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Ex-CJN’s sudden exit, demand for current CJN’s resignation shaped judiciary in 2022

The sudden resignation of the former Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Tanko Muhammad, on June 27, 2022 was the climax of the major events that…

The sudden resignation of the former Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Tanko Muhammad, on June 27, 2022 was the climax of the major events that shaped the mixed bag of the judiciary in 2022.

Ex-CJN resigns

As part of the intrigues that culminated in Justice Muhammad’s resignation, he was said to have resigned voluntarily on health grounds, while sources claimed that presidential powers forced him to resign over allegations of “financial impropriety” made in a letter jointly written by 14 justices of the Supreme Court.

Justice Muhammad had assumed the office in equally controversial circumstances after the presidency forced the dismissal of his predecessor, Justice Walter Onnoghen, on January 25, 2019 over allegations of false assets declaration.

Following, Justice Muhammad’s resignation, President Muhammadu Buhari inaugurated Justice Olukayode Ariwoola on October 12, 2022 as the 17th indigenous CJN.

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Justice Ariwoola began his tenure on a high by pledging to enhance justice administration and the welfare of judges.

However, the CJN was greeted with a fresh controversy in November after his comments at the inauguration of two buildings in Port Harcourt, Rivers State on November 24 and 25, where he stated that he was happy that his state governor, Seyi Makinde of Oyo State, was a member of the G-5 governors, also known as the Integrity Group.

Although the Director of Information in the Supreme Court, Dr Festus Akande, warned against dragging the CJN into the “dragnet” of politics over his comments, several political groups called for his resignation.

A civil society organisation, the Coalition of Civil Societies of Nigeria (CCSN) on November 8, 2022, marched to the office of the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, demanding the CJN’s resignation over alleged partisanship.

3 law enforcement chiefs remanded

On November 8, an FCT High Court sentenced the chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Abulrasheed Bawa, to jail for contempt over non-compliance with an order to release seized properties of a former director of operations of the Nigerian Airforce, Rufus Ojuawo.

imilarly, on November 29, an FCT High Court sentenced the Inspector General of Police, Usman Alkali Baba, to three months imprisonment over contempt of court in a previous reinstating a former police officer, Patrick Okoli, into the force.

 

On December 1, a Federal High Court in Minna ordered the remand of the Chief of Army Staff, General Farouk Yahaya, alongside the Commandant Training and Doctrine Command, of the Nigerian Army, Major General Olugbenga Olabanji, for contempt in a case between Adamu Makama and 42 others against the Niger State Government.

The respective law enforcement officers subsequently appealed and successfully vacated the orders made by the courts. 

FG appeals Kanu’s release order

Following the order of a Court of Appeal in Abuja made on October 13, 2022, for the release of the leader of the outlawed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu, the federal government failed to comply with the order, instead, the office of the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice brought a stay of execution before the appellate court to enable it to appeal the verdict before the Supreme Court.

A three-member panel of the Court of Appeal had on October 14 ordered Kanu’s release and struck out the seven counts of treasonable felony and terrorism brought against him before the Federal High Court over what the panel said was his unlawful rendition from Kenya in July 2021.

DCP Kyari’s drug case, remand

Former Deputy Commissioner of Police Abba Kyari’s trial alongside four police officers over alleged drug dealing before a Federal High Court in Abuja drew much controversy and drama.

While the two civilians, Patrick Umeibe and Emeka Alphonsus, who were indicted alongside Kyari, ACP Sunday Ubua, ASP Bawa James, Inspectors Simon Agirigba, John Nuhu and ASP John Umoru, said to be at large, pleaded guilty and were jailed for two years each, the police officers’ cases have dragged on.

Kyari has since applied to be discharged of the offences, arguing that it was done in the course of his official duties and that he be removed from the correctional centre in Kuje for security reasons.

Appeal Court endorse ASUU strike deal

The Court of Appeal in Abuja in October 2022 ordered the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) to call off its eight months’ strike following the National Industrial Court order on an application by the Federal Ministry of Labour seeking to call off the strike.

The three-member panel of the appellate court led by Justice Hamma Akawu Barka directed ASUU to resume work as a condition to entertain the appeal the union filed against the federal government, which is still pending before it.

Evans, Akpan, jailed

In February, a Lagos High Court in Ikeja sentenced kidnap kingpin, Chukwudumeme Onwuamadike, popularly known as Evans, to life imprisonment, alongside his two co-defendants, Uche Amadi and Okwuchukwu Nwachukwu, for the kidnap of several Nigerians and taking billions of naira in ransom.

Justice Hakeem Oshodi, however, discharged and acquitted the other co-defendants, Ogechi Uchechukwu; Chilaka Ifeanyi, an ex-soldier; and Victor Aduba, also an ex-soldier on the grounds that there was no evidence linking them to the crimes.

In September, another Lagos Special Offences Court, Ikeja, sentenced Evans, alongside his accomplice, Victor Aduba, to 21 years imprisonment, for kidnapping a businessman, Slyvanus Ahamonou, and collecting $420,000 ransom from his family, and for the offences of kidnapping and unlawful possession of firearms.

In August, an Akwa Ibom High Court in Uyo presided by Justice Bassey Nkanam sentenced Uduak Akpan, 21, to 26 years imprisonment for the murder of a female job seeker, Iniobong Umoren, 26.

In July, Justice Oluwatoyin Taiwo sentenced actor Olanrewaju James, alias Baba Ijesha, for child sexual molestation of a five-year-old.

NBA, BOB bicker over call to bar

On December 9, 2022, the President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Yakubu Maikyau (SAN), boycotted the call to bar ceremony of the Nigerian Law School over the failure of the chairman of the Body of Benchers (BoB), Wole Olanipekun (SAN), to recuse himself from the event.

This followed the ethical controversy generated by the email soliciting to hijack the brief of Henry Ajumogobia (SAN) by SAIPEM Contracting Co. Ltd with the Rivers State Government by a partner in the chambers of Olanipekun and Co., Adekunbi Ogunde.

During the ceremony, Olanipekun maintained that the BoB is an independent body constituted by law for the induction of new wigs.

Okupe sentenced, pays N30m fine

On December 19, 2022, the former Senior Special Assistant to President Goodluck Jonathan, Dr Doyin Okupe, was sentenced to two years imprisonment or the option of fine by a Federal High Court in Abuja for allegedly receiving N240 million in cash from former NSA, Col. Sambo Dasuki, above the threshold permitted by law.

Okupe, who before his resignation following the conviction, was the director general of the Labour Party presidential campaign, paid the N13 million fine option and appealed the court’s verdict.

 

By Adelanwa Bamgboye (Lagos) & John C. Azu

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