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The Wike's Panel Of Witch-Hunt: Omereji On A Shameful Mission

By Solomon Okocha
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In law, the absence of the twin pillars of natural justice-audi alteram partem and nemo judex in causa sua gives the room for judicial biasness. Which is why famous Lord Denning said: "Justice must be rooted in confidence; and confidence is destroyed when right-minded people home thinking: 'The Judge was biased' " Nemo judex in causa sua is a Latin maxim which in simple terms means no man should be a judge in a case that he or she has an interest in.

R V Sussex Justices, Ex parte McCarthy ([1924] 1 KB 256, [1923] All ER Rep 233) is a leading English case on the impartiality and recusal of judges. It is famous for its precedence in establishing the principle that the mere appearance of bias is sufficient to overturn a judicial decision. It also brought into common parlance the oft-quoted aphorism "Not only must Justice be done; it must also be seen to be done.

Justice Omereji, who is the Chairman of the Judicial Commission of Inquiry has shown sufficient evidence in words and in conduct that the former governor of Rivers State, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi is his sworn enemy. Justice Omereji has openly said that he hates the former governor. Justice Omereji and Gov. Wike, to the best of the knowledge of Rivers people, have written a script and want to force it down the throat of Rivers people. The Judicial Commission of Inquiry constituted by Gov.

Wike is an abuse of executive powers of the governor. Recall that on Friday, June 19, 2015, the Rivers State Government announced the establishment of what it called ‘Judicial Commission of Inquiry’ to probe the last administration in the State under Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, CON. The Commission is chaired by Hon. Justice George O. Omereji, a Judge of the High Court of Rivers State. Nyesom Wike, His Excellency the Governor, stated that he was establishing the Commission under the authority of the State’s Commissions of Inquiry Law, CAP 30 Laws of Rivers State.

A critical investigation into the Commission of Inquiry Law which was cited as authority by the Governor reveals that in all its 23 Sections, the Law did not authorise the setting up of a Judicial Commission of Inquiry. The Law only stated that the Governor can set up an Inquiry. The Law clearly did not add or use the word Judicial in providing for the establishment of an inquiry into any issue and it could not have because, Judicial Powers are vested in Courts of Law. See Section 6(6) (b) of the Nigerian Constitution. Indeed, in the very popular case of GARBA V. UNIVERSITY of MAIDUGURI, the Supreme Court held thus: “Judicial Powers are not vested in private persons, administrative tribunals or other authorities. Therefore, any exercise of Judicial power by bodies outside the regular courts is a denial of right to fair hearing.

The Supreme Court in Hart V Military Government of Rivers State and Ors(1976) warned that "no labels such as 'Judicial' or 'Quasi-Judicial' are necessary as they tend to confuse the understanding and duties of a Commission of Enquiry." Having said that, it is imperative to state that the governor in setting up the "Judicial" Commission of Inquiry has exercised a power he does not have, nemo dat quod non habet. So, the Omereji Judicial Commission of Inquiry is a nullity. It is dead on arrival. That is the position of the law.

Achor Omodu is a Port Harcourt-based Public Affairs Analyst.

Disclaimer: "The views/contents expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of Solomon Okocha and do not necessarily reflect those of The Nigerian Voice. The Nigerian Voice will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this article."