A Law don and an aide to Imo State Governor, Rochas Okorocha, Prof Nnamdi Obiareri has replied Hon Uche Onyeagocha on his criticisms to the visit of South Africa President, Jacob Zuma to Owerri, Imo State.
Onyeagocha had faulted the visit on the grounds that Zuma is corrupt and should head home to face corruption charges. But Obiareri countered Onyeagocha’s claims, saying it is not the job of political opponents or misguided political adversaries to pass judgement on legal matters.
“Only a court of law properly constituted and in good jurisdictional standing, can convict for crime.This is not the job of political opponents or misguided adversaries. Corruption is a crime and no one is said to be corrupt unless judicial proof is offered” he wrote.
In his response to the allegations, titled “RE: HON UCHE ONYEAGUCHA’S COMMENT ON GOVERNOR OKOROCHA AND PRESIDENT ZUMA” Obiareri wrote “Acting under a sense of concern and patriotic duty to enlighten the general public, I enter a disclaimer or caveat against the otherwise lowly and ignorant comment credited to Hon Uche Onyeagucha titled “CORRUPTION: LIKE OKOROROCHA, [sic] LIKE PRESIDENT ZUMA.”
“This is because, I know Hon. Uche Onyeagucha as a very Senior lawyer and a trial lawyer at that.
“For the records, he is my learned junior colleague at the Nigerian Bar.
“He is also a former Nigerian federal lawmaker having served in the House of Representatives.
“In view of these, it is not too much to expect that Hon Uche Onyeagucha must be conversant with the Nigerian laws, Nigerian criminal justice system and minimum and irreducible international human rights norms including the laws of the Republic of South Africa.
“Hon. Uche Onyeagucha is very highly exposed and can not claim ignorance of the following elementary principles of law and fundamental human rights creed.
He reminded the lawmaker that there is no naked usurpation of judicial powers saying “First and foremost, no person or authority, no matter how highly placed, is allowed the naked usurpation of judicial powers of conviction of fellow citizens”
Obiareri said ” Presumption of innocence is sacrosanct because “An accused person facing trial is entitled to the right to presumption of innocence until found guilty by a court of competent jurisdiction”
He continued “This is universal and inalienable. It is sacrosanct and inderogable. In issuing this recent toxic release, did Hon Uche Onyeagucha forget that the right to presumption of innocence is well recognized in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948 and International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights 1966?
“Did he also forget that this all important pillar of our criminal justice system is generously guaranteed under section 36 of the Constitution of the Federal Federal Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 as amended?
“This is also true of the Constitution South Africa 1996 and under its salient provisions, President Zuma is presumed innocent until found guilty by a court of competent jurisdiction. That is why President Zuma is still the President of that great African country”
The statement further reads: “Suspicion, no matter how grievous, cannot amount to or secure criminal conviction.
“This has been the attitude of the apex Supreme Court of Nigeria in a long line of antiquated and contemporary decided cases. See *Okereke V. The State* decided in the Supreme Court of Nigeria on Friday the 22nd day of January, 2016 in SC.399/2013 (LN-e-LR/2016/45 (SC). See also the earlier decided cases of *Orgi V. State* (2008) 10 NWLR (Pt.1094) 31 & 50; *Ikemson V. State* (1989) 3 NWLR (Pt.110) 455; *Nnolim V. State* (1993) 3 NWLR (Pt. 283) 567.
“These binding decided cases by our apex and final court, the Supreme Court of Nigeria, clearly adumberate that suspicion, no matter how high or grave cannot ground a conviction in Court of law and that, in criminal trial, the burden of proof is one beyond reasonable doubt”
Obiareri reminded the ex lawmaker that he who alleges must prove. He said “As a former Adviser to Governor Okorocha, Hon Uche Onyeagucha knows that there is no indictment against Governor Okorocha”
“Our law is that he who asserts must prove. The onus is definitely on Hon Uche Onyeagucha to prove his allegation and unless and until he is able to do so in an acceptable legal manner, he must not recklessly usurp judicial powers by falsely labelling other citizens”
He stated that democrats are rule of law defenders
“Without rule of law and its corollary of due process, there can be no democracy.
“Democrats must therefore have a democratic mindset and stand prepared at all times, irrespective of the allure or pressure including political misgivings, to observe and enforce the observance of respect for human rights and civil liberties of others guaranteed in the Constitution being the grundnorm”
He described the lawmaker’s comments as most unfortunate as it breached all known codes of civility and violently violates acceptable international and national human rights norms.