By Onyedika Agbedo
The Nigerian judiciary has been in the limelight in the past one week, but for the wrong reasons. The Department of State Services (DSS) had in an unprecedented move in Nigeria’s history raided the homes of some judges penultimate Saturday over alleged corrupt practices. The country’s temple of justice had allegedly been desecrated and needed external cleansing. The DSS claimed that huge sums of both local and foreign currencies, among other valuable documents were recovered from the judges during the operation. The agency’s spokesperson, Mallam Garba had said the raid was aimed at restoring sanity and sanctity to the esteemed third arm of government.
The raid has, however, been a matter of serious controversy since the information was made public. While some Nigerians have tacitly backed it, others see it as an act of dictatorship, saying it violated the doctrine of Separation of Powers as enshrined in the Nigerian Constitution. The National Judicial Council (NJC), which is constitutionally empowered to act as a watchdog on judicial officers, in its official reaction described the action of the DSS as “a denigration of the entire Judiciary, as an institution.”
Nevertheless, the NJC had in the recent past meted out disciplinary actions against some judges for various offences. The punishments ranged from compulsory retirement from office, demotion, punitive transfers, to suspension without pay. While the controversy surrounding DSS’ arrest of the judges lingers on, even as their career is now shrouded in uncertainty, Sunday Sun brings you a compendium of some Nigerian judges that had fallen in the past including their offences and the disciplinary action taken against them. Find them below:
Justice Mohammed Tsamiya:
A former Justice of the Court of Appeal, Ilorin Division, the NJC recommended him to President Muhammadu Buhari on September 30, 2016 for compulsory retirement. He was sanctioned over allegations that he met with a party to a case before him, one Nnamdi Iro Oji, three times and on each occasion, demanded the sum of N200 million to influence the Court of Appeal panel in Owerri, which sat on election cases that arose from the 2015 general elections. The NJC had said that its recommendations were pursuant to findings in the petition written by Nnamdi Iro Oji against him and Hon. Justices Husseini Muktar, F. O. Akinbami and J. Y. Tukur, all Justices of Court of Appeal, who sat on Election Appeal Panel in the Owerri Division of the Court during the 2015 general elections.
Justice I. A. Umezulike:
The immediate past Chief Judge of Enugu State. The NJC recommended him to Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu State for compulsory retirement on September 30, 2016. Umezulike was sanctioned for delivering judgment in a case 126 days after final addresses were adopted by parties, and for other instances of abuse of office. He was alleged to have received a donation of N10 million from a businessman, Prince Arthur Eze, while two cases in which Eze was said to have had “vested interest” were in his court.
Justice Kabiru Auta:
A former Justice of the Kano State High Court, the NJC recommended him to Governor Abdullahi Ganduje of Kano State for dismissal. The NJC also recommended that Auta should be handed over to the Assistant Inspector-General of Police, Zone 1, Kano, for prosecution over an allegation that he collected N197 million from a man, Alhaji Kabiru Yakassai, who wrote a petition to the NJC against him. He allegedly collected the money under the pretext that he had plans to use the money to help a then newly appointed Chief Justice of Nigeria to secure accommodation and for Yakassai to be later rewarded with a contract by the CJN. Auta was said to have agreed to refund the sum of N95 million to Yakassai, who had petitioned the NJC, but only for him to admit during his probe before the NJC panel that he only agreed to refund N35 million.
Justice Lambo Akanbi:
He was a Judge of the Federal High Court, Port Harcourt. President Muhammadu Buhari approved his sack in November 2015 after the NJC found him guilty of judicial misconduct and recommended his immediate sack. According to the NJC, the allegation against the judge by the petitioner, Shell Petroleum Company Nigeria Limited, was that he “unilaterally appointed Mr. Emeka Nkwo of CYN-JAC (NIG) Ltd, who was not proposed by any of the parties as referee or valuer in Suit Nos FHC/PH/CS/434/2012 and FHC/PH/CS/435/2012.
“He also appointed the same referee or valuer in Suit FHC/PH/CS/25/2003, which is another matter involving one of the parties in the first suit. He heard and concluded the case without dealing with the notice of preliminary objection on the jurisdiction of his court. He sat on the case in the Federal High Court, Yenagoa in Suit FHC/YNG/CS/30/2013 after a new Judge had been transferred to the state without a fiat from the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court. The judge also delivered the ruling in suit No FHC/PH/CS/07/2009, four months after final addresses were taken without any cogent reason contrary to the constitutional provisions that judgment should be delivered within a period of 90 days,” the NJC had said.
Justice Oluyinka Gbajabiamila:
He was a Judge of the Lagos State High Court. Gbajabiamila was sanctioned for allegedly delivering judgment in a matter before him 22 months after written addresses were adopted and 35 months after the close of evidence in the suit. He was recommended for compulsory retirement from office on April 18, 2016. The NJC said after it investigated a petition that was lodged before it by Mr. C. A. Candide Johnson, SAN, it concluded that the action the judge took in suit No ID\1279\2007 P. K. Ojo Vs SDV & SCOA Nigeria Plc, was contrary to constitutional provisions that judgments should be delivered within a period of 90 days. According to the NJC, “His Lordship did not publish a copy of judgment he delivered on December 24, 2013 until after 40 days, contrary to the provision of the Constitution which required that a copy of the judgment of a Superior Court of Record be given to Parties in the case within seven days of delivery.”
Justice Idris M. J. Evuti:
Evuti was a Judge of the Niger State High Court. He was found to have used three different dates of birth, such as September 15, 1950, April 10, 1953 and April 1, 1953. He was recommended for compulsory retirement in April 2016. The NJC said the Judge was indicted on the basis of a petition filed against him by one Mohammed Idris Eggun. The Council also recommended to the Niger State government to deduct all salaries received by him from September 2015 till date from his gratuity and remit same to the council that pays salaries of all judicial officers.
Justice Tanko Yusuf Usman:
He was a Judge of the Niger State High Court. He was found to have falsified his age from June 27, 1950 to June 27, 1951 on the basis of a petition filed against him by one Mohammed Idris Eggun. Although the NJC did not recommend his compulsory retirement because it had already accepted his retirement with effect from March 1, 2016, it asked the Niger State government to deduct from his gratuity the salaries he received from June 2015 when he should have retired from the Bench.
Justice Mohammed Yunusa:
He was a Judge of the Federal High Court, Enugu Division. The NJC recommended him for compulsory retirement pursuant to allegations contained in a petition written against him by the Civil Society Network Against Corruption. He allegedly granted interim orders and perpetual injunctions restraining the Attorney General of the Federation, Inspector General of Police, ICPC and the EFCC from arresting, investigating and prosecuting some persons accused of corruption. The cases, as listed by the NJC, were FHC\L\CS\1471\2015 between Simon John Adonimere & three others Vs. EFCC; FHC\L\CS\477\14 FRN V Michael Adenuga; FHC\L\CS\1342\15 Sen. Stella Odua Vs. AG Federation, EFCC, ICPC and IGP; and FHC\L\CS\1285\15 Jyde Adelakun & Anor Vs. Chairman EFCC & Anor. Others were
FHC\L\CS\1455\ Dr Martins Oluwafemi Thomas Vs. EFCC; FHC\L\CS\1269\15 Hon Shamsudeen Abogu Vs. EFCC & Others as well as FHC\L\CS\1012\15 Hon. Etete Dauzia Loya Vs. EFCC. He was said to have contravened Rule 3. 1 of the Code of Conduct for Judicial Officers in Suit FHC\L\CS\1445\15 by claiming ignorance of the provisions of the Money Laundering Act.
Justice Olamide Oloyede:
She was a Judge of the Osun State High Court. The NJC recommended her to Governor Rauf Aregbesola for compulsory retirement from office on the basis of allegations levelled against her by Osun Civil Societies Coalition. The NJC said the Judge failed to conduct herself in such a manner as to preserve the dignity of her office and impartiality and independence of the judiciary. It noted that she derailed when she wrote a petition against the Osun State Governor and his deputy to the members of the State House of Assembly and circulated same to 36 persons and organisations. “The petition was said to contain political statements, unsubstantiated allegations and accusations aimed at deriding, demeaning and undermining the Government of Osun State. Justice Oloyede crossed the fundamental right of freedom of speech and created a negative perception of the Nigerian judiciary to the public,” the NJC said.
Justice B.T Ebuta:
He was a Judge of the Cross River State High Court. The NJC recommended him for immediate retirement after it investigated a petition against him written by one Dr Ekanem Cobham and upheld the allegations of abuse of judicial power, suppression and illegal/forceful takeover of a property in Calabar levelled against him by the petitioner.
Justice Charles Archibong:
He was a Judge of the Federal High Court, Lagos. The NJC recommended him for compulsory retirement in 2013 after it was found that he dismissed the grievous charges against former Managing Director of defunct Intercontinental Bank, Dr. Erastus Akingbola without taking his plea. He also refused to release the Certified True Copy (CTC) of his ruling to the lawyers. NJC also found that there were glaring procedural irregularities, which showed that Archibong did not have a full grasp of the law and procedure of the court.
Justice Thomas Naron:
He was a Judge of the Plateau State High Court. He was recommended for compulsory retirement in February 2013 when the NJC found that he had constant and regular voice calls and exchange of Short Message Service (SMS) with one of the lead counsel during the Osun Governorship Election Petitions’ Tribunal that heard the petition of the then Action Congress (AC) governorship candidate, Rauf Aregbesola against the then Governor Olagunsoye Oyinlola. Naron’s phone call logs had shown that he had constant communication with Otunba Kunle Kalejaiye, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) and lead counsel to the then governor, while he (Naron) presided over the election tribunal that would decide Mr. Oyinlola’s fate. He later dismissed the petitioner’s claim and affirmed the declaration of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) that Prince Oyinlola validly won the 2007 governorship election. The Court of Appeal, however, later sacked Oyinlola and declared his opponent and incumbent Governor, Rauf Aregbesola, the authentic winner of the election. The NJC had said that Naron’s action was contrary to the Code of Conduct for Judicial Officers vide Section 292 (1) (b) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended.
Justice Gladys Olotu:
She was a Judge of the Federal High Court, Abuja. The NJC sacked Olotu in 2014 for allegedly breaching laid down judicial procedure by delivering a judgment in a case 18 months after the final address by counsel contrary to the constitutional provisions that judgment should be delivered within a period of 90 days.
Justice Ufot Inyang:
He was a Judge of an Abuja High Court. The NJC recommended his compulsory retirement over a judgment in which he ordered the Federal Roads Maintenance Agency (FERMA) to pay N460 million to one Chukwuani in a dispute relating to a certain N27 million being unpaid sum of the contract. The speed with which the order was signed by the Judge, enrolled and executed despite a subsisting interlocutory injunction by the Appeal Court, Abuja Division, had raised eyebrows.
Justice Chudi Nwokorie:
He was a Judge of the Federal High Court, Owerri. The NJC dismissed him for breach of his oath of office and abuse of his powers. He was dismissed in 2009 for entertaining an election dispute on which his court lacked jurisdiction; he also set aside the judgment of a superior court, the Court of Appeal, sitting in Port Harcourt.
Justice Wilson Egbo-Egbo:
He was a Judge of an Abuja High Court. He was compulsorily retired from office in January 2004 for acts deemed by the NJC to have contravened his professional oath of office. Justice Egbo-Egbo had on Tuesday, July 22, 2003, granted an ex-parte order restraining former Governor of Anambra State, Dr. Chris Ngige, from acting or carrying out his job as governor, and ordered that his embattled deputy should take over as governor. Mr. Chris Uba, the Deputy Governor of the state, Okey Ude, and Mrs. Eucharia Azodo, the former Speaker of the state House of Assembly, who were central figures in a failed abduction bid of the governor earlier in the month, had brought an ex parte application seeking those orders. Egbo-Egbo had granted all the orders sought in the application.
Justice Stanley Nnaji:
He was sacked for acts deemed by the NJC to have contravened his professional oath of office. Nnaji was said to have committed what amounted to judicial hara-kiri when in a case that was clearly outside his jurisdiction, he ordered that Chris Ngige, the then governor of Anambra State, should be removed from office.
Justice Solomon Hunponu-Wusu:
He was a former Lagos State Deputy Chief Judge (Administration). The NJC recommended him for compulsory retirement from the judiciary after the Council investigated a petition by the Tourist Company of Nigeria Plc, which accused him of shady deals in the suit between it and another company.
Justice Ya’u Dakwang:
A former acting Chief Judge of Plateau State, the Federal Government had approved NJC’s recommendation for his compulsory retirement in February 2004. He was removed from the bench for failing to be guided by law in his participation in the processes leading to the removal of Governor Joshua Dariye.
Justice Chuka Okoli:
A former Chief Judge of Anambra State, he was sacked from the bench by the NJC for what the Council considered to be his inglorious act in the controversial impeachment of Peter Obi as governor of the state. Before Governor Virginia Etiaba effected the decision of the council to appoint an acting Chief Judge, Okoli was said to have even tried to discountenance the directives of the NJC. The Federal Government approved his compulsory retirement from office in February 2004.
Justice Kayode Bamisile:
A former Chief Judge of Ekiti State counterpart, he allegedly compromised himself by appointing on the investigation panel persons believed to be cronies of Governor Ayodele Fayose in his first term, to probe the impeachment allegations levelled against the governor. NJC’s recommendation for his compulsory retirement was approved by the Federal Government in February 2004.