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Justice Tsoho: New Face of The Federal High Court



Justice John Terhemba Tsoho
By Mariam Gom

The large gathering of legal luminaries from both the bench and the bar for his swearing-in ceremony on Friday, July 26 was indicative of the high esteem with which he his held in the nation’s judiciary circles.

It was a dream fulfilled for every career person as Chief Justice of Nigeria(CJN), Mohammad Tanko administered the oath of office on Justice John Terhemba Tsoho, as the new Acting Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, in the premises of the Supreme Court.

The brief but epoch-making ceremony opened a new chapter in the career of the new Head of the FHC.

The CJN used the occasion to give a word of advice to the Acting CJ:

“Do not just sit down and be a hearsay person, visit all divisions of your court to know their challenges and think of solutions to the problems” Tanko counselled the new helmsman at FHC.

The CJN urged Tshoho to move round all divisions of the Court across the country so as to avail himself of the challenges facing the divisions.

Besides, he advised  Tsoho to create a sense of belonging in all judges and a better welfare package for the Staff of the court.

The CJN reminded the Acting CJ of the need to be objective in the appointments he might make, adding that he must find out the true character and nature of those to be employed in other to ensure that only those who were ready to work got appointed.

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Justice Tsoho’s elevation was sequel to the retirement of Justice Adamu AbdulKafarati, who attained the retirement age of 65 years on July 25, 2019.

Tsoho’s elevation as Acting CJ of the Federal High Court was in accordance with the rule which stipulates that the most senior judge should occupy the office of the CJ when the post is vacant pending the appointment of a substantive Chief Judge.

The Acting Chief Judge comes to his new assignment with an impressive career background that saw him navigate the different strata of the judiciary from  Area Courts, the State High Court and then the Federal Judiciary.

Born on June 24, 1959 Justice John Terhemba Tsoho who hails from Vandeikya LGA, Benue State, attended  St. Anthony’s Primary School, Chenge- Mbaduku, Vandeikya LGA from 1967 -1972 before proceeding to the famous St. Michael’s Secondary School, Aliade  for his secondary education where he graduated in 1977

He attended the Murtala College of Arts, Science and Technology, Makurdi  between  1978  and1979 where he sat and passed the Interim Joint Matriculation  Board Examination(IJMB).

In 1980, Tsoho enrolled at the University of Lagos where he graduated in 1984 with Bachelor of  Laws Degree LL.B. (Hons).  He thereafter attended the Nigerian Law School and passed out in 1985 and was called to Bar.

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His working experience started with the mandatory National Youth Service Corps(NYSC) programme with Delta Palm Ltd. Port Harcourt as, Company Legal Asst. from August 1985 – 1986.

The budding Lawyer began his private legal practice in  Gboko in  August 1986  but practiced for only three Months before he was appointed Inspector of Area Court, Benue State Judiciary in January 1986.

Tsoho’s career was henceforth on the ascendancy as he was appointed Magistrate in the Benue Sate Judiciary. He rose to the rank of Chief Magistrate, Benue State Judiciary by March 1996.

He also served as the  Chief Registrar, Benue state High Court  in  1997 from where he was appointed Judge, Federal High Court on  November 12, 1998.

As Judge of the FHC, Tsoho served in various Divisions of the Court including Ilorin, Umuahia, Abakiliki, Ibadan, Lagos and the Headquarters in Abuja from where he was appointed the Acting Chief Judge.

Given his impressive career background, its evident that the new Chief Judge of the FHC is well equipped for the job at hand.

Those who know the Acting Chief Judge closely attest to his pedigree as a legal intellectual imbued with philosophical candour,  whose diligence in the administration of justice  ranks him amongst the most respected Jurists in the land.

Having spent over 20 years at the FHC, Justice Tsoho is quite familiar with the challenges of the FHC in particular and the Nigerian Judiciary in general.

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The counsel given him by the CJN  to work in harmony with   his brother Justices is one piece of advice Tsoho must take seriously. Fortunately, most of the Justices have worked together with him over the years and many of them have a shared vision; the future of the FHC.

As Tsho settles down to his job, a lot is expected of him. The spectre of corruption, which looms in the horizon of the Judiciary is one issue he would have to take up. Secondly, is the issue of infrastructure. As has been argued severally, the time for computerization of the activities of the Judiciary is long over due if the quick dispensation of Justice will be achieved. As its often said, “justice delayed, is justice denied”.  Tsoho can as well blaze the trail in that direction by computerizing the proceedings of the FHC. He must also take issue of training of Judges and judiciary staff seriously just as the issue of welfare as part of the strategy to wade off  corrupt practices in the system.

As the nation awaits Tsoho to deliver on these important milestones, his predecessor, Justice AbdulKafarati, who bowed out on July 25, can take a deserved rest in retirement with the full assurance that  the FHC is in the safe hands of  somebody whose commitment to the dispensation of Justice is not in doubt.


Bill Barring FCC’s Chairman, Secretary from Same Region Passes Second Reading in Reps




By Ubong Ukpong, Abuja

A bill, seeking to ban the appointment of Chairman and Secretary of Federal Character Commission (FCC), from same region of the country, yesterday,passed second reading in the House of Representatives.

Rep. Unyime Idem (PDP-Akwa-Ibom) while leading debate on the general principles of the bill said that the amendment was brought to reflect the principle of federal character in the Commission.

The lawmaker said that the amendment to the Act has now made provision for the appointment of the Commission’s Chairman and Secretary from different parts of the country.

He said the bill which was read for the first time on July 15, 2021 sought among other things to put in place a legal framework and guide for the presidential appointment of the two key positions of the Commission.

Idem stated that the commission was primarily established to promote, monitor and enforce compliance with the principles of sharing all bureaucratic, economic, media and political posts at all levels of government.

He said that the Act made distinct provisions for the presidential appointment of the Chairman of the Commission and another crucial appointment by the president for the position of the secretary.

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The legislator added that the bill sought to amend the provision of the Act to reinstate the position that the two critical positions to be appointed by the president should be mandatory from each region of the country.

Idem said this would be for the effective running and administration of the objectives of setting up of the commission.

The lawmaker while giving highlights of the bill said, “this Bill has an amendment of a Section of about two subsections which are vital and significant to the management and effective administration of the objectives of the commission.

He said it would help in equitable distribution of the key positions in the commission.

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Justices of the Apex Court and the Verdict of History




By Eugene Winful

With knees on our necks, gasping for the last breadth of hope for our nation, Nigerians are keeping vigil, by keeping hope alive to witness history in real time. Nigerians, Africa and the world are watching as our legal luminaries and judicial juggernauts take the center stage in these trying times of the State of our Union —adorning their horsehair wigs and gowns.


On whose side will history be? The onus is on their Lordships to prove their mettle as the distinguished jurists they are (or meant to be) in the discharge of their sacred duties.

Banish the thought that we might be constrained to say — As the court pleases! —even when we are not quite pleased! 

Below are 3 quotes I find interesting from a great Chinese Philosopher, Confucius.


* Isn’t it a pleasure to study and practice what you have learned?-Confucius.

* If I hear the way of truth in the morning, I am content even to die in that evening.-Confucius.

* When we see men of worth, we should think of equaling them; when we see men of contrary character, we should turn inwards and examine ourselves- Confucius.

For a lawyer to rise through the ranks to attain the position of a Judge of the Supreme Court in any country in the world, is a feat worthy of the highest recognition.

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In the same breadth, where one who has risen to such enviable pedestal, is found wanting or compromised in one fell swoop, he or she would have completely eroded the years, the honor and dignity the position bestows on him/her.

If Judges have to be put in a position where all they are taught to stand for can be rubbished by greed, by all means, use the prospective baiter as an example to others who might be nursing such thoughts. 

I don’t know if this is “lawful”, but pray, can Judges collect the inducement, tender same as evidence in court, and lodge the loot into the coffers of the Judiciary?- just the way Customs and Border Patrol, Police Officers of repute do in developed countries. Then, proceed to deliver judgment against the inducer to set precedent not only to up and coming Judges, but also as a valuable lesson to those who might contemplate indulging in such nefarious acts in order to deter prospective criminals that may think they could buy their way to favorable rulings and judgments.

If Judges can stand for the truth no matter what is dangled before their eyes, rest assured their names will forever be etched in stone.

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No dignity equals that of “robed men” who have risen through the ranks in the legal profession to be counted amongst those that discharge fair and unbiased judgments sitting on the Apex Courts. But for such highly placed “supermen” to fall prey or be caught pants down, risking everything they have worked hard for and achieved over decades to attain would be a huge shame to be borne by their families and their generation.

If our Honorable Judges live up to the oath they have so sworn to uphold, by delivering judgments devoid of bias and strictly based on law and facts, it would be a new dawn in the writing of the opening chapter of Hope for a New Nigeria. 

Where the other two arms of government are complicit, the Judiciary should stand tall by standing out.

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Towards a Democracy-sensitive, People-oriented Judiciary




By Tunde Olusunle

That Nigeria’s very highly regarded *The Guardian* newspaper published a two-part editorial in the immediate past week on the nation’s judiciary, attests to the seriousness with which this arm of government is taken. *The Guardian* has deservedly earned its place in the nation’s media space, having survived four full decades, consistently making regular, daily showings on the newsstands.

This is despite the country’s unabated inclement socioeconomic situation which has summarily interred several other similar initiatives over the years.
On Thursday March 16 and Friday March 17, 2023, an editorial titled “The judiciary and public criticism” featured on prominent pages of the authoritative publication.
The editorial alluded to public denunciation of certain judgments delivered and actions taken, by the nation’s apex court and its leadership. Principally cited in the commentary, are pronouncements gifting Ahmed Lawan, president of the Senate, and Godswill Akpabio, former governor of Akwa Ibom state, tickets to contest the recent senatorial elections. Such appropriation was done by the Supreme Court, even when both political leaders did not participate in the primaries which would have presaged their emergence.

Little known Bashir Machina had won the senatorial ticket for Yobe North, while Lawan was contesting the presidential ticket of the All Progressives Congress, (APC). Udom Ekpoudom a former deputy inspector general of police, (DIG), had also contested to represent Akwa Ibom North West zone in the senate, while Akpabio from the same zone, sought without success, the ticket of the nation’s top job. To the consternation of most followers of Nigerian politics, however, the Supreme Court ruled in favour of Lawan and Akpabio! Lyrics from *Unknown Soldier,* one of the classic hits of the maverick Afrobeat precursor, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, appropriately capture such bewildering turn of events. Fela alludes to “government magic” which turns “red into blue and electric into candle!” The January 2020 “installation” in confounding circumstances, of Hope Uzodinma, by the Supreme Court, as governor of Imo State a few years ago, and the displacement of Emeka Ihedioha, remains fresh in popular consciousness. 

Unsettled by accentuated public angst and vituperations against the Lawan/Machina and Akpabio/Ekpoudom twin-rulings, the Supreme Court through its director of information and press affairs, Festus Akande, issued a rejoinder. Titled: “Be mindful of unwarranted attacks on the judiciary,” the statement countered insinuations to the effect that sections of the judiciary had been compromised. Akande had stated that the concoctions to the effect that its justices were bought over “by some unknown and unseen persons, was nothing short of a bizarre expression of ignorance.” The release was very obviously a response to public bewilderment to the apex court’s arbitration in the substantial political litigations of Lawan vs Machina, and Akpabio vs the Independent National Electoral Commission, (INEC) and other interested parties. The Supreme Court, Dr Akande noted, was overburdened with nearly 600 cases deriving from the primaries of the various parties. The topmost arbiter in the land, Akande advanced, “was duty-bound to adjudicate on the matters brought before it to the best of its ability and in accordance with the law.” 

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Our recent very highly controversial and largely opaque general elections, have spawned additional responsibility for the Supreme Court. From parliamentary, to gubernatorial and thenceforth to the presidential elections, fall-outs, without doubt, will engage election tribunals and be escalated to the Supreme Court, in the weeks and months to come. Of the multilevel petitions emanating from the polls, that of the presidential election engenders the most interest and attention of Nigerians and indeed the global community. This is understandable given the pivotal place and preeminence of the president to the superintendence over, and guardianship of the people and the state. A winner, Bola Tinubu of the All Progressives Congress, (APC), was in the early hours of Wednesday February 28, 2023 returned by INEC. 

There are, however, crystal clear, convincing and compelling reasons to interrogate the authenticity and veracity of the electoral exercise which produced him, in its totality. INEC which supposedly, had been preparing for the recent elections for four full years since the last general polls, pooling resources close to the one billion US dollar mark, delivered a complete sham, a shameful string of elections. INEC’s pretences and deceit of Nigerians about technological innovations to enhance and ensure seamless, fraud-proof, open, transparent and believable elections, was a colossal scam. The process was a perfidious bouquet of gross impunity, unashamed indiscretions, unparalleled and unpardonable lawlessness, unacceptable violence, brazen electoral thievery and mass disenfranchisement among others. The Centre for Democracy and Development, (CDD), reports that Nigeria’s recent electioneering, claimed 109 lives, which means more than one death per day within the period.

Mahmood Yakubu, a professor of History and INEC’s chairman for a second term of four years, delivered the most preposterous general elections this fourth republic. If the performance of Maurice Iwu, also a professor and Yakubu’s last but one predecessor was presumed controversial, Yakubu has unwittingly beatified Iwu. Yakubu’s outing fell way below the basement of global best practices. The characterisation of the elections by the local and global media, has been most unsparing. *The Economist* described the presidential election as “a chaotically organised vote and messy count.” An editorial by *The Financial Times* said the poll was “deeply flawed” and the winner “a wealthy political fixer.” *Aljazeera* wrote about “How violence robs Nigeria of their votes.” A Canadian newspaper also writes that “depression, anxiety, uncertainty be-clouds Nigeria’s political space as a drug-kingpin wins the election.” 

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Yakubu’s regime which popularised the culture of “inconclusive elections,” has equally introduced the dismissive expression, “go to court,” to the nation’s electoral vocabulary, in direct reference to disaffected parties. Atiku Abubakar, Nigeria’s former vice president, flew the flag of the Peoples’ Democratic Party, (PDP) at the recent presidential poll. There is substantial, even mind-boggling evidence to the effect that he won the election. Theories and hypotheses about the pre-election cannibalism of his vote tally by Peter Obi’s breakaway from the PDP to the Labour Party, (PDP), and the *G-5* governors, fall flat in the face of tangible evidence. Obi, by the way, filed his petition investigating the process of the emergence of Tinubu as president-elect, 24 hours before Atiku’s.

There is apprehension that electoral malfeasance as already committed and legalised by the issuance of the apposite “Certificate of Return,” (CoR) is *fait accompli.* Atiku, however, is calling for the withdrawal of Tinubu’s CoR, on the basis of “noncompliance with the electoral act, which invalidates Tinubu’s election.” While observing that by-passing and non-use of BVAS in the transmission of results impugned the integrity of the polls, Atiku also listed a dozen corrupt practices perpetrated by INEC to swing the election in favour of Tinubu. The suppression of votes;  manipulation of ballots and ballot boxes; manipulation of BVAS machines; manipulation of accreditation and collation, and the manipulation of election material(s) delivery, feature among these infractions. Manipulation of election material(s); reverse logistics; massive thumb-printing of ballot papers, destruction of electoral materials; mutilations, cancellations; overwriting on result sheets, have also been highlighted in the petition. Atiku urges the court to either declare him Nigeria’s president or order a fresh election. Atiku’s core desire is that the votes of the people, their franchise, should count, consistent with global democratic traditions and expectations.

Flowing from recent experience where the judiciary has been repeatedly kicked around and disrespected by the executive, there are palpable concerns that the judiciary as presently constituted may not be in a position to deliver justice. The homes of revered judges and justices were breached under the cover of night in places, by operatives of the secret police, ostensibly to search for monies paid to them to influence judgements, under the present regime. The manner of the suspension, arraignment and summary retirement of Walter Nkanu Onnoghen, former CJN within the 2019 electoral season, reaffirms the dilemma of the judiciary under an all-powerful executive arm of government. There are apprehensions about the plausibility of objective, dispassionate, independent opinion and adjudication, by the Supreme Court. Yet, there is no better time for the judiciary to exercise its professionalism, forthrightness, and alignment with popular will and democracy, than at this time in our national and democratic evolution.

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Certain video clips have been trending of late, depicting the incumbent CJN, Olukayode Ariwoola as presumably politically partisan. Ariwoola spoke at a banquet in his honour in Port Harcourt late last year, expressing delight that the governor of his state, Seyi Makinde, was a member of the *G-5* faction of governors in the PDP. Whereas Ariwoola said he intended to recommend to the Oyo State governor the handbook of infrastructural development in Rivers State, the manner of his expression lent itself to dialectics. There are also salient doubts accentuated by the nepotistic governmental manual operated by the outgoing President Muhammadu Buhari. Faith and ethnicity, more than anytime in our political trajectory, sadly, have played very critical roles across the broad canvas of governance and administration under Buhari.

There are reservations that justice may be difficult to get under a judiciary headed by a kinsman of the president-elect, if the latter, who hails from Lagos State, gets sworn-in. CJN Ariwoola hails from Oyo, in the same south west geopolitical zone like Bola Tinubu. An online newspaper has just reported that Ariwoola was in London on a short vacation, during which he will hold a secret meeting with Tinubu who himself was reported to have travelled to Paris earlier this week. Will all of these impact on honesty, believability and transparency at the coming arbitration? This is a unique opportunity for the judiciary to rediscover and reassert itself as the irrepressible temple of truth and justice in the service of democracy and the people. 

*Tunde Olusunle, PhD, is Special Adviser on Media and Publicity to Atiku Abubakar, GCON, presidential flagbearer of the Peoples’ Democratic Party, (PDP)*

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