…as lawyers hail EFCC; suggest stripping of SANship

By Ekanem Iniko

Some legal practitioners and concerned Nigerians have expressed disappointment over what they term ‘scandalous revelation’ of alleged involvement in embezzlement of public funds by Mr. Uwemedimo Nwoko, SAN, saying it’s not a good example of a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN.

Nwoko, the immediate-past Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Akwa Ibom State, was last week, arrested by Nigeria’s anti-graft agency, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission. He has been transferred to the Headquarters of the Commission in Abuja for questioning on his alleged role in money laundering to the tune of N1.5bn.

Reacting, a Lagos-based Human Rights lawyer, Inibehe Effiong, Esq, in a statement he personally signed, while absolving the EFCC of any wrong doing in arresting the ex-Justice Commissioner, urged him to clear himself in court.

Inibehe, who hails from Akwa Ibom State recalled how Nwoko turned the Office of Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice he occupied into a partisan machinery of the ruling PDP in the state.

He said “Immediate past Attorney General of Akwa Ibom State, Mr. Uwemedimo Nwoko SAN has been arrested by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). My position is that he should clear his name in court. No one should accuse EFCC of persecution in this particular case.

Officials of the Akwa Ibom State Government believe that they are above the law. The whole world recently read scandalous reports from the Accountant General of the State on how the current governor is wasting public funds with impunity.

As Attorney General, Nwoko SAN ensured that frivolous charges were filed against those who opposed the government of Akwa Ibom State. He basically turned the State Ministry of Justice into a partisan machinery of the ruling party in the State”

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The radical lawyer also accused the embattled ex-AG of human right abuses, using his office as cover.

Hear him “He also engaged in serial human rights violation in abuse of his oath of office and position as the Chief Law Officer of Akwa Ibom State.

“As Attorney General, Nwoko SAN ensured that over a dozen people in Akwa Ibom State were arrested and prosecuted on ridiculous charges for merely speaking on social media against government officials. He cannot now claim human rights when he does not believe in it.

“I had cause to defend a number of persons who were victims of state sponsored persecution during his reign as Attorney General of Akwa Ibom State. He has a terrible human rights record. How about citizens who were detained for weeks and months under his leadership as Attorney General?

Besides, EFCC has not violated any of his rights at this moment.

I know as a fact that there has been dispirited efforts to truncate any form of investigation of corruption by anti-corruption agencies in Akwa Ibom State”

On Nwoko’s long battle with the EFCC, Inibehe said “Mr Nwoko as Attorney General filed frivolous lawsuits to bar EFCC from investigating state officials. Please, let’s allow EFCC to do its work. He has been running from one court to another to truncate investigation of corrupt officials. Let him face the law. If the court says he is innocent, so be it.

“It took my intervention before one of the frivolous injunctions he sought and obtained against anti-graft agencies was vacated by a Judge of the Akwa Ibom State High Court. Mr Nwoko then refiled the same case at the Federal High Court claiming that EFCC, ICPC and the Police do not have the power to investigate the finances of Akwa Ibom State.

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In Akwa Ibom, they don’t give EFCC and ICPC access to documents.

“Nwoko himself doesn’t believe in investigation before trial. He didn’t implement that policy when he served as the Attorney General. In Nigeria, we only remember human rights when members of the ruling elites are involved.

He should carry his cross. He does not believe in the rule of law. I will say this before any authority in this country without apology.

In any event, there’s no big deal in his arrest.

I do not want to say much about his alleged indictment in the ongoing case involving the immediate past President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA). But it will be of interest to Akwa Ibom people to know how and why a serving Attorney General allegedly received millions of Naira into his personal account”.

On his part, another lawyer, Jude Raphael while describing Nwoko as a ” bad example of a Senior Advocate of Nigeria”, doubted whether persons affected directly by his “many sins”, were not aware of their right to petition the Legal Practitioners’ Privileges Committee against his conferment of the rank of a SAN.

While noting with dismay the likely effect of Nwoko’s indictments on the revered SANship and the entire legal practice in Nigeria, Jude suggested that the embattled ex-Attorney-General should be stripped of his SAN rank in order to serve as deterrent and to preserve the revered silk.

He said “I have few points which I must spot out as parts of the many sins of the now arrested former Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Akwa Ibom State, Mr. Uwemedimo Nwoko, SAN. Unfortunately, these characteristics are bad examples of antecedents of a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN.

“2017 LOCAL GOVERNMENT COUNCIL ELECTIONS & CONFLICT OF INTEREST 

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Recall that the 2017 Local Government Council elections in Akwa Ibom State was finally held on December 2, that year, after series of pressures from opposition parties in the state.

The build up to the contest was highly discredited and witnessed mass outcry. Consequently, parties briefed Counsel of choice and prepared to challenge the outcome of the elections but to the chagrin of many, the elections Petition Tribunal was NEVER constituted until more than 21 days allowed by Law. The Tribunal was eventually set up in March 2017.

“Curiously, all the Petitions against the State Independent Electoral Commission (AKISIEC) were handled by the Chambers of Nwoko & Co., the Law Firm of Uwemedimo Nwoko, Esq. Attorney General of Akwa Ibom State. 

This was a clear case of conflict of interest where the Attorney General was the awarding authority, the paying authority and the beneficiary in a clear case of excessive greed.

“DISOBEDIENCE TO COURT ORDER

There are evidence to show that the tenure of Uwemedimo, Esq (now SAN) as the Attorney-General of Akwa Ibom state had the highest number of cases of disobedience to Court orders by agents of government. There abound cases of incarceration of activists and critics of the state government on the prompting of the Office of the Honourable Commissioner for Justice and Attorney-General, where Uwemedimo Nwoko had superintended.

“There are cases that, even when his captives were admitted to bail by Courts of competent jurisdiction, the government in which Nwoko served as Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, would refuse to release them. The Police would openly confess that their “hands are tied”, as they had instruction “from above” not to release the detainee (s)…”

…to be continued

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