A human rights lawyer, Femi Falana (SAN), has described the granting of ex parte order by Federal High Courts while a corruption case was being prosecuted as unconstitutional.
Falana disclosed this yesterday in Abuja at the 13th anti-corruption situation room with the theme, ‘Setting Anti-corruption Agenda for the 9th National Assembly’, organised by the Human and Environmental Development Agenda (HEDA).
He said that there was need to also focus more on state governments and local government if the anti-corruption war is be effective.
Falana stated: “I think there is so much attention on the National Assembly to the extent that nobody or group in Nigeria concentrate attention on budget of any state. For example, where I reside, Lagos is set to be the sixth largest economy in Africa, yet nobody, apart from the members of the House of Assembly there and the Governor’s office, nobody in Lagos discusses the budget of the state and that is what goes on in our state.
“To the extent that one governor, the governor of my own state, Ayo Fayose, went to the State House of Assembly, rambled for about seven minutes and grabbed the gavel and landed it, the governor passed the budget himself and there was no debate whatsoever. And that is what goes on in all our states.”
Falana added that the effort of the likes of the Social Investment Programme Office headed by Mrs. Mariam Uwais, could not be meaningful, if the state governments were not prepared to help.
He stressed, “We must challenge the state and the local governments, no government in Nigeria has a budget and we also expect them to deliver to the people.”
The rights lawyer said that he had secured judgement from the court of law directing the federal government to re-establish the Peoples Bank.
Falana stated: “I have a judgement which I have passed to the appropriate agencies of government, where a court had directed the federal government to re-establish the People’s Bank so that we can get money to the poor in an institutionalised manner and the poor pay loans without any harassment. 380 people may take loans totaling N5.4 trillion, the government is in trouble now on how to retrieve the money.
“In fighting corruption, please try and respect the rights of the poor. The rich are taking care of themselves. If you are a big man and you are alleged to have stolen billion, you are asked to come and account, either you are invited by EFCC or ICPC. You know what you do, you rush to the Federal High Court and get an ex parte order; thou shall not be arrested, thou shall not be investigated and thou shall not be prosecuted. There is no country in the world that allows it and it is not part of our law.
“We were told in the law school, if you client is invited by the police, go to the station and ask for bail, but you can’t say the police cannot invite your client. Because when you do that, very soon, armed robbery suspect will go to court, terrorist suspect will go to court, kidnap suspect will go to court and obtain court order.
“For lawyers here, if a judge says a criminal suspect cannot be prosecuted or invited, tell that judge he has committed Judicial misconduct.”
Earlier, the Executive Director of HEDA, Mr. Olarewaju Suraj, said that the objective of the event was to assist the National Assembly in the fight against corruption, while also setting agenda for them
Also, the Director of Organisational Support, EFCC, Dr. Aminu Ibrahim, said that the stakeholders must ensure that they equally set agenda for effective collaboration in the fight against corruption between the Anti-corruption agencies and the National Assembly.