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Conflicting Court Orders: NJC sets up panels to probe three judges


The National Judicial Council (NJC) has empanelled investigative panels to probe three High Court judges over the widely condemned conflicting courts others they recently issued in some political cases.

The NJC, established by law to deal with appointment and disciplining of erring Nigerian judges, disclosed this in a statement signed by its Director of Information, Soji Oye, on Friday.

According to Mr Oye, the council headed by the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Tanko Muhammad, set up separate panels to investigate the unnamed three judges at its 95th meeting held on September 15 and 16.

He said “in line with the principles of fair hearing”, the council “has directed the three judges of coordinate jurisdiction who granted ex parte orders over the same the case with the same subject matter to appear before a special Investigation Committee constituted by the council”.

The affected judges, according to the NJC statement, are to appear before the panels “to show cause why disciplinary action should not be taken against them for such act.”

Prelude to the setting up of the investigative panels, the CJN had on 6 September, grilled the Chief Judges of the six High Courts from where the controversial orders emanated.

The Chief Judges were those of the High Courts of Rivers, Kebbi, Cross River, Jigawa, Anambra, and Imo states, along with their Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, counterpart.

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Mr Muhammad, who had expressed displeasure over the development, had threatened without mentioning names that three of the judges who issued the controversial orders would be made scapegoats.

“We shall make an example with these three judges and never shall we condone such act,” a statement by the NJC had quoted the CJN as saying during a joint meeting he had with the six affected six judges.

Controversial orders

The names of the three judges scheduled to face probe were not mentioned in NJC’s Friday statement.

However, some judges whose orders have featured in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) controversy up till early September are: Okogbule Gbasam of the Rivers State High Court, Nusirat Umar of the Kebbi State High Court, and Eddem Koofrey of Cross River State.

It will be recalled that Okogbule Gbasam of the Rivers State High Court in Port Harcourt on August 24, 2021, issued an interim injunction restraining Uche Secondus from parading himself as the national chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

The judge issued the order following an ex-parte application by Ibeawuchi Alex, Dennis Amadi, Emmanuel Stephen, and Umezerike Onucha, as plaintiffs.

But in a counter-ruling delivered on 26 August, Nusirat Umar of faraway Kebbi State High Courtin Birni-Kebbi, restored Mr Secondus to office.

Ms Umar had issued the controversial order in a suit by four members of the PDP in the state, namely Yahaya Usman, Abubakar Muhammad, and Bashar Suleman, who filed the ex parte application, seeking an order of stay of execution of the suspension order issued by the Rivers State High Court.

In another development, Edom Kooffreh of the Cross River State High Court in Calabar, on 27 August, 2021, issued another order restraining Mr Secondus from resuming office as the national chairman of the PDP.

Other parties

Other parties apart from the PDP also had their share of the crises.

There has been a web of conflicting court orders trailing the nomination of the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) in Anambra State.

On 18 July, Charles Okaa of the Anambra State High Court, Awka, ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission to recognise Charles Soludo, as the APGA candidate in the forthcoming governorship election in Anambra State.

There were moves by the Jude Okeke who claimed to be the authentic chairman of the party to stop the execution of the order.

In a ruling on the case on 4 August, Chioma Nwosu-Iheme, a Justice of the Court of Appeal, recommended that a judge of the Jigawa State High Court, Musa Ubale , and another judge of the Imo State High Court, B. C. Iheka, be sanctioned dabbling into the Anambra State governorship disputes.

Other resolutions reached at NJC meeting

The NJC also reached some decisions on disciplinary matters, with warning and advice letters issued to some judges, and petitions filed against some judges dismissed.

The council also resolved to set up a Medical Board to “ascertain the health status” of a judge of the Kaduna State Customary Court of Appeal, Amina Yaroson.

READ NJC STATEMENT IN FULL:

Council also considered the Reports of its Investigation Committee and decided to issue a warning letter to Hon. Justice Sobere Biambo of High Court of Rivers State for descending into the Arena of conflict in a matrimonial Suit No: OHC/IMC/2018.

Council at its Plenary considered the Reports of the two Preliminary Complaints Assessment Committees (PCAC) on the petitions written against 18 Judicial Officers and on the recommendation of the Committee, issued a letter of advice to Hon. Justice Elias O. Abua of Cross River State High Court to in future be wary of granting an Order staying the execution of judgement which appeared executory in nature as the one he granted in Suit No. HC/MSC/67/2019.

Council however, dismissed the petitions written against Hon. Justices I. E. Ekwu and Ayo-Emmanuel of the Federal High Court, Justices O. O. Ogunjobi, S. B. A. Candide-Johnson and S. A. Onigbanjo of High Court of Lagos State, Hon. Justices Chiwendu Nwogu, S. C. Amadi and A. U. Kingsley Chuku, for either lacking in merit, subjudice or statute barred.

Other petition dismissed for the same reasons were those written against Hon. Justice I. K. Banu, Chief Judge, of Adamawa, Hon. Justice A. L. Lagre, President, Customary Court of Appeal, Adamawa, Justice Felibus B. Andetur, Chief Judge, Taraba State, Hon. Justice Sunday Olorundahunsi of Ondo State, High Court, Hon. Justice Nse Emeka Daniel of Akwa-Ibom State High Court and Justice H. T. D. Gwadah of Kaduna State High Court.

Council however decided not to consider the petition written against Hon. Justice I. U. Bello as he had already retired from service.

The Plenary of the Council also considered the Report of the Interview Committee and agreed to recommend 12 candidates as Heads of Court, 18 candidates as High Court Judges, 6 candidates as Kadis of Sharia Courts of Appeal and one candidate as Customary Court of Appeal Judge.

The Notifications of retirement of 22 Judges of the Federal and State High Courts and Notifications of death of three Judges of States were also considered by the NJC Plenary.

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