25th June 2024
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Eyes On The Judiciary: My Personal Experience With A Judge On The 2023 Presidential Election Petition Court

Eyes On The Judiciary: My Personal Experience With A Judge On The 2023 Presidential Election Petition Court

It was a very costly venture traveling all the way to Nigeria for the final addresses in the presidential election petition trial. But I knew that history beckoned as the case with the closest probability of overturning the presidential elections. From the array of grounds listed, it seemed like APC’s candidate had made just too many blunders over time that had now come to roost at this particular juncture.

Since there is no recording of the hearings, broadcast or transcription, I had to be in the court room where it was happening to hear firsthand the reasoning and arguments canvassed.

It was on this last hearing of the court that I saw him again this time with recognition.

During my monitoring of the proceedings, I had gotten to hear all of their lordships speak. Their intellect was not in doubt nor was their sense of purposefulness and humility. On several occasions I had seen them strongly remonstrate against petitioner’s counsel only to adjourn for ruling, come back and rule that his position was right after all. Nigerians are generally very smart people and rarely when you find one being intentionally unsmart, it is usually with an agenda.

Anyway one judge by the extreme right always impressed me with his knowledge of procedural law. This is important because, at the court of appeal (not being a trial court but an appellate court) they generally don’t deal with rules of trial procedure anymore.

This explained some of the avoidable arguments over elementary issues such as order of precedence in cross examination amidst multiple respondents on the same side as occurred with PDP’s counsel Chris Uche, SAN.

So I was impressed by the judge on the right who always seemed to quote procedure from his head without reference to a book.

When ThisDay published the profiles of the justices, I saw that he was newly elevated to the court of appeal which explained his familiarity with rules of procedure having just come from the FCT High Court a couple of years before.

Then it hit me. He was the FCT judge in my bungled case.

In my over three decades post-call to the Nigerian bar, I have only ever petitioned the National Judicial Council about two Judges. One was Justice Tanko JSC (as he then was) over his participation in Buhari’s coup against CJN Onnoghen. I was vindicated by history when he was ignominiously pushed out of office himself after an unprecedented judicial mutiny by fellow Supreme Court Justices.

The other judge I petitioned was the judge by the far right in the presidential petition court.

I would have shared my petition here for you to see first-hand what forced me as a son of a judge to file a complaint against a judge knowing full well how judges can be unfairly pilloried.

However I am constrained in doing so because I want the judge’s side to also be available for fairness’ sake.

Accordingly I went to the NJC to request a copy of his response to my January 2018 petition and their resolution of same as I never got a reply.

To my shock, NJC found his file but my petition was not in it. The file was a court of appeal file so I asked if they could search his high court file. I was informed that the contents of his high court file would have transferred to his appeal court file.

I was then referred to the Chief Justice of Nigeria’s office where I had submitted the petition.

There, we were unable to trace it either even after I produced an acknowledgment copy showing date of submission. I was advised to write a reminder letter.

I was still smarting from the frustration of system failure and poor record keeping at the highest court in the land when I heard of the destruction of the billboard campaign “all eyes on the judiciary.”

I’m not sure what the urgency or propriety of demolishing the signs were. They were not demeaning or inciting or even partisan but Nigeria is the fatherland of absurdity.

“In times of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act,” says George Orwell.

Although I believe I am entitled five and a half years after my petition to publish its contents, as a courtesy to the NJC, I ask that they release their resolution first.

What I will do in the meantime is to rehash what is already in the public domain.

“STATEMENT ON REPORTED DEMISE OF EX-MINISTER OF WOMEN AFFAIRS

“Dear Media,

“You may recall my travails under the wicked and evil Buhari regime.

“Apart from the covert attacks of all their intelligence services, the public face of their fight was Aisha Alhassan (who) held a press conference and lied that I didn’t put the Chibok girls in school in America.

“I finally sued her for defamation in Abuja High Court.

“I traveled to Nigeria for my case over 10 times at great cost. Most times the case won’t go on. Then in 2019 the case entered voicemail and never reappeared for hearing again…

“Last month while in Nigeria, a learned colleague came and informed me that Aisha Alhassan had gone to the Abuja High Court, where she ignominiously left employment after looting millions, and emotionally blackmailed them that how dare they allow me come from US and embarrass her in the court she “built”?

“I was shocked but not surprised at this revelation knowing how she manipulated her way and escaped conviction when she was criminally charged to court for corruption.

“Based on this information I asked my counsel to approach the court for a new date in my case.

“The court fixed yesterday May 6 for the hearing. Unfortunately due to the JUSUN strike, the case did not proceed.

“You can thus see why the news of her death the day after another aborted hearing of my quest for justice in my defamation case against her and the FGN is poetic and prophetic justice in and of itself.

“Though hand join in hand, the wicked shall not be unpunished: but the seed of the righteous shall be delivered.”

Proverbs 11:21 – https://www.biblegateway.com/passage?search=Proverbs%2011:21&version=KJV

“Nigeria’s rulers should be warned that as the wise King Solomon said, “All this have I seen, and applied my heart unto every work that is done under the sun: there is a time wherein one man ruleth over another to his own hurt.”

Ecclesiastes 8:9 – https://www.biblegateway.com/passage?search=Ecclesiastes%208:9&version=KJV

The regime of Umaru Yar’Adua threatened me for my integrity and principles. Just the day before yesterday we marked his end and the collapse of his cabal 11 years ago.

Gen. Abacha imprisoned and tortured me in the presidential villa 25 years ago. Next month marks 23 years since he perished with his hideous regime.

The Buhari regime Is facing and will face its own divine visitation which is to be feared more than phantom coup alarmism.

In my prophetic pronouncement against the regime for their false accusations against me, I said thus, “If anyone returns evil for good, evil will not depart from his house.” (See statement below)

Proverbs 17:13 – https://www.biblegateway.com/passage?search=Proverbs%2017:13&version=ESV

If you check it, you will see that evil has not departed Aso rock. For the first time in our nation’s history aides of the First Lady and the president opened fire against themselves in the villa. Before that the First Lady went on international media to embrass her husband as a clueless non-performer unworthy of her future vote and he himself blasted her as only useful for food and sex – all while traveling abroad!

Worst of all, most recently, the First Lady has set a record as a refugee abroad from the putrid stench of her husband’s ruinous misgovernance. For the first time, Nigeria has a nomadic president and an IDP First Lady (Internationally Displaced Person.)

…The Nigerian regime and their American acolytes will not escape justice poetic, prophetic or prosaic!

Ironically Aisha Alhassan died before she could see the university graduations of four out of the 12 schoolgirls I brought to US (three Chibok and one other terror survivor) between this week and next week.

However Aisha Alhassan never saw the five Chibok girls she fraudulently took away from me graduate beyond secondary school if even that despite the millions.

They squandered and plundered in the guise of educating them…

She owned much landed property in Abuja but died in a foreign land like a typical Nigerian kleptocrat.

No one is immortal and death is the debt humanity pays for a life we never borrowed but were bestowed.

When my time comes my deeds will speak for me as hers have spoken for her. May our rulers learn to fear God.” “(Death of a kleptocrat: Aisha Alhassan died days before graduation of US Chibok girls she lied about – May 7, 2021.)

The Abuja high court judge handling my defamation case (at the time a senior Abuja lawyer informed me it had been sabotaged by Aisha Alhassan) is currently on the Court of Appeal presidential election petition panel. However I didn’t petition him based on this information as by then I still had not received a response to my prior 2018 petition about my case’s first disappearance in 2017.

Yes. It had happened before. I had flown to Nigeria in September 2017 for a ruling in my case but when we got to court, my case was mysteriously unlisted. It wasn’t until 2018 that I finally petitioned the CJN about this bizarre situation.

In March, my lawyers were called to appear in court the following day for the ruling. They informed me that the court claimed my file had mistakenly been sent to the court of appeal. That was to be the beginning of the drama in my case.

Finally, last year, I learnt that my trial judge had been promoted to the court of appeal so my case would have to start afresh under a new judge after five years and countless trips.

This press statement of April 19 last year says what followed, “ Chibok defamation case: court drops dead minister Aisha Alhassan.

Lawyer vows to continue case to hold Nigerian government accountable for academic failure of four out of five Chibok girls after six years since embassy’s takeover.

An Abuja high court has removed late former Women Affairs Minister Aisha Alhassan as a defendant in international human rights lawyer Emmanuel Ogebe’s Chibok defamation law suit pursuant to a motion filed by his attorneys.

The US-based lawyer says that despite the death of the minister, the defamation suit will continue to hold the government responsible for its heinous acts.

“Aisha Alhassan frustrated the trial for years using her clout and access as a corrupt former staff of Abuja High Court. When I was tipped off, I asked my counsel to set a date for hearing after two years of silence. We were given May 6th court date and she died on May 7th.

Her lies died with her and her case has now been transferred to eternity where she will account before the throne of judgment why she was busy defaming humanitarians and looting our commonwealth instead of finding peoples’ daughters who were languishing in captivity. This is a reminder and a warning to our misrulers that you can’t bribe God.” “

Even the new trial judge was shocked by the longevity of the case in the high court as Abuja has more courts than most states judiciaries in Nigeria. Per press release of February this year,

“Court again awards costs against FGN in lawyer’s Chibok defamation lawsuit.

An Abuja high court has again awarded costs against the Attorney General of the Federation for seeking an adjournment of the defamation lawsuit of international human rights lawyer Emmanuel Ogebe against the Federal Government over his sponsorship of Chibok girls to America.

At the proceedings yesterday in the capital, the Defendants were represented by Mr Agbe of the Ministry of Justice who claimed that they were unable to proceed with final addresses because they had not received the record of proceedings.

However counsel for the Plaintiff, Godwin Abarike, Esq said that the records of the case were already with the Defendants.

Per Abarike, “I am opposing the request for adjournment because it is the latest gimmick from the defendants to delay the case when we are here for final address. They have already given us notice of appeal over their dismissed motions so this is just another delaying style.”

Counsel for the FGN, Mr Agbe took offense at Abarike’s submission saying, “My Lord, his use of the word ‘delay style’ is painting me in a bad light.”

However the court said, “no it’s the records that paint you in a bad light. This case has been on since 2017. It’s just a defamation case not a chieftaincy case.”

Eventually the court ruled that it would “reluctantly“ adjourn the case to allow the FGN prepare its final address and awarded N100,000 costs against the Federal Government.

This is the fifth time that costs have been awarded against the Federal Government since the commencement of this defamation action in 2017. However the FGN has failed to pay previous awards totaling over N1,000,000 till date.

The matter was adjourned to March, 2023 for adoption of Final Written Addresses.

The FGN never presented any witnesses or evidence in its defense whereas the Plaintiff Emmanuel Ogebe, Esq flew to Nigeria and testified in his own behalf on multiple occasions.”

From the above, you can see that it was not just me a pioneer practitioner in Abuja 30 years ago but even a serving judge could not understand why a simple defamation case dragged for six years. It is one of the least complicated cases to handle. You tender the defamatory publication and the other party produces evidence to prove it was true. In my case, the FGN didn’t even present any evidence. In fact their exhibit proved my case that it was malicious because of my criticism of Buhari!

The prior judge’s claim that my case file’s first disappearance in 2017 was because it mistakenly went to the court of appeal was not credible or plausible but I was willing to give his lordship the benefit of doubt.

However the second disappearance in 2020 is the one where I received compelling information about Alhassan’s interference with the matter.

So what is my impression of the judge? To be fair, Justice A.B. Mohammed was very sharp. You could tell that he knew his onions and understood issues.

He also ruled against the FGN’s preliminary objection to my case which indicates he is not afraid of the government and even awarded costs against them twice.

His strange ruling however was to allow the FGN to file its statement of defense after I had testified, been cross examined and closed my case as plaintiff. We felt it was clearly prejudicial for them to hear the totality of my case before writing and filing their defense. However we did not appeal against it. Still the FGN even failed to bring witnesses to prove their case.

Seeing Justice AB Mohammed on the presidential petition panel was a reminder to me that it’s not just about judicial intelligence. If intelligence was valued in our society, most of our rulers would never smell power and Nigeria would be far, far ahead.

Fortunately, the petitioners won’t go through my travails in his court because it is constitutionally time-bound and he is in a panel with four other justices.

However I will always know that I did not get Justice in his court and wonder how my NJC petition went to voicemail…

I wish Nigeria’s electorate better luck than I with his lordship.

Whether or not billboards are destroyed, eyes are on the judiciary.

“Ignorance allied with power is the most ferocious enemy justice can have.” James Baldwin.

I urge NJC to release its resolution of my petitions and call on the judiciary to broadcast the judgment of the election petitions on live TV for all eyes to see. The judiciary is not a secret society and judicial reasoning is not necromancy. Let the people see!

•Being Part 13 of the 2023 Election Diary of Emmanuel Ogebe, Esq, a prominent US-based international human rights lawyer and Nigeria pro-democracy advocate with the US NIGERIA LAW GROUP in Washington. Ogebe recently marked the 27th anniversary of his abduction and torture by late Gen. Sani Abacha for demanding an investigation of the assassination of pro-democracy icon Kudirat Abiola over the June 12 election annulment. His advocacy led to the naming of Kudirat corner by Nigeria house in New York, the US designation of Boko Haram as a foreign terrorist organization and International Criminal Court Prosecutor’s determination of crimes against humanity in Nigeria amongst others.

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