Chukudimma Praise Ossai-Nigerian Judiciary:Matters Arising.

AnchorWhat is your observation on the judgement delivered in the case of the Federal Government against Sen Orji Uzor Kalu?

Chukudimma Ossai: During the criminal trial of the former governor of Abia state Sen Orji Uzir Kalu, the presiding judge was promoted to the Court of Appeal. A ‘fiat’ was issued by the president of the Court of Appeal  purportedly in the light of Section 396(7) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015, the judge concluded the trial which resulted in the conviction of the former governor.

The Supreme Court held that the purported grant of dispensation under Section 396(7) of ACJA, to a judge who had been promoted to the Court of Appeal to conclude an extant trial in the Federal High Court was inconsistent with Section 290(1) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended and in the light of its conclusion on the constitutionality of Section 396(7) of the ACJA, the Supreme Court quashed the conviction of the appellant and ordered a fresh trial.

I am of the opinion that going by the terms of Section 396(7) of the ACJA, the ‘fiat’ purportedly given  by the president of the Court of Appeal to the elevated judge was not a legal necessity. The supreme Court’s decision hangs hereby on the conclusion that the elevated judge had ceased to be a judge of the Federal High Court.

I think that the court was hasty in dismissing the argument of the respondent’s counsel that the law had changed since the cases of Ogbunyiya V Okudo (1979) NSCC 77 and Our Line ltd. V. SCC Nigeria ltd & Ors (2009) which the Supreme Court relied on.

It is difficult to escape the conclusion that the application of precedence seems to have got in the way of great and more careful constitutional and statutory analysis. The purpose of enacting the ACJA, which is, to fast track trial processes has therefore been defeated  by this judgment.

Anchor: Governor Wike somewhat has been wielding unprecedented powers to controlling the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, such as demolition of hotels and detention of pilots. Do you think such powers are reserved for governors?

Chukudimma Ossai: I am of the opinion that what Gov. Nyesom Wike did in Rivers State is unconstitutional. On 19th of May he gave an executive order for the demolishment of Prodest Homes and Etemeteh Hotels. The executive order was made pursuant to the Quarantine Act but demolition is not one of the penalties therein.

AnchorThere were uproars on social media when the Legislature wanted to pass the NCDC bill, neglecting the procedures provided for such. Do you think that an emergency situation gives them the right to do so?

Chukudimma Ossai: The Quarantine Act of 1926 which gives the president powers to make regulations has been subject to criticism and as well, deemed archaic. Stemming from the above, the Nigerian legislature used the Covid-19 pandemic as an opportunity to repeal and replace the Act with the Control of Infectious Diseases Bill 2020. This Bill is however marred with a lot of controversies bothering on its constitutionality and the rule of law. Important and urgent as the problems which the bill was intended to cure are, the bill has created a lot of issues.

It was hurriedly passed through the first and second readings. Legislators confirmed that they never got copies of the bill before the seatings. This is against the provision of Order 41 of the Senate Standing Rule.

The emergency powers are not meant to be exercised without the declaration of state of emergency. I am of the opinion that human rights and the rule of law must not be whimsically sacrificed.

Anchor: Do you think that China is liable to the world, or most importantly Nigeria, for the damages caused by their ineptitude in the control of Corona virus which is believed to have originated in China?

Chukudimma Ossai: It is common knowledge that the corona virus originated in Wuhan province of China.

Interviews with world renowned epidemiologists say that COVID 19 is so infectious that a delay of days can result in a large escalation of cases. Now, there is evidence to show that the city of Wuhan went on with business as usual despite authorities knowing about the severity of the highly contagious virus.

Beijing tried to mislead the world into believing then that the virus cannot be transmitted from man to man. The WHO I believed, also played a part in misleading the world with their infamous January 14th tweet.

China refused to close their borders. Because of these little errors and mistakes, world economies are in shambles. The United States have already filed a $20 trillion lawsuit against the Chinese authorities, to seek reparation for economic damage and loss. Similar law suits have been filed in Germany and India against China.

After the spread of SARS in 2003, the WHO adopted and International Health Regulation by making member countries accountable to counter such global pandemic. Articles 6 and 7 are further fortified by Articles 11 and 12 of the IHR which requires that member countries notify the WHO within 24 hours of assessment of public health information.

China failed to do so but also suppressed the information and mislead the world. This is not the first time that a deadly disease had originated from China – first was Asian flu, then, swine flu.

The major lacuna is jurisdiction. Taking into accounts of past records, China has been resistant to the authority of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) and may continue to do so. The solution is to invoke the provisions that empower an organization to refer disputes to the ICJ.

AnchorWhat will be the legal implications  if Ambazonia eventually becomes an independent nation?

Chukudimma Ossai: Ambazonia is the successor state to the former British Mandate Territory of Southern Cameroons.They were denied the choice of outright Independence from the trusteeship council by the UK representative Sir Andrew Benjamin Cohen, in violation of the December 6, 1946 Trusteeship Agreement.

The territory in February 1961 voted in a UN plebiscite to gain independence from the UK by joining the French speaking Republic of Cameroon to form a federation – two big equal and autonomous states.

French speaking Cameroon quit the federation between 1972 and 1984 and had since attempted to portray southern Cameroon’s as part of herself but a divided province. 

In February 1984, President Paul Biya changed the official name of the country back to the Republic of Cameroon. This name was used by French speaking Cameroon before its unification with Southern Cameroon. In addition, he removed one of the two stars in the old flag thus creating a new flag with a single star.

In 2017, SCACUF chairman Sisiku Julius Ayuk Tabe, proclaimed the restoration of Ambazonian independence from the defunct Cameroon Federation. The Cameroonian government stated that the declaration has no legal weight and on November 30 2017,declared war against Ambazonian nationalists.

I quote Jurgen Zimmerman of the University of Hamburg, who said in an interview that “…the problem is that when European powers partitioned Africa, they split up families and communities who got along very well whereas in some cases, communities that were enemies were bundled together”.

I am of the opinion that Southern Cameroon or Ambazonia does not need to fight for Independence because it already attained it in 1961.

Legally, we can talk about secession or separation. If Ambazonia eventually secedes from the Republic of Cameroon and is recognized by the United Nations, it will be accorded the rights of a full member. It is free to join its regional and continental blocs. For now, it is a member of the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO).

AnchorIt’s believed that a governor and his deputy are elected with a joint ticket, what happens when one of them defects to another party?

Chukudimma Ossai:  Defection by politicians from one party to another is not a new thing in the Nigerian political space. The situation that arises when a governor and his deputy are elected on a joint ticket and one of them cross carpets or defects to another party is always quite an interesting one.

Section 40 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, guarantees the fundamental right of freedom of association. An examination of the the cases of A.G Federation V. Abubakar (2007)10 NWLR (PT 1041) 1, and Hon Ifedayo Sunday Abegunde V. The Ondo State House of Assembly &11ors (2015)8 NWLR (PT 1461)314, reveals that the legal consequences of defection are not the same for members of the legislative and executive arm of government.

The principle enunciated by the court in FEDECO v. Goni is to the effect that only the fragmentation, splintering or division that makes it impossible for a political party to function, as such will by virtue of the proviso to Section 68(1)(g), justify a person’s defection to another party and the retention of his seat for the unexpired term in the house in spite of the defection. Otherwise, the defector automatically losses his seat.

The law is that the holder of such office can be removed by the National Assembly or State houses of Assembly as the case may be for gross misconduct, in line with section 132(1)-(11) for the national assembly

AnchorWhat is the diplomatic implication of the destruction of the Nigerian embassy in Ghana?

Chukudimma Ossai:  It is no longer news that a building inside the Nigerian High Commission compound in Accra, the Ghanian capital was demolished. A business man who had previously claimed ownership of the land where the building was put up had led the demolition operation.

Nigeria and Ghana have the largest economies in West Africa and their diplomatic relationship is crucial to the region. The act of demolition amounts to serious breach of the Vienna Convention on Diolomatic Relations (VCDR) 1961 and it carries the capacity to cause a diplomatic row and escalate tension between both countries. Article 22(1) of the same convention declares that “the premises of the mission shall be inviolable. The agent of the state, in this case Ghana, may not enter there except with the consent of the head of the mission.

Ghana failed in regards to Article 22(2) of the aforementioned convention which states: “The receiving state is under a special duty to take all appropriate steps to protect the premises of the mission against any intrusion or damage and to prevent any disturbance of the peace of the mission or impairment on its dignity”.

The Nigerian House of Representatives has already weighed in on the sad occurrence and called on the international community to condemn the act. They also want Ghana to be sanctioned.

I am of the opinion that Ghana should have done better in protecting the property of the Nigerian High Commission there. Their failure to do so will do nothing but fuel tension between both countries which is already happening.

Ossai Praise Chukudimma is a law student of the University of Calabar, a legal author and writer

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