Rivers mur­der case: CLO asks CJN, NJC to dis­solve new ap­peal panel

Daily Trust - - LAW - By Ade­lanwa Bamg­boye & Nu­rudeen Oye­wole, La­gos

The Civil Lib­er­ties Or­gan­i­sa­tion (CLO) has ap­pealed to the Chief Jus­tice of Nige­ria (CJN) and Na­tional Ju­di­cial Coun­cil (NJC) to as a mat­ter of ur­gency dis­solve the Ap­peal Court Panel newly con­sti­tuted by the Pres­i­dent of the Court of Ap­peal, Jus­tice Zainab Bulka­chuwa, in an on­go­ing mur­der case in Rivers State.

At a brief­ing in La­gos ad­dressed by CLO Pres­i­dent, Com­rade Igho Ak­eregha, the group in­sisted that judges of the Court of Ap­peal in Port Harcourt Di­vi­sion are em­i­nently qual­i­fied to hear the ap­peal filed by one Ojukaye Flag-Amachree who is cur­rently be­ing re­manded in prison cus­tody in con­nec­tion with the death of one Smart Soberekon dur­ing the April 15, 2015 gen­eral elec­tions.

Ac­cord­ing to Ak­eregha, FlagA­machree is be­ing held in cus­tody based on the order of Jus­tice Margaret Opara of the Rivers State High Court who had re­fused him bail. He added that although Flag-Amachree’s coun­sels have filed an ap­peal against the high court rul­ing in Port Harcourt Di­vi­sion of the ap­pel­late court, Jus­tice Bulka­chuwa has con­sti­tuted a new panel of judges dif­fer­ent from those in Port Harcourt Court of Ap­peal to hear the case.

“The CLO be­came cu­ri­ous when the Panel of Ap­peal in Port Harcourt Court of Ap­peal that should con­sider the bail ap­pli­ca­tion of the accused is be­ing sub­sti­tuted by an­other panel set up by the Pres­i­dent of Court of Ap­peal with­out any rea­son,” Ak­eregha said. The CLO pres­i­dent listed judges in the newly con­sti­tuted panel as Jus­tice Sidi Bage (La­gos Di­vi­sion), Jus­tice A. O Lokulo Sodipe (Ek­iti Di­vi­sion) and Jus­tice Adamu Jauro (Jos Di­vi­sion).

He noted that the civil rights group was wor­ried that the newly con­sti­tuted panel might be com­ing up with “pre­med­i­tated mind set on the mat­ter with the sin­gu­lar in­ter­est to grant bail to the accused per­son either by hook or crook.”

“While the CLO con­cedes that the Pres­i­dent of the Court of Ap­peal (PCA) has the le­gal right and dis­cre­tion to con­sti­tute a panel of judges in any ap­pel­late mat­ter, such dis­cre­tion, we be­lieve should be ex­er­cised ju­di­cially and ju­di­ciously. Jus­tice is rooted in con­fi­dence and con­fi­dence is de­stroyed when a right think­ing per­son would look at the cir­cum­stances of the case and say the judge is bi­ased,” the CLO pres­i­dent said.

The group thus ap­pealed to the CJN and NJC to en­sure that “the Ap­peal Court panel ap­pointed by Jus­tice Zainab Bulka­chuwa to hear the bail ap­pli­ca­tion of the said accused per­son, Ojukaye FlagA­machree in this cir­cum­stance in Rivers State should be dis­solved.”

How­ever, Sa’adatu Musa, Me­dia Of­fi­cer, Court of Ap­peal, in a state­ment made avail­able to our cor­re­spon­dent said that the PCA acted with ut­most good faith and within the pow­ers vested on the of­fice.

Jus­tice Mah­mud Mo­hammed, CJN

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