The axe of the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Ibrahim Muhammad, is currently dangling on the head of a judge of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), judiciary for issuing direct criminal summons against a former Governor of the Central Bank (CBN), Prof. Charles Soludo.
Already, the CJN has ordered the Judicial Service Committee (JSC) of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) to immediately initiate disciplinary action against them.
The Upper Area Court Judge, whose identity is being kept under wrap, issued the criminal charges against the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Anambra State, over alleged serial abuse of office and breach of Code of Conduct for public officers, when he was the Governor of CBN between May 29, 2004 – May 29, 2009.
The Upper Area Court had, on August 23, 2021, issued a direct Criminal Summons against Soludo over perjury, corruption, and false assets declaration which is completely outside the jurisdiction of the Upper Area Court.
He, consequently, ordered Soludo to appear before it over alleged serial abuse of office and breach of the Code of Conduct for Public Officers, while he held office as the CBN governor between May 29, 2004, and May 29, 2009.
Daily Sun had reported that the direct criminal complaint was brought by one Oliver Bitrus pursuant to Sections 88 and 89 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015.
The criminal summons marked DC/CR/556/2021, which was issued in accordance with the Criminal Procedure Code (CAP 30:255) from the Upper Area Court, Zuba, Abuja, was predicated upon the complaint filed on July 14, 2021, by counsel to the complainant, Ezea Ferdinand.
It ordered Soludo to appear before the court on August 23, 2021, in respect of the allegations made against him.
According to court documents, the complainant, Oliver Bitrus, alleged that between the period Prof. Soludo held office as a public officer he flagrantly breached the code of conduct for public officers by buying or acquiring an interest in a property known and described as No. 50 Brondesbury Park, London, NW6 7AT, United Kingdom. The property is covered by File Plan of Tile No. MX362301.
Mr. Oliver claimed that this property was bought or acquired using a proxy and/or nominee company known as Universal Energy Company Limited, and which, the investigation revealed, was incorporated in the Isle of Man; and is now used to round-trip public funds for the purchase. As a matter of fact, the purchase price of £2,150, 000 was paid on October 20, 2006, in a single tranche, which sum was not fairly attributable to his income as the governor of the CBN at the material time.
Further investigation also disclosed that presently, the property is occupied by the defendant, his spouse, and children and used as their personal and official addresses for all their companies and other business undertakings.
Meanwhile, the upper court judge may have landed himself in trouble for acting beyond the jurisdiction of his court, as a trial on criminal charges on false declaration of assets is exclusively vested in the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT).
FCT Judicial Service Committee billed to discipline the judge is under the chairmanship of the Acting Chief Judge, Justice Hussein Yusuf.
A top source with knowledge of the development told Daily Sun that
“from all indications, the Chief Justice of Nigeria and Chairman National Judicial Council (CJN), Justice Ibrahim Muhammad, seems determined to put an end to impunity and misconduct in the judiciary.”
The CJN had, on September 6, 2021, met with the Chief Judges of FCT, Rivers, Kebbi, Cross Rivers, Jigawa, Anambra, and the Imo States and directed some of them to admonish the judges in their jurisdictions on the danger of granting ex parte injunctions.
The acting Chief Judge of the Federal Capital Territory is expected to submit his findings to the CJN within 21 days.