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JUDICIARY

Ajimobi Loses Again as Election Tribunal Upholds Senator Kola Balogun’s Victory

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By Dele Ogunyemi, Ibadan
The petition filed by the All Progressives Congress (APC) against the defeat of former Governor of Oyo State, Abiola Ajimobi, in his bid to return to the Senate was on Tuesday struck out by the Oyo State National and State House of Assembly Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Ibadan.


The Tribunal upheld the February 23, 2019 election of Senator Muhammad Kola Balogun as the rightful winner of the Oyo South Senatorial seat at the National Assembly.

Kola Balogun who contested the senatorial election under the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) had defeated the then sitting Governor Abiola Ajimobi of the All Progressives Congress (APC) at the polls.
Balogun had defeated Ajimobi in 8 out of 9 local government areas in the senatorial district.
Oyo State Chapter of APC had however prayed the Tribunal to cancel election in all the 9 local government areas and order a fresh election owing to alleged irregularities in the election.

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JUDICIARY

N25.7bn Fraud: Appeal Court Affirms Conviction of Ex-Bank PHB MD, Atuche, One Other

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By Gom Mirian, Abuja

A three-man panel of the Court of Appeal, Lagos Division, yesterday, June 23, 2022,  upheld the conviction of a former Managing Director of the defunct Bank PHB Plc, Francis Atuche, as well as the bank’s former Chief Financial Officer, Ugo Anyanwu.

Atuche and his co-convict, Anyanwu, had approached the appellate court to set aside their conviction by Justice Lateefa Okunnu of the Lagos State High Court sitting in Ikeja, Lagos on June 16, 2021 over a N25.

7 billion fraud. 

The panel, comprising Justices Sadiq Umar, Adebukola Banjoko and Kayode Bada, while resolving all the issues in the appeal in favour of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, except the sentencing, also clarified that Atuche’s jail term was 12 years concurrently, rather than 120 years, handed down by the lower court, if calculated consecutively.

Also,   the panel reduced Anyanwu’s jail term from 10 years to eight years and affirmed the discharge and acquittal of Atuche’s wife, Elizabeth.

 In an abridged ruling read by Justice Umar, the three-man panel upheld the EFCC’s arguments and unanimously dismissed the appeal.

It would be recalled that, in 2021, Justice Okunnu, while sentencing Atuche and Anyanwu, had upheld the arguments of the prosecution counsel, Kemi Pinheiro, SAN.   About three years after their arraignment by the EFCC in 2011, they had approached the Court of Appeal, to challenge their trial by the lower court for lack of jurisdiction. But in a judgment delivered in September 2016, the court ordered Justice Okunnu to hands-off the trial, but did not quash the numbers of counts against the defendants. Consequently, the EFCC approached the Supreme Court to set aside the judgment and order a trial in the matter.

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In its judgment, the apex court directed that the case be returned to Justice Okunnu for continuation of trial. While the trial lasted,   Pinheiro opposed Atuche’s contention that the funds in dispute were loaned and not stolen. Delivering judgment, Justice Okunnu had held that “The first and third defendants did not debunk the evidence of the prosecution that the loans were used to purchase shares. They rather contended that the monies granted as loan could be used for whatever purposes.”

The trial court, therefore, sentenced Atuche and Anyanwu, but acquitted Atuche’s wife.

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JUDICIARY

N800bn Judgement Debt: S’court asks Parties to Maintain Status quo in Suit against Shell Management

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The supreme court has ordered all parties to maintain status quo in a contempt proceeding filed against Osagie Okunbor, managing director, Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria (SPDC), and three management staff of the company.

The ruling comes as the court of appeal sitting in Owerri ordered the managing director and the other three management staff of SPDC to appear before it over contempt of court.

The court of appeal sitting had expressed displeasure with the management of Shell for disobeying two court rulings against the company over the payment of an N800 billion penalty.

However, Okunbor and other management staff approached the apex court, seeking a stay of the execution of the decision until the appeal is determined.

Led by Kudirat Motonmori Kekere-Ekun, a panel of five judges gave the order last Thursday. 

The panel delivered judgement on appeal number SV/CV/398/2022 filed by Osagie Okunbor and others over alleged disobedience of the orders of the court.

Other members of the panel include Chima Centus Nweze, Uwani Musa Abba Aji, Helen Moronkeji Ogunwumju, and Adamu Jauro.

Kekere-Ekun held that “the pending applications filed before the court are contentious and cannot be taken now”.

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“The parties shall file written addresses. The parties are hereby ordered to maintain the status quo pending the hearing of all the contentious applications,” the ruling reads. 

The contentious applications before the court comprise an application dated April 4, 2022, seeking an order staying further committal proceeding in appeal number, CA/OW/489/2020, and another application dated April 21, 2022, seeking an order setting aside ex-debito justitiae, notice of appeal filed in appeal number SC/CV/393/2022; and an application filed on April 29, 2022, asking the apex court for an order striking out ex-debito justitiae, notice of appeal filed in appeal no. SC/CV/393/2022.

The matter has been adjourned till November 3, 2022, for a hearing.

In November 2020, a federal high court had ordered Shell to pay N800 billion to 88 communities in Egbalor Ebubu, Rivers state, over an oil spill that damaged their farms and waterways.

Shell, which denied causing the spill, had appealed the verdict.

On March 14, a court of appeal in Owerri stopped Shell from selling any assets in Nigeria until a decision is reached on the company’s appeal suit over the N800 billion ($2 billion) penalties.

The court also ordered Shell to deposit the money in an account controlled by the court within two working days.

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JUDICIARY

Bayelsa Govt Assures Judicial Officers of Better Welfare.

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FROM TAYESE Mike, Yenagoa

The Bayelsa State Government has assured both serving and retired judges of the state judiciary of its commitment to their welfare.

The state Governor, Senator Douye Diri, gave the assurance on Friday at a special valedictory court session held in honour of Justice Lucky Boufini at the Chief Judge’s Court, Ovom in Yenagoa.

Represented by his deputy, Senator Lawrence Ewhrudjakpo, the Governor said Government had already taken the initiative to build befitting residences for top judicial officers at a more secure and suitable location within the Yenagoa metropolis.

He eulogized Justice Boufini as an erudite and incorruptible judge who meritoriously served the judiciary in old Rivers and Bayelsa states in various capacities.

According to Senator Diri, the retired Judge creditably discharged his responsibilities as a Magistrate, Chief Registrar and bowed out as a High Court Judge in the state.

Governor Diri, however, lamented that the exit of Justice Boufini from service on account of retirement had created a huge vacuum, which he noted, would be difficult to fill in the short term.

Responding to a demand for more judges to be appointed in the state to strengthen the bench, he clarified that the appointment of judges was not the exclusive preserve of the state government because it is subject to approval by the National Judicial Council.

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Senator Diri, who assured members of the Bench and the Bar that government would look into issues bordering on office accommodation and welfare package for retired judicial officers, wished Justice Boufini happy retirement, sound health and divine protection.

His words: “As a matter of fact, the place you saw and described as the Judges quarters was initially considered but clearly that place will no longer be used for that purpose.

“We have agreed on what to do for our respected judges after consultations with My Lord, the Honourable Chief Judge; so we are working on that.

“I can assure you that the prosperity government is conscious of the welfare of Judges while serving and even upon retirement; because there is no need protecting a man while he is serving and then expose him to untold hardship upon retirement.

‘I agree with you on the improvement of the retirement benefits of our Judges.
We are looking at the issues holistically with regards to the office spaces and we have agreed to work on the office issues and handle them.”

Earlier in her remarks, the state Chief Judge, Justice Kate Abiri, said the special court session was organized as part of activities to honour Justice Boufini’s thirty-seven fruitful years of service.

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Justice Kate Abiri remarked that Boufini, who served as the first Chief Registrar of Bayelsa, laid the solid foundation upon which the state’s judiciary was built, and called on government to provide better welfare packages for retiring judges.

In his address, the Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr. Biriyai Dambo (SAN), described the just-retired Justice Lucky Boufini as a wonderful and industrious judge who distinguished himself on the bench.

Mr. Dambo, who spoke through a director in the Department of Public Prosecutions of the state judiciary, Mr. Alaowei Opokuma, said the retirement was glorious as it coincided with his birthday on June 12.

Also speaking, the Chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Yenagoa Branch, Mr. Ukumbiriowei Saiyou, said Justice Boufini was an incorruptible judge that laboured tirelessly with others to build the state judiciary to its present status.

While praising the state government for granting financial autonomy to the state judiciary, Mr Saiyou appealed for complete independence to enable the judicial arm of government discharge its duties dispassionately.

On his part, a one-time Commissioner for local government and Senior Lawyer, Chief Fedude Zimughan, pointed out that most of the serving judges in the state were aging very fast because of their heavy workload.

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Chief Zimughan, therefore, called on government to improve on the working conditions of magistrates and judges, as well as take the issue of recruiting more judicial officers seriously to ensure effective and efficient administration of justice in the state.

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