Abuse of process is described as the use of legal process/or procedure for the wrong reasons or for motive other than what the law intended such process to be used for. Even though in abuse of process cases, the process in question is often a court process, abuse of process can extend to other situations whereby a person or a lawyer takes steps to invoke the law enforcement institution against another person in an abusive manner. Such effort must be guided by the same principles that regulate cases of abuse of court process.
The purpose of the law in preventing abuse of process is to prevent proceedings (litigation and investigations) that if permitted to go ahead, “would violate principles such as judicial autonomy, consistency, finality, and the integrity of the administration of justice”. Thus abuse of process involves the use of illegal or improper use of process or an ulterior or improper motive behind the use of process.
EFCC and ICPC are well-recognized and vital law enforcement agencies of the Nigerian Government. Many important criminal trials are initiated by or through these agencies. Almost all the cases that ended up in convictions in Nigeria started with petitions written to these agencies. Anybody writing a petition to these agencies must understand that such petition triggers a process that could end up in the trial and conviction of the person petitioned against. Therefore, the proper purpose of sending a petition to the EFCC or ICPC should be to investigate and prosecute a person for a crime based on reasonable suspicion that such crime has been committed or is about to be committed.
Sending a petition to the EFCC or ICPC for any other purpose can be classified as an abuse of process. Sending a petition to these agencies in order to “shake him up” or to “cause him to sweat” or harass him or to “show him not to mess with Obidients” or those other reasons I have read as reasons for the petition written by Relief Law Chambers is an abuse of the process.
If you recalled, I was very critical of Reno Omokri for the way he had been trolling Peter Obi, clearly showing he was seeking to pressure Obi to engage him or that he was doing so to benefit another political candidate. I was very critical of him for that. However, the question now is whether I should allow my disagreement with Reno to justify this blatant abuse of the complaint system of the country. The answer is no.
Both Reno and the author of the petition against him are desperate clout-chasers who would do anything to draw attention to themselves. The petition was clearly without reasonable suspicion and it was a desperate attempt by the author to seem important or relevant. But it is quite unfortunate because the petition amounts to nothing. Only a thoroughly uneducated person would take such petition seriously.
Now, let’s consider the true consequences of filing frivolous petitions in abuse of the process. The first consequence is that it erodes confidence in our public complaint system. With more such petitions, people will come to a point where they would not take petitions seriously because they will get used to seeing them as things people use to harass their neighbors. So, the author of this petition has actually harmed the society at large by making a joke of a public complaint system. The real criminals will benefit from this sort of action because when they get arrested in the future, they can always claim that an enemy is harassing them, and more people will believe because they will remember when Relief Law Chambers used such petition to cause Reno “to sweat”.
It is clear that the author of the petition had an ulterior motive in mind. His goal was to harass Reno. But in doing that, he drags government agencies into his joke. His true goal for his petition was to defame Reno without appearing to defame him. Hence, immediately after filing his petition, he widely disseminated it on social media to create a bubble of malicious noise. So, filing a petition for the sole purpose of having something with which you can harass a person is an abuse in the extreme.
Further, we cannot ignore the author’s motive of ingratiating himself as a public gadfly that fights for public interest. This is not how to fight for public interest. Rather, it is how to undermine public interest. By abusing the process that the public relies on, you have undermined the dependability of that process. You have injured the public interest.
There could be consequences for the action of Relief Law Chambers. The activities of the author of the petition are clearly defamatory. The fact that what he was sharing bore the receipt stamp of the EFCC does not change the essence of it. It was a calumnious attack on an individual. Many will say that Reno deserves it. That is not my concern now. My concern is whether the process was abused, and I believe it was badly abused. I am not in a position to advise Reno, but if he wishes, he can actually go after the Relief Law Chambers. He will have a good case. But I hope he doesn’t. He should just watch the whole thing disappear into the dust bin of forgotten events. He should just allow his brother, the author of the petition, his 15-minutes of fame. He too needs to be noticed so he can become “popular” like Reno. Isn’t that the purpose of all tis grandstanding?
NOTE: The reasons for this post is to educate my followers and members of DPA. It is sad to watch them be deceived by every joke they read on social media. Our duty is to keep them balanced in the things they read.