Dec 12, 2018

A Proper Application Of Professional Legal Ethics In The Paul Usoro Controversy | Sylvester Udomezue

Instead of blaming prosecuting counsel for grossly violating their duties to  -

·        be fair and just;

·        be prosecutors and not persecutors;

·        avoid trial publicity. Instead of placing the blame on prosecuting counsel, some of our colleagues prefer to turn the blame upside-down by erroneously blaming Mr. Paul Usoro for standing his ground in Defence of Rule of Law, Due Process and Constitutionalism in Nigeria and by refusing to be subjected to punishment before conviction and to trial on social media instead of trial inside court of law. With due respect, some of our colleagues are not being fair to Paul Usoro. I respectfully do not care if Paul Usoro gets thrown into jail upon being (ie., IF he is) justly found guilty of any offence. I do not care about that, because the wages of crime is punishment according to law.

But I DO humbly INSIST that Paul Usoro deserves to enjoy the benefits of his inalienable rights to:

·        be presumed innocent unless his guilt is established beyond reasonable doubt before a competent court of law;

·        be not subjected to any form of infraction of his constitutionally recognized rights and against undue curtailment of his liberties unless and until his guilt is established before a competent court;

·        be afforded the opportunity of being heard in line with the twin pillars of natural justice part of which is expressed as Audi Altarem Partem;

·        be afforded adequate time, opportunity and facilities to defend himself against charges he had told the world that he personally sees as “politically-motivated;”

·        enjoy the benefit of having all doubts resolved in his favour as required by our adversarial criminal justice system;

·        be not compelled to be the one to prove his own innocence, against the dictates of the accusatorial criminal justice which places a perpetual burden on the prosecution to establish guilt beyond reasonable doubt;

·        be not compelled to be subjected to any form of inhuman and degrading treatment, against internationally acknowledged standard practices and procedures. Learned Seniors and friends, graciously permit me to go a little blunt about this matter.

If Paul Usoro resigns before his conviction, then it means he is most unfit to lead Africa’s most populous, courageous and revered bar.

·        If Paul Usoro resigns before a proper conviction, then Paul Usoro has exposed members of Africa’s largest bar to future unrestrained and unrestricted and unrelenting persecution and unbridled future harassment in the course of discharge of their professional responsibilities as lawyers.

·        If Paul Usoro resigns before a proper conviction, then Paul Usoro would have admitted voluntarily he is guilty as charged, after having declared to the world that he is innocent of all allegations.

·        I support all fight against corruption.

·        I support that law-breakers be made to smell the wrath of the law.

·        But I insist that Rule of Law and Due Process must be the anchors of our system of administration of criminal justice.

·        On 16 January 2008, *Salman Rushdie* was quoted by The Times of India to have said that freedom of expression and rule of law are the two things that form the bedrock of any open society. A country that lacks  or loses those two ceases to be a free country. Because as *Michael Oakeshott* has declared,  rule of law bakes no bread, and is unable to distribute loaves or fishes (it has none), and it cannot protect itself against external assault, Yet rule of law remains the most civilized and least burdensome conception of a state yet to be devised. Absence of rule of law is equal to rule by whims and caprices of men in power. Aristotle was right: the only stable state is the one in which all men are equal before the law. And, at the foundation of civil liberties lies the principle that denies to government officials an exceptional position before the law and which subjects those in positions of power and authority to the same rules of conduct that are commands to the citizen (per Justice Louis D. Brandeis).

I rest my case.  But I shall not rest until Rule of law becomes the order of the day in a country that prides itself as the giant of Africa.

Thank you and God Bless us.

Sylvester Udomezue