By Jonathan Elendu
On October 14th, 2021, a five-man panel of Supreme Court Justices led by Justice Mary Ukaego Peter-Odili ruled on an appeal by Jude Okeke.
Jude Okeke had appealed a Kano division of the Appeal Court judgment that ruled that the removal of Edozie Njoku as the chairman of APGA was non-justiceable.
On May 6th, 2022, Edozie Njoku wrote a letter to Justice Mary Ukaego Peter-Odili and her other four brother Justices on the panel, pointing out to them that he was the one sued in Jigawa High Court and it was he whose removal by a Court was ruled non-justiceable not Victor Oye. The Supreme Court on May 9th corrected their ruling and replaced Oye’s name with Edozie Njoku.
Soon after, Victor Oye accused Njoku of forgery and wrote petitions to the police and other security services.
On October 7th, Edozie Njoku wrote a letter to the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Kayode Ariwoola. In his letter titled: REQUEST FOR THE AUTHENTICATION AND CONFIRMATION OF THE SUPREME COURT JUDGEMENT IN SUIT no: SC/CV/687/2021 between CHIEF JUDE OKEKE and ALL PROGRESSIVES GRAND ALLIANCE ( APGA)&3 others, Njoku narrated his ordeals and the journey that led to asking for correction of a Supreme Court judgement.
He also told the Chief Justice how fresh applications for CTCs of the said correction made by his counsels, LAWHITESTONE & LABELLE ATTORNEYS and ETHOS GLOBAL ATTORNEYS on September 2nd and 20th were “administratively frustrated” by Bar. Abubakar Dikko, the Director of Litigation minuted to the Bar. Olugbenga Owodolu to “file appropriately.”
Edozie Njoku concluded his letter to Chief Justice Olukayode Ariwoola like this: “Given the controversy that this matter has generated, as a result of the letters from the Chief Registrar to the Nigerian Police and INEC and Director of Media to the public, I most respectfully plead with your Lordship to put forward the official position of this court on the corrected judgment; this will help remove the negative impression that I doctored or forged the correction which both INEC and the Nigerian Police have built up against me, bearing in mind that INEC recognised Mr Jude Okeke as National Chairman of APGA on my suspension in Jigawa High Court.”
One would have expected that Chief Justice Olukayode Ariwoola would not only be embarrassed and scandalised but also outraged that Hajo Sarki Bello, the Chief Registrar who in her own right is a senior member of the Bar, who ought to know better, would write letters to the Police and INEC, two strategic institutions in the executive arm of the Nigerian government to set aside a judgment of the Supreme Court without recourse to members of the panel or even the Chief Justice of Nigeria.
Justice Mary Ukaego Peter-Odili, in response to Njoku’s letter and perhaps because of the Chief Registrar’s unprecedented actions, took the highly unusual step of coming out from retirement to respond to Edozie Njoku’s letter on November 7th. In her letter, she confirmed that her panel corrected their judgment of October 14th, 2021. She described what she called a trajectory of errors’, which led to Victor Oye being named chairman in their ruling and necessitated the correction of May 9th, 2022.
Curiously, the Chief Justice of Nigeria is yet to respond to Edozie Njoku’s letter.
The police arranged to arraign Edozie Njoku and Chukwuemeka Nwoga on charges of forging a Supreme Court judgement. INEC has refused to recognise Edozie Njoku as the chairman of APGA even after Justice Odili had affirmed that their judgment was not forged. His Lordship, Justice Olukayode Ariwoola, the Chief Justice of Nigeria, is keeping silent as a man he knows did not forge the judgment of his court is arraigned and may be jailed by a power-drunk compromised policeman.
Even the unusual step of his brother Justice, Mary Ukaego Peter-Odili, writing a letter to Edozie Njoku, for which CSP Ezekiel Rimasomte threatened to dock her and advised her to fast and pray to avert what he was planning for the retired Justice did not move Justice Ariwoola to make a statement in her support.
I am told that the Supreme Court is steeped in tradition and judicial rituals; however, the Court has been denigrated and desecrated by its support staff, who wrote letters and made statements setting aside the Court’s judgment. A retired Justice of the same Court was threatened and disparaged for doing her job. She acted, when the Chief Justice would not, to save the further court denigration by writing that letter of November 7th. How long would those traditions and judicial rituals sustain at the rate this Court is losing credibility with Nigerians?
At a meeting held by the Imo State executive of the Oye faction of APGA, the state chairman told his members that they knew Edozie Njoku did not forge the Supreme Court judgement. He told his members at the meeting that they had been assured the Supreme Court was unlikely to make a statement authenticating the correction, and even if it made a statement, it would be such that both sides would have something to celebrate. The man was echoing Prof. Chukwuma Soludo, the governor of Anambra state. How can this be?
Two innocent men face the real prospect of going to jail for offences they did not commit. The Chief Justice of Nigeria knows the men are innocent, and he keeps quiet. One of the men wrote a letter to him months earlier begging for justice at his feet. Our revered Chief Justice keeps quiet and wraps himself in tradition and rituals of silence. Where is the hope for the rest of us if we cannot find it in the halls of justice?
Would Justice Olukayode Ariwoola watch as the hard-earned reputation of Justice Mary Ukaego Peter-Odili, which he spoke glowingly of, recently rubbished? Did the Chief Justice authorise the letters written to the Nigerian Police and INEC by Hajo Sarki Bello? If he did not approve the letters, who did? And what will His Lordship do about it?