⦿ CASE SUMMARY OF:
Dr. G. O. Sofekun v. Chief N. A Akinyemi & Ors (1980) – SC
by NSA PaulPipAr
⦿ AREA OF LAW
– Constitutional Law
– Criminal Law
– Disciplinary committee to try criminal offences
– Trial of criminal cases
Dr. G. O. Sofekun
Chief N. A Akinyemi & Ors (Constituting the Public Service Commission)
(1980) All N.L.R 153;
(1980) 5-7 S.C. 1;
⦿ LEAD JUDGEMENT DELIVERED BY:
A. Fatayi-Williams, C.J.N.
* FOR THE APPELLANT
– Kehinde Sofola.
* FOR THE RESPONDENT
– D.A. Adeniyi Esq; Chief Legal Adviser Oyo State.
⦿ FACT (as relating to the issues)
The relevant facts as relating to the issue for determination in this appeal is that a disciplinary committee was set up to try an allegation having criminal ingredients inherent against the Appellant.
This is an appeal by the Appellant that the disciplinary committee does not have the vires to try such matter, but only a court of law can.
1. Does the disciplinary committee set up by the public service commission have the vires to try the Appellant on the charge preferred?
⦿ HOLDING & RATIO DECIDENDI
1. THE ISSUE 1 WAS RESOLVED IN FAVOUR OF THE APPELLANT BUT AGAINST THE RESPONDENT.
i. Bearing in mind that the words “by a court” is only used once and at the tail end of subsection (2) of section 22, the word “charged” in the first line thereof can only be synonymous with the word “accused”. No other construction is, in my view, possible. Moreover, because of the mandatory provisions of the subsection, it seems to me that once a person is accused of a criminal offence, he must be tried in a “court of law” where the complaints of his accusers can be ventilated in public and where he would be sure of getting a fair hearing as set out in subsections (4) to (10) of section 22 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. No other tribunal, investigating panel, or committee will do.
ii. What is done once, if it is allowed, may be done again and in less demanding circumstances. If the Commission is allowed to get away with it, judicial power will certainly be eroded. Such erosion is, without doubt, contrary to the clear intention of section 22(2) of the Constitution. The jurisdiction and authority of the courts of this country cannot be usurped by either the Executive or the Legislative branch of the Federal or State Government under any guise or pretext whatsoever.
iii. That being the case, the amendment made to the Regulations in 1972, the effect of which is to make it unnecessary to take a public officer in the State’s public service who has been accused of a criminal offence to a “court of law”, and, in effect, to dispense with the due process of law, is clearly ultra vires the provisions of section 22 subsection (2) of the Constitution and is, therefore, invalid. So also was the trial of the plaintiff/appellant held thereunder by the Investigating Panel and his consequential dismissal from the public service by the Commission.
Section 22 subsection (2) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1963 , in particular, reads “(2) Whenever any person is charged with a criminal offence, he shall, unless the charge is withdrawn, be entitled to a fair hearing within a reasonable time by a court”.
Subsections (4) to (10) provide all the ingredients of a fair trial. Furthermore, the word “court” is defined in section 33 of the same Chapter as “Any court of law in Nigeria, but, except in relation to a member of the armed forces of the Federation, does not include a court martial.”
⦿ SOME PROVISION(S)
⦿ RELEVANT CASE(S)
⦿ CASE(S) RELATED
⦿ NOTABLE DICTA
It should also be pointed out that when any legislation repeals a former legislation and repeats some of the provisions of the legislation which have been repealed, those repeated provisions may be regarded as retrospective. – A. FATAI-WILLIAMS, C.J.N. Sofekun v. Akinyemi (1980)
It is in the interest of the Government and every individual in this country that the guilt of crime should not be tagged on to any individual without a proper trial in the court of law known as such under the Constitution of the Federal Republic. – Obaseki JSC. Sofekun v. Akinyemi (1980)