A former Governor of Cross River State, Donald Duke, on Wednesday, claimed that the seven Supreme Court Justices, who delivered the judgement that declared Hope Uzodinma as the Imo State governor aftermath of the 2019 elections, were recently denied visas to attend a Judges’ conference in the United States.
The former governor made the claim at the launch of a memoir in honour of retired Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Charles Archibong, titled “A Stranger In Their Midst’’.
Duke, who noted that the United States Embassy in Nigeria took the action in view of the miscarriage of justice that occurred in the case, also alleged that all the aides, who applied for the US visas, alongside the Justices, were all granted.
LEADERSHIP recalls that the apex court in an unanimous judgment of a seven-member panel, read by Justice Kudirat Kekere-Ekun, held that results in 388 polling units were unlawfully excluded during the collation of the final 2019 governorship election results in Imo State.
The names of other Justices on the panel are the then CJN, Justice Tanko Muhammad, the current CJN Justice Olukayode Ariwoola, Justice Nwali Sylvester Ngwuta, Justice Amiru Sanusi, Justice Amina Augie and Justice Uwanimusa Abba Aji.
While delivering a keynote address at the event, Duke said, “Apart from the recent cases, there is another one where number four became number one, the Justices that gave that judgment cannot go to the United States today because they have been denied visas.
“They want to go on a retreat. Their aides were given visas but they were not given. How much disgrace can we take as a nation before we say enough is enough?
“I am sure this current set will also be denied visas because it is ridiculous, you did not partake in a process but they found a way to dismiss the case procedurally,” he said.
Also speaking at the event, a former President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Dr Olisa Agbakoba (SAN), described the National Judicial Council (NJC) as a toothless bulldog.
Agbakoba pointed out that the fact that the NJC is controlled by the Chief Justice of Nigeria who appoints 50 of its 60 members, makes the council inefficient and ineffective.
He said most of the judicial officers in the country live in fear of the executive and its agencies because they are poorly paid and their retirement benefits are nothing to write home about.
The senior lawyer stated, “The conditions of service of the judiciary are terrible. It means they can be controlled. Those who don’t want to just take it easy and keep their heads down are strangers in their midst.”
“We should not put our judges in a position where they can be tempted,” Agbakoba further maintained.
On his own part, a former member of the House of Representatives, Hon. Abdul Oroh, shared his experience when he served on the House Committee on Judiciary.
According to him, the top echelon of the Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SANs) was responsible for corrupting judges.
‘A Stranger in Their Midst’ is a 228-page autobiography focusing on the judicial career of Mr. Justice Charles Archibong at the Federal High Court in several locations across the country.
Justice Archibong served on the bench of the Federal High Court from 2002 to 2013.
The book details matters that came before Justice Archibong during his time as a Federal Judge. His characteristic approach to adjudication was a decided bent toward the speedy conclusion of proceedings before him.
The cases ranged from the abduction of a sitting state governor, the recall of the Deputy Senate President, a trial of activists of the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB), to pushing through trial a claim against federal authorities over the publication of an air accident report, oil magnates and communications czars tangling with their creditors.
Things reached a climax when Justice Archibong collided with senior lawyers engaged on behalf of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to conduct a major criminal trial and about the same time the Judge gets caught in the crossfire of feuding political bigwigs fighting for the control of political party structures. These conflicts will lead to the premature termination of his judicial career.