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