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JUDICIARY

Presidential Election: Group Kicks Against Inclusion of Nguta, Odili on Supreme Court Panel

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By Gabriel Atumeyi

As the Presidential election petition tribunal moves to the supreme court, a civil society organization, Citizens Awareness Against Corruption and Social Vices Initiative has called on Chief Justice of Nigeria, justice Umaru Tanko to resist pressure from any individual and groups in society and put in place a supreme court panel that can discharge justice without fear or favour.

This was made known to newsmen in Abuja on Tuesday, in a statement made available by its Executive Director, Comrade Olumuyiwa Onlede, who disclosed that Justices Nguta and Mary Odili were not worthy to be on the supreme court panel that will oversee the case as they have been indicted for various offences in the past.

“Having watched the happenings surrounding the Presidential election petition tribunal (PEPT) that has shifted to the Supreme Court after the verdict of the Presidential Election Tribunal (PEFT), we deem it necessary and important at this critical time in our nation’s history to lend our voice and to also sound a note of warning against evil plot by enemies of our dear country, these elements are putting pressure on the Chief Justice of Nigeria to advance their greedy, selfish and personal interest to the detriment of the integrity of the judiciary.

“We are advising the Justice Mohammed Tanko, the Chief Justice of Nigeria not to succumb to their empty treat and resist any attempt of constituting a supreme court panel that will be seen as partisan and also seen as lacking in integrity.

“Our finger is pointing at Honourable Justice Nguta and Honourable Justice Mary Odili.

“Our complaints about Justice Nguta , having followed the activities that culminated to the raid on his residence by operatives of Department of State Services (DSS) and subsequent charges against him in the High court. We make bold to say that the decision of the court not to hear the case of a serving judge before disciplinary action by national Judicial Council (NJC) is not in any way enough to exonerate Justice Nguta from any wrong doing and money laundering charge against him considering the highly incriminating local and foreign currencies found in his house during the raid which he never denied.

“Having said this, we make bold to say that a man of this magnitude of accusation hanging on his neck is not fit to sit on the panel of a sensitive case like Presidential Election Tribunal Appeal. So we demand his exemption from the panel regardless his ranking among other supreme court judges.

“Our stand on Honourable Justice Mary Odili is simple as we refer your lordship to what happened between justice Zainab Bulkachuwa and the candidate of the People democratic Party in the 2019 general election where the later protested that Justice Bulkachuwa cannot sit on the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal (PEPT) even as the president of the court of appeal base on the fact that she has an interest in one of the parties involved in the litigation i.e. All Progressive Congress (APC), being the wife of a chieftain of the party and a senator, we totally agree with this assertion in its merit.

“Your lordship Honourable Justice Mary Odili is the wife of the former Governor of Rivers State and a chieftain of People Democratic Party (PDP), and by virtue of this relationship , Justice Mary Odili has an interest in one of the parties involved in the litigation just like Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa the president of the court of appeal that honourably disqualified herself from the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal (PEPT) and saved the integrity of the Panel and judiciary at large.

“We hereby declare Justice Mary Odili as unfit to sit on the supreme court panel on the election tribunal appeal.

Onlede urged Justice Mohammed Tanko to toe the line of honour and integrity and resist any pressure from within and outside the country to include Justice Nguta and Justice Mary Odili in the yet to be constituted presidential tribunal appeal panel as including them in the panel will amount to constituting a panel that lack integrity which will result to mockery of the arm of government call judiciary.

“That Nigerians are eagerly waiting with great interest and will use all legitimate and constitutional means within their right to resist every evil plot to undermine the judiciary,”

JUDICIARY

Alleged N320m Fraud: Rep Mutu’s Defence Opening Suffers Setback

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The plan by Rep Nicolas Mutu (Delta-PDP) to open his defence, on Wednesday, in the alleged N320 million money laundering charge preferred against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) suffered setback at the Federal High Court, Abuja.

The matter, which was listed as number one on the cause list before Justice Folashade Giwa-Ogunbanjo, could not proceed due to the Ill-health of Mutu’s counsel, Patrick Ikwueto, SAN.

Reports says that the EFCC had, in the 13-count amended charge, sued Mutu along with Airworld Technologies Ltd and Oyien Homes Ltd as 1st to 3rd defendants respectively.

In the second amended charge marked: FHC/ABJ/CR/123/2019, dated Nov.

22, 2021 and filed Nov. 23, 2021, the defendants pleaded not guilty to the counts.

Mutu waa alleged to have committed the alleged offences between Aug. 2014 and Aug. 2016 when he served as the chairman of the House of Representatives’ Committee on the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).

In the charge, he was accused of procuring “Airworld Technologies Ltd to conceal of the sum of N320,159, 689.63 to be paid by Starline Consultancy Services Ltd” when he ought to have known that the said sum formed part of proceeds of corruption, gratification and fraudulent acquisition of property.

When the matter was called on Wednesday, Mutu, who represents Bomadi/Patani Federal Constituency of Delta was in court but his lawyer, Ikwueto, was conspicuously absent and no lawyer represented him in the courtroom.

However, counsel for the 2nd defendant, J.O. Asoluga, SAN, was in court.

The EFCC’s lawyer, Ekele Iheanacho, informed the court that the matter was scheduled for the defendants to enter their defence but that he was in receipt of a letter earlier in the morning from Ikwueto who had been appearing for Mutu and the 3rd defendant that he was indisposed.

Iheanacho said in the letter, a medical report from University of Abuja Teaching Hospital, was also attached.

The lawyer said Ikwueto, in the letter, sought an adjournment of the case and also for the court to vacate tomorrow (Feb. 22)’s date to enable him attend to his health.

Iheanacho said he would reluctantly conceded to adjournment on the ground of Ill-health.

He, however, felt bad that the two days scheduled for the trial would be vacated even when the court had deliberately listed only two matters on the course list to enable the case progress since the judge comes from outside jurisdiction.

Counsel for the 2nd defendant, J.O. Asoluga, SAN, said he had no objection to the application for adjournment.

Justice Giwa-Ogunbanjo consequently adjourned the matter until March 20 and March 21 for the defendants to open their defence.

Reports says that the judge had, on Jan. 22, fixed Feb. 21 and Feb. 22 for Mutu to open his defence after his no-case submission was dismissed by the court.

Giwa-Ogunbanjo, in a ruling, directed Mutu and his co-defendants to enter their defence as they have a case to answer in respect of the allegations made against them.(NAN)

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JUDICIARY

Surety Faces N500,000 Bail Bond Forfeiture Charge

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A 47-year-old man, Ogbonna Anoka, who allegedly stood surety for a church member, but failed to produce him in court as required, on Tuesday appeared before a Sabo-Yaba Chief Magistrates’ Court in Lagos.

Anoka, whose house address was not given, entered a ‘not-guilty’ plea to a charge of perversion of justice.

The Prosecutor, Insp.

Magaji Haruna, told the court that Anoka committed the offence on Jan.
26, at the State Criminal Investigation Department, M.A.K Smith St., Panti, Yaba, Lagos.

Haruna alleged that the defendant conspired with one other person to obstruct and pervert the course of justice.

“The defendant stood as a surety for one Nonso Onyekwelu, a church member, who was involved in a case of conspiracy and receiving stolen property reported at the station.

“Onyekwelu was granted bail and released to the defendant, who promised to produce him at the station until the case is finally disposed off.

“The accused is hereby called upon to show cause why the sum of N500,000 bond executed by him should not be forfeited,” the prosecutor said.

The offence, Haruna said, contravenes Section 97 (3) of the Criminal Law of Lagos State, 2015.

Reports says that the Section 97 provides seven years imprisonment for perversion of justice, while sub section (3) provides two years imprisonment.

The Magistrate, Mrs O. Y. Adefope, granted bail to the accused in the sum of N500,000 with two sureties in like sum.

The case was adjourned until Feb. 21 for mention (NAN)

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JUDICIARY

Court Discharges Sowore, Bakare, Orders DSS to Release Seized Items

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A Federal High Court, Abuja, on Monday, discharged Omoyele Sowore and Olawale Bakare of alleged treasonable felony charge by the Attorney-General.of the Federation (AGF), Mr Lateef Fagbemi, SAN.

Justice Emeka Nwite, in a ruling after counsel for the AGF, A.R. Tahir, withdrew the charge, struck out the matter.

Justice Nwite also ordered the Department of State Service (DSS) to immediately release three phones and the sum of N10, 000 seized from Sowore during his arrest.

The judge also ordered the DSS to release a phone belonging to Bakare and the sum of N1, 500 confiscated from him during his arrest.

Justice Nwite equally ordered that Sowore’s international passport be released.

The orders followed an application by lawyer to Sowore and Bakare, Mr Femi Falana, SAN, to tye effect.

Reports says that Sowore and Bakare were earlier arraigned before Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu in 2019 before the matter was reassigned to Nwite.(NAN)

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