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A former Governor of Rivers State, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi, has written three letters on why the Senate should not stop his screening as a ministerial nominee.
He said the allegations against him were not only false but also made malafide with the intent to “solely irritate, embarrass and tarnish his hard-earned reputation.”
He said he should be presumed innocent until the contrary is proved .
He said since there are pending cases at the Federal High Court, Abuja and the Court of Appeal, any action by the Senate will be subjudice.
He asked the Senate to preserve its Standing Order which bars it from dabbling in any matter pending before a court.
Amaechi broke his silence in three separate letters to the President of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki,and Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions.
The letters were written by his solicitor, Edward E. Pepple.
In the letters, he asked the Senate to “discard” the petition against him by the Integrity Group and the report of the Justice G. G. Omereji Judicial Commission of Inquiry.
Citing the case of ex-Vice President Atiku Abubakar, Amaechi said the Supreme Court had emphasized that an indictment by the Judicial Commission of Inquiry or Administrative Panel is not an “indictment” or sufficient for the purpose of preventing a person from holding a public office.
The October 12 letter to Saraki (EW/GC/CRA/15/012) reads in part: “ It has informally come to our client’s attention that the Judicial Commission of Inquiry set up by the Governor of Rivers State, Chief/Barr. Nyesom Ezenwo Wike, to judicially investigate our client and probe into some transactions of the Rivers State Government undertaken during the tenure of our client has purportedly come up with a report based on which the Governor and Government of Rivers State have supposedly also issued a White Paper, wherein it has proposed that certain steps and actions should be taken against our client.
“Of course, this is clearly in defiance of the pending suit at the Court of Appeal on the issue.
“It is important to mention that our client only became aware of this situation through a news bulletin aired on both the Channels Television and the Independent African Television (AIT). Apart from those, no other form of communication has been sent to our client, whether directly or indirectly.
“As had been mentioned in our earlier letters, our client is challenging the competence and validity of the Judicial Commission of Inquiry and its powers to make any valid or binding decision or pronouncement as it relates to him. The matter is pending at the Court of Appeal, Port Harcourt Division, in suit No. CA/PH/342/2015; Between Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi (claimant/appellant) and the Governor of Rivers State; Attorney General of Rivers State; Judicial Commission of Inquiry and 7 others (defendants/ respondents).
“On the 14th of July 2015, our client caused to be issued an originating summons against the Governor of Rivers State, the Attorney General of Rivers State, the Judicial Commission of Inquiry and 7 others before the High Court of Rivers State, presided over by Hon. Justice S.C. Amadi in suit No. PHC/189/2015 between Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi vs. The Governor Of Rivers State & 9 Others, wherein he challenged the competence and powers of the Hon. Justice G.O. Omereji Judicial Commission of Inquiry to carryout judicial function of investigating him and making pronouncements thereof, instead of the authorities established by law to do so. However, Hon Justice S.C. Amadi on the 20th of August 2015 dismissed the suit on very spurious and unjustifiable grounds. This led to the appeal referred to above.
“Much as we do not intend to canvas our arguments at the Court of Appeal before the Distinguish Senate, it is pertinent to highlight some salient provisions of the law and pronouncements of the Supreme Court of Nigeria on this issue and the rationale for our client’s challenge of the competence of the Judicial Commission of Inquiry.
“ The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is the grundnorm upon which every other law derives. Therefore, any law that is inconsistent with the Constitution is to the extent of the inconsistency void. Section 6 of the Constitution establishes the judicial powers of a state, which is vested in the courts, being courts established for a state pursuant to the Constitution. Section 272 of the Constitution provides for the jurisdiction of the High Court of a state, in this case, Rivers State. See the provisions of sections 1, 6, 36, 251 and 272 of the Constitution on the above propositions of the law.
“On the other hand, the summary of the provisions sections 7 (b-f), 12, 13, 14, 17, 18 and 21 of the Commission of Inquiry Law (Cap 30), Laws of Rivers State 1999 is to the effect that the commission under that law has the power to summon, issue warrants of arrest, impose fines, commit for contempt and summarily convict and impose terms of imprisonment. This is contrary to the express provisions of the constitution. These are obviously powers exercisable by the courts.
“This position of the law has been upheld and reaffirmed severally by the Supreme Court of Nigeria. In the case of Doherty V. Balewa (1961-1962) NSCC (page 248) at 257, lines 35-50, the Supreme Court in a similar situation with the instant case held as follows:
“The power of the commission to impose imprisonment is clearly contrary to the provisions of Section 20, and this was not disputed by the Attorney-General. This must also apply to the power to impose a fine, which is enforceable by imprisonment. In these circumstances, we would hold that Sections 8, 15 and 18 are invalid to the extent that they purport to empower a commissioner to inflict a punishment of a fine or imprisonment that the Sections should be ‘read down’ accordingly.”
Earlier in an October 9 letter to Saraki and the Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions (EW/GC/CRA/15/011), Amaechi said the petition against him by Integrity Group was heinous.
He said: Sir, following the receipt of the letter for and on behalf of the Distinguished Senate (Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions)which was graciously served on our client today (9th October, 2015) with a copy of the petition, accordingly inviting him to appear before the committee, we wish to furnish you and the committee with some further and better particulars, hence this letter.
“ We make bold to say that as grievous, heinous and worrisome as the contents of the petition may seem on the face value, it is as malicious, dubious and libelous as it is falsehood.
“As we had stated in our earlier letter, whereas our client is very desirous of defending himself of these allegations made against him, we are sincerely afraid that he is, in this case, constrained and unable to do so before the distinguished Senate at this moment. This is because the subject matter of the petition is subjudice, being issues pending and subsisting before courts of competent jurisdiction. The cases include:
Suit No: CA/PH/342/2015; Between Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi (claimant/ appellant) and the Governor of Rivers State; Attorney General of Rivers State; Judicial Commission of Inquiry and 7 others (defendants/respondents), pending at the Court of Appeal, Port Harcourt Division. (ANNEXURE 1)
Suit No: FCT/HC/CV/2677/15; between Advante Consulting & Mgt Co Ltd; Result Import Export Co Ltd; Capital Index Ltd (plaintiffs) and Livingstone Wechie (for and on behalf of the Integrity Group), The Sun Publishing Ltd, Leaders and Company Ltd and Guardian Newspapers Ltd (defendants), pending at the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja. (ANNEXURE 2)
“Sir, at the Court of Appeal, our client is challenging the competence and validity of the Judicial Commission of Inquiry and its powers to make any valid or binding decision or pronouncement against him.
“The issues for determination before the Court of Appeal therefore relate and pertain to the ‘wrongful allegations of corruption and corrupt practices’ levelled against our clients and the unlawful and unconstitutional procedure adopted by his accusers and indicters (which in this case includes the Governor and Government of Rivers State, the Petitioner, Mr. Livingstone Wechie, and the Judicial Commission of Inquiry) in what may seem as an attempt at establishing the ‘purported wrongful doings’ against our client.
“On the 14th of July 2015, our client issued an originating summons against the Governor of Rivers State, the Attorney General of Rivers State, the Judicial Commission of Inquiry and 7 others before the High Court of Rivers State, presided over by Hon. Justice S.C. Amadi in suit No. PHC/189/2015 Between Tr. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi vs. The Governor of Rivers State & 9 others, wherein he challenged the competence and powers of the Hon. Justice G.O. Omereji Judicial Commission of Inquiry to carry out judicial functions of investigating him and making pronouncements thereof. However, Hon Justice S.C. Amadi on the 20th of August 2015 dismissed the suit on very spurious and unjustifiable grounds. This led to the appeal referred to above.
“ In suit No. FCT/HC/CV/2677/15 that is before the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, the issues relate directly and specifically to the contents and subject of this petition. The petitioner, Mr. Livingstone Wechie, between 3rd and 4th August, 2015, using the title ‘Looting of Rivers State Treasury’ caused to be published the same contents of this petition in some national newspapers (Thisday, The Guardian, Daily Sun, The Nation, etc), wherein he published that our client and Messers Advante Consulting &Mgt Co Ltd; Result Import Export Co. Ltd; Capital Index Ltd were involved in corrupt practices.
“He did, as in this present petition, also allege that the said companies were fraudulent and not registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC). Aggrieved by the libelous publications, these juristic persons (the companies) approached the court to challenge the veracity of the contents and subject matter of this petition and to seek damages for libel against the petitioner for the falsehoods published and circulated against them and our client. Find attached the bundle of court processes; including Writ of Summons, Statement of Claim, Order for Substituted Service on Mr. Livingstone and other defendants, etc.
“Mr. President, this suit is still pending and subsisting at the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja. The court in order to come to the conclusion that the contents of that publication are false and libelous, for which damages should be paid must make findings and resolve some issues, including for instance:
whether or not our client was involved in any form of corrupt practices as alleged, be it stealing, unlawful enrichment and laundering of public funds through the plaintiffs in suit No: FCT/HC/CV/2677/15
whether or not the companies (Plaintiffs in suit No: FCT/HC/CV/2677/15) are registered with CAC, fake or authentic;
iii. whether or not there are glaring cases of corruption, criminal breach of trust, unlawful enrichment and wanton conversion of funds as it relates to the transactions between the Rivers State Government under our client and the plaintiffs in suit No: FCT/HC/CV/2677/15.
whether or not our client approved the sale of the Gas Turbines to NG Power-HPS Limited, and if he did, whether it was for the said amount and whether the proceeds were diverted by our client
whether or not there was any transactions between the Rivers State Government under our client and the plaintiffs in suit No: FCT/HC/CV/2677/15, and if so, whether there was any corrupt practices in the said transactions.
“ Mr. President, we have no doubt that the Senate being an Arm of Government established under the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria verily appreciates the general principle of the rule of law, hence the invitation extended to our client to respond to the petition.
“Whereas we appreciate the commitment of the Senate to be fair and just, especially in offering our client an opportunity to state his side of the matter, however we need to state, and most regrettably too, that our client is unable to comment or respond in specific terms to the allegations contained in the said petition, as that would amount to commenting on the subject matter before the court of law.
“Sir, we are afraid that there is no way the distinguished Senate can effectively, successfully and conclusively investigate and determine the allegations in this petition without making findings, decisions and pronouncements, one way or another, on the issues listed below, which would be substantially the same issues that the court needs to resolve.
“Some of the issues that this Senate would have to resolve for instance will include:
whether or not our client was involved in any form of corrupt practices as alleged, be it stealing, unlawful enrichment and laundering of public funds through the Plaintiffs in suit No: FCT/HC/CV/2677/15;
whether or not the companies (plaintiffs in suit No: FCT/HC/CV/2677/15) are registered with CAC, fake or authentic;
iii. whether or not there are glaring cases of corruption, criminal breach of trust, unlawful enrichment and wanton conversion of funds as it relates to the transactions between the Rivers State Government under our client and the plaintiffs in suit No: FCT/HC/CV/2677/15;
whether or not our client approved the sale of the Gas Turbines NG Power-HPS Limited, and if he did, whether it was for the said amount and whether the proceeds were diverted by our client;
whether or not there was any transactions between the Rivers State Government under our client and the plaintiffs in suit No: FCT/HC/CV/2677/15, and if so, whether there was any corrupt practices in the said transactions; and several others.
“Just as the general principle of law is that commentaries and other forms or outside-the-courtroom discussions should not be encouraged or engaged in relation to the subject matter of any judicial litigation, so as not to prejudice and prejudge a matter before a court, we have also realized that this distinguished Senate has not only adopted this principle of law, but has also made it a written code in its Rules and Standing Orders, which is the compass for the proceedings of the Senate.
“The Senate by so doing has debarred distinguished Senators from considering matters which are rightly or wrongly subjudice for the sake of ensuring the much-desired separation of powers and preventing possible loopholes that may exist or be created in an attempt at short-circuiting the process of justice and circumventing the stringent application of the laws of our land.
“Mr. President, needless to emphasise that it is one of the cardinal pillars of fair hearing that an accused person is presumed innocent until the contrary is proved. Again, this position is strengthened and reinforced by section 36 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as Amended) (hereafter simply referred as the Constitution).
“As our client has indicated, the allegations are not only false, they are also made mala fide with the intent to solely irritate, embarrass and tarnish the hard-earned reputation of our client and maliciously represent him as a person not fit and proper to occupy public office.
Sir, this intention is borne out clearly from the conduct and restless activities of the petitioner who has expressly stated in his petition to the Senate that he had written same petition to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offence Commission (ICPC), the two foremost institutions in the country vested with the authority to prosecute financial and corrupt practices related offences. Except to speculate that the petitioner has no confidence in both the EFCC and ICPC, one would have thought that the petitioner should have awaited the outcome of the investigation of his allegations by these institutions. He did not do so because he has one goal, one mission: to malign and discredit the person of our client before the Nigerian people.
“Mr. President, we wish to resist the temptation of delving into the subject matter so as not to fall foul of the law and prejudice the case before the court.
“ In the circumstances, we most respectfully urge the Senate to invoke its powers and the Rules and Standing Orders to protect our client from commenting on the subject matter of the petition and any issues relating to or arising from the judicial commission of injury and/or the purported White Paper issued thereto.”
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