By Okeke Jane
The Executive Director, Initiative Against Human Right Abuse and Torture, Maxwell Oparah has expressed grave concerns arising from successive incidents of manifest bias, lack of Independence and impartiality, in violation of the applicable constitutional standards in the Case between Kaduna State Government and Chidi Odinkalu.
He made this assertion on Thursday in Abuja at the Open Bar Initiative Press Conference on, “Developments in the Case of Kaduna State Government VS Chidi Odinkalu.”
Oparah noted that on the 13th of March, 2020, the Chief Magistrate court in Kaduna Magisterial District held that it has a discretion as to whether or not to obey the specific and direct order of the High Court of Kaduna State to stay proceedings in the matter of the State vs Chidi Odinkalu.
He said,”Throughout the proceedings, we have grave concerns arising from successive incidents of manifest bias as well as lack of Independence and impartiality, in violation of the applicable constitutional standards.
“Despite these, the defense team has dutifully observed its professional obligations to the Court with due respect.
“This is an anomaly because the Magistrate court is an inferior court to the Hight Court. Therefore, the order of the High Court is not discretionary, it is an order that must be obeyed.”
The Executive Director, said that on the 9th of August, 2019, the defense team filled a notice of preliminary object, pursuant to section 36 of the 1999 Construction of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, section 2 of the National Broadcasting Commission Act (1992).
He revealed that the notice of preliminary objection challenged the competence of the Direct Criminal Complaint filed by the DPP of Kaduna State on several grounds.
“They are, a lack of subject matter and territorial jurisdiction to institute the Direct Criminal Complaint, which reportedly arose from an interview granted by Dr. Chidi Odinkalu on Channels Television, a broadcast that occurred and emanated from Abuja.
“The Direct Criminal Complaint had Chidi Odinkalu’s address on the face of it but it was never served on him, yet proceedings began, held and were adjourned three times on 22nd March, 2019, 25th April, 2019 and 2nd May, 2019 without the defendant in a criminal proceeding.
“The case does not have a case number, therefore, the Direct Criminal Complaints and any orders purporting to be based on it are a nullity because they did not exist and could not have existed,” he stressed.
Oparah further revealed that on December 9th, 2010 the Magistrate ruled that his court had jurisdiction because the interview was conducted on Channels Television Lagos, (a claim that was clearly not part of the records) and that the effect of the offence was felt in Kaduna.
“Yet, despite the Magistrate’s knowledge of and participation in the Certiorari proceedings, Magistrate decided that he has jurisdiction as to whether or not to obey the order of the High Court.
“In violation of the order of the Superior Court, the Magistrate has since been served with the order, sat and held proceedings in this case on March 2nd, 3rd and 13th, 2020.
“In doing so, defense has filed a stay of proceedings on March 2nd, 2020. On the March 13th l, 2020 the Magistrate ruled that a stay of proceedings was at ‘Courts’ discretion and that the court refuses to grant that discretion and orders the police to continue investigation, the Magistrate court then adjourned the case to April 4, 2020,” he explained.
He disclosed that the Magistrate is a party to the proceedings, adding that he was served with the processes and order and there is proof of service in the records of the High Court.
“It will interest you to note that, the Magistrate is being represented by Counsel in these proceedings by the same Counsel who represents the Governor of Kaduna State.
“As we can all see, the Magistrate in Kaduna is being instructed by the Governor of Kaduna to overrule and disobey High Court Orders which destroys the entire bases of judicial process in Nigeria.
“The real purpose of this kind of briefing is to show to the good people of Nigeria how the Executive Arm of government in Kaduna is endangering and destroying judicial system in Kaduna and Nigeria.
“And the proof is in the facts as we have already laid down in this statement alongside the cases involving Audu Maikori, Stephen Kefas,” he stated.