The Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad, has directed the Judicial Service Committee, JSC, of the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, to initiate disciplinary action against a Judge of the Upper Area Court that issued criminal summons against a former Governor of the Central Governor of Nigeria, CBN, Prof. Charles Soludo.
The judge, Gambo Garba, who presides over the Upper Area Court at Zuba, had on August 23, issued a direct criminal Summons against Soludo over a case of alleged perjury, corruption and false assets declaration that was filed against him by one Oliver Bitrus.
The litigant, in the Direct Criminal Complaint he filed in pursuant to sections 88 and 89 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015, had alleged that Soludo serially breached the Code of Conduct for Public Officers while he held office as Governor of the CBN, between May 29, 2004 and May 29, 2009.
He, among other things, alleged that Soludo had within the period, through a proxy, acquired a property known and described as No. 50 Brondesbury Park, London, NW6 7AT, United Kingdom,
Acting on the suit, the Upper Area Court judge issued criminal summons against Soludo who is currently a governorship aspirant in Anambra State.
However, the CJN, who had earlier warned judges against issuing orders that are capable of exposing the judiciary to public scrutiny, was said to have been embarrassed by the action of the Upper Area Court which lacked jurisdiction to entertain such matters.
A top source in the office of the CJN who craved anonymity, told Vanguard that the Acting Chief Judge of the FCT, Hussein Baba Yusuf, who is Chairman of JSC, is expected to submit findings of the Committee on the matter, within 21 days.
“The CJN ordered the immediate initiation of disciplinary action after his attention was drawn to the matter.
“Charges bordering on false declaration of assets are exclusively vested in the Code of Conduct Tribunal, CCT, but the Upper Area Court Judge assumed jurisdiction contrary to the provisions of the 1999 Constitution”, the source added.
Meanwhile, the Legal Practitioners’ Privileges Committee, LPPC, has restored Mr. Beluolisa Nwofor to the rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN.
The LPPC had on June 23, 2017, stripped Nwofor of the prestigious SAN rank over his alleged involvement in act of judicial misconduct.
Action of the Committee followed a petition the Court of Appeal lodged against the senior lawyer who played key role in series of litigations that heralded a governorship election that held in Ondo State.
Nwofor, who represented a faction of the Peoples Democratic Party in the state that rooted for the emergence of Mr. Jimoh Ibrahim as gubernatorial candidate of the party, had aside from accusing a panel of the appellate court of collecting bribe, equally joined the Justices as parties in an appeal that was later dismissed by the Supreme Court.
While dismissing the appeal, the then CJN, Justice Walter Onnoghen, awarded cost totalling about N9million against the litigants, stressing that Nwofor must pay the money from his own pocket.
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The LPPC, in a statement it made available to Vanguard, said the decision to restore Nwofor’s SAN rank was taken at its general meeting that held on September 7.
“After deliberations, the Committee upon being satisfied that conditions for restoration have been met and in the exercise of the powers vested on it by the provisions of Paragraph 27 of the 2018 guidelines for the conferment of the Rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria and all matters pertaining to the rank resolved to restore the use of the rank in your favour with immediate effect.
“Sequel to the foregoing, the Committee has further directed that you be informed that any future act or conduct on your part that runs foul of the provisions of the Rules of Professional Conduct for Legal Practitioners may attract a stiffer sanction against you” read the statement which was signed by the CJN who doubles as Chairman of the Committee.