Human rights activist and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Femi Falana on Tuesday called on relevant authorities to follow due process in charging the Chief Justice of Nigeria Walter Onoghen before the Code of Conduct Tribunal.
Falana who spoke at the 15th Gani Fawehinmi annual lecture in Lagos noted that dangerous precedence is being set with the way the matter has been handled.
“Normal procedures have not been followed. There is a need to go through the proper channel. The rule of law should be followed when it comes to issues of dealing with the judiciary. What is the locus standi of the National Judicial Commission on the issue of the CJN?” Falana queried.
The senior lawyer also warned senior lawyers who collect ‘briefs’ during election petition tribunals.
“I have never met an aggrieved candidate who can boldly dip his hands into his pockets and bring out N250 million as charged as legal fees from Senior Advocates.
“These monies are usually state funds. Our lawyers now become culpable when these monies are traced to their accounts.
“Some of our senior lawyers are mercenaries. They only appear in court to ‘reach out’ to judges,” Falana noted.
Also speaking at the event, Prof. Akin Oyebode, a professor of International Law and Jurisprudence charged the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), electoral body to exercise discretion in its implementation of electoral guidelines.
Oyebode, while giving the keynote address said: “Undoubtedly, INEC is empowered to issue necessary and proper guidelines to facilitate its activities.
“However, INEC’s power should be exercised with discretion in order not to bring the roof down on everyone.
“For example, the registration of 91 political parties however well-intentioned, is today reminiscent of a case of the medicine being worse than the disease.
“INEC is well advised to remember the dictum that the road to hell is paved with good intentions and, therefore, in the application of laws, it should not wreak greater injury on the polity.”
The Professor said that the electoral umpire should cease and desist from the anticipatory implementation of electoral laws.
“For example, while the use of smart card readers or electronic transmission of election results might appear justifiable on account of their enhancement of the electoral process, it is untenable to do so without effective legislation thereto,” he said.
Also speaking, Justice Adewale Abiru, a Justice of the Court of Appeal and the Chairman of the Lecture citing Fawehinmi as an example, urged young lawyers to imbibe exemplary courtroom and legal practice conduct of senior colleagues.
“I wanted to chair this lecture so that I can share the virtues I learnt from Chief Gani Fawehinmi.
“He taught me that in order to have a successful practice, you had to invest in your practice, he had one of the best law libraries in the country and he was also a very courteous person.
“I did not work in his chambers but this was what I learnt from going to court to listen to and watch Gani Fawehinmi.
“I hope young lawyers today will imbibe this if there is a senior you will like to replicate, go to court and watch them. Gani Fawehinmi was my light in my darkness of legal practice and I thank him today,” Justice Abiru said.
Earlier, in his address of welcome, Monday Ubani, the Chairman of the Gani Fawehinmi Annual Lecture Planning Committee emphasized the role of the late human rights activist and SAN played in the development of politics in Nigeria
“You and I are aware of the role played by Late Gani Fawehinmi in the development of our political space especially when the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) refused to register some political parties in Nigeria.
“He pursued that matter in the judiciary to a logical conclusion and got a reprieve that opened the space for other parties.
“For that singular act, most of these ‘Not Too Young To Run’ have found homes on some of them to emerge as presidential candidates,” he said.