Owolabi, reporting for Channels TV and others were killed by the protesters. (Copies of media reports by The Nation, Daily Trust, Leadership, Punch and The Sun newspapers dated July 23, 2019, on this incident are attached herewith and marked as Exhibit FGN 4A, 4B, 4C, 4D and 4E).

“The violent and aggressive activities of the members of the respondent under the guise of clamouring for the release of their leader have not only heightened tension and insecurity in the country, but it is also earning the country negative rating globally.

“Both the US and UK governments have already issued travel warnings on Nigeria on account of these violent protests which are equally deleterious to foreign investments. (A copy of the above report by The Punch newspaper is attached herewith and marked Exhibit FGN 5).”

It recalled that before the July 22, 2019 incident, the group’s members, in a violent protest on July 9, 2019, while trying to force their way into the National Assembly complex, “inflicted fatal injuries on policemen stationed at the National Assembly, shot two policemen and also injured other policemen with stones and clubs, damaged police vehicles and other vehicles belonging to visitors and staff members of the National Assembly who also sustained varying degrees of injuries.”

The affidavit also stated the “nefarious activities” of the group, to include, “unauthorised blocking of public highway (especially the Zaria-Kano Highway during their processions), engagement in illegal road traffic functions, illegal roadblocks, imposition of illegal curfews and checkpoints, raids on police posts, prevention of arrest of their members, invasion of court premises to abort legal proceedings involving respondent members, refusal to submit to ordinary security checks, and attacks on security agents which led to the death of Corporal Dan Kaduna Yakubu;

“Setting up of a para-military guard known as ‘HURRAS’ through which the respondent has been terrorising local residents; respondent has also instituted unregistered security outfits and performed paramilitary ceremonies, hoisting of flag, combat exercises, parades and inspection by the respondent leader reminiscent of state authority.

“Provocative preaching and hate speeches aimed at inciting members against non-members while working towards its agenda of creating an Islamic State in Nigeria.

“Brazen acts of disrespect of Nigerian laws and non-recognition of constituted authorities, refusal to operate within the ambit of the law, failure to register with the appropriate authorities.”

The affidavit also recalled the clash between Shiites and soldiers in the Chief of Army Staff’s convoy in Zaria on December 14, 2015.

It recalled similar clashes between members of the IMN with “security forces in Kaduna” in 1991, and another incident in 1996 when the members of the group allegedly “seized and decapitated a Christian, alleging that his wife used pages from the Quran to clean their baby.”

It also alleged that in June 2005, the group “clashed with emirate authorities in Sokoto over access to the city’s central mosque.”

It alleged that in July 2007, the group “murdered” a Sunni cleric in Sokoto, Umar Dan Maishiya, “for being highly critical of Shiites.”

It added as part of the group’s unlawful activities that the activities of the respondent’s members in Gyallesu, Zaria and environs have been threatening the peace and security of the affected areas over the years.

“Constant conflicts with local communities and forceful takeover or appropriation of mosques not belonging to the respondent in Kaduna and Kano states as well as other northern states.

“Violent protests, creating ethnoreligious strifes and other criminal acts of aggression against individuals and communities which often results in deaths, grievous bodily harm and destruction of property.

“The respondent has over the years manifested its penchant for launching attacks on security agents.”

We won’t abandon our religion –Shiites

However, the spokesperson for the group, Ibrahim Musa, said the government could not proscribe the movement, pointing out that its members were Muslims practising Islam as “revealed” by Prophet Muhammed.

He said the group was neither an association nor a political party that could be proscribed by fiat.

Musa, who spoke to Saturday PUNCH on Friday, noted that the IMN was a mass movement and could not be made to abandon its religion just like that.

Musa said, “Firstly, we are not an organisation or association or a political party that can be proscribed by fiat.

“We are Muslims practising Islam as revealed to Prophet Muhammed under the leadership of his family. Ours is a mass movement, hence we can’t abandon our religion just like that.

“We don’t bear arms, we don’t force others to join us, we are just demanding justice within the ambit of the law, therefore, proscribing us won’t work.

“We can’t say this is what we will do if we are proscribed, because it just won’t work. We are in each and every facet of life like other citizens.”

Three of our members died in police custody, Shiites claim

The IMN also said three of its members who were shot and held in police custody had died.

The sect explained that the deceased were arrested during Monday clash between its members and the police during which about 13 persons, including a deputy commissioner of police, died in Abuja.

The President, Media Forum of IMN, Musa, in a statement in Abuja on Friday, said the three detainees died as a result of bullet wounds they sustained during the incident.

The Federal Capital Territory police spokesman, DSP Anjuguri Manzah, could not be reached for comments as calls to his phone rang out. He had yet to reply to a text message as of the time of filing this report.

FG, IMN may explore truce as negotiator meets El-Zakzaky

Meanwhile, the Federal Government may have begun moves to negotiate with the IMN in order to end the sect’s violent agitations for the release of its leader, El-Zakzaky, and his wife, Zeenat.

However, the development had yet to be independently verified as of the time of filing this report on Friday

A senior IMN member, Abdulrahman Abubakar, who confirmed the development on Friday, said the movement was waiting for the government to set up a committee that would negotiate with the Shiite members.

Abubakar, who is the coordinator, Free El-Zakzaky Campaign, explained that the representative of the European country handling the negotiations had met with El-Zakzaky in custody to hear from him.

Also, other sources said the Federal Government might have opened talks with the IMN to stop their protests against the continued detention of their leader.

Sources at the Nigerian Army Guards Brigade, Abuja, told our correspondent that the FG was not happy with the protests, which turned violent.

At the office of the National Security Adviser, a top source told our correspondent that he was not aware of any negotiation between the FG and Shiites.

Mr Femi Falana (SAN), who has been defending El-Zakzaky in court since 2015 and obtained the Federal High Court’s December 2, 2019 judgment which ordered the clergy man’s release from custody, told one of our correspondents on Friday that he was not aware of the said talks between Shiites and the Federal Government.

“I am not aware of such negotiation,” he said.

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