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Aji becomes the seventh female Justice of the Supreme Court

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Justice Uwani Abba Aji has become the seventh female Justice of the Supreme Court.

This comes after the likes of former Justice of Nigeria, Justice Aloma Mukthar, Justice Olufunlola Adekeye, Justices Mary Peter Odili, Clara Bata Ogunbiyi, Kudirat Keke–Ekun and Amina Adamu Augie.

A former Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Aloma Mukthar, made history in 2005, when she was sworn in as the first female justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria.

Ajj’s nomination by President Muhammadu Buhari was recently confirmed by the Senate as Justice of the Supreme Court, after serving 14 years on the bench of the Court of Appeal.

Her confirmation by the Senate came after it considered the report of the committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and legal matters on her nomination.

Chairman of the committee, David Umaru, said the nominee has been screened and satisfied all requirements.

Her elevation to the apex court was mired in controversy following bribery allegations that were made against her.

Specifically, she was under corruption investigation by security agencies for allegedly accepting a bribe from a senior lawyer who is currently facing trial in court.

She was one of the eight judicial officers, who were directed by the NJC to excuse themselves from duties, effective from November 2, 2016 on the request of the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) pending the outcome of their investigation by the DSS, on corruption allegation.

She and others were however directed to resume duties on June 7, 2017 on the grounds that no charges were brought against them by the AGF at the conclusion of their investigation.

The National Judicial Council (NJC), had at its 87th meeting chaired by the CJN on October 3 and 4, recommended Justice Abba-Aji, currently the Presiding Justice, Kaduna division of the Court of Appeal, to the President for appointment as a Justice of the Supreme Court.

The Yobe State jurist was elevated to the bench of the Court of Appeal on September 22, 2004 along with Justices Mary Peter Odili and Kudirat Keke–Ekun.

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EFCC araigns Ecobank

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The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, Lagos Zonal office, on Tuesday, March 12, 2019, arraigned Ecobank Plc before Justice Saliu Seidu of the Federal High Court sitting in Ikoyi, Lagos on a five-count charge bordering on conversion of funds to the tune of $50,000 and N9.2million.

Ecobank is facing trial alongside one of its employees, Anieka Udoh.

One of the counts reads: “That you, Ecobank Plc and one Anieka Udoh, whilst being an employee of Eco Bank Plc sometime in 2009, at Lagos within the jurisdiction of the Honourable court, negligently failed to exercise due diligence in relation to conduct of financial transactions with Major General Umaru Mohammed and fraudulently converted Major General Umaru Mohammed’s Ecobank MasterCard Account No. 0015052989 from debit card to credit card and consequently debited Major General Umaru Mohammed’s account in the sum of over USD 50,000 (Fifty Thousand United States Dollars) without the knowledge and authority of Major General Umaru Mohammed.”

At the scheduled arraignment on March 7, 2019, the first defendant, Ecobank, had no legal representative.

However, at today’s sitting, the first defendant, Ecobank Plc represented by E. Majemite, pleaded not guilty to the charge preferred against it.

Counsel to the second defendant, Udoh O.J. Owoh, informed the court about a pending application for bail on behalf of his client, who pleaded not guilty to the charge when he was arraigned.

In her response, counsel to the prosecution, Bilkisu Buhari, objected to the bail application, stating that “the defendant is a flight risk if granted bail.”

Justice Seidu, after listening to both parties, admitted the second defendant to bail in the sum of N20million and two sureties in like sum.

One of the sureties must be a relation to the second defendant, resident in Lagos and have landed property in Lagos, whose title documents must be verified by the court.

The second surety must be a civil servant on grade level 16 in Lagos.

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CCT adjourns over Onnoghen’s high BP, tooth ache

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Suspended Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) Justice Walter Onnoghen has appealed Monday’s decision by the Code of Conduct Tribunal to delay ruling in his applications challenging its jurisdiction and its impartiality in the criminal case against him.

CCT Chairman, Danladi Umar, in a ruling on March 11, ordered a day-to-day trial in the charge of non-declaration of assets against Onnoghen and said a ruling in the two applications by the defendants would be delivered at the time of judgment.

Onnoghen, in a three-ground notice of appeal filed on Tuesday, argued the CCT erred in law in its interpretation of Section 369(2) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) when it ruled that its decision in the applicant’s applications shall be given at the point of judgment.

The suspended CJN argued that it was wrong for the CCT to refuse to deliver ruling after hearing the application challenging “constitutional jurisdiction” of the tribunal to hear and determine the charges filed against him.

He also faulted the tribunal for withholding its decision on the other application which challenged the “independence and impartiality of the chairman of the tribunal as his conduct in the proceedings showed bias and prejudiced against the appellant”.

Onnoghen argued that Section 396(2) of ACJA could only be the basis for adjourning rulings on such interlocutory applications till the conclusion of the trial if the applications had to do with the validity of the charges filed against the defendant.

He stated that his applications “raised a threshold issue of jurisdiction which should not wait until the conclusion of trial” adding that it “did not relate to the validity of the charges”.

“The decision (deferment of rulings) is a violation of the right of the appellant to a fair hearing,” the notice of appeal also stated.

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Ononghen appeals CCT decision

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Suspended Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) Justice Walter Onnoghen has appealed Monday’s decision by the Code of Conduct Tribunal to delay ruling in his applications challenging its jurisdiction and its impartiality in the criminal case against him.

CCT Chairman, Danladi Umar, in a ruling on March 11, ordered a day-to-day trial in the charge of non-declaration of assets against Onnoghen and said the ruling in the two applications by the defendants would be delivered at the time of judgment.

Onnoghen, in a three-ground notice of appeal filed on Tuesday, argued the CCT erred in law in its interpretation of Section 369(2) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) when it ruled that its decision in the applicant’s applications shall be given at the point of judgment.

The suspended CJN argued that it was wrong for the CCT to refuse to deliver ruling after hearing the application challenging “constitutional jurisdiction” of the tribunal to hear and determine the charges filed against him.

He also faulted the tribunal for withholding its decision on the other application which challenged the “independence and impartiality of the chairman of the tribunal as his conduct in the proceedings showed bias and prejudiced against the appellant”.

Onnoghen argued that Section 396(2) of ACJA could only be the basis for adjourning rulings on such interlocutory applications till the conclusion of the trial if the applications had to do with the validity of the charges filed against the defendant.

He stated that his applications “raised a threshold issue of jurisdiction which should not wait until the conclusion of trial” adding that it “did not relate to the validity of the charges”.

“The decision (deferment of rulings) is a violation of the right of the appellant to a fair hearing,” the notice of appeal also stated.

Onnoghen noted that the same CCT, had in earlier proceedings in the case of Justice Sylvester Ngwuta, delivered ruling in a similar application.

He added that the CCT erred in the interpretation of Section 396(3) of the ACJA when objections of the appellant to impartiality and independence of the tribunal, particularly the Chairman, whose conduct in the proceedings gave an indication of bias and absence of independence in the determination of the right of the appellant.

Onnoghen argued that the application he filed “is not one of the interlocutory applications covered by Section 396(4) of the ACJA. The decision is a violation of the right of the appellant to the fair hearing.”

He urged the Court of Appeal to allow his appeal and “set aside the order of the tribunal made on March 11, 2019”.

Onnoghen also urged the Court of Appeal to proceed to invoke the provisions of Section 16 of the Court of Appeal Act, which he noted, empowers the court to hear and determine the applications in respect of which the CCT declined to rule.

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Supreme Court o decide Ononghen’s fate

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The Supreme Court will on May 17 decide on the legality or otherwise of the suspension of the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen.

 

The apex court fixed the date for Judgment in Abuja yesterday, after listening to the submissions of counsel in the suit filed by the Cross River State Government.

The suit dated January 22, 2019, and marked SC/45/2019, has the Federal Republic of Nigeria (FRN) and the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) as defendants.

President Muhammadu Buhari had on January 25, suspended Onnoghen as CJN and Chairman of the National Judicial Council (NJC), pending the determination of his trial at the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT).

However, the Cross River State Government in challenging the action of the president approached the Supreme Court to set aside the suspension of Onnoghen.

At yesterday’s proceedings, counsel to the Cross River State government, Lucius Nwosu (SAN), contended that Onnoghen’s suspension or removal from office by President Muhammadu Buhari, based on an ex-parte order by a lay magistrate – the Chairman of the Code of Conduct Tribunal – violates the Constitution, particularly Section 292(1).

On his part, the Solicitor-General of the Federation, Dayo Apata, who represented the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the Attorney General of the Federation, submitted that the plaintiff lacked the locus standi to approach the Supreme Court on the issue, on the grounds that Onnoghen’s suspension was personal to him and cannot be interpreted to amount to a dispute between the Federal Government and the Cross River State Government.

In the notice of preliminary objections filed by the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, the federal government further challenged the jurisdiction of the court to entertain the matter on the grounds that “there is no dispute between the defendants in this suit and the plaintiff as envisaged under section 232(1) of the 1999 constitution (as amended).

“The reliefs and claims made herein by the plaintiff are not for the benefit of Cross River State but personal to Hon Justice Onnoghen Nkanu Walter Samuel,” he said.

In addition, Akpata informed the apex court that the subject matter of the suit is already before the Court of Appeal, which has reserved judgment.

According to him, the action of the Cross River State amounted to “forum shopping and an abuse of court process.”

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