I do not know who Adeyanju was before his current predicament neither do I hold his brief. However, it is only human for a legal mind to be puzzled by the above question as it relates to Nigeria extant situation. Mr. Deji Adeyanju had since December, 2018 been remanded in Kano Central Prison by a Chief Magistrate’s Court in Kano on a First Information Report bordering on allegation of murder after taking his plea, the court’s sole reason for the order of remand is that she lacked jurisdiction to hear murder charges against the political activist.
Thus, Deji Adeyanju has been rotting away in Kano Central Prison since December till date. Now, the legal question that calls to my mind and as well to the mind of every serious minded lawyer or even a student of law with discernment is- is the court’s sole reason for remanding Adeyanju founded on Nigerian laws? If the answer to this question is in the negative, the question that ought to follow reasonably is- is the remand warrant founded on illegal ground a legally valid instrument? If the answer to this question is also in the negative, yet another reasonable question that ought to agitate the mind of the discerning is- is any person or authority bound by an illegal document?
Come with me, let’s beam the legal searchlight on the above three questions viz:
- Whether the court’s reason for remanding Adeyanju is founded on Nigerian laws?
- Whether the remand warrant with which Adeyanju is presently been held is not illegal?
- Whether the Nigerian Prisons Service is bound to honour and give effect to illegal remand warrant?
Interestingly, the simple answers to the above questions are all contained in a single caselaw authority decided by the Court of Appeal, Kaduna Division, and it might interest you to know that the case in reference is a case that emanated from Kano State Chief Magistrate’s court- the same cadre of court that has presently remanded Adeyanju to prison, to Kano State High Court., then, to Court of Appeal. The decision had neither been appealed against to the Supreme Court nor had the ratios in the decision been overturned by the Supreme Court of Nigeria, the decision thus remains valid, correct, subsisting and binding all lower courts in Nigeria including all authorities and persons. The case of BAFFA BABBA DAN AGUNDI .V. COMMISSIONER OF POLICE (2013) AllFWLR pt.660 P. 1247., clearly put to rest all the questions raised above.
To these questions seriatim we shall now turn in the light of the above cited case.
Whether the court’s reason for remanding Adeyanju to prison is founded on Nigerian laws?
You may recall that the court- Chief Magistrate’s Court, Kano State suo moto admitted and confessed like a neutralized witch that it lacked the requisite jurisdiction to try the offence of murder with which Adeyanju is being charged for, now the question is- when a court lacks jurisdiction to try an offence can such a court still go ahead to make an order remanding the accused? When a court goes ahead and does this, does it not run afoul to the constitutional guaranty of presumption of innocence of an accused? The Court of Appeal in the above stated BABBA DAN AGUNDI .V. COMMISSIONER OF POLICE (2013) AllFWLR pt.660 PG 1247 had theses to say on this point “ … no person is to be brought to a court that has no jurisdiction to try or grant bail. In the instant case, the accused persons were arraigned in a Margistrate Court which had no jurisdiction to try the offences they were charged with, the Chief Magistrate erred by assuming jurisdiction thereon…Therefore a Magistrate or judge is not to receive a first information report and take cognizance before sending accused to a proper court for trial or to the Ministry of Justice for legal advice or for the filing of Information in the High Court for lack of jurisdiction. A wicked Magistrate or judge can remand the suspect for months before the case gets to proper court or Ministry of Justice.”
In the light of the above unequivocal pronouncement of the Appellate court, it is clear that a Chief Magistrate Court in Kano State cannot receive, act on or make any order on the offence of murder for lack of jurisdiction. Why then did the inferior court in question ignore the pronouncement of the Appellate court to remand Adeyanju in prison when clearly she is not in any way qualified to try the offence of murder? Is it palpable ignorance of the law? Is it the symptom of agbero-like* judicial rascality? Or has the inferior court become an adscriptus glebae to the prosecutor, acting out a script written by some unscrupulous cabal or politicos? Your guesses are as good as mine.
Whether the remand warrant with which Adeyanju is presently been held is not void and illegal?
The principle in UAC .V. MACFOY is as popular as kindergartens rhyme to Nigerian law students let alone lawyers. The rule is to the effect that if an act is void, then it is in law a nullity. It is not only bad, it is incurably bad. You cannot place something on nothing and expect it to stand. In the instant case, the mere fact that the trial Chief Magistrate took official cognizance of the first information report and went on to make an order remanding the accused Mr Adeyanju in prison were acts done in excess or want of jurisdiction and were therefore nullity. It cannot be gainsaid that jurisdiction is the blood that gives life to the survival of an action in a court of law, where a court lacks jurisdiction to hear or try a matter, the court is dead to that matter and a dead court can not in its cadaver state speak or make any pronouncement.
From the foregoing therefore it clear that the remand warrant under the hand of Kano State Chief Magistrate Court with which Adayanju is being held presently at Central Prison Kano State is a worthless piece of paper and the words engraved on it do not even worth the worthless value of the paper that bears them and as such is of no moment in our laws and thus void and that paper bearing it is not in any way different from tarkada sere**
Whether the Nigerian Prisons Service is bound to honour and give effect to illegal remand warrant?
An attractive argument here for some lawyers might be that, a court order must be obeyed no matter how stupid, useless or patently illegal it might appear, but I make bold to say that though very attractive as this argument seems, its attractiveness is on all fours with the attractiveness of a prostitute which in the actual sense of it is ugliness personified! Reason- In Kalu .V. Odili (1992) 6SCNJ (Pt.1) 79: Nyarko .V. Akowuah (1954)14 WACA 426 our law is clear that where a court has no jurisdiction, it cannot make binding orders. And a review of a void order or judgement is in itself a nullity and no appeal is necessary to get rid of it. Thus the Nigerian Prison Service ought not to have obeyed or gave effect to the illegal remand warrant on Adeyanju knowing too well that a Magistrate Court in Kano State does not have jurisdiction to make any order when approached with a case bordering on murder. This does not apply to Adeyanju alone but to every Nigerian and non Nigerians in Nigeria a black market remand warrant is procured against.
Many innocent Nigerian have lost their lives on these various illegal remand warrants in Kano State while some had wasted the lion share of their productive years in prisons across Kano State. I just lost a client who had spent more than four years in Goron Dutse Prison in Kano on a trumped up first information report alleging the offence of rape, my innocent deceased client was never charged before any competent court neither was he convicted of any offence but spent more than four years in Goron Dutse Prison Kano, four gruesome years that saw him got totally paralyzed from his waist downward, even though bail was gotten for him on the ground of serious ill health before I could conclude his fundamental right enforcement he passed on, this is only one in thousands!
There is also a story of a policeman who got interested in the wife of his neighbor, all he needed to do and in fact did was to make an allegation of rape on his neighbor got him arrested got a black market remand warrant like the one on Adeyanju and my deceased client, the innocent man was thrown in prison and his wife was taken over. I do not know how true this story is but believe me, it is very much possible in a country where you leave criminal justice system solely in the hands of the lowest in rank, lowest paid, lowest trained and lowest enlightened in the arm of criminal justice system, anything is definitely possible. If you doubt this, go to Goron Dutse and Central Prison in Kano and find out. Our prisons are not actually housing criminals but poor Nigerians, real criminal stroll in and come out in no time.
The Nigerian Prisons Service has a legal department funded with taxpayers money and they ought to know and be giving valuable legal advice to the Prisons service on situations and circumstances like this, a lawyer is a lawyer no matter where he/she finds himself, they are not and should not be seen as ohu*** to the Nigerian Prisons Service they are professionals and it is high time they started showing it.
Finally, with recent events in Nigeria where legal orders are disobeyed and illegal orders are obeyed with the speed of lightening, one does not need an Ifa**** to conclude that Nigeria is fast approaching the murky waters of uncivility as a nation. We cannot fold our arms and watch this happen.
Ernest Nkwocha is a Kano based legal practitioner, you can reach him via 08112403463
*Yoruba (Motor-park touts in western Nigeria)
** Hausa (Paper wrapper of roasted beef popularly called suya)