Senior lawyer faults Supreme Court verdict on CCT panel
Head, Department of Commercial Law, Nigerian Institute of Advanced Legal Studies,(NIALS) Professor Paul Idornigie (SAN) has faulted the decision of the Supreme Court that two members of the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) could hear the case of alleged false declaration of assets filed against the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki.
The senior lawyer who spoke yesterday at a round-table on Media Reporting of Court Proceedings organised by the Law Media and Social Development Initiative, noted that the provisions of the Constitution, which created the tribunal, stipulated that it shall be constituted by three members but did not provide for a quorum.
He asked: “What would be the decision of the tribunal when a member finds an accused guilty and the remaining one member did not so find?”
Idornigie added that it was wrong for the Director General in the Ministry of Justice to have instituted the charges against Saraki when there was a sitting Solicitor General in the ministry.
He also decried the statement credited to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) Acting Chairman, Ibrahim Magu, that ‘nobody comes to the EFCC and goes out clean’.
According to him: “It was a wide and speculative statement because in law, there is a presumption of innocence.
He cited Section 36(5) of the Nigerian Constitution, stressing that everyone charged with a criminal offence should be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law.
Earlier, the Chief Judge of the Federal Capital Territory High Court, Justice Ishaq Bello, had pledged the readiness of the judiciary to assist the media.
He, however, charged journalists not to engage in reporting their opinion, conjecture and speculation.
“The court records are public documents and judges are willing to allow journalists access the records”, he said.
In his welcome address, the President of Law Media and Social Justice Development Initiative, Mr. Charles Odenigbo, noted that there was low knowledge of how law and justice worked in the country.
This, he stated, had made it difficult for the public to understand how the courts arrived at their judgments, punished offenders or even awarded damages.
He, therefore, urged judicial reporters to better inform the public about the laws and justice.
On his part, the President, National Union of Journalist (NUJ), Waheed Odusile, identified lack of understanding as a major problem confronting journalists covering the judiciary.