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Judicial Misconduct: NJC sets up panel to probe 35 petitions against 8 Judges

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…okays elevation of Wike’s wife, 21 others to Court of Appeal

…bars 2 judges from getting promotion to Appeal Court for a period

The National Judicial Council, NJC, on Friday, said it has constituted panels to investigate eight judges for alleged judicial misconduct.

The Council, in a statement it made available to newsmen, said its Preliminary Complaints Assessment Committees filtered 35 petitions that were written against the judicial officers and them to be meritorious.
However, the legal body stressed that other petitions that were brought against 20 High Court judges across the federation, were dismissed for lack of merit, evidence of misconduct, subjudice or that they were matters that could be appealed.

It further disclosed that stern warnings were issued to Justice Inyang Ekwo of the Federal High Court in Abuja for abuse of the discretionary power of a Judge by wrongly granting an ex parte order, as well as to Justice G. B. Brikins-Okolosi of the Delta State High Court for his failure to deliver judgement within the stipulated period.

Whereas Justice Ekwo was barred from getting a promotion to the appellate court for a period of two years, Justice Brikins-Okolosi was barred for three years.

Besides, the NJC, which took the decisions at its 105th plenary meeting held on May 15 and 16, okayed the elevation of 22 judges to the Court of Appeal.

Among those who made the list of judges to be promoted to the bench of the appellate court, included the wife of the former Governor of Rivers State and Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Abuja, Hon. Justice Nyesom-Wike Eberechi Suzzette.

According to the Council, 64 others were recommended for appointment as judges of various other lower courts.
It said the recommended candidates were expected to be sworn in after the approval of their appointment by President Bola Tinubu and the Governors of their respective states.

Likewise, the Council said it deliberated on the notification of retirements of three Judicial Officers, among whom included the Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Justice Olukayode Ariwoola, as well as the notification of death of three Judges of the Federal and State Courts.

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The statement, which was signed by the Director of Information at the NJC,
Soji Oye, read: “The National Judicial Council under the Chairmanship of Hon. Justice Olukayode Ariwoola, GCON, at its plenary of 105th Meeting held on 15 & 16 May 2024, resolved to issue warning letters to Hon Justice Inyang E. Ekwo of the Federal High Court and Hon. Justice G. B. Brikins-Okolosi of Delta State High Court.

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“Hon Justice Inyang E. Ekwo is warned for abuse of discretionary power of a Judge by wrongly granting an ex parte order in Suit No FHC/ABJ/C/626/2023 Juliet Ebere Nwadi Gbaka & 2 Ors V Seplat Energy Plc & 12 Ors.

“The Hon Judge is also barred from being elevated to a higher Bench for a period of two years.

“Hon. Justice G. B. Brikins-Okolosi of Delta State High Court is also issued a warning for failure to deliver judgement within the stipulated period in Joseph Anene Okafor Vs Skye Bank, Suit No A/94/2010 after parties had filed and adopted their final Written Addresses.

“Justice G. B. Brikins-Okolosi will also not be elevated to a higher Bench for three years.
“Council cautioned Hon. Justice Amina Shehu of Yobe State High Court for issuing Writ of Possession Conferring Title on the Defendant in Suit No YBS/HC/NNR/1cv/2020 when there was no subsisting judgement of any Court to enable His Lordship issue the Writ.

“Council at the meeting considered two Reports of its two Preliminary Complaints Assessment Committees that filtered 35 petitions written against Judges of the Federal and State High Courts and decided to empanel eight Committees to further investigate the petitions that were found meritorious by the Committees.

“Petition against various Judges were dismissed for lack of merit, evidence of misconduct, subjudice or that they were matters that could be appealed.

“The dismissed petitions were against Hon Justices A. M. Liman, A. A. Okeke, D. E. Osiagor of the Federal High Court, Hon Justices S. B. Belgore, Bello Kawu both of the High Court of Federal Capital Territory, Hon Justices O. A. Chijioke, A. E. Akeredolu and Kadi M. U. El-Mainari who sat on Election Petition Tribunal in Edo State, Hon Justice Okey Paulinus Aneke, High Court Enugu State and Hon Justice C. Anya of Abia State.

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“Others are Hon Justices M. A. Ikpambese and W. I. Kpochi both of Benue High Court, Hon Justices T. E. Chukwuemeka Chikeka Chief Judge and B. C. Iheka of Imo State High Court, Hon Justice Rose Godwin Soji of Nasarawa State High Court, Hon Justice T. J. Yakubu, High Court Taraba State, High Justices W. N. Danagogo and Chinwendu Nworgu, High Court Rivers State, Hon Justice C. C. Okaa, High Court Anambra State and Hon Justice Abdullahi Sulyman High Court, Kogi State.

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“The Council deliberated on the notification of retirements of three Judicial Officers including that of the Chief Justice of Nigeria Hon Justice Olukayode Ariwoola, GCON and notification of death of three Judges of the Federal and State Courts.

“Council at the Meeting also considered the recommendation of its Interview Committee on Appointment of Judicial Officers of all Superior Courts of Record in Nigeria and resolved to recommend the under-listed 86 Judicial Officers for appointment to the Court of Appeal, High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Sharia Courts of Appeal and Customary Courts of Appeal of States in Nigeria.

They are as follows:

“Twenty-Two (22) Justices, Court of Appeal: Hon. Justice Kwahar Polycarp Terna, Hon. Justice Ruqayat Oremei Ayoola, Hon. Justice Eleojo Eneche, Hon. Justice Asma’u Akanbi-Yusuf, Hon. Justice Abdullahi Muhammad Liman, Hon. Justice Abdu Dogo, Hon. Justice Fadawu Umaru, Hon. Justice Ishaq Mohammed Sani, Hon. Justice Zainab Bage Abubakar, Hon. Justice Abdulazeez M. Anka, Hon. Justice Nnamdi Okwy Dimgba, Hon. Justice Nwoye Victoria Tochukwu, Hon. Justice Nwabunkeonye Onwosi, Hon. Justice Okorowo Donatus Uwaezuoke.

“Hon. Justice Ngozika Uwazurunonye Okaisabor, Hon. Justice Ntong Festus Ntong, Hon. Justice Nehizena Idemudia Afolabi, Hon. Justice Nyesom-Wike Eberechi Suzzette, 19. Hon. Justice Lateef Babajide Lawal-Akapo, Hon. Justice Akinyemi Abiodun Azeem, Hon. Justice Oyewumi Oyejoju Oyebiola and Hon. Justice Olukayode Adegbola Adeniyi.

“Twelve (12) Judges, High Court, FCT, Abuja: Ademuyiwa Olakunle Oyeyipo, Bamodu Odunayo Olutomi, Anumaenwe Godwin Iheabunike, Odo Celestine Obinna, Hauwa Lawal Gummi, Abdurahman Usman, Buetnaan Mandy Bassi, Sarah Benjamin Inesu Avoh, Maryan Iye Yusuf, Ariwoola Oluwakemi Victoria, Lesley Nkesi Belema Wike and Munirat Ibrahim Tanko.

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“Seven (7) Judges, Imo State High Court: Akowundu Cletus Ndubuisi, Uchenna Mary Njoku, Chibuogwu Ojiugo Chukwumaeze, Ononogbo Chidi Linus, Adaego Peace Nosiri, Emeka Ozoma Orafu, Mathew Chinedu Ijezie.

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“Six (6) Judges, Bauchi State High Court: Amin Umar Ilelah, Aliyu Bin Idris, Ahmed Shuaibu Ningi, Shafa’u Ladan Yusuf, Abdussalam Idris Waziri, Kawu A. Yerima.

“Three (3) Judges, Taraba State High Court: Hamidu Audu, Bibonga Jeniffer Nauma, Joel Daniel Ubandoma.
“Thirteen Judges, Lagos State High Court: Sunmonu Tunde Bashiru, Azeez Fimisola Augusta, Alebiosu Olawale Lawal, Adewale Russel Musiliu, Popoola Oluwatosin Ajose, Anjorin-Ajose Tanimola Abdulwaheed, Muyideen Abdul-Raheem Tejumade, George Alfred Akingbola, Balogun Adegboyega Ganiu, Shonubi Adenike Kudirat, Badejo-Okusanya Yewande Jokotola, Layinka Oyeladun Amope, Ojuromi Nalirat Olayinka Oluwatosin.

“Four (4) Judges, Kogi State High Court: Ajesola Joseph Sunday, Ojoma Rachael Haruna, Kadiri Badama, Ezema Beatrice Ada.

“Two (2) Judges, Jigawa State High Court: Mohammad El-Usman, Nilfa Abdullahi Gambo.

“Five (5) Kadis, Sharia Court of Appeal, Bauchi State: Ishaku Magaji Abdurrahman Hassan Sabo, Bello Mohammed Sambowal, Muhyiddeen Mohammed, Mahmoud Idris Shehu Tiyin.

“Five (5) Kadis, Sharia Court of Appeal, Kogi State: Muhammad Muhammad Bello, Okino Isah Saidu, Yakubu Adavenge Abbas, Shaibu Ridwan Aliyu, Idris Alhaji Abdullahi.

“One (1) Kadi, Sharia Court of Appeal, Jigawa State: Mukhtar Shuaibu Adam.
“Three (3) Judges, Imo State Customary Court of Appeal: Everyman Ezenna Eleanya, Ofoha Sylvesta Uchenna, Ibeh Rosemond Oluchi.

“Two Judges, Customary Court of Appeal, Taraba State: Esther Tata, Benjamin Samuila Bawage.
“One (1) Judge, Customary Court of Appeal, Kogi State: Maryann Oziohu Otaru.
“All recommended candidates are expected to be sworn-in after the approval of the NJC recommendations to the President and their respective State Governors,” the statement read.

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Bill proposing return to regional govt to be presented to Tinubu Friday

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Tinubu to receive bill on regional government next week
President Bola Tinubu

President Bola Tinubu will, on Friday, receive a draft bill seeking a return to a regional system of government for Nigeria.

The proposed legislation authored by a chieftain of the Yoruba socio-cultural association, Afenifere, Akin Fapohunda, and titled, “A Bill for an Act to substitute the annexure to Decree 24 of 1999 with New Governance Model for the Federal Republic of Nigeria’, seeks among others, new extant laws to be cited as “The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria New Governance Model for Nigeria Act 2024.

The bill was disowned by the House of Representatives last week as its spokesman, Akin Rotimi, and the Chairman, Committee on Rules and Business said it has not been listed for deliberation in the ongoing moves to review the 1999 Constitution (as amended).

However, Fapohunda told our correspondent on Thursday that the bill would be transmitted to the President on Friday.

“I’m submitting my letter (draft bill) today but I will wait for seven days before releasing it to the public,” he told our correspondent.

Meanwhile, Fapohunda who also represents the Coalition of Indigenous Ethnic Nationalities told The PUNCH that the organisation is proposing the division of the country into eight geo-political regions with approximate interim boundaries.

The proposed regions. according to Fapohunda. include the southern region to be made up of Akwa-Ibom, Bayelsa, and Cross Rivers States and “Optional inclusions of the Annang, Effik, Ekoi, Ibibio, Oro Ohaji/Egbema in Southern Imo, the Adonia, Efemia, Ijaw, Ogoni, Bini, Ishan, Isoko, Urhobo and the Ijaw-speaking people in Northern Ondo State with land contiguity.”

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He continued, “The South Eastern region consists of Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu, and Imo States. The Western region comprises Lagos, Ogun, Ondo, Osun, Oyo, and Ekiti States, incorporating the Yoruba-speaking people in Kogi and the Igbomina people in Kwara State. Additional options would be the Itsekiri people of Delta State and Akoko-Edo people of Edo State to make their respective choices.”

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Others include the Mid-Western Region “Made up of Edo and Delta States, possibly incorporating the Anioma people and the Eastern Middle Belt Region comprising Northern Cross River, Southern Kaduna, Southern Borno, Adamawa, Benue, Kogi, Plateau, Nasarawa and Taraba States.”

The Western Middle Belt Region comprises Southern Kebbi, parts of Kwara and Niger States while the North Eastern Region will be made up of parts of Borno, Gombe, Bauchi, Jigawa, and Yobe States.

The North Western Region, according to the Afenifere chieftain, comprises Kaduna, parts of Kebbi, Kano, Katsina, Sokoto and Zamfara States.

Fapohunda said the coalition envisaged a two-tier government, federal and regions, adding that the latter would be at liberty to manage her affairs, “Including the creation of sub-entities, based on the stipulations that are agreed upon and embedded in their respective constitutions.”

In its proposed governance stipulations, CIEN stated that “In the quest for re-configuration and downsizing, an option to consider might be to retain the present boundaries of the 36 States, as would have been adjusted, but to creatively downgrade the paraphernalia of political administration as follows:

“To introduce a new regional government framework with executive and legislative functions and bodies with the headship title of Premier.

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“In the new dispensation, the present States (for example the six in the Western region) would be converted to provinces. Governance at this level shall be by Provincial Councils that integrate executive and legislative functions, with Chairman and Support Specialist Administrative Officers. The regions shall be at liberty to create provinces, subject to viability and self-sustainability.

“The present Local Government Areas are to be transformed into divisions, with divisional managers and specialist administrative officers; to operate as socio-economic development institutions. The new provinces shall also be at liberty to create divisions, subject to viability and self-sustainability.”

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The coalition also proposed a new constitution to embody novelties including freedom of the regions to “Create, merge and or re-configure their sub-political units and may adopt provinces, divisions or districts as may suit their circumstances without interference from any other authority.

“Regions and sub-regional entities are to be reconfigured such as would reduce the cost of public and civil service administration to less than 20 to 30 per cent of generated revenue.

“In drafting their Constitutions, the peoples of the respective regional territories will take a cue and also dismantle any arrangement or configuration that will favour the politicians and the political class; with a focus on freeing resources for true development.

“A uni-camera federal legislature comprising members that are elected at the discretion of the regions for which they would be representatives at Abuja.

“Decentralization of federal power in favour of not more than 10 regions on which there is a general national consensus, rather than the presently unwieldy number of 36 States. These old States are inconsequential indeed in being a viable unit of a truly federal system of government.”

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In all, the coalition proposes that the Federal Government “Shall comprise not more than nine Ministries and Ministers,” adding that “The very big United States has just 15 Cabinet Ministers, while Nigeria is not even up to just a State of Texas or New York.”

The group is also advocating a return to the parliamentary mode system of government “Built-in statutory rotation of headship among the regions.”

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Ex-Kogi Gov Bello’s trial for alleged N80.2Bn graft stalled again, to appear in court June 27

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Follow AGF’s advice, submit to EFCC – Group tells Yahaya Bello
Former Governor of Kogi State, Yahaya Bello

The arraignment of former Kogi State Governor Yahaya Bello for alleged N80.2 billion fraud slated for Thursday was stalled again as the case was adjourned to June 27 based on requests from both counsels in the case.

Bello, who was expected in court on Thursday, before Justice Emeka Nwite at the Federal High Court Abuja on a 19-count charge, was absent.

According to the EFCC, through the counsel, Rotimi Oyedepo (SAN), the court had previously adjourned the case on May 10 with the expectation that Bello would be present for arraignment today.

However, Bello’s lawyer, Adeola Adedipe (SAN), argued there was a misunderstanding.

He claimed the lead prosecutor, Kemi Pinheiro (SAN), had suggested to his colleague, Aliyu AbdulWahab, of postponing the arraignment to June 27 for convenience sake during an informal meeting outside of court.

Adedipe stated that he was surprised to find EFCC lead counsel, absent from the court today.

“They (EFCC) agreed that junior counsel would be sent to court today to formally pick a date. And the registry can confirm this.

“Kemi Pinhero, SAN, has been calling us to say today is not convenient,” Adedipe said, accusing the prosecution of attempting to “ambush” him.

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The EFCC prosecutor, Rotimi Oyedepo (SAN), countered by saying the defense team was misrepresenting the situation. He argued that holding an unofficial meeting was not a valid reason for Bello’s absence and called for an apology to the court.

“Assuming without conceding that there was a conversation between the counsel for Bello and the prosecution (outside the court), to have this matter adjourned, the fundamental issue today is compliance with the order of my lord; to with, the appearance of the defendant,” he said.

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According to Adedipe, Yahaya Bello was prepared to appear today as originally scheduled.

“Under 266 ACJA there are instances when defendants don’t need to come and this is one of them.

“We came here to pick a date. Of what use will the defendant coming here be? It is the prosecuting counsel that approached us, we did not approach them. We have nothing to hide,” Adedipe argued.

After hearing the arguments from both sides, the judge acknowledged the confusion and accepted the defense team’s apology.

“I am minded to take the apology on the ground that the defendant is making a fresh undertaking that the defendant (Bello) will be produced on June 27.

“The matter is adjourned to June 27 for arraignment,” the judge ruled.

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Alleged N80bn Fraud: Yahaya Bello to appear in court for trial today

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Ex-Kogi State Governor, Yahaya Bello

After several months of hide-and-seek between the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the former governor of Kogi state, Alhaji Yahaya Bello, the ex-governor is expected to appear before the Federal High Court in Abuja on June 13 for arraignment on the corruption charge against him.

The former governor, through his lawyer, finally agreed to submit himself to the court at the last adjourned date.

Bello’s lead counsel, Abdulwahab Mohammed, gave the undertaking to Justice Emeka Nwite on May 10, shortly after the court rejected the defendant’s request for suspension of trial.

According to him, the former governor was not afraid of arraignment but of the safety of his life in the hands of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in Abuja.

He said the life of his client has been under consistent threats in Abuja, hence his decision to go underground for safety.

The agreement to submit to court trial was informed by Justice Nwite’s remarks that the EFCC, as a law-abiding body, would not do anything contrary to the provisions of the law.

The judge said Bello was not the first former governor to be merely invited by the anti-graft agency and would not be the last.

The judge also said that the charges are based on allegations that have not been proved, adding that the law presumes any accused person innocent until proven otherwise.

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He advised the senior lawyer to prevail on his client to respect the law and order of the court as a law-abiding person.

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Bello’s lawyer, responding to the admonition, thanked the Judge for the hint, adding that, with the assurance that the EFCC would not do anything untoward, the former governor would be brought to court.

“All my client needs is just an assurance for the safety of his life, which has been under threat for some time in Abuja.”

The lawyer requested for four weeks to bring his client before the court.

He said Bello would, however, come to the court instead of the EFCC to take his plea in the charges.

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