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IMO North Senatorial Bye-Election: Court to deliver judgment on Ararume suit In March.

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The Abuja division of the Federal High Court has fixed March 16, 2021 to deliver judgment in the suit filed by Senator IIfeanyi Ararume over the controversy surrounding the December 5, 2020 Imo North Senatorial Bye-Election.

The date was fixed on Tuesday after arguments were canvassed by counsel to parties to the suit.

The issues for arguments bordered centrally on the earlier judgements of the Supreme and Appeal Courts on the subject matter.

In the suit, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the All Progressives Congress (APC) and Chukwuma Ibezim are listed as defendants.

Although the electoral body had declared APC winner of the December 5 senatorial bye-election, it however did not return a candidate from the party.

INEC hinged its decision on what it described as “several court orders” for and against the two major contenders.

Specifically, two court judgments had surfaced on December 4, 2020: one from the Court of Appeal, Owerri, and another from the Federal High Court, Abuja.

The Court of Appeal faulted the judgment of the Federal High Court, Owerri, which had nullified the candidacy of Ibezim and declared him candidate, while sacking Araraume barely 24 hours to the election.

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However, the Federal High Court, Abuja had on the other hand declared Araraume as candidate of the party on the grounds that Ibezim presented fake certificates to the APC and INEC.

Araraume, in his argument, said he had also filed an application at the Supreme Court praying that the execution of the Appeal Court judgement be stayed.

It is on this basis that the former lawmaker approached Justice Taiwo’s court for an order compelling INEC to issue him the certificate of return as the winner of the poll.

However, another contestant for the seat on the platform of the APC, Ibezim has urged the court to reject Ararume’s plea.

Justice Taiwo had, on February 9, directed the parties to submit the earlier judgements by the apex court and Appeal Court for his perusal to avoid judicial rascality.

At the resumed sitting on Tuesday, Ararume’s counsel, Ahmed Raji, SAN, argued that following the Appeal Court’s decision in Abuja, Ibezim cannot claim to be APC’s candidate.

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In urging the court to discountenance Ibezim’s argument, he submitted “My lord, the two judgements of the Court of Appeal conclusively disqualified Ibezim (the third defendant) in this matter.

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“Therefore, we have three concurrent findings of the trial court and the two court of Appeal judgements, disqualifying Ibezim; meaning that the third defendant cannot be an aspirant or a candidate which was why we did not join him before he forced his way into this matter.

“There is no way a trial court can make an order in favour of a disqualified person and the second defendant (APC) is not allowed by law to put forward a disqualified person,” he said.

He further added that “regarding the Supreme Court judgments, I submit that they are not relevant to this matter.

“The narrow point in that matter is that no relief can be granted against a non-party (Ibezim) to a suit.

“Supreme court never talked about disqualification or qualifications; more so, the Appeal Court judgement came having been aware of the apex court judgement.

“I urge the court to be bound by the Court of Appeal judgement because it is relevant to the issue in this matter, and not the Supreme Court judgement.”

Raji urged the court to grant the reliefs sought by his client.

Counsel to the APC, Emman Osayomi, said though parties were bound by the decisions of the Appeal and Supreme Courts under review, the apex court verdict had an effect on Ararume too.

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On her part, Ibezim’s lawyer, Mrs. Oso Daudu, told the judge that the matter was predicated on the judgement of the Federal High Court, Owerri (in Ararume’s favour) which had been nullified by the Supreme Court on Feb. 5.

“Can the plaintiff enforce judgement that has been nullified by the Supreme Court?” she asked, adding that, “If the question is not answered in the affirmative, I urge my lord to dismiss the plaintiff’s suit as he has no locus in this matter before your lordship.”

But Justice Taiwo asked Daudu to address the court on the implication of the Appeal Court judgement on her client (Ibezim).

Also speaking, Raji corrected that the suit was based on the trial court judgement of Justice Inyang Ekwo and not that of Owerri court.

Justice Taiwo, who pointed out that his decision would be based on earlier judgements of the courts, said he would deliver judgment in the suit on March 16.

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Alleged N10bn scam: Secondus demands N1bn, retraction from Afegbua

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Following this week’s allegation of financial fraud to the tune of N10 billion made against Prince Uche Secondus, national chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP by Kassim Afegbua, the former, Thursday, demanded a retraction of the story and payment of N1 billion in damages from Afegbua.

Secondus through his counsel, Emeka Etiaba, threatened to take legal action against Mr. Afegbua within 48 hours if he fails to meet his demands.

Afegbua had accused Secondus of mismanaging the sum of N10 billion which he claimed accrued to the party from the sales of nomination forms for the 2019 election; a claim punctured by party spokesman, Kola Ologbondiyan, who noted that the party realized the sum of N4.

6 billion and not N10B billion.

The PDP boss noted that Afegbua, a former Information Commissioner in Edo state had in two national dailies as well as in a petition to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, and Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission, ICPC, said that “much of the financial transaction of the PDP under Prince Uche Secondus have been shrouded in mystery.”

Afegbua also accused the Secondus leadership of using the bank account of Morufu Nigeria Limited in the sale of nomination forms in 2019, instead of the party’s account.

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However, Secondus in a letter from Emeka Etiaba Chambers and addressed to Afegbua through his counsel, Kayode Ajulo and Co obtained by Vanguard demanded the sum of N1billion from Afegbua within 48 hours failure to which he will be sued for libel.

Prince Kassim Afegbua
The letter reads in part “The above publication of yours portrays our client in a bad light and gives notice to the whole world that our client is a fraudster who is incapable of holding the exalted office of the national chairman of the PDP.

“The two publications made by you were given prominence on the front pages of the Newspapers you employed for your defamatory actions and the publications were widely circulated and read’.

The letter captured some of the prominent federal political positions Secondus held in the past including chairman, National Insurance Commission; Chairman, National Identity Management Commission; Member, Nigerian Railway Board, stating that he “kept an unblemished reputation.

The letter continued: “Your publications which you know to be false have therefore brought him to odium and has challenged his right standing in the society as a trustworthy character.

“The publications were read worldwide and most especially in all nooks and crannies of Nigeria and this fact has been confirmed by the phone calls that have trailed your publications.

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Take notice that if you fail to retract your said publications, apologize to our client in the said newspapers with the same prominence with which you published the offensive statements and pay the sum N1,000,000,000.00 (One Billion Naira) to him as damages (all within 48 hours from the date hereof), we shall proceed to institute an action to seek redress from a court of competent jurisdiction”.

Meanwhile, when our correspondent contacted Afegbua for his reaction, he had this to say: “When I receive the letter, I will respond to it. I will consult my lawyers. I haven’t received any letter. But I cannot be intimidated or distracted from pursuing accountability in PDP. That will be my initial reaction.”

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Judiciary

We Cannot Suspend Strike Now, JUSUN Tells CJN

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The national officials of the Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN) had told the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad that it would be very difficult for it to call off its ongoing strike now.

JUSUN had visited the CJN in his office on Wednesday ostensibly to give him a feedback on his recent demand on the union to call off the ongoing strike.

The CJN had, at an earlier meeting with JUSUN leaders on April 6, asked the union to call off the strike in view of its adverse effect on the justice system in the country. According to a statement issued by the Senior Special Assistant on Media to the CJN, Ahurakah Isah, the JUSUN officials, led by its Deputy National President, Emmanuel Abioye and Jimoh Musa Alonge (Treasurer), explained why the union found it difficult to heed the CJN’s demand to call off the strike.

Abiyoye told the CJN that the state governors must begin to demonstrate some level of seriousness by putting in place some measures precedent to the implementation of financial autonomy for the judiciary in their respective states.

‘’Though there’s financial autonomy for the judiciary already in some states while some are assuring that they would comply, others have to take steps in readiness for compliance,’’ Abioye said. According to Abioye, the union expects each state to start implementing its selfaccounting law to deal with the Internally Generated Revenue in line with Section 121(3) of the 1999 Constitution as amended; and that states without such law should put it in place.

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Abioye said it is his union’s position that there must be some level of seriousness from all quarters and, as such, the amount standing to the credit of the judiciary from the monthly federal allocation should be deducted directly from the source by the Accountant General of the Federation and remit same to the National Judicial Council (NJC) for onward transmission to heads of courts.

He said for the Federation Consolidated Account also known as Federal Allocation, the budget of each state judiciary submitted to the implementation committee (received) on October 2, 2020 should be implemented by deducting the amount due to the state judiciary directly from source by Accountant General of the Federation AGF) in line with Sections 81(3) and 162(9) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) for the states. “In other words, the AGF should deduct from the monthly Federal Allocation and remit it to NJC for onward transmission of the fund to the Heads of Courts at the State Judiciary.

“Until this is done, there is no going back, the strike would go on.’’ However, the CJN said it has become difficult to fault the idea of the strike since the rights of the union and its members which are clearly defined in the Constitution are being denied, especially at state level. ‘’I can’t fault your reasons for embarking on this protest because the union wants its rights restored in line with the provisions of the Constitution. I commend you for following due process so far to protest against the injustice,’’ the CJN said.

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JUSUN insists allocations must be deducted at source, as govs beg members to call off strike

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The Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN) has insisted that each state must implement its self-accounting law in dealing with Internally Generated Revenue (IGR).

In a statement issued by its General Secretary I. M. Adetola, in Kaduna, on Thursday, the Union maintained that states must implement the Fund Management Law in dealing with the state consolidated funds, in accordance with Section 121(3) of the 1999 Nigerian Constitution as amended.

This is as governors through the platform of Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF) on Thursday implored the union to call off its strike, and pledged to implement the financial autonomy for the judiciary.

JUSUN maintained that the monthly federal allocation to the judiciary should be deducted directly from the source by Accountant General of the Federation and remitted to National Judicial Council (NJC) for onward transmission to heads of courts,

“For the Federal Allocation, the Budget of each State Judiciary submitted to the implementation committee (received on Oct.

2, 2020) should be implemented by deducting the amount due to the state judiciary directly from the source by Accountant General of the Federation.

“This is in accordance with Section 81(3), Section 162(9) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic Nigeria (as amended) for the states. The Accountant General of the Federation should be directed accordingly,” he said.

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The union also called for the payment of the arrears from the month of October 2020.

Nigeria reported that JUSUN, on April 6, in efforts to ensure it strike action was effective, shut down all courts across the country by mounting guard at the entrance of the courts to ensure that no one entered the court premises.

The action has crippled court proceedings as well as commercial activities around the court premises.

It would be recalled that a Federal High Court, which sat in Abuja had in January 2014, held that the financial autonomy for the judiciary was a constitutional provision that must be complied with by the executive branch of government.

Also, President Muhammadu Buhari, on May 23 2020, signed into law an Executive Order to grant financial autonomy to the legislature and the judiciary across the 36 states of the federation.

The order mandated the Accountant-General of the Federation to deduct from source amount due to state legislatures and judiciaries from the monthly allocation to each state for states that refuse to grant such autonomy.

Also, the Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, made the Executive Order No. 10 of 2020 mandatory, stating that all states of the federation should include the allocations of both the legislature and the judiciary in the first-line charge of their budgets.

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Meanwhile, the state governors through the platform of Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF) on Thursday, pledged to implement the financial autonomy for the judiciary by May ending at the latest and called on the striking members of the JUSUN to call off their two weeks old strike.

The chairman of the NGF and the Governor of Ekiti State, Kayode Fayemi, gave the assurance while speaking with journalists after meeting with stakeholders from the state judiciary and legislature at the Presidential Villa in Abuja.

He said the modalities for the implementation were worked out at the meeting held at the Presidential Villa.

According to him, the meeting, chaired by the Chief of Staff to President Buhari, Ibrahim Gambari was attended by the Solicitor-General of the Federation, the representatives of the judiciary, the representatives of the Conference of Speakers, and House of Representatives.

 

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