Activist lawyer Femi Falana (SAN) has responded to the summons issued to him by Justice J.D. Peters of the National Industrial Court, saying the judge lacks the jurisdictional competence to summon him to explain a comment he made.
Falana, in a motion on notice filed to challenge the summon, said the procedure adopted by the judge in inviting him was illegal.
He is praying for “an order setting aside the order of this honourable court directing the applicant to appear before Honourable Justice J.D. Peters to justify the statement credited to him in a newspaper publication, where he was alleged to have said that ‘courts in Nigeria are supermarkets, where justice is sold.’”
Falana said the procedure being adopted by the judge to initiate contempt ex facie curiae (contempt outside court) against him was alien to the Constitution, the NIC Act and its Rules of Procedure.
“Before condemning the applicant for contempt of court ex facie curiae, he was never charged by Honourable Justice J.D. Peters for the offence.
“The applicant has not been served with the charge of contempt of court ex facie curiae to warrant his appearance before Honourable Justice J.D. Peters.
“Honourable Justice J.D. Peters is the accuser, the prosecutor, the witness, the judge in the charge of contempt ex facie curiae purportedly committed by the applicant.
“The order made by Honourable Justice J.D. Peters was actuated by bias and malice towards the applicant,” Falana said.
He contended that Justice Peters cannot use his judicial powers to gag or intimidate him.
Justice Peters had issued the directive when a lawyer from Falana’s chambers, Stanley Imhanruor, appeared before him in a suit by Vincent Okocha against Salus Trust Ltd.
Justice Peters had called the lawyer’s attention to an online publication in which Falana was quoted to have said “courts in Nigeria are supermarkets where justice is sold.”
He said Falana must appear before him to justify the comments.
In a supporting affidavit, another lawyer from Falana’s chambers, Akeem Fadun, said he had a similar experience before Justice Peters on March 1, 2017, when he appeared in another case.
Fadun said Justice Peters also referred to Falana’s comment and made an order that the SAN must appear to justify his claim that justice is sold in Nigerian courts.
The lawyer said Falana’s wife, Funmi, also had a similar experience before Justice Peters on March 14 when she appeared in a suit by Emmanuel Igbodudu against the University of Lagos (UNILAG).
According to Fadun, Justice Peters told Mrs. Falana the matter would not go on because of Falana’s statement.
The judge was said to have adjourned the case till May 16 for Falana to appear personally.
According to Fadun, Falana was not alone in condemning judicial corruption.
He said the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen and the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) President Abubakar Mahmoud (SAN), had also deplored judicial corruption on different occasions.
“Many other senior lawyers have condemned judicial corruption in Nigeria. Honourable Justice J.D. Peters has never summoned other senior lawyers who have engaged in the condemnation of judicial corruption in Nigeria,” Fadun said.