USORO, OBI-OKAFOR MOURN OLOWOKURE

Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) President, Mr. Paul Usoro (SAN) and former NBA presidential candidate, Chief Arthur Obi-Okafor are among the Bar leaders who are mourning the sudden demise of veteran Bar activist and former Chairman of NBA Kaduna Branch, Mr. Olumuyiwa Olowokure.

Popularly known in Bar circles as “OO” in line with his initials, Olowokure was considered by many as a consummate Bar-man and a much-sought-after strategist especially in relation to Bar politics.

During the last NBA Elections, he pitched his tent with Obi-Okafor and was one of his ‘Returning Officers’ during the poll. In particular, he was known for his cerebral disposition and integrity, as his support for any particular candidate never wavered.

In a statement signed by NBA Publicity Secretary, Mr. Kunle Edun, Usoro described Olowokure as “an active bar man who featured prominently in the activities of the Nigerian Bar Association as a former Chairman of NBA Kaduna branch and member of the National Executive Committee of the NBA for several years.”

On his part, Obi-Okafor described Olowokure as “an astute Bar man, a personal friend and confidant.” In his tribute titled “O. O. Olowokure’s Demise: A Good Man Bids Goodbye,” Obi-Okafor said that Olowokure “will be remembered as a detribalized and consummate Bar man with the midas touch.”

Below are the statements by the Bar leaders:

NBA MOURNS THE DEMISE OF QUINTESSENTIAL BAR MAN, OLUMUYIWA OLOWOKURE

Moments ago the sad news of the sudden demise of Olumuyiwa Olowokure Esq reached the President of the Nigerian Bar Association, Paul Usoro, SAN and the National Officers. It was shocking and saddening.

Mr. Olowokure was an active bar man who featured prominently in the activities of the Nigerian Bar Association as a former Chairman of NBA Kaduna branch and member of the National Executive Committee of the NBA for several years. He was also the Kaduna State Co-Ordinator of Swift Count. Olumuyiwa Olowokure served the bar in many other capacities and made positive contributions to the development of the bar throughout his more than 3 decades of practice. He contested for the office of the General Secretary of the NBA in 2012.

On behalf of the National Officers, the NBA President condoles with members of the Nigerian Bar Association, particularly the leadership and members of NBA Kaduna branch and the family of our dearly loved colleague, over this very sad loss.

The NBA President prays that the almighty God will grant the family the fortitude and grace to bear this loss and grant our dear colleague a peaceful rest in the bossom of the Lord.

Kunle Edun
National Publicity Secretary, NBA

O.O. Olowokure’s Demise: A Good Man Bids Goodbye.

It is with a heavy heart and sense of great loss that I join family, friends and associates in mourning the untimely demise of a one time Chairman of the Kaduna branch of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Olumuyiwa O. Olowokure Esq, who passed on to eternal glory yesterday afternoon after a brief illness.

O.O. as he was fondly called was an astute Bar man, a personal friend and confidant. As the head of my Technical Team during the 2018 NBA elections, I found in him a loyal, dedicated, dependable and committed ally who committed his time, energy and resources into my project to lead our noble association.

O.O. will be remembered as a detribalized and consummate Bar man with the midas touch who during his tenure as Chairman of Kaduna branch of the NBA hosted one of the most successful conferences in the history of the association. He believed in excellence and brought same to bear in all he did.

His sudden exit leaves a great vacuum that will be difficult to be filled. O.O. was a good man and my sincere prayers is that the Almighty grant his family, friends colleagues and members of the Kaduna branch of NBA, the grace to pass through this dark hour and may the soul of the deceased find eternal rest in the bosom of the Almighty.
Adieu O.O. Olowokure Esq till we meet to part no more.

Arthur Obi Okafor (SAN).

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AYORINDE WRITES CJN, WANTS JUDGES’ VACATION ‘SUSPENDED’

Leading senior lawyer and former Chairman of the Legal Aid Council of Nigeria, Chief Bolaji Ayorinde SAN has asked the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad to “kindly direct a suspension of the 2021 Annual Judges Vacation in order to save our justice system.”

In the four-page letter obtained by CITY LAWYER and titled “RE: THE NEED TO SUSPEND 2021 ANNUAL COURT VACATION,” Ayorinde cited the #ENDSARS Protests, coronavirus pandemic and the recent JUSUN Strike as events that adversely impacted the justice sector.

In what he termed “My humble request,” the Bar Leader said: “It is a well-known and acknowledged fact that, our Judges are hardworking and patriotic Nigerians and as such and in view of the highlighted circumstances that had paralyzed judicial activities across Nigeria, there is a glaring opportunity for the Judiciary to make a bold statement to rekindle the hope of the common man, as well as, renew investors’ confidence in Nigeria as an investment destination. I therefore most humbly accordingly, urge Your Lordship and all other heads of Courts in Nigeria to in the interest of persons who are languishing in detention and awaiting trial and those that their cases have suffered inordinate delay due to extraneous factors aforementioned, kindly direct a suspension of the 2021 Annual Judges Vacation in order to save our justice system.

“My Lord, such a direction will no doubt portray the Judiciary as a most responsive institution and third arm of government that is the last hope of the common man. Such a direction will also definitely and substantially clear most of the backlog of cases which have suffered delays in our Courts thereby making our Courts ‘fit for the purpose’ again.”

The letter was copied to all heads of courts, all chief judges of the various states and FCT, the Nigerian Bar Association President and the Secretary to the Body of Senior Advocates of Nigeria (BOSAN).

AYORINDE_LETTER TO C.J

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HARASSMENT: AKPATA WRITES EFCC CHAIR, ISSUES ‘CEASE AND DESIST’ DEMAND

Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) President, Mr. Olumide Akpata has again risen in defence of Nigerian lawyers through a ‘cease and desist’ letter to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

In the searing letter obtained by CITY LAWYER and titled “ASSAULT OF OFFICIAL(S) OF THE NIGERIAN BAR ASSOCIATION BY OPERATIVES OF THE EFCC AND RELATED INCIDENTS OF UNPROFESSIONALISM AGAINST LAWYERS: A DEMAND FOR INVESTIGATION, IMMEDIATE ACTION AND CESSATION,” Akpata stated that he was “constrained” to write the anti-graft Chairman over the alleged assault on NBA Makurdi Branch Chairman, Mr. Justin Gbagir and “the recurring unwholesome and unprofessional conducts by officers and operatives of the EFCC against members of the legal profession in Nigeria who are lawfully discharging their professional responsibilities.” The letter was copied to Attorney General of the Federation & Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami SAN.

In the 15-paragraph long letter dated June 10, 2021 but received by the EFCC on 15th June, 2021, the NBA President noted that he was “credibly informed that Mr. Gbagir visited the Makurdi office of the EFCC on 8th June 2021 to facilitate the release of one Ms. Aver Shima (“Ms. Shima”), who is a law officer in the employ of the Benue State Ministry of Justice. Ms. Shima had apparently been detained by the EFCC on an allegation that she gave legal advice to the Chairman of the Benue State Universal Basic Education Board that allegedly culminated in the latter signing a document which is reportedly the subject of investigation by the EFCC. Since the merits of the detention of Ms. Shima for providing legal advice is now, as I understand it, already the subject of independent investigation, I shall refrain from commenting on Ms. Shima’s treatment.”

Turning to the alleged manhandling of Gbagir by EFCC operatives, Akpata said: “Infuriated by this turn of events, the Honorable Attorney-General, the Solicitor General and the Special Adviser to the Governor who had all come to intervene in the detention of Ms. Shima left the premises. Suffice to state that Mr. Gbagir who suffered severe hurt and sustained various degrees of injury had to be hospitalized at the Benue State University Teaching Hospital, Makurdi.”

In a damning indictment of the EFCC operatives, the NBA President described their conduct as “uncultured,” saying: “I assume that you will agree, Mr. Chairman, that if this level of uncultured behaviour could be exhibited by EFCC operatives in the presence of the strong delegation accompanying Mr. Gbagir, who in his own right is a Bar Leader, then the potential fate of other lawyers and citizens who interface with the EFCC in that zone is better imagined than experienced.”

Also in a veiled displeasure over the conduct of the EFCC leadership and its controversial press statement over the assault, Akpata said: “When we both spoke about this incident on 9th June 2021, you understandably expressed shock at this development and promised to investigate same. I have no cause yet to believe that you would personally renege on that promise. However, I have seen certain reports in the media credited to the EFCC Media and Publicity team which denied and largely distorted the facts. In fidelity to honesty and good order, I trust that you and I can agree that the statement credited to the EFCC media head, to the extent that it represents the official position of the EFCC, is premature and antithetic to your pledge to investigate the issue.

“It is pertinent to add that both before and after reading the EFCC statement, I spoke to the Attorney-General of Benue State and other well-meaning senior lawyers who witnessed the incident, and their narrative is entirely consistent with the position of Mr. Gbagir. I have no reason to doubt or disbelieve their narrative and it now behooves on the EFCC to show that it can rise above board and properly investigate the excesses of its own staff.

Turning to the issue of harassment of lawyers by EFCC operatives, Akpata lampooned the operatives for “the high level of unprofessionalism, crass abuse of power and inhumane treatment” which they “have exhibited, and continue to exhibit, at different times when dealing with lawyers at various offices of the EFCC across the country.” According to him, “Verifiable instances abound of lawyers who have been, or are being, harassed, arrested, and detained for either providing legal advice to, or preparing transaction documents for, their clients. There are also other instances, where lawyers are simply denied access to their clients in custody or continuously maltreated, frustrated, intimidated and demeaned by EFCC operatives. The NBA is more than willing to make further representations to you and provide proof of such unsavory developments including recent instances where we have had to intervene on behalf of our members who were unjustly harassed or detained by the EFCC.”

Noting however that this state of affairs precedes the current EFCC leadership, Akpata warned that the situation “is totally unacceptable and, if not checked, will increasingly paint the Commission in a negative light, raise serious concerns about the modus operandi of the Commission and undermine her relationship with critical stakeholders.”

He noted that “the current state of the relationship between lawyers and the Commission, which ordinarily ought to be harmonious, collaborative and symbiotic, is unhealthy and continues to deteriorate. For inexplicable reasons, the relationship is characterised by the wanton harassment and assault of members of the legal profession who, by their calling, are mandated to provide legal advisory and support services to suspects in the custody of the Commission or those who are otherwise under investigation.” Akpata then warned that “This debasing treatment must cease forthwith.”

In a three-point demand, the NBA President wrote: “It is in view of the foregoing that I therefore formally request you to use your good offices to investigate this complaint expeditiously and thoroughly in the interest of justice and ensure that all operatives complicit in the very unfortunate incident are disciplined in line with extant service rules and applicable laws. The NBA will be constantly following up with you in this respect, as we will no longer endure or tolerate the incessant harassment of our members by EFCC operatives while such lawyers are lawfully discharging their duties.

“You may recall that one of the cardinal pillars of your mandate upon your assumption of office was to reposition the Commission and make it a reputable anti-corruption agency that boasts of the finest of personnel. I dare say that achieving this laudable objective would necessarily include weaning the Commission of officers and personnel whose conduct, taken individually or in the aggregate, are bound to undermine the image of the Commission.

“As you continue to settle into office, I urge you to look into these issues carefully with a view to resolving them holistically and avoiding a recurrence. We are indeed expectant that there will be no repeat of incidences such as those complained about in this letter. Lawyers dealing with the Commission must and should be accorded the respect and dignity that they deserve when acting on behalf of their clients. Under your leadership, you must intervene and take steps to ensure that this is the case at all offices of the Commission across the country.”

Below is the full text of the letter:

10th June 2021

The Executive Chairman
Economic and Financial Crimes Commission
EFCC Headquarters
Plot 301/302, Institution and Research Cadastral District
Jabi, Abuja

Attention: Mr. Abdulrasheed Bawa

Dear Sir,

ASSAULT OF OFFICIAL(S) OF THE NIGERIAN BAR ASSOCIATION BY OPERATIVES OF THE EFCC AND RELATED INCIDENTS OF UNPROFESSIONALISM AGAINST LAWYERS: A DEMAND FOR INVESTIGATION, IMMEDIATE ACTION AND CESSATION

  1. I am constrained to write to you over (a) an unfortunate incident which occurred on 8th June 2021 involving some operatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (the “EFCC” or the “Commission”) at its Makurdi Zonal office, and Mr. Justin Gbagir (“Mr. Gbagir”), a senior member of the Nigerian Bar Association (“NBA”) who is also the Chairman of the Makurdi Branch of NBA; and (b) the recuring unwholesome and unprofessional conducts by officers and operatives of the EFCC against members of the legal profession in Nigeria who are lawfully discharging their professional responsibilities.

The Unfortunate Makurdi Incident

  1. I have been credibly informed that Mr. Gbagir visited the Makurdi office of the EFCC on 8th June 2021 to facilitate the release of one Ms. Aver Shima (“ Shima”), who is a law officer in the employ of the Benue State Ministry of Justice. Ms. Shima had apparently been detained by the EFCC on an allegation that she gave legal advice to the Chairman of the Benue State Universal Basic Education Board that allegedly culminated in the latter signing a document which is reportedly the subject of investigation by the EFCC.   Since the merits of the detention of Ms. Shima for providing legal advice is now, as I understand it, already the subject of independent investigation, I shall refrain from commenting on Ms. Shima’s treatment.
  1. As we understand from the sequence of events, when Mr. Gbagir arrived at the EFCC zonal office in the company of other senior members of the Benue State Ministry of Justice, including the State Director of Public Prosecution, the delegation was refused entry into the offices of the EFCC and was subjected to humiliating and degrading treatment by the security operatives manning the gate of the EFCC on the rather specious ground that they were “agitators” who had come to protest. It took the intervention of the Senior Special Assistant to the State Governor and the arrival of the Attorney-General and the Solicitor-General of the State before the delegation was allowed access into the facility.
  1. It is our further understanding that when Mr. Gbagir was introduced to the EFCC zonal head (Mr. Kazeem Oseni) by the Solicitor-General of the State as the Chairman of the Makurdi Branch of the NBA, Mr. Gbagir was denied all courtesies on the ground that he was an “agitator”. Perplexed and embarrassed, Mr. Gbagir sought to excuse himself from the office of the zonal head only to be swarmed by an army of operatives of the EFCC, who brutally manhandled Mr. Gbagir and pushed him out of the premises. Of particular note and concern is the fact that eyewitness accounts confirm that the actions of the EFCC operatives were carried out with the tacit consent of the zonal head, at best, or based on his express instructions, at worst.
  1. Infuriated by this turn of events, the Honorable Attorney-General, the Solicitor General and the Special Adviser to the Governor who had all come to intervene in the detention of Ms. Shima left the premises. Suffice to state that Mr. Gbagir who suffered severe hurt and sustained various degrees of injury had to be hospitalized at the Benue State University Teaching Hospital, Makurdi.
  1. I assume that you will agree, Mr. Chairman, that if this level of uncultured behaviour could be exhibited by EFCC operatives in the presence of the strong delegation accompanying Mr. Gbagir, who in his own right is a Bar Leader, then the potential fate of other lawyers and citizens who interface with the EFCC in that zone is better imagined than experienced. 
  1. When we both spoke about this incident on 9th June 2021, you understandably expressed shock at this development and promised to investigate same. I have no cause yet to believe that you would personally renege on that promise. However, I have seen certain reports in the media credited to the EFCC Media and Publicity team which denied and largely distorted the facts.  In fidelity to honesty and good order, I trust that you and I can agree that the statement credited to the EFCC media head, to the extent that it represents the official position of the EFCC, is premature and antithetic to your pledge to investigate the issue.
  1. It is pertinent to add that both before and after reading the EFCC statement, I spoke to the Attorney-General of Benue State and other well-meaning senior lawyers who witnessed the incident, and their narrative is entirely consistent with the position of Mr. Gbagir. I have no reason to doubt or disbelieve their narrative and it now behooves on the EFCC to show that it can rise above board and properly investigate the excesses of its own staff.

Other egregious conducts of EFCC operatives against legal practitioners  

  1. Chairman, whilst the above represents the isolated experience of Mr. Gbagir, it is an opportune time to bring to your attention the high level of unprofessionalism, crass abuse of power and inhumane treatment that operatives of the EFCC have exhibited, and continue to exhibit, at different times when dealing with lawyers at various offices of the EFCC across the country. Verifiable instances abound of lawyers who have been, or are being, harassed, arrested, and detained for either providing legal advice to, or preparing transaction documents for, their clients. There are also other instances, where lawyers are simply denied access to their clients in custody or continuously maltreated, frustrated, intimidated and demeaned by EFCC operatives. The NBA is more than willing to make further representations to you and provide proof of such unsavory developments including recent instances where we have had to intervene on behalf of our members who were unjustly harassed or detained by the EFCC.
  1. This state of affairs, which admittedly precedes your appointment to superintend the EFCC, is totally unacceptable and, if not checked, will increasingly paint the Commission in a negative light, raise serious concerns about the modus operandi of the Commission and undermine her relationship with critical stakeholders. As you know, the role of lawyers is critical to the actualisation of the Commission’s foundational objectives. As a law enforcement agency that is established to be responsible and accountable to the citizenry, one would expect that lawyers will continue to be your partners in progress who should feel welcome and accommodated by the Commission and its operatives.
  1. Regrettably, the current state of the relationship between lawyers and the Commission, which ordinarily ought to be harmonious, collaborative and symbiotic, is unhealthy and continues to deteriorate. For inexplicable reasons, the relationship is characterised by the wanton harassment and assault of members of the legal profession who, by their calling, are mandated to provide legal advisory and support services to suspects in the custody of the Commission or those who are otherwise under investigation. This debasing treatment must cease forthwith.

Conclusion

  1. It is in view of the foregoing that I therefore formally request you to use your good offices to investigate this complaint expeditiously and thoroughly in the interest of justice and ensure that all operatives complicit in the very unfortunate incident are disciplined in line with extant service rules and applicable laws. The NBA will be constantly following up with you in this respect, as we will no longer endure or tolerate the incessant harassment of our members by EFCC operatives while such lawyers are lawfully discharging their duties. 
  1. You may recall that one of the cardinal pillars of your mandate upon your assumption of office was to reposition the Commission and make it a reputable anti-corruption agency that boasts of the finest of personnel. I dare say that achieving this laudable objective would necessarily include weaning the Commission of officers and personnel whose conduct, taken individually or in the aggregate, are bound to undermine the image of the Commission.
  2. As you continue to settle into office, I urge you to look into these issues carefully with a view to resolving them holistically and avoiding a recurrence. We are indeed expectant that there will be no repeat of incidences such as those complained about in this letter.  Lawyers dealing with the Commission must and should be accorded the respect and dignity that they deserve when acting on behalf of their clients.  Under your leadership, you must intervene and take steps to ensure that this is the case at all offices of the Commission across the country.
  1. While I look forward to an expeditious investigation of the unjust treatment of Mr. Gbagir and a general refocusing of the approach of the EFCC in its dealings with lawyers, please accept, Mr. Chairman, the assurances of my highest consideration.

Yours faithfully,

OLUMIDE AKPATA

President

Nigerian Bar Association

Cc:       The Honourable Attorney General of the Federation

Federal Ministry of Justice

Abuja

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TWITTER BAN, CENSORSHIP AND IMPLICATIONS FOR FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION (1)

IGE ASEMUDARA is a rights activist and Notary Public for Nigeria. In this article, the senior lawyer notes that free speech has become a dominant issue due to the suspension of TWITTER operations in Nigeria, adding that while there are permissible online censorships, the law frowns against suppression of public information through censorship

At the moment, free speech and censorship has taken the centre stage of political and legal discussions in Nigeria largely due to the “squabble” between Twitter Incorporated and Nigeria’s President, General Muhammadu Buhari on the question of censorship. In order to put the issues thrown up by their controversy in perspective, this article shall briefly examine the nature and essence of freedom of expression and the implication of online censorship.

Freedom of expression is basically the fundamental right of a person to hold, articulate, share or disseminate his views and opinions or even receive information on an issue in a polity. There are some claims that freedom of expression (also sometimes called freedom of speech) originated from the ancient Greece appearing in Greek literature around 5th Century BC as “parrhesia” meaning “free speech”. It has since undergone several historical metamorphoses including political expansion, legislative recognition, international affirmation and judicial pronouncements. The English Bill of Rights 1689 recognised freedom of speech as essential whilst the French Declaration of the Rights of Man 1789 broadened its scope to cover free communication of ideas and opinions as well as freedom to speak, write and print. On its own part, the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America adopted on the 15th of December, 1791 expressly forbade congress from making any law abridging the freedom of speech or of the press.

Thus, the right to freedom of expression continued to gain prominence to the extent that in the early years of the 2nd World War, American President, Franklin D. Roosevelt delivered an address in January, 1941 where he proposed four fundamental freedoms that people everywhere in the world must enjoy namely; freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want and freedom from fear. Incidentally, freedom of speech topped the list of the four fundamental freedoms. So, it was not an accident that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948 which convincingly shut the barrels of gun used at the 2nd World War contains in its Article 19 the following provisions “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers”. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights adopted in 1966 also provide for free speech in Article 19 of the treaty that came into force in March, 1976. In the same vein, our regional human rights instrument, the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights in its Article 9 specifically provide for the right to receive and disseminate information, and to express opinions within the law.

In Nigeria, the much vilified 1999 Constitution provides for freedom of expression and the press in Section 39 as follows: “(1) every person shall be entitled to freedom of expression, including freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart ideas and information without interference”. “(2) Without prejudice to the generality of subsection (1) of this section, every person shall be entitled to own, establish and operate any medium for the dissemination of information, ideas and opinions: Provided that no person, other than the Government of the Federation or of a State or any other person ort body authorized by the president on the fulfillment of the conditions laid down by an Act of the National Assembly, shall own, establish or operate a television or wireless broadcasting station for any purpose or whatsoever”. “(3) Nothing in this section shall invalidate any law that is reasonably justifiable in a democratic society; (a) For the purpose of preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence, maintaining the authority and independence of courts or regulating telephone, wireless broadcasting, television or the exhibition of cinematograph films; or (b) imposing restrictions upon persons holding office under the Government of the Federation or of a State, members of the armed forces of the Federation or member of the Nigeria Police Force or other Government security services or agencies established by law”.

With the emergence of the wonders of the internet, this fundamental freedom has expanded to cover the right to receive, store, share or disseminate information, views, opinions and ideas on the internet just as freedom of the press now covers online media including the social media. Today, social media online platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, Instagram etc have taken a huge space in information gathering and dissemination including airing political views and opinions and thus, sensitive information can be disseminated across the globe at a pace faster than the speed of light. So, governments and private authorities also put measures in place to control the dissemination of information or the spreading of views and ideas that may impact on them. This is called censorship.

Censorship is a restriction that has travelled with the freedom of expression through the ages. It is a deliberate suppression of free speech, opinions, public communication and a restriction on information dissemination by public or private body usually on the ground of it being harmful, offensive, objectionable, not convenient or just unacceptable. Censorship may come in different forms. It may be by legislation and this accounts for the qualification in most legislative provisions on freedom of speech. It may also be by rules set up by organizations or private individuals. For instance, all the social media operators have their rules of engagement governing the kind of information or images to be shared through them. For example, Twitter recently pulled down a particular statement tweeted by Nigeria’s President, General Muhammadu Buhari on the basis of its offending Twitter rules on permissible posts. In response, the General banned the use of Twitter in Nigeria virtual space by blocking the social media company. He went on to ban Nigerians from using Twitter handles as the company’s mission in Nigeria is said to be suspect. Now, both of them are involved in censorship of some sorts. While Twitter’s censorship is directed at a particular tweet, General Buhari’s censorship is quite sweeping as same is directed on all posts and activities undertaken by Nigerians on Twitter or by Twitter in Nigeria. This is nothing but an annihilation of free speech.

One terrible implication of such attempt at online censorship of freedom of expression is that same portends evil for other freedoms. For example, the freedom to propagate your religion, to disseminate religious information and to practice one’s faith is intricately connected to the freedom of expression as it had become clear since the days of R. v. Penn and Mead (1670) 6 St Tr 951 when William Penn was obviously persecuted (not prosecuted) for preaching in Gracechurch street, London to a gathering of more than five persons contrary to the Conventicle Act. In the same vein, it is a total violation of the right to religion guaranteed by Section 38 of the Constitution of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) and other human rights instruments to merely conceive the idea, air it or even take any step to bully the General Overseers of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, the Deeper Life Bible Church or any religious body at all with threat of prosecution because they insist on continuing to use their Twitter handles to continue to propagate their faith and religious beliefs.

As already mentioned, freedom of speech has grown through the ages. Today, we now have what is termed commercial freedom of expression. This includes the rights to advertise your products etc and this also extends online. For example, virtually all the news media in Nigeria have Twitter handles with which they advance press freedoms and enhance their commercial viability. In the same vein, individual businesses do advertise their enterprise online including on Twitter, Facebook, Insagram, Linkedn. In fact, market has moved to the virtual space. So, when a President bans the entirety of his citizens both corporate and natural from the social media space or an online platform that has up to 40 million of its population, he has not just denied them their commercial freedom of expression, he has killed their rights to earn a living!

Yes, the law allows for moderate and legitimate censorship of free speech following the philosophical foundation laid by John Stuart Mills, in his On Liberty, where he propounded the harm to others test. Joel Feinberg also recently introduced the “offensive principle” as the harm to others test is generally seen as too tall a measure. The reasonable parameter of measuring the essence of censorship is to see whether the expression sought to be censored causes harm to others or is offensive to others. Thus, the law now intervenes in online expressions through legislations. The United States was the first to intervene with the Communications Decency Act of 1996 (CDA). Since that time, several legislations have been passed in order to ensure that sanity reigns in online expressions and dissemination of information. In Nigeria, Cyber Crime (Prohibition, Prevention Etc) Act 2015 is a reaction to unbridled liberty on the net which caused harm to others or became offensive to members of the public.

Whilst there are permissible online censorships, it is also the policy of the law that public information is not unduly suppressed through censorship. Thus, the Freedom of Information Act, 2011 was passed to give the public some level of access to public information in order to enhance the quality of citizens’ opinion on the policies and programmes of government. By and large, censorship either in suppressing free speech or withholding needed information from the public must not cross the clear lines drawn by the Constitution and other human rights instruments to which Nigeria is a signatory as that is the way to be right with this right!

Ige Asemudara is the convener of the Mission Against Injustice in Nigeria (MAIN).

Copyright 2020 CITY LAWYER. Please send emails to citylawyermag@gmail.com. Join us on Facebook at https://web.facebook.com/City-Lawyer-Magazine-434937936684320 and on TWITTER at https://twitter.com/CityLawyerMag. To ADVERTISE in CITY LAWYER, please email citylawyermag@gmail.com or call 08138380083. All materials available on this Website are protected by copyright, trade mark and other proprietary and intellectual property laws. You may not use any of our intellectual property rights without our express written consent or attribution to www.citylawyermag.com. However, you are permitted to print or save to your individual PC, tablet or storage extracts from this Website for your own personal non-commercial use.

 

 

JUSUN STRIKE: ANY SUCCOUR FOR LAWYERS, LITIGANTS? – TAIDI

Immediate past Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) General Secretary, MR. JONATHAN TAIDI argues in this piece that following the strike by the Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN), the Practice Directions issued by heads of courts suspending payment of default fees and penalty which accrued during the strike period will go a long way to ameliorate the financial losses wrought by the closure of courts

The over two months old suspended strike of the Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN) left lawyers financially handicapped as clients suspended their financial obligations. Our court rooms across the country were for the first time under lock and key for non natural cause which made it more devastating than the Covid-19 induced lockdown. This also left the litigating public stranded.

As a result of this negative impact on the lawyer and the litigants, the intervention of heads of courts by way of Practice Direction to suspend default fees and penalty payments which accrued during the strike period will go a long way in ameliorating the heavy financial losses occasioned by the court’s closure.

There is no doubt that the court dockets have exceeded saturation point due to the Covid-19 pandemic and attendant slow adaptation of technology and the pile-up due to the strike action. The best and only way to clear the backlog is by soliciting for the understanding of their Lordships to embark on a staggered 2021 annual courts vacation to cover up for the period of the strike action in order to compensate for the already truncated months as a result of the strike.

This will go a long way in aiding lawyers, old and young at the bar, get back to their practice.

A desirable timely succor.

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JUSUN STRIKE: NBA-YLF NNEWI GIFTS PALLIATIVES TO MEMBERS

PRESS RELEASE

Sequel to the protracted strike action by the Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN), the C. E. Okonkwo led executive of the Young Lawyers’ Forum, Nnewi Bar (NBA-YLF NNEWI) today, Friday, 11th June, 2021, distributed Palliative to members of the YLF Nnewi to cushion the effect of the protracted strike action.

The palliative items distributed include cash amount of four thousand five hundred naira (#4500) each to about forty (40) members, NBA Nnewi Sports kit and bags of rice. These items were donated by some members and friends of the Branch.

The Donors include:
1. Ike Obeta, Esq. – #20,000
2. A. O. Uzodike, Esq. – #20,000
3. Ifeanyi David, Esq. – #50,000
4. Anonymous – #50,000
5. Anonymous – #20,000
6. Stanley A. Ojiaku, Esq.- #10,000
7. C. E. Okonkwo, Esq. – #10,000
8. O. J. C. Chikaelo, Esq. – #11,000
9. Chimezie Ezechukwu, Esq. – #10,000
10. Obinna F. Okeke, Esq. – #10,000.
11. Ifeanyi David, Esq. – 4 sets of NBA Nnewi sports kit
12. Chimezie Ezechukwu – 5 Bags of Rice

In appreciation, the beneficiaries were very excited about the development and expressed their gratitude to the Young Lawyers’ Forum Chairman, C. E. Okonkwo, Esq. and his entire executive members for their sagacity. The YLF in a special way also appreciates the donors for their show of generosity.

Obinna Okeke, Esq., MICMC
Publicity Secretary, NBA-YLF, Nnewi

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INEC: NBA ASKS SENATE TO DUMP BUHARI’S NOMINEE

The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) has urged Nigeria’s Senate not to confirm Ms. Lauretta Onochie as Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Commissioner.

In a statement by the Chairman of the Governing Council of NBA Section on Public Interest and Development Law (NBA-SPIDEL), Dr. Monday Ubani, the lawyers’ body said that “Mrs. Lauretta Onochie, a clearly partisan individual by the President, an individual who has in recent years publicly displayed her partisanship and undying support for the ruling Party in her utterances, conduct and interaction with the Public cannot and should not serve as INEC Commissioner, a role reserved for an unbiased Umpire. I on-behalf of the Nigerian Public urge the Senate to righteously reject her nomination and confirmation forthwith.”

The Senate leadership had recently directed its Committee on INEC to screen Onochie for possible confirmation.

Below is the full text of the statement.

Distinguished Senator Kabiru Gaya
Chairman Senate Committee on INEC
National Assembly Complex,
F.CT,
Abuja.

Dear Sir,

OBJECTION FOR THE CONFIRMATION OF LAURETTA ONOCHIE AS INEC COMMISSIONER.

I write this letter of objection to your sir at this critical and turbulent times in our Nation’s history, and I strongly believe that the Senate as a democratic institution of this great Country, has what it takes at this trying times to save and preserve Nigeria from heckling down to hell.

Sometime in October 2020, Mrs. Lauretta Onochie, was nominated by President Muhammadu Buhari as an INEC Commissioner. Mrs Lauretta Onochie, who until her nomination by the President, served as the President’s Personal Assistant and was an unapologetic member of the ruling Party the All Progressive Congress (APC) hence, her nomination by the President as INEC Commissioner, a position that the law prescribes the holder of same should be non-partisan, is ultra-vires and unconstitutional.

Recently her name came up for confirmation by the senate after an initial set back, therefore, as a concerned Citizen of this great Country, and as a Constitutional Legal Practitioner with grave concern for the preservation and sustainability of our very fragile democracy, I hereby strongly object to the nomination of Mrs. Lauretta Onochie by the President and her intended confirmation of her nomination by the Senate.

Distinguished Senate Chairman, considering the reality of Nigeria today, with the high level of insecurity, ethnic tensions and mistrust among Citizens, the decline in trust and confidence by the Citizens in their elected officials and democratic institutions to mention a few, it is very important, that as the next election draws closer, whoever is to be nominated by the President to serve as INEC Commissioner, Chairman or as an unbiased Umpire for National elections must be in compliance with the law and must be persons that, the general public view as not being partisan or compromised in any form or manner.

Sir, Section 152 of the Electoral Act, provides that. “no person holding an elective office to which this act relates or a registered member of a Political Party shall be eligible for or be appointed to carry out duties of a returning officer, an electoral officer, presiding officer or Poll Clerk”. Therefore, the nomination of Mrs. Lauretta Onochie, a clearly partisan individual by the President, an individual who has in recent years publicly displayed her partisanship and undying support for the ruling Party in her utterances, conduct and interaction with the Public cannot and should not serve as INEC Commissioner, a role reserved for an unbiased Umpire. I on-behalf of the Nigerian Public urge the Senate to righteously reject her nomination and confirmation forthwith.

For emphasis;

As a card carrying member of the ruling party or any other party for that matter, she is unfit for the position she is nominated. I also doubt that Section 154 (3) of the constitution was complied with, which prescribe that the President nominates INEC Commissioner in consultation with the Council of State. Paragraphs B of Part 1 of the 3rd Schedule of the constitution provides that the Council of State shall have power to advise the President in the exercise of his power with respect to (iv) the INEC including the appointment of members of the Commission. When was this Section and paragraph complied with? If I may ask.

Most importantly paragraph 14 of part I of the third schedule of the constitution as amended in Section 30 No. 1 of 2020, a member of INEC should be “non partisan”, can Mrs. Lauretta Onochie be regarded by anyone in Nigeria, knowing her antecedent as the Special Assistant to the President as “non partisan” under the Nigerian context? The right answer is No.

I therefore, on behalf of the Nigerian Bar Association urge that her nomination be rejected and her confirmation be denied forthwith.

Thanking you in advance for the positive consideration of my request.

Dr. Monday O. Ubani, Esq.
Chairman
NBA Section on Public Interest and Development Law.

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BENUE ASSAULT: EFCC CHIEF INVESTIGATOR GRILLS NBA CHAIR, A-G WADES IN

  • BENUE A-G DEMANDS CCTV FOOTAGE FROM EFCC

  • I’M SHOCKED, SCANDALIZED BY EFCC’S DENIAL

  • I CAN’T SEE, HEAR WELL AGAIN

  • I WILL PRESS CHARGES IF ….

Embattled Chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Makurdi Branch, Mr. Justin Gbagir has been grilled by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) chief investigator on his allegation of assault by operatives of the anti-graft agency.

In an exclusive interview with CITY LAWYER, Gbagir said that the interview by the Director of Intelligence Unit at the EFCC which started yesterday at the office of the Benue State Attorney-General was concluded today when he wrote a formal statement on what transpired at the Makurdi Office of the EFCC last Tuesday.

Gbagir said that aside from the impairment to his left eye, he has started experiencing hearing challenges due to the alleged beating by the EFCC operatives. He warned that “I told them that I have other options to seek redress” if the perpetrators are not brought to justice.

Below is the full text of the interview.

“I am Justin Gbagir, Chairman of NBA Makurdi Branch who was assaulted and beaten by the operatives of the EFCC on Tuesday, the 8th of June, 2021.

“It is unfortunate that EFCC which claims to operate within civic norms will come out to blatantly deny that they did not assault and beat me up.

“The beating was so severe that I was admitted at Benue State University Teaching Hospital and administered some drugs and injections. As a result of the beating, I also sustained injury in my left eye. As I speak with you, I cannot see very well with my left eye.

“Yesterday again, I started experiencing problem with my hearing. So I am also currently having hearing challenges. I am yet to go for medical check-up to sustain (sic) the level of damage that might have been done to my ears.

“But yesterday someone came from Directorate of Intelligence – which he said is like Military Police in the Army – to listen to us from the headquarters. We met at the office of the Honourable the Attorney General of Benue State and we took turns to narrate what happened. So when we finished, he specifically requested me to put my statement in writing and because it was already dark we agreed to reconvene at 8.30 this morning, which we did. And I put my statement in writing.

“I am actually shocked, scandalized and embarrassed with the allegations that EFCC have made in their Press Release that I went there with thugs to forcefully release a detainee. I want to say it in very clear terms that all the lawyers that were there with me – including the Honourable the Attorney General, the Solicitor General and Director of Public Prosecution and Senior Special Assistant to the Governor on Legal Matters – we were just nine, including myself, 10. And all the people that were there – except the Director of Finance and Administration in the State Ministry of Justice who was also there, who is not a lawyer – the rest of us were lawyers. I don’t see how colleagues who went to EFCC Office to facilitate the release of their colleague will be called thugs.

“Today, the AG also requested the person that came from Abuja to request for CCTV footage from their (EFCC) office. This happened directly within their compound and their CCTV footage must have captured what happened. So if they fail to produce their CCTV footage, I think it will also be another way of trying to deny or hide the facts.

“By and large, I think the EFCC are not being truthful; their denial of all the allegations is baseless. I think we are not going to leave the matter like that. In my statement which I wrote today, I told them that I have other options to seek redress. But I am giving them an opportunity for them to sort out this issue, punish the perpetrators, and then we discuss further on whatever demands that I might have.

“At the moment, I don’t want to make demand yet; I am yet to fully ascertain the level of damage they have done to my eye, to my ears and other general health conditions. So when that is ascertained by medical experts, I will also know what demands I will be making for compensation. At the moment, I don’t want to say that because I am yet to get the proper medical report in that regard.

“Today again, the NBA Makurdi Branch insisted on making a Press Statement particularly in view of the statement by EFCC. After they (EFCC) had reached out to our (NBA) President with a view that they would investigate the matter, they went ahead to issue a statement denying the facts. So the Press Conference just finished a while ago and I think in a very short it will also be in the public domain on the position of NBA Makurdi Branch.”

CITY LAWYER recalls that Gbagir had alleged that he was manhandled at the instance of the EFCC Makurdi Zonal Head. Narrating his ordeal, Gbagir said: “As I made to leave, the personnel of EFCC numbering between 7 and above pounced on me and started beating me. They broke my recommended reading eyeglasses in the process and pushed me out of the premises. “Outside the premises, they threw out my footwears which I was dispossessed of in the course of the beating,” he said.

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REVALIDATION: CAC SET TO BAR LAWYERS’ PORTAL ACCESS TODAY

Barring an extension of the deadline, many lawyers will from tomorrow be unable to access the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) company registration portal (CRP), as the deadline for revalidation of their accreditations lapses today.

Meanwhile, there are strong indications that the challenges that have led to an online petition to remove the CAC Registrar General, Mr. Garba Abubakar have persisted. This is not unconnected with the difficulty in accessing the portal for the revalidation exercise.

A senior lawyer who sought help to overcome such challenges said: “I have been trying to re-accredit in accordance with this post. I have not been successful. Have you done it? Please, if you have, kindly tell me how to proceed. It is just two days away from the 10th.”

Still unsuccessful, the senior lawyer said: “Kindly take me through how you did. I tried as early as between 1 & 2 am today without success.”

Upon a successful revalidation, the prompt on the user’s home page disappears, while a REMITA generated receipt is sent to the user’s email address. 

It is recalled that CAC had issued a notice reminding accredited agents to revalidate their accreditations, and warning that “Accreditations that are not revalidated by Customers at the end of the prescribed date shall be suspended by the Commission.”

Below is the full text of the statement:

PUBLIC NOTICE ON THE REMINDER OF SUSPENSION OF ACCREDITATION ACCOUNTS NOT REVALIDATED BY 10TH JUNE 2021

The Commission wishes to remind its Accredited Customers that as earlier notified, they are required to revalidate their accreditations on or before Thursday, 10th June 2021. Accreditations that are not revalidated by Customers at the end of the prescribed date shall be suspended by the Commission.

Please note that any Customer that becomes newly accredited between January 2020 to date does not have to revalidate.

To revalidate accreditation, Customers should visit https://pre.cac.gov.ng

Customers should note that this notice supersedes the earlier notice of 1st January 2021.

Signed:
Management
2nd June 2021

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BENUE ASSAULT: AKPATA TACKLES BAWA, EFCC DENIES CHARGE

  • AG, SOLICITOR-GENERAL CONFIRMED ASSAULT – SPIDEL CHAIR

Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) President, Mr. Olumide Akpata has petitioned the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) Chairman, Mr. Abdulrasheed Bawa over the battered NBA Makurdi Branch Chairman, Mr. Justin Gbagir, even as the anti-graft agency has denied that its operatives manhandled the Bar Leader.

Impeccable sources told CITY LAWYER that Akpata had engaged with the EFCC Chairman over the matter. Bawa was said to have requested time to investigate the matter and take necessary action.

The EFCC has now issued a statement denying the alleged assault. The anti-graft agency said that it was the Makurdi Branch Chairman who “was the aggressor as he led a gang of thugs to breach the security of the Makurdi office in an attempt to forcibly set free a suspect under interrogation by the EFCC.”

The statement added that the Bar Leader allegedly failed to identify himself and that “the EFCC Zonal Head had no option than to show him out of his office and refuse him further entry into the Commission’s premises.”

But fiery NBA Section on Public Interest and Development Law (NBA-SPIDEL) Chairman, Mr. Monday Ubani said that several sources confirmed the assault to him, even as the under-fire Zonal Head denied the allegation. His words: “I have spoken to the Chairman of Makurdi who confirmed the beating. He is back to hospital. I have also spoken to the Special Adviser to the Governor on Legal Matters who confirmed the incident. I eventually got the President of the Bar who affirmed that the AG confirmed the beating. Our President has spoken to the Chairman of EFCC who requested for time to investigate and take action.”

He however said the Zonal Head denied “that he never touched nor directed any of his operatives to touch our member. He denied the beating.” 

Narrating his ordeal, Gbagir said: “As I made to leave, the personnel of EFCC numbering between 7 and above pounced on me and started beating me. They broke my recommended reading eyeglasses in the process and pushed me out of the premises.

“Outside the premises, the threw out my footwears which I was dispossessed of in the course of the beating.”

Below is the full text of the EFCC statement.

EFCC Press Release

EFCC Denies Assaulting NBA Chairman

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC wishes to inform the public that claims by one Justin Gbagir, Chairman Makurdi Branch of the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, that he was assaulted and brutalized by operatives of the Makurdi Zonal Office of the Commission on June 8, 2021, leading to his being hospitalized at BUSTH is false, and orchestrated to portray the Commission as draconian and uncivil.

Contrary to the false narrative being promoted in the social media by Gbagir, he was the aggressor as he led a gang of thugs to breach the security of the Makurdi office in an attempt to forcibly set free a suspect under interrogation by the EFCC.

The standard procedure for effecting the release of suspects in detention is known to even rookie lawyers. But rather than follow due process, Gbagir opted for force, recruited thugs and stormed the EFCC office.

In spite of the provocation, operatives of the Commission handled him with restraint, bent backward by allowing him to meet with the Zonal Head. But rather than reciprocate, he still refused to identify himself, against all norms of civility. In the circumstance, the EFCC Zonal Head had no option than to show him out of his office and refuse him further entry into the Commission’s premises.

Regrettably, the seasoned lawyer resorted to social media blackmail, posing in hospital bed and concocting a fantastic story of an imaginary assault by EFCC operatives.

His action is to say the least indecorous and unbecoming of the leader of the bar in a state like Benue. He demonstrated embarrassing insensitivity to the delicate security situation of the state.

Gbagir should be remorseful for his misguided action and not spew untruths in pliable sections of the media.

Wilson Uwujaren
Head, Media & Publicity
9 June, 2021

Copyright 2020 CITY LAWYER. Please send emails to citylawyermag@gmail.com. Join us on Facebook at https://web.facebook.com/City-Lawyer-Magazine-434937936684320 and on TWITTER at https://twitter.com/CityLawyerMag. To ADVERTISE in CITY LAWYER, please email citylawyermag@gmail.com or call 08138380083. All materials available on this Website are protected by copyright, trade mark and other proprietary and intellectual property laws. You may not use any of our intellectual property rights without our express written consent or attribution to www.citylawyermag.com. However, you are permitted to print or save to your individual PC, tablet or storage extracts from this Website for your own personal non-commercial use.

CVL HONOURS AGOMO, SARAH JIBRIL, OSIBODU TOMORROW

Foremost jurist and first female Dean of Law at the University of Lagos (UNILAG), Prof. Chioma Agomo is among three distinguished women leaders billed to be honoured tomorrow at the 52nd CVL Leader Without Title Leadership Tribute Colloquium (Special Series).

Also singled out for awards are veteran politician and former Special Adviser to the President on Ethics and Values, Dr. Sarah Nnadzwa Jibril as well as renowned banker and MD/CEO of Benin Electricity Distribution Company (BEDC), Mrs. Funke Osibodu.

Organized by the Centre for Values in Leadership (CVL), the colloquium will hold at the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs (NIIA), Victoria Island, Lagos.

An announcement by the organisers reads:

52nd CVL Leader Without Title Leadership Tribute Colloquium (Special series) for pioneer women who broke the glass ceiling.

About this event
The Centre for Values in Leadership is pleased to invite you to its 52nd Leader without Title Leadership Tribute Colloquium in honour of Prof. Chioma Kanu Agomo, Dr. Mrs. Funke Osibodu, Dr. Stella Okoli and Dr. Sarah Nnadzwa Jibril for their contributions to the development of Nigerian and the strategic roles that they played as pioneer women.

The theme for this colloquium is: “Breaking the Glass Ceiling for Pioneer Women”.

The proposed panel of discussants include:

 Mrs. Mojisola Adeyeye (DG NAFDAC)

 Mrs. Sarah Adebisi Sosan (Formal Deputy Governor of Lagos State)

 Dr. Mrs Olurante Adebule (Formal Deputy Governor of Lagos State)

 Professor Ige Omotayo Bolodeoku (Dean of Faculty of Law University of Lagos)

 Dr. Mrs. Feyisayo Fehintola Ademola Adeboye (Deputy Director, Institute of Africa and Diaspora Studies)

 Prof. Felicia Monye (Former Dean of Faculty of Law, University of Nigeria)

 Mr. Atedo Peterside (founder, Stanbic IBTC Bank Plc,)

 Mrs. Suzanne Olufunke Iroche (Renowned Banker and former MD/CEO, Finbank)

 Mrs. Thelma Ekiyor (Social Entrepreneur and Impact Investor)

Special Guest:

• Mrs. Pauline Kedem Tallen (Honourable Minister of Women Affairs)

Moderator: Professor Pat Utomi (Renowned Political Economist and CEO/Founder CVL)

Venue: 13/15 Kofo Abayomi, Victoria Island Lagos.

Time: 11:00 am

Kindly use the zoom link below, if you wish to attend virtually:

https://zoom.us/j/97559355442?pwd=Ulp1am53MEVpS0IrVHV6cWNMbXhKdz09

Meeting ID: 975 5935 5442

Passcode: 407507

We look forward to seeing you there.

Copyright 2020 CITY LAWYER. Please send emails to citylawyermag@gmail.com. Join us on Facebook at https://web.facebook.com/City-Lawyer-Magazine-434937936684320 and on TWITTER at https://twitter.com/CityLawyerMag. To ADVERTISE in CITY LAWYER, please email citylawyermag@gmail.com or call 08138380083. All materials available on this Website are protected by copyright, trade mark and other proprietary and intellectual property laws. You may not use any of our intellectual property rights without our express written consent or attribution to www.citylawyermag.com. However, you are permitted to print or save to your individual PC, tablet or storage extracts from this Website for your own personal non-commercial use.