Ibori’s Case- Justice Awokulehin And The Burden of Conscience By Adebayo Kareem

Justice Marcel Awokulehin
By Adebayo Kareem

‘Conscience is an open wound: only the truth can heal it’-Usman Dan Fodiyo.

The Nigerian Tribune newspaper, in its edition of Monday 23 April 2012 carried a story titled- ‘Ibori’s Case- My Conscience is Clear- Justice Awokulehin’. In the body of the story proper, the following quote is attributed to His Lordship, Justice Awokulehin-

 ''Let me give you an instance, I read a column in This Day newspaper over my ruling in the case involving James Ibori. The columnist, in his write-up said he wondered what will be running through my mind now that Ibori had admitted guilt in London to the case I exonerated him of.  I am always guided by the submission of Justice [Dahiru] Musdapher who said that one should not mind what people say as long as your conscience is clear in your decision. What the Nigerian law says over criminal case is that such allegations must be proved beyond reasonable doubt which is different from British law which is based on inference. What happens there is to assume...''

It is understandable that Justice Awokulehin might be under enormous, soul searching pressure given the fact that James Ibori actually pleaded guilty in London to set of charges for which he (Awokulehin) discharged him in Asaba. It is perhaps this pressure that persuaded him to disregard the judicial norm of not giving direct comment on a case for which a Judge had been involved, culminating in the above quote attributed to him. However by his comment Justice Awokulehin has not only given credence to the belief by many that his discharge of Ibori was perhaps suspicious, he has also exhibited a grave and worrying lack of understanding of the rudimentary of the British Criminal Justice System which substantially form the basis of Nigeria’s own Criminal Procedures and Justice System. To paraphrase Mark Twain, it is better for Justice Awokulehin to have maintained his silence over the Ibori matter and let people speculate on why he discharged him rather than give an explanation which only confirm certain suspicions.

To start with, his Lordship was in fact patently wrong when he asserted that unlike in Nigeria where the prosecution is expected to prove criminal cases beyond reasonable doubt; in the UK defendants are convicted based on inferences and assumptions. It beggars belief that this is attributed to the judge and it is hoped that perhaps there is a specific context to the statement that is not ordinarily clear in the newspaper quote. For the avoidance of doubt, the UK criminal procedural system is not materially different from Nigeria’s. In the UK, the prosecution is still expected to prove criminal cases beyond reasonable doubt. However in the UK, as in Nigeria, Courts are allowed to draw inferences when necessary in order to prove or disprove a particular assertion. Courts all over the world do this on a daily basis: for example, adverse inferences might be drawn (subject to statutory and judicial limitations) against a defendant who failed to mention specific facts which he later seeks to rely on at his trial; or when a defendant chooses at trial not to give oral evidence or submit himself to prosecution’s cross examination. The list is not exhaustive and the principle is so trite and notorious as not to require any elaboration. For Justice Awokulehin to seek to justify his discharge of Ibori in Asaba and his subsequent guilty plea in the UK on the basis that the burden of proving a criminal case is lower in the UK than in Nigeria is, putting it respectfully, unfortunate.

Justice Awokulehin stated that in Nigeria the prosecution must prove the case against a defendant beyond reasonable doubt. Fine- the only trouble here is that when he handled the Ibori case, he did not give the prosecution the opportunity to prove the case against him beyond reasonable doubt- he threw out the case without Ibori having to defend himself.  It would be recalled that James Ibori, together with Udoamaka Okoronkwo, Chiedu Ebie, Mer Engineering Limited, Bainenox Nigeria Limited and Sagicon Nigeria Limited were, on the 12 March 2008, arraigned before the then recently created Federal High Court, Asaba Division of Delta state presided over by Justice Awokulehin on 170-count charges of money laundering under section 14{1} of the then Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act 2004 {the matters were commenced at the Kaduna division of the court before being strangely transferred to Asaba}. The allegations generally related to unlawful transfer of monies belonging to the Delta state government into private accounts of James Ibori and his associates and companies. On the 28 July 2009, the defence counsel, via a Motion on Notice urged the court to strike out all the charges against the defendants as the case for the Prosecution, even taken at its highest, did not disclose a prima facie case against the defendants. Justice Awokulehin, after careful consideration of all the evidence against the defendants, agreed with the accused and the charges against the defendants were discharged. Courts in Nigeria and other Common Law jurisdictions have always treated application to discharge a defendant without calling all the evidence with high degree of circumspection. The reason for this is clear- during ‘half time submission’ what the prosecution needs to have done is only to show a prima facie evidence against the defendant. The bigger test of proving the case beyond reasonable doubt only comes into play at the conclusion of the trials when all the parties have concluded their cases. Thus even if there were issues with the way and manner the prosecution presented the case, unless the case was totally hopeless, it is imprudent for a Judge to throw out a case against defendant without listening to and considering all the evidence. It is submitted that in Nigeria, the Court should also take Judicial Notice of the country’s war against corruption and should not allow legal technicalities be used to defeat the spirit of the laws. The power to discharge a defendant at this stage of the proceeding is a discretionary one which the Court is obliged to exercise both judicially and judiciously. It is in this circumstance that Justice Awokulehin may feel that he had discharged Ibori, perhaps too hastily.

Another point which undermines Justice Awokulehin’s discharge of Ibori is the fact that Ibori actually pleaded guilty at the London trial. He spared the prosecution from having to prove the case beyond reasonable doubt; he held up his hands and said- ‘yes, I stole billions of Naira from the people of Delta state’. By that singular action, Ibori condemned Justice Awokulehin and the Nigeria’s Criminal Justice process that discharged of him on the same facts. Justice must not only be fair, but must be manifestly seen (by the people) to be fair. No matter the legal technicalities involved; no matter the explanation by Justice Awokulehin, it is almost impossible to persuade an average member of the public in Nigeria that something isn’t wrong with a judicial process that enabled Ibori to escape justice in Nigeria only for him to plead guilty on the same set of facts overseas.

This writer suspects that it is the fact that Ibori actually pleaded guilty, rather than being convicted after trial that must hurt Justice Awokulehin more than anything. Had Ibori maintained a not guilty stance and was convicted after trial, apologists of our Criminal Justice System might offer a number of platitudinous spin to explain his conviction: he was convicted after a jury trial which we don’t have in Nigeria; the laws in the UK are pro-prosecution; he was convicted based on inferences etc. By pleading guilty and sparing the prosecution the trouble of having to prove its case, Ibori sent a clear message to Justice Awokulehin and our Criminal Justice System- that he managed to fool and ride roughshod over them. 

This writer is pleased that Justice Awokulehin can sleep well aftermath of the Ibori London guilty plea. It is nice to read that his conscience is clear over the matter for conscience is the one noumenon which is incapable of spin; which we are unable to suppress as human beings. Conscience continues to prick us on our actions and like Dan Fodiyo said all those years ago, conscience is truly a cancerous wound which can only be cured by the truth.

Adebayo Kareem, a Solicitor-Advocate, is contactable at omoalufa@hotmail.co.uk

 

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Can someone pls go and check

Can someone pls go and check ( Awokulehin's) certificates pls. I am sure they are forged ones. How and where he got them from. And which schools he attended .they are many dodgy lawyers, judges and justices. Stil in circulation. Pls remove them from the circulation.

Tru tlk

Jst lyk 'mutallab' is a name for a spoilt rich kid dat has nothin 2do dan tinkin of blowing imslf up, The same way 'yakubu' shd b a name 4 a playa wit a pathetic lack of goal-scoring ability.#word#

On Ibori

Adebayo Kareem must add to the list, the following, the office of the Att-Gen, federal &state, the EFCC, etc. it is submitted, that the if the judge had wrongly dismissed the charges against Ibori, the appeal option should have explored. Every one of them just went to sleep. Of all the governors charged, I am yet to see anyone of them in prison. Good article.

cool the anger pls.

cool the anger pls.

How many heard the evidence against Ken sarowiwa?

Were the Ekiti case and Osun not handled 9ja judges? If not satisfied with the judgement go on appeal. Tinubu case was heard by a nigerian judge. Its an offence to have a foreign bank account. Tinubu was alleged to have been operating over 15 foreign bank acounts as gwabna. Dont give me that crap about ethnicity. Then let us have all the 31 thieves ribadu spoke about in court. Where are they? Is it the duty of the defence to force the judge to hear all the evidence against his client? Ibori is in jail period-the Guy pursuing this matter is from the south west-what is his business? Are you tellin me that madoff who stole over 50b dollars in the USA, is seen as bringing shame to his home country or his jewish race? Where are the Siemen and haliiburton thieves. Andy Uba was caught with 250,000 dollars in the USA, what happened to his case-where is Efcc on the matter-where is Odili, J. Aminu and Iyabo. Let all go to london for trial if u want real justice. Was Bankole not freed in 9ja?

We Are Being Lead By A Very WEAK President!

Why has Jonathan still NOT made a clear statement on Nigeria's fight against corruption? In any civilised society, after our international disgrace by Judge Awokulehin, a President will issue a reassuring statement to concerned Nigerians on reform of our judiciary.

Our weak president has buried his head in the sand like an Ostrich, pretending nothing NEVER happened. He is strategising it will all blow away.

Nigerians...We are being lead by a COWARD! Someone who does NOT have the moral high-ground to fight corruption because of being previously caught in the cookie jar HIMSELF.

Nigerians badly need reassurance in this dark place we have found ourselves. The realisation that 150 million people cannot even rely on our JUSTICE system to protect us is a very bitter pill to take.

Maybe this Judge is right?

The Judge has stated that his consience is clear on his actions on the Ibori case. So let us live him and his consience aaand God/Allah.
When you have lived in a sphere of impunity for so long, you begin to believe in these lies and impunity. God/Allah in his infinite wisdom will sort out this Judge's consience and the consience of all those Nigerian Judges and NJC members who have murdered sleep and will sleep no more.

@ The Avenger: I think you

@ The Avenger:

I think you misconstrued the point Mr. Kareem Adebayo finely made. You said basically that the burden of proving a case beyond reasonable doubt lies on the Prosecution throughout a case and not at the end of it".

Yes but the point Mr. Kareem made is from the perspective of the Judge at the summation of proceedings. Your emphasis on the prosecution's burden at any time during the proceedings as against the end thereof is inconceivable since all parties including the prosecution, will only know the level of proof attained upon the decision of the judge one way or the other at the end of trial. I think it is perhaps more illustrative of your point to say that the prosecutor has a burden at all times during proceedings, to "present" its case beyond reasonable doubt! Your correction of Mr. Adebayo, is extraneous!

Ibori’s Case- Justice Awokulehin And The Burden of Conscience By

I thought the Honorable Justice Awokulehin should have maintained silence. That is not to say he does not have his right to speak. He should have known that his further comment could do more damages to his already battered image and the troubled image of nigerian judiciary. The comment he was alleged to have made in the open court in Benue raised serious questions as to the capciy of our some of our judges in academic and practice.

I am sorry, I believe the Nigerian Law schools in Nigeria know that all over the world, the burden of proof in criminal justice is 'beyond reasonable doubts' unlike civil cases when the burden of proof could be by preponderance of evidence. Such statement coming from a high court judge could be misunderstood by the world to discredit our legal education. Please sir, Mr. Justice Awokulehin, it's good at this time like all other Justices of Nigeria who Ibori's case ave passed through to maitain silence.

WHO DOES HE THINK HE IS?

This is the problem with the average Nigerian elite,they never accept faults.Ibori is worth well above £250 million out of which more than £50 million has already been confiscated by the UK,the man has never run a profit making bussiness anywhere in the world,for all we know,he left his shop-keeping job and went back to engage in Nigerian politics,even during his hachet-man days for brutal Abacha,he was charged for stealing building materials in Nigeria.
This Judge still has the guts to refer to "good conscience",well that shows the standards we operate in Nigeria,he is probably the only one in the world who thinks that the legal system in the UK is inferior to that of Nigeria,the essence of a justice system is to administer justice without fear or favour,it is also imperative that the whole truth about every case be taken into consideration.
Ibori is a thief,but one of the officially certified ones who get away with anything in Nigeria,his luck ran out.

Deri, your comment misses the

Deri, your comment misses the point and is flawed for its blatant red-herring. In the first instance there is no basis for comparing the allegation against Tinubu with the charges against Ibori; no basis whatsoever. As the writer of the article has noticed, Ibori was charged with 170 counts of Money Laundering in Nigeria and justice Awokulehin without listening to the evidence set him free. On the other hand, Tinubu was NEVER charged with any Money Laundering case. He was charged with operating and maintaining a number of foreign accounts when he was the governor of Lagos state. These are two separate and fundamentally different charges. It is a shame you are bringing ethnicity into a straightforward matter of kleptomania. Ibori is universally derided because he is a crook- his Itshekiri ethnicity has absolutely nothing to do with it. It is pitiable you brought ethnicity into the matter.

@deri

Deri, there is something seriously wrong with you. I do hope you seek some help. Can't you see beyond this bull-shit that you dole out on a daily basis ?. The looted monies belongs to the citizens of the state and by extension the Country herself. Na wa ooo.

Ibori’s Case- Justice Awokulehin

Thank you sir. This is one of the best piece on this case.In a civilized. Lawful country, this Judge would be FIRED. The stupid excuse that he gave is so untrue that a first year Law-student in any country will never give. The bottom line is he should be investigated. I bet, he was compromised. These are the kind of people we have in Nigeria. Shameful !!.

fake Warri man--when will Iyabo appear in court with Salami

Was it not the same judges in Nigeria that gave victory to shagari in the Awo versus shagari case? Did we import judges from London, over the trial of Bode George? When Salami gave out his verdict in support of ACN in Ekiti we celebrated the victory. In Osun state, we clapped and danced till the wee hours of the morning. Now the story is that Tinubu was freed because the prosecution could not prove his case. What about Ibori-no the judge took bribe. He was given 15m. We call that colonial mentality. Out sourcing our legal system to britain, cause the white man thinks better than our legal gurus is madness-such minds suffer from infiriority complex. Look at Kareem, a fake half baked lawyer based in London who does not know that the prosecution has to prove his case beyond all reasonable doubt before conviction-what would happen if such is appionted a judge in Nigeria? Justice in Nigeria depends on onces tribal marks sha!

Too Nice!

I think the author of this article is being too diplomatic with the way he still allows room for Awokulehin to have just been a judge that goofed as opposed to a corrupt judge.

I don't agree with this line from the article "he managed to fool and ride roughshod over them." Why is because I don't believe there was any deception involved at all and that the judge was fully aware in what he was doing and was complicit in the ploy to let ibori's crimes go unpunished.

This judge, like many others don't deserve to be called justices and given the respect that is being afforded to them and Awokulehin doesn't deserve the respect he is being given in this article. Let's not beat around the bush and pussyfoot where we tread...call a spade a spade and a crook a crook.

I thought this idiot was

I thought this idiot was already dead. Here is a man who should be hiding in shame, but typical of rogue Nigerians, he is daring us(Deltans) to do what we wish. Mister, this time, we might call your bluff and specimens like you do not belong in human civilization. Enjoy your part of the loot from the treasury of the long suffering people of Delta state. It's very obvious you have no conscience and I am not exactly sure what you are doing on the bench. May the gods of the Ethiope, the Niger, the Orogodo rivers and all the rivers that run through my beautiful Delta continue to hunt you. May you never see peace. Amen.

Nitwit

Who would have thought that a Nigerian high court judge will exhibit such crass ignorance of the robust British evidential procedures? The man is sheer nitwit.

Justice Awokulehim is a Kangaroo Judge

Mr Adebayo Kareem, there is a point of correction about your write up. You said "The bigger test of proving a case beyond reasonable doubt only comes into play at the conclusion of the trial, when all the parties have concluded their cases". With all due respect this is not quiet correct. The correct position is that the burden of proving a case beyond reasonable doubt lies on the Prosecution throughout the trial and not at the end of it. Justice Awokulehin has shown that he is a disgrace to the legal profession by saying that the Prosecution have to prove their case beyond reasonable doubt in a prima facie case. Inferences alone are sufficient to establish a prima facie case. It is at the main trial itself, once a prima facie case has been established, that the Prosecution has the legal burden to prove their case against the Defendant beyond reasonable doubt and they can rely on evidential inferences and deductions in doing so. Thank you.

ibori's trial

the judge truly has no conscience. he is just part of the rot plaguing nigeria today

99% of Nigerian Judges are themselves CORRUPTION PERSONIFIED

Justice Awokulehin has only exhibited a high degree of a suppressed ignorance of the judicial system in UK, or may be as a Lawyer, he can always wag his tongue over critical issues in other to free himself. But this is beyond legal rhetorics, it is a case of setting a precedence were posterity will be mislead. And yet a wounded conscience is claiming to be free?

Awokulehin should shup up his

Awokulehin should shup up his mouth and enjoy the $5m bribe he collected from Ibori in disgraceful silence. His place in the anal of corrupt Nigerian judges is safe.

Awokulehin should shut up and

Awokulehin should shut up and enjoy the $5m bribe he collected from Ibori in silence. He will go down in history as one of the more corrupt judges in Nigeria.

2 nations different laws-4 salami, iyabo, tinubu and ibori

When the money laundering case against Tinubu came up, which saw him discharged and acquitted by a court presided over by a Nigerian judge, the words on the lips of our legal gurus was (Mugode Allah). Thank God our father is free. All the national dailies hailed the decision as the best in the annals of our judiciary. To some it was Allah Saraki! But when the Istekiri man from the creeks of the niger delta, was freed by a judge in Nigeria,it was turned into a circus show. Our judges became the leprosy figures of our legal system. The judge must have taken over 15m dollars from Ibori. How can a man from an Itsekiri water side, ever be set free-when he had earlier been caught stealing from a shop in London. Dotun Oloko, d lagosian asked through Tinubu and Buhari. The English law and ours are different. There is no way Ibori cld have been set free in London! The same way Buhari would never be voted for by d brits. Given the way he attempted to crate Umaru Dikko from Britain 2 9ja. Cheers!

Those with no sin throw d 1st stone at Ibori & Tinubu

When the money laundering case against Tinubu came up, which saw him discharged and acquitted by a court presided over by a Nigerian judge, the words on the lips of our legal gurus was (Mugode Allah). Thank God our father is free. All the national dailies hailed the decision as the best in the annals of our judiciary. To some it was Allah Saraki! But when the Istekiri man from the creeks of the niger delta, was freed by a judge in Nigeria,it was turned into a circus show. Our judges became the leprosy figures of our legal system. The judge must have taken over 15m dollars from Ibori. How can a man from an Itsekiri water side, ever be set free-when he had earlier been caught stealing from a shop in London. Dotun Oloko, d lagosian asked through Tinubu and Buhari. The English law and ours are different. There is no way Ibori cld have been set free in London! The same way Buhari would never be voted for by d brits. Given the way he attempted to crate Umaru Dikko from Britain 2 9ja. Cheers!

Injustice Awokulehin

There was a time that the word 'boycott' was not in the English language. It came into being after the original owner of the name was 'boycotted'. He did something very wrong and his neighbours decided to shun him. From then, people used the word boycott to represent the idea of shunning anyone who deserves to be shunned.
I believe we can now safely use 'Awokulehin' as the standard for judicial corruption or injustice. One might say something like "He has received an Awokulehin judgement". I challenge our wordsmiths to come up with a better phrase.
Similar example: a 'Yakubu' is a pathetic miss by an attacker in front of goal. Yakubu's miss at the last World Cup in South Africa cannot be beaten, hence, his name should go down in history as the standard by which all other misses are measured.

Would the brits vote for a buhari-with Umaru Dikko in mind?

When the money laundering case against Tinubu came up, which saw him discharged and acquitted by a court presided over by a Nigerian judge, the words on the lips of our legal gurus was (Mugode Allah). Thank God our father is free. All the national dailies hailed the decision as the best in the annals of our judiciary. To some it was Allah Saraki! But when the Istekiri man from the creeks of the niger delta, was freed by a judge in Nigeria,it was turned into a circus show. Our judges became the leprosy figures of our legal system. The judge must have taken over 15m dollars from Ibori. How can a man from an Itsekiri water side, ever be set free-when he had earlier been caught stealing from a shop in London. Dotun Oloko asked through Tinubu and Buhari. The English law and ours are different. There is no way Ibori cld have been set free in London! The same way Buhari would never be voted for by d brits. Given the way he attempted to crate Umaru Dikko from Britain 2 9ja. Cheers!