We are solicitors to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission that is the Respondent in the above-mentioned appeal (prosecuting on behalf of the Federal Republic of Nigeria). We write on its behalf.
My Lord, on Monday, October 26, 2009, a Lagos High Court (Criminal Division) presided by the Hon. Justice Olubunmi Oyewole gave judgment in Charge No. ID/71C/08 in which the Appellants above, (who were Defendants at the Court below) were found guilty on 47-Counts of offences bothering on abuse of office (by splitting contracts in public office), disobedience of lawful orders, and conspiracy. They were sentenced to two years for some of the offences and six months for some others - all to run concurrently.
Pursuant to their constitutional right, they have appealed to this Honourable Court by filing Notices of Appeal at the Court below. They also simultaneously filed motions for bail at the lower court, pending their appeal. However, on Monday, November 9, 2009, the lower court, presided over by Justice Olubunmi Oyewole dismissed all the applications.
However, the Defendants have now filed similar applications for bail before the Court of Appeal, Lagos Division. Graciously, the court has served us with hearing notices for the motion concerning Chief Olabode George alone which has been fixed for Thursday, November 19, 2009, before Court No.2, Lagos Division. We intend to oppose the application and we are filing processes in that respect.
My Lord, however, as officers in the temple of Justice, we have a responsibility, and in fact a duty, to always protect and preserve the dignity and sanctity of the judiciary. In this regard, therefore, we think it is perfectly right to bring to your attention anything that has the propensity of eroding the confidence of the public in the judiciary.
Our client, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission has instructed us to protest the presence of Hon. Justice Bode Rhodes-Vivour in the panel of Court No.2 that is billed to hear and determine the applications of the Appellants/Applicants. This is because, as an investigative agency, our client has information, which is already rife in the media, that Hon. Justice Bode Rhodes-Vivour has shown a personal interest in the said matter in favour of Chief Olabode George (one of the Applicants), and justice will not be served if he participates in deciding the matter.
My Lord, we have decided to make this a private complaint through this medium and not through a motion in open court so as not to further escalate this matter and to further protect the dignity of our Justices.
As lawyers, we are pained writing this petition on our client’s instruction, especially as we have the greatest respect for the person and integrity of Hon. Justice Bode Rhodes-Vivour who is one of the finest minds on the bench today and we hold him and continue to hold him in the highest esteem. But we are mindful of what the Supreme Court said in the case of Kenon v. Tekam (2001) 14 NWLR (Pt.732) 12 at 36 as follows:
“The court does not look at the mind of the Justice himself or at the mind of the chairman of the tribunal, or whoever it may be, who sits in a judicial capacity. It does not look to see if there was a real likelihood that he (the Judge) would, or did, in fact favour one side at the expense of the other. The court looks at the impression which would be given to other people. Even if he was as impartial as could be, nevertheless, if right-minded persons would think that, in the circumstances, there was a real likelihood or bias on his part, then he should not sit. And if he does sit, his decision cannot stand……..The court will not enquire whether he did, in fact, favour one side unfairly. Suffice it that reasonable people might think that he did………….Justice must be rooted in confidence; and confidence is destroyed when right minded people go away thinking: “the Judge was biased”
My Lord, we therefore, kindly request that you do the needful by either re-assigning the case to another panel or directing the Hon. Justice Bode Rhodes-Vivour to excuse himself from the said panel to hear and determine issues involving Chief Olabode George.
We are most obliged.
I remain yours most trusted,
FESTUS KEYAMO, ESQ.
1. Economic and Financial Crimes Commission
2. The President, Court of Appeal, Abuja
3. The Hon. Justice Bode Rhodes-Vivour
4. All counsel to the Appellants/Applicants