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The Case Against Tapang Ivo: A Party Does Not Supplant The Court By Drawing Conclusions-Bar. Ayah Paul Abine


The case filed by Nsahlai Law Firm against one Tapang Ivo in the United States makes quite some interesting reading. Even as one has not yet been able to go through the rigmarole (because it is tortuous and insipid), a few preliminary legal issues directly slaps one in the face. May I hasten to say that I am not so familiar with the American legal system as against my acquisition of some legal notions in both the English and domestic legal systems. And my endeavour here is against the backcloth of those systems one is familiar with.

Some background to the present case appears necessary to enhance the comprehension of the circumstances surrounding the said case. Sometime in 2017 or thereabouts, a certain Douala-based lawyer, Achu (methinks), dragged a number of Anglophone church leaders to court on behalf of a fiction he christened ‘Consortium of Parents’. If that was ‘Act One’, the present case is, in all similitude, ‘Act Two’ of the melodrama.

Specifically on the instant case, the present lawyers, like their twin brothers back home, seem carried away by mercenary interest accruing from a bloody marauding official mission to the point where they refused, failed or neglected to apply their minds to the law in force. The disquisition apparently filed in a court of law seems offensive in several regards.

Firstly, the lawyers give the impression that the United States has listed the ‘ADF’ a terrorist group. But such information seems to be only within their exclusive knowledge. In the absence of concrete evidence that the United States has officially listed as terrorists any groups defending themselves against a war they did not declare, the instant case falls to the ground and no reasonable tribunal would go into its merits.

In the second place, there is no history where war has been formally declared and one party to the war, let alone the defending party, can qualify as a terrorist group. Crimes committed during war are either war crimes or crimes against humanity. The learned lawyers of Nsahlai Law Firm may have to educate the world about their new law to the contrary or on the new principles they have adumbrated.

Again, except the American legal system is otherwise, a party files a claim, stating facts they propose to adduce evidence to prove during hearing. A party does not supplant the court by drawing conclusions and a seemingly requiring the court to endorse the conclusions. By asserting authoritatively conclusively in a statement of claim and, particularly highlighting that “Tapang is a terrorist, and one of the highest order”, and then publishing the same on the social media, (outside of the court proceedings), those lawyers have rendered the prospective legal proceedings nugatory, thereby ousting the jurisdiction of the court. A reasonable tribunal would be most reluctant to play second fiddle – act in compliance in superfluity.

It is all the more curious that lawyers, (hoping they are real lawyers), would include in their claim that they are filing the same claim (complaint) before other bodies, including Immigration and Customs. This is so because it offends against the principle of ‘double jeopardy’. Furthermore, it is clear evidence of persecution in relation to the defendant; and it simultaneously puts the court on its enquiry – something like a caution to the court to take things seriously because other bodies are in competition: some form of blackmail… And if the lawyers have already found that “Tapang is a terrorist, and one of the highest order”, what necessity, then, is there for any further investigation by those bodies?

There are several other queries one can raise against this frivolous claim, some of them arising from erroneous statement of elementary principles of law. With all modesty, one does honestly wonder if such statements truly come from lawyers of substance, practising the law in the great United States of America! At the moment, however, wisdom demands we refrain from tickling anyone’s brain officiously much further!

All one can add is that the situation leaves the defendant (the said Tapang Ivo) with two alternatives. His counsel could argue that the case be thrown out without more, or they can file a counterclaim and then argue that the main case be thrown out and the counterclaim alone entertained (heard).

In hastily resorting to this frivolity with reprehensible recklessness, some half-baked ‘lawyers’ may have imagined that the courts of the United States are like the secret huts back home where anything goes. When we give their masters back home gratuitous counsel, they ever do ignore in the hope of counting on their pecuniary power. Even when it has previously worked to their ultimate detriment!


By Barrister Ayah Paul Abine

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