Court Of Appeal, Lagos Division Ruling Conferring "immunity" On Judicial Officers, Is An assault On The Constitution
The attention of the Committee for the Protection of Peoples Mandate (CPPM) has been drawn to a judgement delivered on Monday 11th December, 2017 by the Court of Appeal, wherein it was declared by the CA, in the case of HON. JUSTICE NGAJIWA v. FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA (FRN), Appeal No: CA/L/969C/207, that the EFCC does not have powers to investigate or prosecute serving judicial officers except where such judicial officers have first been dismissed or retired by the NJC; that serving judicial officers can only be prosecuted for offences like murder, stealing etc if such offences are committed outside the discharge of their official duties; that once the offence is allegedly committed in the discharge of their duties, they must first be tried by the NJC and dismissed or retired before the EFCC can investigate or prosecute them.
We at CPPM condemns and rejects this judgement in it's entirety because it defies logic, rationality and constitutes an assault on the constitution which is the Grundnorm of the Nigerian state.
We are disappointed that our Justices of the Court of Appeal by this judgement have exposed the Nigerian judicial system and democracy to public opprobrium by trying to usurp the functions of the legislature in addition to performing their own duties, which is an illegality and rather unfortunate.
We are saddened, pained and traumatized as laymen that we are the ones to educate our learned and revered Justices to the fact that Nigeria operates a constitutional democracy in which the separation of powers between the three arms of government is written down in black and white for easy comprehension in the discharge of their respective functions.
Thus, we are perplexed and embarrassed by this judgement which amounts to judicial legislation has no basis in law, is a violation of the principles of separation of powers and runs foul of any provisions of the 1999 constitution as amended,which ought to be bedrock of our Justices decision in making judicial pronouncements.
According to section 308 of the 1999 constitution, the only categories of persons granted immunity from criminal prosecution are the President, Vice President, Governors and deputy Governors during their term of office.
In addition, in the case of Gani Fawehinmi vs the Inspector General of Police (2002) WRN 1, the Supreme Court held that a person protected under section 308 of the 1999 constitution going by its provision 'Can be investigated by the police for an alledged crime or offence' and so, we wonder the grounds for this judicial legislation by our Justices of the Court of Appeal?
However, we are glad that the anti corruption agency, EFCC has made it clear that she is going to appeal this judgement by approaching the Supreme Court in order to correct the absurdity that we have on our hands now and this is very commendable.
This judgement once again reinforces the fact that to salvage our democracy and society requires the support, cooperation and eternal vigilance of the citizenry, which is the price for liberty.
Nelson Ekujumi is the Executive Chairman, Committee for the Protection of Peoples Mandate (CPPM).