LEDAP Counsel were well represented at the 2017 Nigerian Bar Association Annual General Conference. An overview of the events of the 2017 NBA AGC can be found here.
On Tuesday July 4th 2017, the Legal Defence and Assistance Project (LEDAP) launched its Project on Contemporary Slavery by conducting an ‘Experts Seminar on Strategies to Address Contemporary Forms of Slavery’. This Project will begin both advocacy and grassroots work for advancement in the areas of Child Marriage, Child Labour and Trafficking in Persons. In presenting a Background Paper based on research conducted by LEDAP’s research assistants, the presenter highlighted that efforts to curb contemporary slavery in Nigeria require collaboration across board between NGOs, the government, international bodies and persons/bodies working to see the end of contemporary slavery in Nigeria and around the world. To download the extended Seminar Report and the Background Paper, please click the links below:
Imagine you are offered a new job in a foreign country, but when you arrive you are used as a sex slave. This happened to a 21-year-old Nigerian woman named Pamela — and is happening to thousands of women around the world. The UN Fund on Contemporary Forms of Slavery is helping Pamela and many other women rebuild their lives and obtain justice. See Pamela’s story on the OHCHR website here.
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The Legal Defence and Assistance project is set to hold an ‘Experts Seminar to Address Contemporary Forms of Slavery” on the 4th of July 2017, in Abuja, Nigeria.
The Experts Seminar aims to address Child Marriage, Child Labour, and Trafficking in Persons in Nigeria by gathering experts to contribute to developing policy recommendations, and identify key stakeholders, as well as advocacy strategies to be implemented by LEDAP’s new Project on Contemporary Slavery.
The convening will launch the Project and create a network for potential collaborations in advocacy and grassroots work using the methods identified and developed by the experts, in collaboration with LEDAP.
LEDAP Condemns Senate’s Decision To Summon Judges
The Legal Defence and Assistance Project (LEDAP) has condemned the plan by the Senate Committee on Judiciary to summon the judges who were recently arrested by the DSS.
LEDAP’s National Coordinator, Mr Chino Obiagwu, in a statement on Sunday, notes that the legislature has no oversight power over judicial officers under the constitutional principle of separation of powers in sections 4, 5 and 6 of the 1999 Constitution.
Mr Obiagwu explained that it is only the National Judicial Council (NJC) that has the power of control and discipline of judges and justices of superior courts in Nigeria.
“Any interference by the legislature or the executive into the conduct of judges in carrying out their judicial functions will amount to unlawful interference with the independence of the judiciary.
“The 1999 Constitution, unlike the legal framework of past military regimes, has consolidated the independence of the judiciary and established the NJC as the only body responsible for management of the judiciary,” he stated.
The statement further reads in part: “LEDAP is concerned that the recent raid and arrest of judges and justices by the DSS, and continued assault and raid on judges by other agencies of the executive, have the effect of opening up the judiciary to unlawful and unconstitutional interference and intimidation by other arms of government, the reason for which the Senate has the temerity to speak about inviting judicial officers for questioning.
“LEDAP will shortly approach the courts to seek orders restraining any such invitation or summon of the arrested judicial officers as it amounts to attempt to brow-beat and intimidate the judiciary.
“There are a lot of corruption issues and corrupt politicians in the legislature and executive which should preoccupy the Senators.
“The scandal arising from the padding of the budget, which has been going on for many years in the legislature with connivance of the executive, as well as bogus and secretive huge allowances and emoluments claimed by legislators are more damaging economic crimes against the Nigerian people that the Senate should address rather than intimidating few judges alleged to be corrupt.
“There are several court orders directing the National Assembly to disclose salaries and emoluments of its members, and details of constituency allowances claimed yearly by legislators. It has refused to obey these judgements of the courts.
“Nigerian legislators, adjudged as the most corrupt and most expensive in the world, has no legal or moral right to superintendent over alleged corruption in the judiciary.”
LEDAP called on the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) to resist attempts by the executive and legislature “to control and manage the judiciary” as such situation will on the long run denigrate the judiciary and legal profession and threaten the rule of law.
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Lagos 22 October 2016: The Legal Defence & Assistance Project (LEDAP) has condemned the statement credited to the President of the Nigerian Bar Association, Mr. A. B. Mahmoud SAN calling on the judges and justices of various courts arrested by the State Security Services on 7th and 8th October 2016 to step aside until the end of the investigation on the allegations against them.
The NBA’s call negates the constitutional rights of the judicial officers to presumption of innocence, and overlooks the true purpose of the attack on the judges by the executive, which was to intimidate and brow-beat the judiciary into total submission to the whims and caprices of the executive arm of government.
NBA’s call for the suspension of these judges is more worrisome in situation where the association is not also calling for the investigation and prosecution of Rotimi Amaechi, the Minister of Transport, and other persons in government or connected with the ruling party who have been accused by the judges of attempting to bribe them and interfering with administration of justice.
LEDAP is convinced that the State Security Services acted beyond its powers in searching the premises of the judicial officers and in arrested them, because its enabling statute limits its duties to the detection and prevention of crimes against the internal security of Nigeria.
It is wrong for the NBA to rely on such illegal and provocative raid and arrest of the judges to demand that they are suspended pending investigations on the allegations against them. Such suspension of the judges will give cloth of legality to an illegality. The State Security Service has no powers under the National Security Agencies Act or any other law to undertake investigation and prosecution of corruption and economic crimes. There is no way the judicial officers who were unduly and unjustifiably molested, embarrassed and intimidated by the SSS are expected to step aside or be suspended because of the illegal raid on them. Rather, LEDAP expects the NBA to be vigorously calling for the arrest and prosecution of the officials of the State Security Services who authorized, or participated in the unlawful attack on the judges.
The NBA, as the umbrella association of lawyers, including the judicial officers, and the voice of the legal profession, has the legal and moral duties to protect the integrity of judicial officials and the independence of the judiciary. To make a u-turn from its initial stand, in which it strongly condemned the search and arrest of the judicial officials, and now to call for their suspension or reclusion, is an unfortunate compromise on due process and independence of the judiciary.
Judicial officers, by the nature of their judicial calling, are voiceless. Thus, only the NBA can stand and speak for them. If the NBA turns its back on judicial officials at this time that the executive wants to brow-beat and denigrate the judiciary and the legal profession, it portends great danger to the rule of law and democracy in Nigeria.
LEDAP wishes to remind the leadership of the NBA that the right to presumption of innocence is a cardinal principle in justice delivery, and if the judicial officials are forced to step down, they would have been accused and adjudged guilty even by a body that is not authorized by law to do so.
LEDAP calls on the President of the NBA to withdraw this part of his delivery in the statements credited to him at the valedictory session of Hon Justice Denton West, and to continue to stand with the progressive elements in the justice sector to demand the prosecution of the officers of SSS that unlawfully attacked and arrested the judges. If there is an allegation against any judge, it should be sent to the NJC who is constitutionally mandated to handle the discipline of judicial officers, and if such complaint is found to involve commission of crime, refer the case to the appropriate agency authorized by law to investigate and prosecute such crime.
The NBA under the new leadership of A. B. Mahmoud SAN should work with the NJC to improve on its compliant-management system rather than allow the executive arm of government to interfere with the independence and integrity of the judiciary.