DANLADI UMAR: THE LAWYER, THE “JUDGE” AND THE “FIGHTER”

Mr. Danladi Umar is the current Chairman of the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT). He was recently caught in a video fighting a security personnel identified as Clement Sargwak at Banex Plaza in Wuse, Abuja, on Monday, 29 March 2021. The altercation had to do with a parking lot at the Plaza.

The authenticity of the video has since been confirmed by the Head, Press and Public Relations of the CCT, Ibraheem Al-Hassan, going by his distasteful press release.

Mr. Danladi Umar is a lawyer. But as the CCT Chairman, he performs a judicial function by presiding over trials of those accused of breaching code of conduct for public officers. He is not a judge. But he is alleged to be a Fighter whose talents may be more relevant to the Nigerian Mixed Martial Arts Federation.

Call for removal of Mr. Danladi Umar as CCT Chair

The CCT and its officers are created by the 1999 Constitution in Fifth Schedule, Part 1, Section 15(1) (2) and (3). The CCT Chair shall be a person who has held or is qualified to hold office as a Judge. The CCT Chairman and members of CCT shall be appointed by the President on the recommendation of the National Judicial Council (NJC). 

By Section 17(3) and (4), Part 1 of the Fifth Schedule to the Constitution, the CCT Chair or any member of the CCT can only be removed from office by the President with the support of two-thirds majority of each House of the National Assembly on the basis of inability to discharge the functions of the office in question (whether arising from infirmity of mind or body) or for misconduct or for contravention of the Code of Conduct. They are not to be removed before attaining the retirement age of seventy years except in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution as stipulated.

The alleged conduct of Mr. Umar has angered the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA). The NBA has thus vowed to look into the matter with a view to ensuring that appropriate action is taken to address the situation. According to the NBA:

…As a member of the legal profession, Danladi Yakubu Umar Esq. is expected, by the extant rules that regulate the conduct of legal practitioners in Nigeria, to maintain a high standard of professional conduct, and not to engage in any conduct which is unbecoming of a member of the legal profession.

The NBA has the mandate to follow up on the development. The NBA may not be able to, at this point, deal with Mr. Umar’s case through the Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Committee (LPDC) until his removal as CCT Chair is considered and finalized. The NBA may legally mount pressure on the President and the National Assembly (either by petition or court action) to do the needful. The NBA, as a promoter of the Rule of Law can ordinarily champion the discipline of any lawyer, even a judge, who brings the judicial system into disrepute. In championing the course, the NBA will approach the relevant body with the legal authority to deal with the situation.

Although not a Judge, Mr. Umar was appointed on the recommendation of the NJC. Neither Mr. Umar nor any of CCT’s two other members is a judicial officer as defined in Section 318 (1) of the 1999 Constitution. This appears to also rob the NJC of any power to discipline Mr. Umar even though he performs a judicial function.

All the above consideration is to ensure that the Rule of Law reigns supreme, notwithstanding the person in question. Otherwise, Mr. Umar probably does not deserve to enjoy due process given his antecedents. As the CCT Chair, Mr. Umar ordered the removal from office of a sitting Chief Justice of Nigeria [Hon. Justice Onnoghen CJN (as he then was)] based on an ex parte application, in flagrant disregard of the Constitution. Just like the CCT Chairman, the CJN enjoys similar constitutional protection which Mr. Umar appeared to have disregarded at the time. 

Removal of Mr. Umar as CCT Chair seems appropriate

The removal of Mr. Umar from office as the CCT Chair seems to be more appropriate. The President and the National Assembly need to set politics aside and give it a critical consideration.

For instance, in 2015, a Judge in Florida, U. S., (Brevard County Judge John C. Murphy) was found guilty of ‘grievous misconduct’ for threatening and fighting a public defender before continuing to hear cases.

From the report, the Florida Supreme Court (FSC) removed the Judge from office and ruled that:

It is without question that except for the June 2, 2014, incident, Judge Murphy had been a good judge. Notwithstanding his prior judicial performance, Judge Murphy’s total lack of self-control became a national spectacle — an embarrassment not only to the judge himself but also to Florida’s judicial system. Given the clear erosion of public confidence in the judiciary caused by his misconduct, removal is an appropriate sanction.

The FSC concluded that, through his misconduct, Judge Murphy surrendered his privilege to serve in the court system.

Mr. Umar did not fight in open court like Judge Murphy did. Mr. Umar allegedly fought in a market place. By way of an analogy, display of insane behaviour within private places may still be considered as not too grave. But any madness that leads the mad person into the market place has become a great concern. There is no insinuation that Mr. Umar suffers any mental impediment. The point being made is that the allegation against Mr. Umar is grave and deserves to be treated as such.

A person in an exalted office like the office of the CCT Chairman must be seen to live above board.



Stephen Azubuike
Author: Stephen Azubuike
Stephen is a lawyer with expertise in Commercial Dispute Resolution and Technology Law practice. He is a Partner at Infusion Lawyers. He has successfully argued cases from the High Courts of various jurisdictions to the Appellate Courts on behalf of financial institutions, other corporate bodies and multinationals. He has worked with a number of startup tech companies. He tweets @siazubuike.

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