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JUDICIARY

Justice Tsoho: New Face of The Federal High Court

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Justice John Terhemba Tsoho
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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.

CRIME

Court Jails Fraudster 235 Years  for N525m Fraud

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By Gom Mirian, Abuja

Justice Agatha Okeke of the Federal High Court, Uyo has convicted and sentenced a notorious international fraudster, Scales Olatunji, to 235years imprisonment for internet fraud and money laundering.


Olatunji was arraigned on July 2, 2019 on 45-count charges bordering on identity theft, money laundering and conspiracy.


He pleaded “not guilty” to the charges, thus setting the stage for his trial.  
One of the counts reads: “That you, Scales Olatunji Ishola “M”, Meraiyebu Charles “M”(at large), Gabriel Adeyemi Olugbenga “M”(at large), Ojomo Oluwatobi Ayodele “M”(at large) and Adekola Oluwatoyin “M”(at large), between January 2017 to October 2018, in Nigeria, within the jurisdiction of this honourable court conspired among yourselves to convert the total sum of N525,172,580.
00  (Five Hundred and Twenty Five Million, One Hundred and Seventy-two Thousand, Five Hundred and Eighty Naira) only, which sum you reasonably ought to have known forms part of proceeds of  unlawful activities to wit: fraud (Business E-mail Compromise and Identity Theft), and thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 18 (a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act 2011 (as amended) and punishable under Section 15 (3) of the same Act”


Another count reads: “That you, Scales Olatunji Ishola “M” on or about the 15th day of May 2018, in Nigeria, within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court with intent to defraud did send electronic messages (email) using emailoffice01@aol.com to one Monica Goulmoen of the Charity Association for providing girls and boys in Kobane with a football pitch, while impersonating a certain Per Ravn Omdal, a former Norwegian Football Association President, demanding the sum of €64,000.00 (Sixty-Four Thousand Euros) to be transferred to you via IBAN GB74HBUK40062132722119 which was paid and you thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 22 (3)(b) of the Cybercrimes (Prohibition, Prevention, etc) Act 2015 and punishable under Section 22 (4) of the same Act”.
 EFCC counsel,  Nwandu  Ukoha opened the  case on November 7, 2019 and subsequently tendered 35 exhibits through four prosecution witnesses,   which were all admitted in evidence against the defendant.  

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Delivering judgment on Monday, June 27, 2022, Justice Okeke convicted  Olatunji on all the 45- counts preferred against him by the EFCC. He sentenced Olatunji to seven years imprisonment on counts one to five,   and five  years imprisonment on counts six to 45. The sentence, shall, however, run concurrently with effect from the date of arrest. 
 The court also ordered that the money in the convict’s account be forfeited to Norwegian citizens through the EFCC. Also, his properties: House No. 6, located on Road 2 West-end Estate, Ikota,  Lekki, Lagos State and  House No. 10, Donatus Odum Street, Ikate, Lagos State are to be sold by the EFCC and the proceeds restituted to the Norwegian victims.


The convict’s journey to the Correctional Centre started when operatives of the EFCC arrested him on March 20, 2019at his Ikota ,  Lekki’s residence based on a petition from the Oslo Police District in Norway, requesting  the assistance of the EFCC in investigating a network of Nigerians that had defrauded Norwegian citizens for years.
Investigations revealed that the convict belonged to a syndicate of internet fraudsters who specialized in Business Email Compromise-BEC.

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COVER

Justice Ariwoola Becomes Third CJN in 7 Years

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By Eze Okechukwu and Mathew Dadiya Abuja


President Muhammad Buhari yesterday at the Council Chambers of the State House, Abuja swore in Justice Olukayode Ariwoola as the acting Chief Justice of Nigeria, to replace Bauchi-born Justice Tanko Mohammad who resigned from the position early yesterday on health grounds. 

By the swearing in Chief Justice Ariwoola, who hails from Iseyin District of Oyo State becomes the third CJN in the seven years of President Buhari administration cumulatively in both in acting and substantive capacities.

In March 2017, Professor Yemi Osibanjo in his capacity as Acting President  nominated Justice Walter Onnoghen as the Chief Justice of Nigeria to replace Justice Mahmud Mohammed. And in January 2019, Justice Onnoghen was suspended for alleged false asset declaration, paving the way for Justice Tanko Mohammad.
 

Justice Ariwoola, born on August 22,1958 started out at the Local Authority Demonstration School, Oluwole in Iseyin Local Government Area of Oyo State between 1959 – 67. Afterwards, he proceeded to the Muslim Modern School in Iseyin between 1968-69, before going to Ansar – Ud – Deen High School, Saki in Oyo North District of Oyo State. 

He studied Law at the then University of Ife, now Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife, Osun State where he bagged his bachelor of law’s degree with honours in July 1980. In July 1981, Ariwoola was called to the Nigeria Bar and he got enrolled at the Supreme Court of Nigeria as a Solicitor and Advocate soon after. The jurist served as a Justice of the Court of Appeal between 2005 -2011 in Kaduna, Enugu and Lagos divisions within the period. He was also a judge of the High Court of Oyo State, a position he was appointed to in 1992 from private legal practice.

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Justice Ariwoola was the next most senior among the Supreme Court justices after the voluntarily retiring Justice Mohammad. Observers had watched out if the administration of President Buhari would flout orderly procedure in the appointment of Justice Mohammad’s replacement.
Former senator representing Kaduna Central Senatorial District, Senator Shehu Sani had urged the government not to cut corners “in order to find a person who will fit into the political, sectional, religious or ethnic peg of the ruling establishment” but rather do the needful by following the established order for such appointments by the Apex Court. 

Though the resignation of Justice Mohammad has been put down to Ill health, it’s in the public glare that crisis of monumental proportion has bedeviled the Supreme Court for a while now, leading to an allegation of corruption by 14 Justices of the Supreme Court against him. The allegations, which the justices conveyed in writing to Justice Mohammad  captured non replacement of run down vehicles, accomodation challenges, epileptic power supply to the Supreme Court, lack of drugs at the Supreme Court clinic, increase in the electricity tariff, non- increase in the allowance for diesel, lack of internet services to residences and chambers.

But in a swift response to the allegations, Justice Mohammad through his media aide, Mr. Ahuraka Isah berated the fueding justices for taking the issue to the public realm; an action he likened to “dancing naked in the market square”. His spokesman would later advise the public that there’s no hostility or ill feelings among the justices of the Apex Court, adding that Justice Mohammad had held a meeting with the aggrieved justices to assuage their grievances. 

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Meanwhile, prior to the climax of the feud, Justice Ejembi Eko who retired from the Supreme Court on May 23,2022 had called on the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission, ICPC and other investigative agencies in the country to probe and expose what he described as internal fraud in the management of the budgetary resources of the judiciary. 

” The vandalization of the judiciary budget, despite increase of the budgetary allocation calls for investigations by the ICPC and other investigatory sgencies, “he said. 

Similarly, Justice Walter Onnoghen who was forced out  out of office by the President Buhari administration in 2019 and replaced with Justice  Mohammad had at a book launch on June 16,2022 warned that the Supreme Court was gradually turning to “a glorified High Court”, owing to the ill treatment of the justices. 

DAILY ASSET recalls that in a bid to restore calm and order at the Supreme Court,both the Body of Benchers and the Nigeria Senate, through the Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters,as mandated by the Senate President, Ahmed Lawan waded into the crisis “to as a matter of urgency intervene and bring normalcy to the troubled Apex Court. 

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JUDICIARY

CJN Tanko Mohammed Resigns

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Mohammed resigned in a letter to President Muhammadu Buhari.

Buhari swore in Mohammed as the acting CJN in January 2019 following the suspension and later sack of former CJN Walter Onnoghen.

CJN’s Special Assistant on Media, Isah Ahuraka, confirmed his resignation to the News Agency of Nigeria.

Justice Olukayode Ariwoola is the next most senior judge to Justice Mohammed following Justice Mary Odili retired on May 12 after attaining the retirement age of 70.

Mohammed’s resignation comes amid the corruption allegations leveled against him by some Supreme Court judges.

Fourteen Supreme Court judges in a protest memo accused Mohammed of not giving justices their legitimate entitlements.

The justices said their annual foreign training, meant to enhance capacity building for the country’s judicial process, had been blocked by Muhammad.

The main issues put forward by the justices in their letter through a welfare committee were; non-replacement of poor vehicles; accommodation problem; lack of drugs at the Supreme Court clinic; epileptic electricity supply to the Supreme Court; increase in electricity tariff; no increase in the allowances for diesel; lack of internet services to residences and chambers.

In response, Mohammed told the judges that the Supreme Court was cash-strapped and cannot grant their requests.

See also  President Buhari Congratulates Osun Gov Oyetola on Supreme Court Victory

CJN noted that the Supreme Court, like any other establishment in the country, has been hit by a devastating economic crunch.

As a result, he said the leadership of the court under him could no longer meet some of its obligations to Justices, especially in the area of welfare.

He, however, said that the memo sent to him by the aggrieved Justices, notwithstanding, there is no rift between him and Justices of the apex court.

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