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Published On: Mon, Aug 5th, 2013

Group Urges NJC to Investigate Ibori’s Judge, Justice Awokulehin’s Judicial Record Over Cocaine Trials

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Justice Marcel Awokulehin


HUMAN AND ENVIRONMENTAL DEVELOPMENT AGENDA (HEDA), a non-governmental organization, has urged the National Judicial Council (NJC) to investigate Justice Marcel Awokulehin, who infamously dismissed 171 charges of corruption preferred against former Delta State governor, James Ibori, by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
On the same evidence that had been presented by the EFCC, Ibori was subsequently in the United Kingdom sentenced to 13 years in jail.
The judgment given by Justice Awokulehin was compromised ab initio, HEDA said today in a petition addressed to the chairman of the NJC.
“With the ruling of a Court of Appeal in Kaduna, granting the prayers of Mr. Ibori to be tried within the jurisdiction under which his alleged crimes were committed, the Delta State Governor and Cousin to Mr. James Ibori procured and donated 2 properties to the Federal High Court for the purpose of housing the Court and accommodation of Justice Awokulehin. This offer and acceptance between the Delta State Government and Federal High Court contradicts the known tradition of procuring properties for Federal Judiciary. To a discerning mind, the impartiality of the trial was compromised ab initio with the Greek gift of Delta State Government to Justice Awokulehin and the Federal High Court.”
HEDA further underlined the shoddy prosecution and administration of criminal cases in Nigerian courts, saying it calls to question the commitment of the NJC to the fight against corruption in Nigeria which, according to the petition, undermines the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary, in addition to attacking the foundation of democratic institutions.
“The dispensation of Justice Awokulehin of the Ibori case smacks of impropriety,” the group declared, quoting Rule 1 of the Code of Conduct of Judicial officers: ‘A judicial officer should avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety in all his activities.’”
Drawing attention to several questionable sentences by the judge in drug cases since 2005, HEDA said, “Your Ladyship will observe the maximum sentence in the 8 sentences above is with a term of 2 years and minimum of 9 months. These imprisonment terms pronounced by Justice Awokulehin clearly violates the minimum of 15 years prescribed as punishments for the offences in NDLEA Act 2007 section 20, subsection 2(b), under which the convicts were charged.”

With that background in mind, HEDA urged her to ensure that the NJC “discharges its constitutional duty, with a view to speedily investigate Justice Awokulehin; suspend him pending completion of investigation, to avoid further travesty of justice; and apply appropriate sanction” upon the conclusion of its independent investigation.
HEDA is a registered non-governmental organization (NGO) set up for the purpose of educating the public on human rights, the rule of law, transparency, accountability and good governance amongst others. Under a Judicial Integrity and Access to Justice programme, it is currently undertaking a review of judgments and judicial pronouncements of judges with a view to assisting the new Chief Justice of Nigeria in her historical fight against corruption in the judiciary.

Full text of the statement:

THE CHAIRMAN
NATIONAL JUDICIAL COUNCIL,
THREE ARMS ZONE,
ABUJA.
Your Ladyship,

DEMAND FOR THE INVESTIGATION OF JUSTICE MARCEL AWOKULEHIN’S JUDICIAL ANTECEDENTS
HUMAN AND ENVIRONMENTAL DEVELOPMENT AGENDA (HEDA) is a registered non-governmental organization (NGO) set up for the purpose of educating the public on human rights, the rule of law, transparency, accountability and good governance amongst others. Under our recently launched Judicial Integrity and Access to Justice (JIAJ) programme, we are undertaking review of judgments and judicial pronouncements of Judges across the country, with a view to assisting the new Chief Justice of Nigeria in her historical fight against corruption in the Judiciary.
On April 17, 2012, Ex- governor of Delta state James Ibori was sentenced to 13 years in prison for corruption and money laundering charges at the Southwark Crown Court in London. This conviction was consequent upon a guilty plea of Mr. Ibori to the offences of Corruption and Money Laundering. A 171 – count charge of corruption, fraud and money laundering filed against Mr. Ibori by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in Nigeria, preceding his arraignment and subsequent sentence in the United Kingdom, was dismissed by Justice Marcel Awokulehin of the Federal High Court. However, the British court convicted and sentenced him on the strength of the same evidence.
This judgment was compromised ab initio. With the ruling of a Court of Appeal in Kaduna, granting the prayers of Mr. Ibori to be tried within the jurisdiction under which his alleged crimes were committed, the Delta State Governor and Cousin to Mr. James Ibori procured and donated 2 properties to the Federal High Court for the purpose of housing the Court and accommodation of Justice Awokulehin. This offer and acceptance between the Delta State Government and Federal High Court contradicts the known tradition of procuring properties for Federal Judiciary. To a discerning mind, the impartiality of the trial was compromised ab initio with the Greek gift of Delta State Government to Justice Awokulehin and the Federal High Court.
The shoddy prosecution and administration of criminal cases in Nigerian courts has called to question the commitment of the National Judicial Council to ensure the fight against corruption in the Nation which undermines the rule of law, the independence of the judiciary and attacks the foundation of democratic institutions. In the words of Justice Kayode Eso JSC of blessed memory, “reputation for corruption is ordinarily enough to discredit a Judge”. The same can be said of a Judiciary.
The dispensation of Justice Awokulehin of the Ibori case smacks of impropriety. As Your Lordship is undoubtedly aware, the appearance of impropriety is not allowed by virtue of Rule 1 of the Code of Conduct of Judicial officers which provides:
“A judicial officer should avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety in all his activities”.
On a review of sentences pronounced in some drug related cases, in 2005, by Justice Awokulehin, we observed questionable sentences as follows:
No
Name of convict
Drug type
Sentence
Date of conviction
1
Giwa Abiodun Waliu
Cocaine
1 1/2 years
24/2/05
2
Ndukwe kalu Ijekpa
Heroin
1 1/2 years
25/2/05
3
Tawakalitu Agbaje Adebiyi
Cocaine
12 months
6/6/05
4
Luta James Kalu
Cocaine
2 years
26/7/05
5
Adesoji Oke
Cannabis
18 months
27/7/05
6
Sule Lasisi
Cocaine
2 years
2/11/05
7
Collins Njoku
Cocaine
2 years
2/11105
8
Oliver Adewale
Cannabis
9 months
11/2/05
Your Ladyship will observe the maximum sentence in the 8 sentences above is with a term of 2 years and minimum of 9 months. These imprisonment terms pronounced by Justice Awokulehin clearly violates the minimum of 15 years prescribed as punishments for the offences in NDLEA Act 2007 section 20, subsection 2(b), under which the convicts were charged.
The second paragraph of the preamble of the code of conduct for Judicial officers states that:
“a judicial officer should actively participate in establishing, maintaining, enforcing, and himself observing a high standard of conduct so that the integrity and respect of the judiciary may be preserved”.
It is imperative public confidence in the integrity of judicial system and impartiality of the judiciary is upheld.
We therefore humbly request in the face of this overwhelming evidence, that Your Ladyship, as the exalted Chairperson of the Council, ensure that the Council discharges its constitutional duty, with a view to speedily investigate Justice Awokulehin; suspend him pending completion of investigation, to avoid further travesty of justice; and apply appropriate sanction on the conclusion of your independent investigation.
Your urgent and thorough action on this matter will go a long way in restoring the integrity and respect for the Nigerian Judiciary.
Yours faithfully
Olanrewaju Suraj

Source: Saharareorters

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