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Demand for the Immediate Sack of the Chief of Naval Staff for Gross Misconduct and Acts Capable of Destroying National Security

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We are a Law Firm of Legal Practitioners registered under the corpus juris of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and it is within our practice policy to canvass for rule of law, justice, good governance and protection of human rights, and it is in line with this policy we hereby resolve, through this press release, to bring to the attention of the general public and relevant authorities the sad narratives of abuse of power, recklessness in the discharge of public duty, employment of state powers to pursue personal vendetta, gross misconduct and other acts which are wholly inconsistent with public office, continuously perpetrated by the current Chief of Naval Staff (CNS), Vice Admiral Ibok-Ete Ekwe Ibas.

While we have evidence of several cases of abuse of office against the Chief of Naval Staff, we have observed with great concern his reckless, oppressive and degrading actions against one NAVY CAPTAIN EMMANUEL EKPE OWEN (CAPTAIN OWEN) just like many of his victims in the Service. Captain Owen is a decorated officer of the Nigerian Navy who has been in the Service of the country since his youthful years and has represented the country in many international Naval fora where he won many accolades. He has a record of impeccable years of dedicated service in the Nigerian Navy and has gone on several missions in and outside Nigeria which are testaments to his stunning performances as an excellent officer.

In the course of serving this country, CAPTAIN OWEN, sustained several life threatening injuries to his person. He sustained an injury to his eye which led to the permanent disability and loss of sight in one of his eye and also lost a testis from burnt trauma. He suffered a fractured jaw in the line of duty just to mention a few as there are other injuries we would rather not mention here. Yet, he is being subjected to unfair, inhuman and degrading treatment coupled with consistent harassment by the current CNS who should ordinarily be a Morale Booster to such a Senior officer.

It is rather disturbing that despite the unwavering loyalty demonstrated by this dutiful and exemplary officer, CAPTAIN OWEN, he is still being inflicted with a barrage of torturous and degrading treatments by the CNS. These treatments bore out of sheer cruelty and callousness have resulted in a decline to his physical health while the denial of his earned privileges, promotions and various degrading treatment have further led to the officer almost losing his life.

What is CAPTAIN OWEN’s offence? We have it on record that the courageous officer sometime on board a ship, NNS AMBE in 1996 while on national assignment in Liberia, discovered that the now CNS was involved in some issues bordering on corruption and personally called him to records encouraging him (the CNS) to serve with integrity. Rather than taking the admonition of CAPTAIN OWEN, the now CNS locked Captain Owen up in the toilet and summarily tried CAPTAIN OWEN for a trumped up offence in order to dismiss CAPTAIN OWEN while still onboard the NNS AMBE in Liberia. The innocent and decent Captain has since 1996 remained an object of victimisation by the now CNS in the Nigeria Navy.

The CNS has channelled all his resources both official and unofficial to make life as a Naval Officer unbearable for CAPTAIN OWEN. In particular, the CNS withheld funds from CAPTAIN OWEN for national assignments to train naval officers for Admiralty yachting regatta in India in 2016 and 2017. The CNS also refused to approve funds to purchase equipment for the officers nominated to attend the exercise in India. The diligent Captain was forced to borrow the sum of $2,400 for the purchase of the said equipment in honour and respect for the Nigeria Navy without any refund till date. He has been denied promotion thrice and his records have been tempered with. Why? Because he is not in the good records of the CNS. The big questions now is: should the national security of a nation suffer because of the baseless hatred of an officer by an another officer? While this question would normally be answered in the negative by all Nigerians, the current CNS disagrees!

In February 2020, the CNS prematurely nominated CAPTAIN OWEN for a pre-retirement course but later withdrew him from same. Solely because his desperation to frustrate CAPTAIN OWEN out of service was becoming obvious. He then proceeded instead to relieved him of his appointment as Assistant Director Procurement in Defence Intelligence Agency in February 2020 and consequently made him redundant for eight (8) months. The CNS detained CAPTAIN OWEN at the Naval Headquarters using the Chief of Administration’s office and he was coerced and compelled into signing a register twice a day in violation of his fundamental human rights.

We have it on record that few years ago CAPTIAN OWEN filed a Petition to the President and Commander-in-Chief against the person of the CNS after several years of enduring sufferings, torture, intimidation, unimaginable harassment and other degrading treatments as exhibited in the actions of the CNS wherein he requested a fair appraisal of the situation and resolution of all issues raised therefrom. The petition was written in line with CAPTAIN OWEN’s constitutional entitlement to seek the enforcement of his Fundamental Rights as a person, as an officer and most importantly as a Senior officer and in compliance with the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended), the Armed Forces Act CAP A20 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004 as well as other Regulations and Bye Laws regulating the activities and conducts of servicemen and Military officers generally and the Nigerian Navy particularly.

In a surreptitious attempt to frustrate the Petition, the petition which should have traditionally and conventionally been addressed by an officer having authority over the Petitioner and the Respondent, (i.e CAPTAIN OWEN and the CNS in this case the Respondent) was not so dealt. Rather, the CNS assumed Jurisdiction by proxy over the matter by setting up a Committee to hear the complaint. The Committee simply ignored the complaints and manufactured new spurious issues thereby turning the Petitioner to the Accused person in an attempt to silence him. The CNS has now summoned CAPTIAN OWEN to Lagos to face a Court Martial trial.

The Position of Law

In order to situate the legal issues raised by the foregoing facts in proper perspective, it is our belief that it is pertinent to examine and also identify the basic requirement and authorities within the Nigerian Navy who are capable of properly and legally convening a Court Martial in this circumstance?

Before delving into the issue of persons or authorities statutorily empowered to convene a Court Martial, it is of utmost importance to state that it is not only a principle embedded in the Armed Forces Act that a person having one interest or the other in the subject matter cannot convene a Court Martial in relation to that matter but also an extension of the twin tower of justice—audi alteram patem and nemo judex in casa sua- and any adjudicatory proceeding conducted in violation of this principle is a exercise in futility no matter how well conducted. The principle of fair hearing is the legal point of origin without which justice can neither be contemplated nor guaranteed.

In the instant case, no person from the office of the Chief of Naval Staff can convene a Court Martial to try a matter where the Chief of Naval Staff is an interested party or will have questions to answer as this will only amount to a man being a Judge in his own case. The decision of the Supreme Court in the case of AGBITI V NIGERIAN NAVY (2011) ALL FWLR (PT. 570) P. 1223 at 1254 has espoused that the principle of fair trial and natural justice is sine qua non for a Court Martial to be valid.

We contend without any fear of contradiction that this is in fact a legal back-flip that makes a nonsense of the criminal jurisdiction of the Court Martial as anticipated by the Constitution and as clearly stipulated by the Armed Forces Act. It is in fact a contravention of the spirit and letters of the everlasting principles of Natural Justice, Equity and Good Conscience. The Court Martial is a nullity ab initio as the law enjoins that from the point of constituting the Court-Martial, the convening officer is duty bound to not just to be neutral but must show neutrality and adhere to the principles of Natural Justice, Fairness and Good Conscience. Section 133(3)of the Armed Forces Act clearly shows a clear intention to avoid a situation where an interested party or any person at all will employ or attempt to employ the instrumentality of the Court Martial for the purpose of pursuing personal vendetta just like the CNS is currently doing.

Section 131 of the Armed Forces Act further states that officers having power to convene Court-Martial are the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the Chief of Defence Staff; or the Service Chiefs; or a general officer commanding, a brigadier, colonel or lieutenant colonel or their corresponding ranks having command of a body of troops or establishments; or an officer for the time being acting in place of those officers.

From the above, it is clear that only the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria acting as the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces or the Chief of Defence Staff can legitimately convene Court Martial in respect of CAPTAIN OWEN’s case and not the CNS who is at the middle of the entire case.

To further emphasize the position of the Nigerian apex Court on fair hearing, Court Martial must be conducted in line with the Principles of Fair trial as encapsulated in the Latin maxim “Nemo Judex in ca sa sua” which means a Person cannot be a Judge in its own cause. The action of the CNS in convening the Court Martial against CAPTAIN OWEN and selecting the officers to sit on the panel of THE Court Martial is clearly indicative of the fact that he has power and influence over the outcome and decision of the Court Martial and this by all implications makes him a Judge in his own case as the substance of the allegation being examined at the Court Martial relates to him (the CNS). It is a fact that no Justice can be fairly obtained from such Court Martial trial as it is not properly constituted.

Jurisdiction is a threshold issue and one of the ways jurisdiction is tested is in terms of the constitution and composition of a panel in any adjudicatory proceeding. Relating the foregoing position of the law to the instant case, the issue of an improperly constituted Court Martial especially where it negates fair trial is a jurisdictional defect and goes to the root of the proceedings. If the proceedings are allowed to continue, it would eventually amount to a nullity for failing the Jurisdictional criteria. The Court Martial is a creation of Law and as such must thrive at the pleasure, guidance and behest of the law.

Finally, we must as a matter of urgency call on the President, National Security Adviser, the Minister of Defence and Chief of Defence Staff to address the issues of the unfair and torturous treatment continuously meted out to this Senior officer in the person of Captain Owen, particularly on the underlisted issues:

  1. Constituting the Court Martial in Lagos whilst the officer is engaged in Abuja by reason of his official posting is tantamount to a deliberate attempt to frustrate him when same could have been constituted in Abuja and made for ease of attendance of proceedings amongst others.
  2. Not providing necessary transport allowances or even accommodation for him for attending and partaking in the Court Martial which is billed to take place in a location outside his last posting.

3.Refusing to do anything or commence anything since his report to Lagos. He has remained in Lagos on his own expense without accommodation and means of livelihood.

  1. He has become stranded and destitute having run out of funds.
  2. His health has deteriorated alarmingly leading to incessant perspiration and heart problems.
  3. His requests to meet his Doctors for proper Medicare has been consistently denied thereby leaving him at the mercy of death.
  4. Exposure to unfavourable living conditions and restriction of movement and liberty thereby breaching his Fundamental rights for no just or excusable cause.
  5. By proceeding with the business of the Court Martial in defiance to the communication of an objection by CAPTAIN OWEN to the Court Martial where he challenged the Jurisdiction of the Court Martial amongst other unwholesome and unlawful acts perpetuated in this regard.

CONCLUSION

In the light of the several impunitious acts, a host of which have been captured in the body of this press statement by the CNS, we call upon the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari to act quickly and relieve the erring CNS of his appointment without further delay in order to save the reputation, integrity and right standings of the Nigerian Navy and by extension, the Armed Forces as a whole.

The President is further called upon to review and take a positive stand on the Letter of Victimization written to him reporting all the nefarious and unlawful acts of the CNS. The President is required to act purposively and decisively as the C-in-C, as the acts of torture and victimization complained of in the said letter yet persists and have continued to be aggravated with impunity by the CNS who has become a law unto himself.

We respectfully reiterate that nobody is above the law. Be thou howsoever high, the law is above you. We are desirous of the resolution of the issues raised herein with utmost urgency as CAPTAIN OWEN’S life is at risk of being terminated as the possibility of surviving the torturous acts meted on him by the callous machinations of the CNS may lead to his untimely demise.

Thank you.

Signed:
Pelumi Olajengbesi Esq.
Principal Partner
THE LAW CORRIDOR
Abuja
26/12/2020.

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