Mr. Attorney General Sir! The Court Room Is Not Firing Squad BY AGBA JALINGO

In Breaking News, Columnists, National News, Opinion, Politics, Reports

By CrossRiverWatch admin

Court Room (photo credit: rudnermacdonald.com)
Court Room (photo credit: rudnermacdonald.com)

Mr. Joseph Oshie Abang, the Cross River state Attorney General is not a particularly well known man. Apart from a few reports in Vanguard newspaper, CrossRiverWatch.com and the state owned Chronicle, a simple google search has no information about him prior to his appointment apart from a paid Vconnect link to a law firm on Kofo Abayomi Street, Apapa, Lagos, where he worked before becoming AG.

But the AG describes himself nicely as “a self-made man” who runs the state “Ministry of Justice from his pocket.” Whether this is true or not is a matter for a symposium discussion (apologies to Fela.)

It’s an uphill task to actually determine whether Joe Oshie Abang is a progressive, conservative, centrist or just a man of good conscience fit to hold public office and enjoy it perquisites.

I know very well that Governor Ayade conducted an aptitude test for his would be Commissioners before they were appointed and Joe Oshie Abang must have passed that test before assuming office. What he is however proving incapable of passing is the test of his temperament as the Chief Law Officer of our state.

On assumption of office, the AG announced that the state has over 700 cases in court at different stages of litigation. The AG also recognized the need to create the guiding framework for the enactment of new laws to support the development dreams of the new government. But contrary to expectations that in view of the huge task ahead, the AG was going to hit the ground running, he has rather decided to embark on a procession to Golgotha.

Soon after assumption of office, while nothing dramatic has happened in the ministry apart from the launching of the e-library which is still grossly under-utilized, the AG started courting unnecessary controversies.

First he called a press conference in Calabar where he declared a critic of the Ayade Government, Mr. Ifere Paul wanted leaving the public to wonder where his office derived the powers to do such a thing from. The police saved the situation by quickly clearing the air and reminding the AG that Mr. Ifere had not done anything to warrant his being declared wanted.

The AG is now embroiled in another controversy over the extra judicial killing of 23 years old Stanley Etim by four policemen in Calabar.

In February 2015, the deceased was abducted from his shop in Calabar by a team of four policemen who framed him up as a robber. They took him into custody and he was tortured to death in the custody of the policemen.

A report of the autopsy from the University of Calabar Teaching Hospital UCTH signed by Dr. Irabor Godstime Isi, of the Department of Histopathology, UCTH dated 22nd April 2015 states that, the cause of the death of Stanley Etim, in police custody is “extensive blunt head and limb (lower/upper limb) injuries.”

The police set up an investigative panel which also found the four policemen guilty, they went through an orderly room trial and were duly dismissed from the police and arraigned in court. The case file was then referred to the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions DPP in the state Ministry of Justice for advice.

The Ministry of Justice curiously returned a no case submission to the Magistrate court in favor of the dismissed policemen who have since been set free.

As curious as this seem, a legal practitioner who is representing the family of the deceased writes a press release and sends it to CrossRiverWatch.com alleging that he has credible information that the AG collected 2million Naira bribe to free the policemen.

And as a media organization seeking to balance our reports, we called the AG on Sunday to confirm or deny the allegation in the press release. Seven calls and he does not take any. The reporter sends a text to him and shortly after, he responds with a flurry of threats and scurrilous verbiage.

At 1:56pm, he responds with this question, “who pls?”

At 1:57pm, the reporter responded and introduced himself then asked him to comment on the bribery allegation.

Abang replied him at 2:13 PM. The message read: “I don’t practice law on Facebook and won’t want to do so now (sic)”

Another message came in at 2:26 PM which read: “His prosecution is starting tomr. I hope you dont want to join him because the Disciplinary Committee of the NBA will also withdraw his license to practice! The powers of the AG are enshrined in the Constitution and all Lawyers who are worth their certificate knows better. Never in the History of Nigeria has these powers been questioned except in Calabar? Well he will go to Abuja to face the LPDC you may wish to follow him there. I treat millions of files and don’t get to meet the people so maybe he brought the money to me pls ask him! (sic).”

To us, all these sufficed as his response to our question and a report was filed and published.

At 6:32 PM, he sent another message which read “I have seen what you posted on facebook and have asked my Lawyers to include you in the suit since you are published Libelous and defamatory materials on print media without verification which God bear me witness is false and an attempt to smear my reputation. Where will a policeman get 2m at this hard time to bribe a self made man like me? The battle has just begun and lets see who wins, God is my witness and will put all of you to shame! Afokang still has space so let me see how God vs Satanic forces who wins! (sic)”

Our reporter sends him a one line reply at 7:13pm reminding him that a text was sent to his phone to confirm the allegation before the publication and all his replies have sufficed for a response and the AG launches another tirade at 7:26pm, “Before your publication? You must be an illiterate. Wait for me! God will put all of you to shame before the end of this week trust me!” This message came at 7:26 PM on Sunday.

My only problem or worry from this exchange is not because the AG mentioned Afokang or threatened to go to court; it is his stinking ego and his inflated feeling that he can cow us from doing our work by flaunting the ‘powers of the office of the AG.’

Mr. Attorney General Sir, the court room is not firing squad. The court room is not a theatre for overzealous neophytes in government to deal with people according to their own fancy. The court room is not a place to deal with people you are angry with, it is a sanctuary where justice is dispensed.

In fact, it is peaceful people who want things to be done in accordance with the law that patronize the courts and refrain from self help. So going to court is no qualms one bit. Rather it is not going to court that is a problem or that one should worry about. So Mr. Attorney General, go to court, we will meet you there.

When you get to court, the court does not point a gun at your head and blow it up. Parties state their cases and the court listens and records carefully and in the wisdom of the court, judgement will be delivered. This process could take weeks, months, years and even decades.

Threatening to send us to Afokang is boot language that is meant to intimidate and in this case, you have failed woefully to intimidate us. In case you don’t know, as a public servant, you owe Cross Riverians explanation as to how in the exercise of the powers of your office as AG, you arrived at a no case submission in the matter at hand against overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

Regardless of your infantile braggadocio, as a media organization, CrossRiverWatch.com will not refrain from doing our work of following this matter up as long as there is any new piece of information that has a news angle.

When you get to court, tell the court that is what we said and we will also meet you there to tell the court the reason we said so.

God bless you Sir.

Agba Jalingo is the Publisher/Editor-In-Chief of CrossRiverWatch.com

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