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JUDICIARY

Supreme Court Strikes out Perjury Suit Against Buhari

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The Supreme Court on Monday struck out the suit seeking the disqualification of President Muhammadu Buhari in the 2019 presidential election over alleged perjury.The suit was filed by Kalu  Kalu, Labaran Ismail and Hassy El-Kuris, all legal practitioners.Delivering judgment, the Justice Mary Odili-led panel of five justices held that the case was statute barred and therefore dismissed.

 News Agency of Nigeria ( NAN) reports that the justices during the introduction of appearances wondered why Mr Abdullahi Abubakar, State Counsel from the Federal Ministry of Justice will be representing a private individual. Abubakar had announced his appearance for the first respondent (General Muhammadu Buhari (Rtd) in the suit.They warned him to desist from such act of using public office to defend a private litigation.Muhammad Dattijo, while addressing the counsel sited the President Bill Clinton’s numerous private cases while in the office.
“Clinton in his numerous private litigation, he never used government organs but rather personally sponsored all his private cases,”.He warned that his actions contravene the Code of Conduct for public servants which has consequences.Odili in her judgment said, ‘the court notes the inappropriate appearance of Mr Abdullahi  Abubakar state counsel from the Federal Ministry of Justice, representing the first respondent Gen. Muhammad Buhari Rtd in his personal capacity.“This practice must be discouraged, appeal haven been withdrawn is hereby dismissed,”” Odili said.The juctices had warned AbubakarThe appellants grievances had arisen from the dismissal of their suit at the Court of Appeal in Abuja, on grounds that it was statute barred and as such could not be heard.They had approached the apex court to nullify the candidacy of President Buhari in the just concluded presidential poll over allegations of perjury.The appellants specifically wanted Buhari’s nomination and subsequent victory at the Feb. 23 presidential election nullified on the grounds that President Buhari lied on oath in his form 001 that he submitted to INEC for the purpose of clearance for the presidential election.They asked the apex court for an Order to set aside the judgment of the court of appeal and hear the matter on merit and grant the reliefs sought in the Originating Summons.Among the reliefs sought are a declaration that Buhari submitted false information regarding his qualification and certifcate to INEC for the purpose of contesting election into the office of the President of Nigeria and that he should be disqualified.They also prayed for an order of court directing INEC to remove Buhari’s name as a candidate of APC and another order restraining Buhari from parading himself as a candidate in the 2019 presidential election and also APC from recognising Buhari as a candidate.The Court of Appeal in a unanimous judgment delivered by Justice Mohammed Idris, had on July 12, held that the singular fact that the suit was filed outside the 14 days provided by the law robbed the court of jurisdiction to entertain the it.The Federal High Court had in May declined to grant the request of the appellants on the grounds that the suit was not filed within the time allowed by law and therefore sustained the preliminary objection raised by Buhari at the hearing.The appellants had through their counsel, Ukpai Ukairo, presented 12 grounds for the setting aside of the judgment of the Court of Appeal, amongst which are;That the ”Learned Justices of the Court of Appeal erred in law in relying on a Preliminary Objection withdrawn and struck out by the Court of Appeal in striking out and dismissing the appeal.“The Learned Justices of the Court of Appeal erred in law and breached the right of the appellants to fair hearing by relying on a preliminary objection, withdrawn by the 2nd Respondent and struck out by the Court, thus being a case not made out or relied upon or abandoned by a party in entering a decision in a judgment.“They erred in law in holding that ‘the failure of the Registrar to sign the Originating Summons is fatal and goes to the issue of jurisdiction’ and thereby struck out the Originating Summons.Also that “The Learned Justices of the Court of Appeal erred in law in holding that delving into the other issues raised in the appeal will be regarded as an academic exercise as the case has been held to have been statute barred by virtue of Section 285(9) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) 4th alteration and robs this court of its jurisdiction”.According to Ukairo, the appellants in the brief of argument distilled two issues for determination, (i). Whether the Learned Trial Judge was right in relying on the processes filed by the 1st defendant through a Law Officer in the Ministry of Justice?(ii).  Whether the Learned Trial Judge was right in holding that the suit was statute-barred by computing the number of days from Sept. 28, 2018 when the 2nd Respondent held its primary election wherein the 1st Respondent was elected as a candidate of the 2nd Respondent?The appellants had approached the appellate court to nullify and set aside the Judgment of the Abuja division of the Federal High Court which declined to hear their suit instituted to challenge the educational qualification of President Buhari before the conduct of the 2019 general election.But the appellate court in a judgement delivered held that the suit had been caught up by the Fourth Alteration to the 1999 Constitution which stipulate a 14 days time period within which an election matter must be filed.Though the appellate court agreed with the trial court that the suit was statute barred having filed out of time, it however disagreed with the trial court on the date the cause of action took place.Justice Ahmed Mohammed had in his judgment held that the cause of action took place on Sept. 28, 2018 when the APC held its primary election to select candidate of the party in the 2019 general election.But the appellate court however held that the cause of action took place on Oct. 18, 2018, the date Buhari submitted his form 001 to INEC for the purpose of clearance for the presidential election.The appellants had filed the suit on Nov.5, 2018, claiming October 25, the date INEC published the list of successful candidates in the 2019 general election as the date the cause of action arose, making the suit to be competent.The three man panel of the justices of the Court of Appeal had also dismissed the suit based on the preliminary objection filed by the APC’s lawyer challenging the jurisdiction of the suit on the grounds that it is incompetent.The justices held that the failure of the Registrar of the Federal High Court to transmit the record of proceedings was fatal to the originating summons and makes the suit incompetent.The decision had prompted the appellants to approach the apex court in their further quest for justice. (NAN)

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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.

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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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