August 10, 2022

Rivers: Judicial Commission Lacks Powers To Try Ameachi – Supreme Court

3 min read

….Says probe panel mere fact-finding body

The Supreme Court has described the Rivers State commission of inquiry that indicted former governor Rotimi Ameachi, as a mere fact-finding body with no powers to engage in the trial of anybody for anything whatsoever.

A seven-member of justice of the Supreme Court in a unanimous judgment, said the findings of the probe panel are not enforceable in law.

The decision of the apex court was contained in the appeal No: SC/911/2017, lodged before it by Ameachi who is a presidential candidate of All Progressives Congress(APC), against the governor of Rivers State, the attorney general of the state, the judicial commission of inquiry and others.

In the judgment rendered by Justice Emmanuel Agim, the apex court went further to hold that the Rivers State commission of inquiry “is not an adjudicatory body and so does not try or determine disputes as to any rights or obligations of liabilities.

Justice Agim said: “A commission of inquiry is a factfinding or information-seeking body. It carries out factfinding or information seeking by the process of impartial investigation to find out certain facts or information about the subject of the inquiry.

“It is mere commonly used in public governance as part of the administrative process to facilitate public governance.

“The purpose of the investigation is to find out the facts or gather facts on the subject matter of the inquiry.”

The apex court held that “in doing so, it is not trying any person for the commission
of any misconduct or crime.

It does not engage in the trial of any person for anything. It merely gathers facts on the subject of the inquiry.”

The apex court judgment ends the contention and controversy over Amaechi’s alleged criminal indictment by Wike’s probe commission in favour of Amaechi, the presidential aspirant of APC.

Even if it (the commission) makes findings of facts that are adverse to a person (Amaechi), such adverse findings do not amount to a conviction for an offense or determination of his right and obligation. They remain mere findings of facts based on which it would make recommendations to the appointing authority who may accept or reject them.
If it rejects them, the matter ends there. If it accepts them and decides to take necessary action on the accepted recommendation, the white paper accepting the recommendation can be challenged in court.”

However, the apex court also rule that “the accepted recommendations (of the commission) are not enforceable like a court decision. So, a commission of inquiry is not a court. It is not a criminal investigation agency such as EFCC, ICPC and police.

“The designation of the commission of inquiry set up as a judicial commission of inquiry and the fact it was headed by a serving or retired judicial officer cannot invest it with judicial powers or character and did not change its nature as fact-finding or information-seeking body with no power to adjudicate, or in any manner determine any rights or obligations or try any person for the commission of a crime. crime.

“It is not a civil or criminal trial. The purely fact-finding function of a commission of inquiry is what defines its nature and character as an administrative investigation and a non-judicial body.

“It is also our very view and we hold that the 3rd respondent (the judicial commission of inquiry) is a factfinding and an investigative body. Generally, a body exercises powers that are merely investigative and which do not have any legal force.

“The description of such body as a judicial commission of inquiry does not change its character from being a factfinding body.”

“With this judgment, the Supreme Court has vindicated Amaechi and cleared him of all purported or alleged indictment by Governor Wike’s commission.”

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