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‘We have to undertake sturdy ICT instruments if authorized occupation is to stay related

Orowhuo W. A. Okocha is an alumnus of each the Kwame Nkrumah College of Science and Know-how (KNUST), Kumasi, Ghana, the place he obtained LLB diploma, and Brunel College, London, United Kingdom, the place he had each an LLM and a PhD. He was known as to the Nigerian Bar in 2008. On this interview, he shares his views on regulation apply, COVID-19 expertise, way forward for the authorized occupation and varied nationwide points. Authorized Editor, JOHN AUSTIN UNACHKWU met him.

 

WHAT has regulation apply been like?

In all honesty, my expertise up to now in authorized apply has been a fairly memorable one, and one which I’m immensely grateful that I’ve been opportuned to have.

Within the years since I used to be known as, I’ve been lucky sufficient to have appeared earlier than courts at each stage of the judicial hierarchy in Nigeria – the Magistrates’ Courts, the Excessive Courts, the Courtroom of Enchantment, and even the Supreme Courtroom.

I’ve even come to grasp that, extra than simply being a authorized practitioner, the realm of authorized apply that I appear to thrive in most naturally is litigation.

I respect my colleagues, together with my two sisters, who’ve diversified, and have thrived in different areas of regulation apply, however for me, litigation is the place I derive essentially the most fulfilment.

As a caveat, I ought to most likely state that, as ought to be anticipated, there have been ups and downs, and some velocity bumps alongside the best way, and I make no declare to have gotten a beneficial judgment for and on behalf of my purchasers in each matter that I’ve dealt with.

However I get up each morning with a prayer of gratitude for the opportunityto practise regulation and stay out the dream I first had as a younger boy – the dream of turning into a lawyer.

Why did you like staying on the Bar to going to serve on the Bench?

There are three important the explanation why I favor to remain on the Bar than going to serve on the Bench.

To begin with, I’ve a whole lot of respect for judges and judicial officers, the work that they should do, and the tasks that they bear on their shoulders.

I don’t, nonetheless, envy them for the foregoing. They should conduct trial proceedings, hearken to arguments from counsel for the events, learn by means of copious quantities of authorized submissions and judicial authorities and, on the finish of the day, resolve somehow, and situation written rulings and/or judgments in step with the extant provisions of the regulation.

They should do all this, and their job remains to be a thankless one, as a result of they’re nonetheless on the danger of being petitioned for bias by disgruntled events and, in spite of everything their effort in getting ready and delivering a judgment or ruling, they nonetheless have dissatisfied events occurring enchantment!

Conversely, on the Bar, my focus is just canvassing the case of my shopper, throughout the extent of my understanding of the regulation, and, even when I attempt to be conscientious in my utility of the rules of regulation, I’m of the assumption that society is extra more likely to be forgiving of a authorized practitioner displaying overt bias in favour of the shopper he represents.

In different phrases, on the Bar, I’m solely centered on presenting one aspect of the story, whereas a choose or judicial officer has to hearken to either side of the story, and finally resolve on and make a pronouncement that impacts the rights and pursuits of the events concerned. I definitely think about that to be a extra demanding job than the one I at the moment have.

Secondly, there seems to be a wider vary of motion accessible on the Bar. A choose or judicial officer, as soon as appointed, from my estimation, stays situate in a single jurisdiction for the higher a part of his profession.

A choose of the Excessive Courtroom of Rivers State, for instance, will solely sit and preside over issues in Rivers State. After all, the choose on this hypothetical scenario could also be elevated to the next bench, and so get to take a seat and preside over issues in a special a part of the nation, however as a authorized practitioner representing the curiosity of my purchasers, I can seem in court docket in Port Harcourt tomorrow, in Lagos the next week, Benin the following, and even go and seem on the Apex Courtroom within the Federal Capital Territory.

I don’t have wanderlust, but it surely provides somewhat flavour to issues realizing that journey is usually needed, even when doing my job.

Lastly, and it is a extra light-hearted purpose, when one seems on the Code of Conduct for Judicial Officers in Nigeria, one will discover that serving on the bench additionally requires Judicial Officers in Nigeria to stay a fairly conservative way of life.

In my private life, I contemplate myself to be a little bit of a social butterfly. I’m easy-going, and wish to take pleasure in life within the firm of my household and mates.

This isn’t to say that the Guidelines of Skilled Conduct for Authorized Practitioners (“RPC”) don’t enjoin authorized practitioners to stay conservatively, or to be match and correct individuals, however I imagine that if I’m at a celebration and dancing away, I’m not as instantly involved about contravening any of the provisions of the RPC as a judicial officer could be in the identical scenario.

Your dad, O. C. J. Okocha (SAN) is among the torchbearers of the authorized occupation. How has he, his apply and picture as a authorized colossus impacted your apply?

Let me begin by unequivocally agreeing with you that O. C. J. Okocha (SAN) is a authorized colossus! I gave an interview someday in 2018 whereby I stated that there have been solely two achievements he had not but attained on the Bar: turning into the Chairman of the Physique of Benchers, and being appointed the Lawyer-Common of the Federation.

I wish to present an replace. On April 1, 2020, he grew to become the Chairman of the Honourable Physique of Benchers, which means that the one excellent achievement doable for him within the authorized occupation is to be appointed the Lawyer-Common of the Federation.

Suffice to say that, even after 42 years in apply, in what many individuals may contemplate to be the twilight of their careers, he’s nonetheless waxing robust and unlocking new achievements!

As for the influence of his apply and picture alone apply, he’s and can at all times be my biggest position mannequin and a relentless supply of inspiration.

I’m perpetually in his shadow, nonetheless, and individuals are fast to evaluate and evaluate me with him and his antecedents.

The impact of this, to place it the best way considered one of my mentors, Rufus N. Godwins places it, is that I’ve a well-known identify and have a pedigree in my chosen occupation.

Because it had been, he stated, some individuals will robotically like me, whereas some individuals will robotically dislike me, simply on the mere point out of my identify.

He subsequently suggested, and that is one thing I’ve taken to coronary heart, that I ought to merely undertake an angle of onerous work and zeal, in a bid to ascertain myself as a authorized practitioner in my very own proper, and never fear about who likes me or dislikes me.

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In essence, the influence of getting such an illustrious authorized practitioner and a authorized colossus as my father is that not solely is he a supply of inspiration, but it surely has induced me to undertake an angle of onerous work and a zeal to carve my very own area of interest, with little consideration paid as to whether or not individuals like or dislike me due to my pedigree.

What’s your imaginative and prescient for the Bar, the NBA of your dream; what’s going to it appear like?

My imaginative and prescient for the Bar and my dream for the NBA is easy – I wish to see our occupation return to the wonderful heights of yesteryears.

There isn’t a gainsaying that, in recent times, the requirements, dignity, respect and professionalism sometimes attributed to our noble occupation seem like quickly declining, and the NBA stands the prospect of dropping its collective voice as a stress group if nothing is completed.

I’d additionally wish to see a responsive Bar, one which meets the wants and aspirations of its members, younger and outdated, and the society at massive.

On the entire, that is an election 12 months for the NBA. What sort of particular person would you wish to be elected as President of the Bar?

A robust, resolute and dynamic chief. One who shouldn’t be afraid to guide from the entrance, and one who is ready to harness the range of the completely different ethnic nationalities and tribes of the members of the affiliation and create synergy, all in the hunt for the NBA that we want and deserve.

COVID-19 Pandemic has been right here with us for a while now. What would you contemplate to be the teachings of the pandemic and, going ahead, how will we maintain the beneficial properties?

Maybe the best lesson the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us as authorized practitioners is that our method to apply and process was principally antiquated, and that there’s the necessity to undertake sturdy ICT instruments if the authorized occupation is to stay related and an integral a part of the society.

With the preventive measures of social distancing and prohibition of huge gatherings, it has been not possible for courts to take a seat usually for a number of months now.

Going ahead, the problem is easy, albeit one which requires cautious planning and strategising, however the authorized occupation has to adapt to ICT instruments and tools, and rejig our apply and process to maintain tempo with a quickly altering world.

You contested for the workplace of Secretary of the NBA Port Harcourt Department. What was the end result of that election? Did you win or lose that election? What classes did you get from that outing and any want for the modification of the department byelaws?

Sure. I contested for the workplace of Secretary of the NBA Port Harcourt Department, on the elections which held on Thursday June 25, 2020. I didn’t emerge because the duly elected Secretary of our nice department, however there was just one winner on the elections: the NBA Port Harcourt Department.

The  hallmark of management is within the potential of leaders to make sure a easy transition of energy from one administration to the following, and my department achieved that seamlessly, and in an progressive method too.

The Port Harcourt department has now joined the ranks of branches who conduct their elections by way of digital means, and this was a welcome improvement, notably within the gentle of the continuing COVID-19 pandemic.

What classes did you study from there?

There have been many classes discovered from throwing my hat within the ring, the primary one being that extra individuals are watching your each transfer than you realise.

I acquired such an awesome outpouring of encouragement and assist from so many corners that I used to be humbled.

I typically joke that due to my bodily dimension, that I’m not that simply ignored, however I nonetheless had no thought simply how many individuals had been conscious of my antecedents and had been prepared to assist me alongside the best way till I picked up my nomination kind.

Allow me to make use of this chance to say an enormous thanks once more, to everybody who supported and inspired my marketing campaign!

Which facet of our byelaws would you wish to be amended, deal with the issues you noticed in that election?

I don’t know that I’ve the ability to name for an modification of the Department Bye-Legal guidelines, however I used to be involved by the massive scale disenfranchisement of so many members of the department at our elections, and I really feel that maybe one thing will be achieved about it.

The Port Harcourt department has produced two Presidents of the NBA, greater than 20 SANs, a number of members of the Physique of Benchers, together with Life Benchers, quite a few nationwide officers, and has over 4,000 members.

Regrettably, a number of of those classes of individuals weren’t eligible to vote, and solely 312 votes had been forged, from an inventory of solely 378 voters – lower than 10 per cent of the registered and financially compliant members of the department.

That is maybe greatest debated at NEC conferences, however maybe it could be doable to get a extra inclusive citizens by both waiving the conferences attendance requirement for voters, as obtained on the Nationwide Bar elections or, on the very least, creating an exception for Nationwide Officers, previous and present, SANs and Benchers.

 What’s your candid recommendation to NBA Presidential candidates within the forthcoming elections.?

I don’t consider myself as vital sufficient to advise any particular person as eminently certified because the three candidates we’ve contesting for the workplace of President this 12 months, however I shall however seize the chance and say to,  not simply these in search of election as NBA President, however to all candidates on the forthcoming elections, that we’re all members of the biggest Bar Affiliation in Africa, and that the success or failure of the affiliation is our collective duty.

Because it had been, the collective objective ought to be extra vital than any private aggrandisement, and even when just one particular person might be sworn-in as President, 1st Vice President, Common Secretary, and so on, everybody ought to stay dedicated to the trigger, and share their concepts and ideas as to how greatest to chart the course of our nice ssociation, whether or not or not they maintain any substantive workplace.

 

 

Ought to govt seize suspicious property with out court docket order?

 

 

He famous that Part 9 of the Forex Conversion (Freezing Orders) Act, which was first enacted in 1971, additionally comprises a provision that vest the discretion to order forfeiture of movable and immovable properties on the President of the Federal Republic.

He argued that for the reason that Structure ensures a proper to movable and immovable property as a basic proper underneath Chapter IV, Part 44, an individual can’t be disadvantaged of such rights besides in circumstances stipulated by the Structure, stressing that Part 9 of the Principal Act runs foul of the spirit of the Nigerian Structure.

Wase maintained that the supply which vests within the President the ability to order forfeiture of property shouldn’t be in step with the provisions of the 1999 Structure (as amended), therefore, the necessity for its modification.

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He stated Part 44 of the 1999 Structure (as amended) ensures the elemental proper of people to movable and immovable properties which shall not be disadvantaged besides in specified circumstances which embody the ‘imposition of penalties or forfeiture for the breach of any regulation, whether or not underneath any civil course of or after conviction for an offence.’

In accordance with Wase, such breach can solely be decided by the choose of a court docket and shouldn’t be on the discretion of the President.

He insisted that the discretion of the President to order the forfeiture of property of an accused particular person might be subjected to govt abuses and recklessness.

He contended that Part 9 of the Principal Act didn’t present any mechanism, whether or not authorized or administrative, by means of which the President might train this energy, saying “but, the ability is left solely on the discretion of the President.

“In a rustic that has witnessed reckless abuse of political and administrative powers, it will likely be harmful to permit such unchecked arrogation of powers to find out the forfeiture of an individual’s properties.

“Such discretion to be exercised by the President will be opposite to the pure doctrine of honest trial because it quantities to the chief being a prosecutor and choose’ in its personal case.

This negates the spirit of the 1999 Structure (as amended) which specifies the situations underneath which an individual will be disadvantaged of movable or immovable properties.

The President can not subsequently usurp the powers of the courts for such will run foul of the doctrine of separation of powers.

“It’s noteworthy that the provisions in Part 9 are in contradiction with the provisions of different legal guidelines coping with forfeiture which vest the ability to make forfeiture orders in a regulation court docket and never within the President.

It’s, subsequently, vital to carry the Forex Conversion (Freezing Order) Act in step with these different legal guidelines,” he stated.

 

Government Order 6 of 2018

President Muhammadu Buhari on July 5, 2018 signed the Government Order 6 of 2018 (EO6) on the preservation of suspicious property recovered from corrupt officers. That is a part of the anti-graft drive by the Federal Authorities to combat and rid the nation of corruption.

The intention of Government Order 6, in line with the President, is to “limit dealings in suspicious property topic to investigation or inquiry bordering on corruption with the intention to protect such property from dissipation and to deprive alleged criminals of the proceeds of their illicit actions which may in any other case be employed to attract, pervert and/or intimidate the investigative and judicial processes”.

The order restates and emphasises authorities’s dedication to combating corruption. That dedication led to the introduction of insurance policies equivalent to  the Enforcement of Treasury Single Account (TSA), Implementation of the Financial institution Verification Quantity (BVN) Coverage, Whistleblowing Coverage, and Signing of the Open Authorities Partnership, amongst different initiatives, to stem the scourge.

 

Highlights of Government Order 6

  • Government Order 6, amongst others, seeks to forestall individuals responsible of corruption from repeatedly holding and controlling asset acquired from proceeds of corruption.
  • Make sure that any authorities official or any particular person performing instantly or not directly performing for such official who engages in corrupt practices or misappropriation of presidency asset, such asset shall be forfeited and such official will topic to disciplinary motion underneath the Public Service Rule and Code of Conduct Bureau.
  • That any official discovered circumventing or stopping the implementation of the order or perverts justice shall be prosecuted.
  • That Ministries, Departments, and Companies of the Federal Authorities in session with the Lawyer Common of the Federation are to establish and undertake greatest practices and develop methods for the implementation; and
  • Seeks to make sure that the ends of justice aren’t defeated or compromised by individuals concerned in a case or criticism of corruption.

 

Place of Structure on Property Rights

  1. Ejiofor acknowledged in Quantity 18 Subject 2, Journal of African Regulation that since 1959, a invoice of rights has at all times been written into successive Nigerian Constitutions.
  2. He stated when the navy took over the federal government in 1966, it suspended or amended various the provisions of the 1963 Structure.

    He stated Chapter three of that Structure embodying the invoice of rights is among the many parts that haven’t been altered or suspended.

    He stated it was vital to notice that even underneath the navy regime the elemental rights of people are protected by the Structure.

 

Authorized framework for interim forfeiture of property in Nigeria

EFCC and ICPC: The Financial and Monetary Crimes Fee (Institution) Act 2004 (the EFCC Act) gives for the institution of the Financial and Monetary Crimes Fee (EFCC), a physique charged with the enforcement of financial and monetary crimes legal guidelines.

Part 27 of the EFCC Act empowers the fee to research sources of property and property of an individual arrested for legal monetary offence.

Beneath the part, when an individual is arrested for committing a monetary crime, she or he should make a full disclosure of his or her property and property by finishing the declaration of property kind as laid out in Type A of the Schedule to the Act.

The finished kind is thereafter investigated by the EFCC for its truthfulness. It’s an offence for the suspect to make false declaration or refuse to make full disclosure or any disclosure in any respect.

Upon the attachment of any property underneath the Act, the EFCC shall apply to the court docket for an interim forfeiture order.

The EFCC Act additional gives that the place property or property of any particular person arrested for an offence underneath the Act have been seized, the EFCC shall file an ex parte utility earlier than a  court docket for an interim order forfeiting the property involved to the Federal Authorities and the court docket will, if glad that there’s prima facie proof that the property involved is liable to forfeiture, make an interim order in accordance with Part 29.

The Unbiased Corrupt Practices and Different Associated Offences (ICPC) Act 2000, then again, has provisions for forfeiture of property.

The ICPC  Act empowers an officer of the fee to grab property in the middle of investigation if she or he suspects it’s the subject material of an offence, or proof regarding the offence.

The Act additional empowers the chairman of the fee, the place there are cheap grounds to imagine {that a} monetary offence has been dedicated underneath the Act, to require an individual to establish each property, whether or not movable or immovable, inside or exterior Nigeria, belonging to this particular person or in his or her possession, or by which this particular person has any curiosity, whether or not authorized or equitable, and specify the date on which every of the properties recognized was acquired and the way by which every was acquired.

 

Forfeiture of property

Beneath the EFCC Act, an individual convicted of an offence shall forfeit to the Federal Authorities all property or property derived from any proceeds the particular person obtained, instantly or not directly, because of such offence. Any of the particular person’s property or instrumentalities utilized in any method to commit, or to facilitate the fee of, such offence may additionally be forfeited to the Federal Authorities. The order confiscating the proceeds and instrumentalities of crime could also be made along with every other sentence to be imposed on the time of sentencing.

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In respect of the ICPC  Act, the court docket might make an order of forfeiture of any property that’s proved to be the subject material of a monetary offence, whether or not the offence is proved in opposition to the accused or not, as soon as the court docket is glad that the accused shouldn’t be the true and lawful proprietor of such property and that no different particular person is entitled to the property as a purchaser in good religion for helpful consideration.

No matter is the intention behind the transfer to strip the President of the powers to order the forfeiture of moveable and immovable property, observers are fearful about how the strikes, spearheaded by Wase, will have an effect on the operations of the EFCC which has been on the forefront of the combat in opposition to corruption and thru which ill-gotten wealth, movable and immovable property have been forfeited to the federal government.

 

Attorneys’ response

In accordance with Seyi Sowemimo (SAN), the try and whittle down the powers of the President in relation to forfeiture of property could also be a step in the best course.

“There would be the want for another individuals to oversee the method as a result of it’s often the judiciary that ought to order forfeiture of property.

“I do know that the EFCC often goes to court docket to hunt order to grab property of people who find themselves discovered to have or alleged to have misappropriated public funds.

I believe it’s a good step. However the different factor is that we’ve to be very positive that the Home of Representatives is performing in good religion.

“We have to know what the choice is that if they’re saying that the powers of the President ought to be eliminated or that that discretion ought to be faraway from the President.

Then we have to know what’s going to be the choice provisions as a result of if we don’t have viable different provisions, we’d simply as effectively go away it for the President to proceed to train the powers.”

Already, EFCC has the powers to method the courts for forfeiture of property. I believe that may be a extra fascinating provision. If the EFCC finds that the property are acquired with stolen funds, it’s at liberty to method the court docket to get a forfeiture order.

“I believe the courts are in a greater place to train the powers than the President as a result of we might have a scenario the place individuals might accuse the President of double commonplace, both favouring individuals who have joined his get together or are sympathetic to his get together.

However with EFCC exercising these powers and getting the approval of the courts, the safeguards are extra in place that manner.”

On whether or not the strikes by the representatives will have an effect on the corruption combat by the EFCC, Sowemimo stated if the EFCC continued to train these powers in a extra proactive method, it gained’t undermine the warfare in opposition to corruption. I simply see that upscaling the sanctions of the judiciary will give us higher safeguards.

Dr. Paul Ananaba (SAN) stated Part Four of the Structure offers law-making powers to the Nationwide Meeting.

“So, they’ve powers to make legal guidelines for the nation. Government Orders will proceed to be controversial even in the USA of America (USA).

“The regulation as to property could be very clear on this nation. There have been conditions that entitle the President to order that property ought to be taken from anyone by proclamation.

If the Home of Representatives or Nationwide Meeting now needs to make legal guidelines, it is just with recourse to Part 6 of the Structure that empowers them to deprive somebody of his property.

That’s democracy, that’s constitutional democracy, I agree with that. As a result of at the same time as we communicate, for acquisition of immovable property, the procedures are laid down within the legal guidelines.

“So, we’ve strict guidelines that claims you can’t simply deprive someone of property with out following the method. Take a look at the EFCC Act, there are procedures that should be adopted earlier than even properties will be forfeited.

“There are such a lot of processes concerned and the court docket will comply with procedures and make closing orders. Take a look at the case of Saraki.

Sooner or later, even the court docket didn’t agree with the EFCC, So it will be important that we are going to return to full constitutional democracy, in order that we give powers to the courts to find out such rights.

“Do not forget that property is a proper. They can’t be taken by simply pronouncement. It must be taken by due means of the regulation. If we go away it due to this explicit President now,  have you learnt what President we could have be there tomorrow.

“He’ll simply use it and go his personal manner. That’s the reason the courts are there to intervene between the federal government and the individuals. However in sure instances, properties will be forfeited however to not go away it to the powers of a specific president. I believe it will be harmful.”

Ananaba stated the strikes being made by the members of the Home of Representatives is not going to have an effect on corruption combat by the federal government.

He added: “The warfare in opposition to corruption should evolve throughout the rule of regulation. It can not operate exterior the rule of regulation. It doesn’t imply arbitrary launch, it means due course of should be adopted.  All that’s required is that the court docket ought to deal with it with dispatch.”

Dr. Fassy Yusuf stated the try by the Home of Representatives to strip the President of powers to order the forfeiture of property underneath Forex Conversion (Freezing Orders) Act 2004, LFN and donate such energy to the courts amounted to legislative rascality and unbridled insensitivity.

He stated it was antithetical to the yearnings of the bigger society for drastic measures to stem the tide of corruption that has introduced the nation to its knees.

To him, “this transfer could be further burden on the judiciary. It’s unimaginable and unimaginable that our legislators are disconnected from the remainder of the society.

“The impact of this transfer is so as to add to authorized rigmarole and provides jobs to attorneys and to additional burden the judiciary. It’s able to demotivating investigators and prosecutors. In different phrases, justice administration would turn out to be cumbersome.”

Yusuf suggested: “The way in which out is for our legislators to toe the trail of honour and decorum. If anyone feels the President is abusing his powers, the court docket is there to curb such excesses. There are extra basic issues for our legislators to interact in.”

 

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