One very common way criminals in the country exhibit their anti-social behaviour is by passing off fake items as genuine. Thus we have lots of fake drugs, fake motor spare parts, fake certificates, fake naira notes, as for the professions may be with the exception of prostitution non is exempt from the staining infection of quackery.
Unfortunately a new and quite disturbing dimension has been introduced into the phenomenon of fakery and its first younger sibling, forgery-the publication and sale of non-existing laws. In the run-up to the August 2008 General Elections of the Nigerian Bar Associates, Ikeazor Akaraiwe, Esq, a 1st Vice-Presidential candidate granted an interview to the “The Nation” newspaper where he made reference to a certain Fundamental Rights (Enforcement Procedure) Rules 2008.
That was about the first time a mention of the so called law would be mentioned in the media. For quite some time now the need for a change or at least an improvement on the Fundamental Rights (Enforcement Procedure) Rules 1979 has been canvassed by concerned lawyers, particularly those with bias for human rights enforcement practice. The general complaint is that the 1979 Rules has certain strictures that makes the practice of the Human Rights Enforcement law, unnecessarily technical and as such on occasion serve to defeat the very essence of its creation-to protect and enhance the fundamental rights and freedoms of the Nigerian citizen.
The office of the creator of the 1979 Rules is the Chief Justice of Nigeria and it is to this honourable office that concerned human right groups, and also the Nigerian bar Association forward draft copies of proposed amendments of the 1979 Rules, for the obvious purpose of serving as reference and resource-materials for his lordship the Honourable Chief Justice of Nigeria in the making of a new Fundamental Rights Enforcement Procedure Rules.
The widespread belief that a new and more liberal Fundamental Rights (Enforcement Procedure) Rules 2008 is in the pipeline, is what some fraudsters (face-less for now) latched on the make a killing.
Every year the General Conference of the Nigerian Bar Association (dubbed the largest gathering of lawyers any where in the world) attracts hundreds, if not thousands of law book sellers. The 2008 conference was no exception. Sellers of law texts and materials swamped the International Conference Centre Abuja Venue of the conference with thousands of their “wares”.
One of such ‘wares’ is the Fundamental Rights (Enforcement Procedure) Rules 2008. The ware came out in two forms, paper back and hard cover editions. The paper back sold and still sells for #500.00 per copy while the hard-cover sold for #1,000.00 a piece.
Sales were snappy as the 2008 FR Rules, being much awaited sold like hot cake. It was not only lawyers who purchased the ‘law’, judges too. By September 2008 lawyers and judges have started making references to the new Rules, which many commended for the liberalization of the procedure of enforcing the Fundamental Rights of people in the country.
In fact only last week, the Squib in our vol. 9 no 3 edition published an 8 page critique a well-thought out appraisal of the Rules, by Lagos lawyer Adejare Kembi esq. Alas, all those who had spent their money to purchase the 2008 F.R Rules, had unwittingly bought a lie. Likewise the efforts of Adejare Kembi author of the critique of the 2008 F.R Rules, which took him three days of steady application is so much a waste of time. The reason is simple-The so called Fundamental Rights (Enforcement Procedure) Rules 2008 is a mere fabrication, even conjuration of some mischevious fraudulent individuals. The so called law, indeed and in fact, is no law at all but a bogus caricature.
This fact was confirmed by Mr. Masade, the Chief Registrar of the Supreme Court of Nigeria in the evening of Wednesday 8th October 2008 via a telephone chat with the editor-in-chief of the Squib. Hear Masade:- “The so called Fundamental Rights (Enforcement Procedure) Rules 2008 law is no law at all. It is the handiwork of some people, who brought the book to sell at the NBA Conference. I am confirming to you that the Chief Justice of Nigeria does not know about the Rules and the Chief Justice did not make those Rules.
You see the NBA has sent a proposed amendment draft of the Rules to the CJN. So when we saw this, the CJN was upset because he thought the NBA had jumped the gun by publishing their proposal and passing of same as the new law. But when we compared what they gave us and the one sold at the NBA conference we found that they were different”.
About a month earlier, one legal practitioner who upon contact with the fake Fundamental Right law suspected its spuriousness, forwarded a letter of complaint to the Chief Justice of Nigeria, requesting for a withdrawal of the illegal Rules (see cover story Exhibit 1).
That lawyer is Femi Falana, the well known human rights activists and author. In a chat with the Squib on Monday the 6th October 2008, Falana explained why he had to write the Chief Justice of Nigeria.
“Before the conference, I had heard about a new 2008 Fundamental Rights (Enforcement Procedure) Rules 2008 being in circulation. A particular candidate in the NBA elections even made reference to it in a Newspaper interview. So when we got to the conference and saw copies of the law, I bought four copies. And other lawyers bought too. Of course I needed to buy and study the ‘new law’ because some of our colleagues were already calling for a review of my book (Fundamental Rights Enforcement) since it examines and discusses the 1979 rules.
However when I read the so called new law, the language of expression was too inelegant. I knew immediately that it could never have issued from the office of the Chief Justice of Nigeria. I then went to the Supreme Court and met with the Chief Registrar who confirmed my fears. I later wrote the Chief Justice.
Falana’s letter did not go-unanswered. The reply was dated 25th September 2008 and signed by One A.G Sambo, Special Assistant to the Hon. Chief Justice of Nigeria. (see cover story exhibit 2). The content was in line with the position of the Chief Registrar, that the law in question was a fake.
Unfortunately it would appear that the authorities have not done enough to sensitive the public about the existence of the fake law. Although Chief Registrar Masade claimed to the Squib that the disclaimers against the fake law have been put in the print and electronic media, it is doubtful whether any appreciable number of lawyers have come across such.
According to a revered figure in the legal profession, Chief G.O.K Ajayi S.A.N, that such a sordid fraud could be perpetrated on the Bar and Bench in Nigeria, is to blamed on the corruption and maladministration of government.
Explaining further the Chief said, “In the past you get your laws, gazettes from the Government press. But then suddenly those who worked there began to hide away the copies. They rather made photocopies of a single one which they sell to people. That has been the culture now for many years at the Government press and the Ministry of Information”.