Demand by activists and civil society groups for an independent probe, prosecution, and removal of the chairman, Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT), Danladi Umar, for assault, intensified on Tuesday.
PREMIUM TIMES had reported how Mr Umar was caught on camera physically assaulting a security guard, Clement Sargwak, at Banex Plaza, Wuse 2, Abuja, on March 29.
Mr Umar, who presides over the trial of public offers accused of breach of code of conduct, was seen in the five-minute viral video clip, slapping and kicking the security guard following an altercation that ensued between them over a parking space on the premises of the plaza.
Mr Sargwak later revealed to PREMIUM TIMES that he was attacked by the CCT chair after approaching him over his wrong parking on the premises.
The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) condemned Mr Umar’s conduct and vowed to initiate a probe a probe of the assault incident.
‘He should resign’
Samson Itodo, a lawyer and executive director of YIAGA Africa, described the tribunal chairperson’s act as an abuse of power.
He also called for the sanction of the security guards attached to the tribunal chair for their involvement in the attack on the security guard.
“He (Mr Umar) has desecrated his office and he should therefore resign. As a legal officer and public officer, he is bound to uphold the standard of conduct required of his position. His irresponsible act is an aberration of the rules of professional conduct for a lawyer and he should be sanctioned.” Mr Itodo said.
“Secondly, he took laws into his hands to assault a helpless young man at his duty post.
“It’s an abuse of power. No provocation of any magnitude should warrant the inhumane treatment meted on the security officer. It is clear from Danladi Umar’s conduct that he is bereft of moral and ethical values. He should therefore resign. The police officer who aided him should be sanctioned as well.
“This incident is a testament that the state is the greatest adversary of the people. I hope the appropriate authorities rise to hold him to account.”
Also, a Lagos-based lawyer and human rights activist, Inibehe Effiong, demanded that the CCT chair be suspended pending the conclusion of his probe for assault.
Mr Effiong said, “I am of the strong view that the chairman of the CCT, Mr Danladi Umar, should be removed from his position, and the police should commence an investigation into the apparent assault he met on the security man.
“I do not understand how he can continue to sit to determine those who are accused of violation of the Code of Conduct for Public officers when he has by his actions which was further escalated by the incendiary and scandalous press statement issued on his behalf continue to sit.”
He said Mr Umar’s action was itself “a violation of code of conduct for public officers.”
‘He should face NBA’s disciplinary process and be prosecuted’
Mr Effiong said the CCT chair, not being a judicial officer under the Nigerian Constitution, should be made to face NBA disciplinary process and criminal prosecution.
He said, “Beyond that, I believe that the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) should also commence legal and disciplinary prosecuting and processes actions against Mr Umar.
“He is not a judicial officer under the Constitution, so to that extent, he can be sanctioned because his conduct is not compatible with the status as a legal practitioner it has brought his office into disrepute
“So I will endorse and welcome prosecutions and proper disciplinary action that would be taken against him.”
Access to Justice (A2Justice), in a statement signed its Director, Joseph Otteh, on Saturday, demanded the removal of the tribunal chairman.
“Unfortunately, the police have failed to arrest and charge Mr Danladi Umar for assault, signaling once again, the deep flaws and dysfunctionalities of Nigeria’s law enforcement institutions,” Mr Otteh stated.
“Presidency (should) immediately remove Mr Danladi Umar from office after disciplinary proceedings.”
Hassan Soweto, an activist, said Mr Umar should be prosecuted in line with the law if found guilty of the act.
“It is condemnable in the eyes of all Nigerians and the world. It is a clear abuse of his office, something I think he should be prosecuted for in the line with the laws of the nation,” he said.
Tunde Ajileye, a policy expert and partner at Lagos-based research firm, SBM Intelligence, similarly said, the CCT chair “should be prosecuted, not only because he assaulted the guy, but also because he went ahead to release a statement that attempted to accuse the guy of the assault and resorted to ethnic profiling.”
Hazmat Lawal, director of an advocacy group, Connected Development (CODE), called on the Nigerian judiciary to initiate “an independent investigation” against Mr Umar.
He also called for the security man assaulted by Mr Umar.
Mr Lawa said, “It is quite sad and unfortunate that the CCT chairman would be caught up in such an act. What he did was an abuse of power and privilege.
“Even if it was alleged that the security provoked him, as a public officer, he is meant to conduct himself properly publicly, and this is unacceptable.
“And I believe that the Nigerian judiciary should initiate an independent investigation and the security man should be compensated duly.”
He also said a disciplinary action should be taken against the CCT chairman.
“What he has done is bringing his office down and that is not acceptable,” he added.
What the law says in punishing a CCT official
The CCT was established by the Constitution alongside the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) to deal with complaints of breach of the code of conduct for public officers.
The provisions concerning the CCB and CCT are replicated in the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act, CAP C15, Volume 2, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.
Section 15(3) of the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution, which deals with code of conduct for public officers, provides that chairman and members of the CCT “shall be appointed by the President in accordance with the recommendation of the National Judicial Council”
Section 17(3) of the same Fifth Schedule of the Constitution, which provides for the procedure for the sacking of the CCT chair or members for acts of misconduct, says they could only be removed by the President subject to the two-thirds of both chambers of the National Assembly.
The section reads, “A person holding the office of Chairman or member of the Code of Conduct Tribunal shall not be removed from his office or appointment (appointed) by the President except upon an address supported by a two-thirds majority of each House of the National Assembly praying that he be so removed for inability to discharge the functions of the office in question (whether arising from infirmity of mind or body) or for misconduct or for contravention of this Code.”
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