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Judgesgate scandal: Customary Court of Appeal judge in abuse of office

President Muhammadu Buhari…will he sign the prosecution of this judge if found guilty?

*President caught in alleged abuse of office

*Investigation reveal massive abuse of office

As the nation is still grappling with the quality of corruption in the nation’s justice system, we have been able to establish how the judicial system is so bastardised. This time, it is at the lower rung where the system is so abused.

Apart from regular emperorship system that has been developed without tenure of office, the Customary Court of Appeal is such that there are no rights. Judges are like school boys who can be ‘sacked’ at the whims and caprices of the presiding officer, some of who have spent donkey years in the saddle.

Justice Walter Onnoghen Chief Justice of Nigeria…another judge in off-side?

www.gongnews.net checks revealed how presiding judges have two types of ages, their biological and the official. They freely and randomly amend their official ages several times. Some of these judges become vegetable before they are usually retired by gerontological circumstances.

In the award of available contracts, the President decides much of the issues. In one of the cases, it was established that most of the jobs have been awarded to a particular company called Jabtech Nigeria Limited.

At the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) where we paid to do a search, the said company with RC Number 662058 was incorporated on the 1st August 2006 with registered address at Suite 8, City plaza, plot 596 Ahmadu Bello Avenue, Abuja.

Justice Moses Bello with former Attorney General of the Federation, Mohammed Bello (SAN)

It has a N1million share capital. There are six Directors on its board. They are Joseph A. Bello (N500,000), Mary Bello (N100,000), Stella Bello (N100,000), Gabriel Bello (N100,000), John Bello (N100,000) and Victoria Bello (N100,000).

By its structure, it is obvious that the company certainly is a family business. The firm is the biggest contractor in the execution of contracts in the court. What is baffling is, may be, the President of the Court, Justice Moses Bello, is related or coincidentally related to the directors of the said company.

If he is related to any or all the said directors that will amount to an absolute abuse of his office and is contrary to the oath he swore when he became a judge as well as when he became the President of the court.

Ironically, the same company owns JAB Luxury House located in the Jabi area of the Federal Capital Territory. The massive plaza is along the nexus where Next Supermarket is located. Efforts to locate the Bank Verification Number (BVN) proved abortive as the bankers of the company feel it is wrapped under the privacy provisions between the bank and its clients.

This is based on the requirements on two of such banks to reveal such to us under the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act. Both banks written responded and used the same principle to protect the BVN.

Repeated visits to his chambers to get his own side of the story were successfully rebuffed by staffers attached to him who said, “My Lord does not by his training have anything to do with the media. You may approach the Registrar of the court for assistance since the issues you are likely to see him for are likely official.”

Justice Ayo Salami…Justice Bello was an impostor

Justice Ayo Salami said he is an impostor: Justice Bello came to the glitz of prominence during the controversial processes used in forcing out justice Ayo Salami from the Court of Appeal. In his valedictory speech, Justice Ayo Salami said: “the position in which NJC has found itself is similar to that of the proverbial rooster that betrayed itself to the fox that what was on his head was not fire and encouraged the fox to touch it. The fox having satisfied itself that truly it was not fire has since been hunting cocks to make menu of them.
Also, when the report of the committee the NJC set up to make recommendation on Umaru Abdullahi’s report was submitted to it for ratification, neither the CJN nor the next most senior Justice of the Supreme Court was present at the meeting.

Hon. Justice Moses A. Bello who was neither the Chief Justice of Nigeria nor the next most senior Justice of the Supreme Court took it upon himself to preside at the meeting contrary to the express provisions of sub-paragraph (a) and (b) of paragraph 20 of the Third Schedule of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria which provides as follows:
“zo. The National Judicial Council shall comprise the following members
(a) The Chief Justice of Nigeria who shall be the Chairman;
(b) The next most senior Justice of the Supreme Court who shall be the Deputy Chairman.”
(underlining mine)

President Muhammadu Buhari in a handshake with the President Customary Court of Appeal, Hon Justice Moses A. Bello and others members of the Judiciary after breaking of Ramadan Fast at his residence

“Moses Bello was then and is still the President of the Abuja Capital Territory Customary Court of Appeal.
It, therefore, follows from the above that no other member of the National Judicial Council including statutory members could be the chairman. He wrote two letters to me dated 9th and 18th August, 2011 which he signed respectively as follows:
“Hon. M.A. Bello OFR
Acting Chairman
National Judicial Council”
and
“Hon. Justice M.A.Bello OFR
Member National Judicial Council and Chairman 7th Emergency meeting of the Council.”

In either case Hon. Justice M.A.Bello, OFR was an impostor. There is no evidence that he had been appointed to the Supreme Court and he was neither the next most senior Justice of the Supreme Court nor Chief Justice of Nigeria. This is the levity with which the NJC treats matters of grave national importance . Clearly Hon. Justice M.A. Bello has not only behaved irresponsibly but also recklessly. Furthermore, it should be noted that the meeting at which Hon. Justice Bello presided and took this far reaching decision took place when my application for an injunction restraining the council from deliberating on my matter was still pending in the Federal High Court.

The consequence of his conduct is that both the meeting he presided over along with the decision taken are null and void. It is this illegal decision that the NJC had been relying upon to keep me out of office from 18th August, 2011.

Justice Bello cannot claim ignorance of the provisions already set out because he was sufficiently knowledgeable to know that representatives of the Nigerian Bar Association cannot participate m the disciplinary proceeding of a judicial officer, for he at that meeting ejected them. He cannot approbate and reprobate.

He relied on paragraph 21 (b) of the Third Schedule of the Constitution in paragraph 1 of his letter NJC/f.2/CA.i/i/ 286 of 18th of August, 2011 to inform me of my suspension. It reads as follows:

“The National Judicial Council at its Emergency meeting which was held on 18th August, 2011, in exercise of its power under paragraph 21 (b) of part 1 of the Third Schedule to the 1999 Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended, has suspended you from office with effect from today, pending the decision of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to retire you as recommended by it”

Paragraph 21 (b) of the constitution on which Hon. Justice Bello sought reliance reads as follows:
“Recommend to the President the removal from office of the judicial officers specified in sub-paragraph (a) of this paragraph, and to exercise disciplinary control over such officers”

It is clear from the authority cited by him that the National Judicial Council has no power to suspend me or any other judicial officer. If they relied on any other statutory or administrative practice to suspend me, such exercise of power would be contrary to the express provision of the constitution stated above and would be null and void. It is this arbitrariness that

I have been subjected to under the supervision of two Chief Justices of Nigeria who for some inexplicable reasons seem to be comfortable with this act of illegality. Hon. Justice Dahiru Musdapher on assumption of office rallied for support to correct this injustice. He then set up a 29-man stakeholders committee on judicial reform. Although review of my case was not one of the terms of reference on the agenda of the committee, members of the committee considered my case as one of utmost urgency. The committee saw it as an act of travesty of justice. It, therefore, set-up a sub-committee to look into my case. Notwithstanding that it was not one of the 15 terms of reference submitted to the committee, the committee was of the view that without addressing my case, it would be useless looking into the other matters listed by the then CJN. Not only did the committee make it an issue of topmost priority, to facilitate the resolution of this matter the committee submitted an interim report.

Justice Dahiru Musdapher, the then CJN did not act promptly. It took him several months and several meetings of the council before he presented the report to the council for consideration. I could go on and on on the way the NJC had in its desperate bid to continue to oppress me breached the Constitution but I would not say more.”

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