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OPINION

Justice Chioma Nwosu-Iheme: When A Judicial Icon Is Elevated To Supreme Court

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Justice Chioma Nwosu-Iheme

By Amby Uneze*

Justice Chioma Nwosu-Iheme’s career in the Nigerian judiciary epitomises hard work, integrity, and dedication. She is a judicial icon, having risen through the ranks to become one of the country’s most prestigious Supreme Court Justices. Justice Chioma Nwosu-Iheme’s significant contributions to the Nigerian judicial system and her enshrined place in the annals of Nigeria’s highest court remain eloquent testimony to her jurisprudence.
Nwosu-Iheme’s upbringing was marked by strict discipline, which moulded her into a paradigm of moral uprightness. Her dedication to justice from the beginning contributed to her reputation as a just and fair judge.
Her impressive track record would underscore her unwavering respect for the rule of law. Despite the prevailing corruption within the Nigerian judicial system, Nwosu-Iheme has championed the fight against judicial corruption, setting a benchmark for her colleagues and future generations.
She has notably authored various landmark judgements, which have had transformative and far-reaching consequences for Nigerian law. Her longstanding emphasis on meticulous judicial scrutiny of cases carries philosophical undertones of legal realism and has undeniably shaped the course of Nigeria’s judiciary system.
Nwosu-Iheme’s tireless advocacy for women’s rights has also been influential. Her unwavering opposition to gender discrimination has influenced changes in legal thinking towards gender equality, paving the way for reform in Nigerian family law.
Notwithstanding her laudable achievements, there exist contentious opinions about her judicial philosophy. She is lauded for her judicial creativity as a necessary tool for fighting injustice. This perspective ultimately underscores her influence within and outside the judicial system.
Examining Nwosu-Iheme’s influential career accentuates the vital role of an independent, fair, and transparent judiciary in the sustenance of a democratic society. Her dedication to justice, her fight against judicial corruption, her role in shaping Nigerian law, and her advocacy for gender equality are hallmarks of her iconic status in the Supreme Court.
As Justice Nwosu-Iheme is sworn in today, Monday, February 26, she is coming with experience, knowledge of the law and the fear of God. She is not alone, her other brother justices would be stepping up to complete the Supreme Court Justices to the Constitutionally required 21in number. They include Hon. Justice Jummai Hannatu Sankey, OFR, Hon. Justice Chidiebere Nwaoma Uwa, Hon. Justice Moore Asimov’s Adumein, Hon. Justice Obande Festus Ogbuinya, Hon. Justice Stephen Adah, Hon. Justice Habeeb Adewale Abiru, Hon. Justice Jamalu Yammama Tukur, Hon. Justice Abubakar Sadiq Umar, and Hon. Justice Mohammed Baba Idris.
They were recommended to President Bola Tinubu for elevation to the Supreme Court by the National Judicial Council (NJC) during its 104th Meeting on December 6, 2023, where it considered the list of Candidates presented by its interview Committee.
Born on 2, February 1959, in Nkwerre, Imo State. In 1995, she was appointed as a judge of the Imo State High Court. In 2008, she was elevated to the Court of Appeal and has headed a number of the Court’s Divisions. She is the first female Nigerian Judge to earn a PhD in Law. She is, also, the second female Judge from Imo State to be appointed to the Supreme Court. The first was the Honourable Justice Mary Peter-Odili, wife of the former governor of Rivers State, Chief Peter Odili, a medical doctor.
Nwosu-Iheme noted for her courage and no-nonsense attitude, was appointed a Judge of the Imo State High Court in 1995. As a courageous judge, she was the only judge after two other judges who started the case could not make progress until the matter was assigned to her and without blinking an eye, she delivered judgment on 28 April 1999. The “Otokoto Seven” were finally sentenced to death to the satisfaction of the people.
In 2005, she was one of 27 ad litem judges elected for a four-year term by the United Nations General Assembly at its 59th Session to oversee the International tribunal mandated to prosecute and try persons responsible for serious violations of international humanitarian law committed in the former Yugoslavia since 1991.
Justice Nwosu-Iheme was elevated to the Appeal Court on 15th February 2008 and was ranked 8th in the Seniority list of the Appeal Court.
As she ascended to the pinnacle of her career and profession, Justice Chioma Nwosu-Iheme, no doubt, would serve as a beacon for the advancement of a just society through her unwavering dedication to serving the principles of justice. Her legacy in the Supreme Court will be an enduring testament to the transformational power of the judiciary in instilling democratic values and reinforcing social justice.
Hon. Justice Nwosu-theme is married to High Chief Uzoma Nwosu-theme, an American-trained Geologist and one-time Hon. Commissioner for Public Utilities and Rural Development; Youths and Sports and also Education all in Imo State. She is a staunch Anglican and for 20 years the lord Chancellor of the Anglican Dioceses of Owerri. The family is blessed with five children, a girl and four boys. The only girl is an Assistant Professor of Oncology at M. D. Anderson Cancer Centre, University of Texas at Houston, one engineer, an economist, and two lawyers, with the last son also having a Ph.D. in law.

OPINION

Wanted By EFCC: Yahaya Bello Or White Lion?

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By Ikeddy Isiguzo*

A white lion is a rare appearance. Only a few claim to have seen one. A white lion is sighted following the rare appearances.
The earliest recorded sighting of a white lion was in 1938, according to a 2018 online post. Only about 200 white lions remain globally, and only about 12 of these are to be found in their habitat of South Africa’s Timvabati region. There are no records of white lions in Nigeria.
Yahaya Adoza Bello, former Governor of Kogi State, whom the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, has declared wanted with a frenzy, calls himself White Lion. It could be important to know if EFCC is after Yahaya Bello or White Lion.
The clarification is important to cleanse parts of the disgraceful conduct of EFCC. Bello’s residences are well-known to EFCC. It would be a shame if EFCC did not know where to find Bello or arrest him.
Declaring him wanted is a waste of public attention and resources. Many people woke up on Thursday to see media platforms flooded with messages that there were obstructions to the arrest of Bello. EFCC officials know what they did or refused to do. They can keep the excuses to themselves.
A day earlier, EFCC laid a siege to Bello’s house in Wuse Zone 4, Abuja. It inconvenienced many residents of Benghazi and surrounding streets. What were EFCC doing there? Was it safe-guarding the house for Bello’s convenience?
Bello has a house in Benghazi. If EFCC did not have credible information on its target’s location, what were its operatives doing in Benghazi?
EFCC did nothing because it wanted to do nothing. What is special about Bello and his offence that he cannot be arrested and charged in court?
Was EFCC acting out a script? When a different EFCC was in charge it invaded Rochas Okorocha’s residence and pulled him out. Rocha’s prayer session was reportedly disrupted. What has EFCC done with Rochas since then?
EFCC’s mission to Bello’s house was simple. Get to the house, and make your presence known until Governor Usman Ododo’s convoy arrives to re-confer immunity on Bello with which to ferry him back to Lokoja where Bello has been reportedly holed up in Government House since he ceded office to Ododo last May.
Benghazi Street on Wednesday was designated a “crime scene”. Suspicious vehicles and any possible mobilisation that could aid Bello’s escape should have been shut down. Nothing of that nature happened.
A recreation of Wednesday’s scenario seems to establish that EFCC was waiting for Bello to work out his escape which should not be blamed on Governor Ododo. Before his arrival what had EFCC done?
If agents at the scene required re-enforcement did they ask? What stopped them? Who stopped them? The performance was beyond disgraceful.
We have witnessed EFCC officials smash doors, break windows, and take out roofs in a hot chase for students accused of cybercrimes. Sometimes they arrive at night, hit the wrong addresses, damage buildings, invade people’s privacy, behaving worse than armed robbers. There are no apologies or compensations for the people some of whose health conditions these attacks worsened.
So, when Bello is declared wanted we should applaud EFCC for acting in line with its mandate? If some small-time suspects were involved, EFCC would arrest and hurl them to court by the time you are halfway through this piece. EFFC knows when to be efficient. Its high level of efficiency was on exhibition on Wednesday.
Then, the Inspector-General of Police Dr Kayode Egbetokun weighs in with the more serious joke – policemen attached to Bello had been withdrawn. He may have forgotten that Ododo has enough policemen to spare. Those would be farmed out to the White Lion.
It is also possible that Dr Egbetokun missed the part where Bello had enough louts with him. They dared anyone to come near their hero. EFCC alluded to that in the reasons for Bello’s escape.
Amid the brouhaha, does anyone still remember Honourable James Abiodun Faleke, a ranked Member of the Representatives, Ikeja Federal Constituency, Lagos, but from Ijumu Local Government Area of Kogi State?
He was running mate to Prince Abubakar Audu in the 2015 governorship election which Audu won. Audu died while the results were being announced.
The forces that were, considered Faleke unworthy of being Governor. Old Kabba Division, Faleke’s origin, was the wrong side of the Kogi political map. It was also argued that a Faleke governorship would give Bola Ahmed Tinubu, a toe hold in Kogi State.
In a most bizarre decision, APC counted Audu’s votes for Bello who was second in the party’s primary. The Supreme Court ruled in Bello’s favour.
“I will not disappoint Prince Abubakar Audu. I, James Abiodun Faleke, will not be there for the swearing-in. Nobody consulted me before making me a deputy to Bello. Bello too did not consult me. I have made my position known to the party leadership on this,” said Faleke who kept his word.
The theory is that Faleke’s godfather is making Bello pay for displacing Faleke.
Is this why Bello is running from the law? How long will he run? How far can he run?
People should leave Faleke out of Bello’s troubles. Soon, they would say Faleke made Bello conduct himself in a manner that resulted in the N80 billion alleged fraud.
Those who know him should whisper to Bello that no lion of any hue is afraid, cowed, frightened, and avoids roaring.
Bello should be able to roar his innocence. He cannot do that in hiding. He cannot continue admitting guilt by running from the law that is meant to protect him to the refuge of the Governor.
As it is too difficult to see the White Lion, can we see Bello, the owner of Kogi who ruled that there was no COVID-19 in Kogi State? One of the allegations against him is that he mismanaged the COVID-19 allocations to Kogi State.

Finally…
DR. Ogbonnaya Onu, former Minister of Science & Technology, a gentleman to the core is gone. Some still cannot understand why they trusted Muhammadu Buhari to the point of contemplating that Buhari would have helped him to be President of Nigeria. May the Almighty rest him.
A FEDERAL Government agency officials are raiding markets and shops in Abuja, Lagos, Port Harcourt, Ibadan, and Kaduna to crash prices of goods. These raids cannot crash prices. The government knows but must be seen as doing something. Why did this federal project exclude the South East and North Central?
ELEMENTARY economics would explain that “Naira gaining value”, a supposed win over the Dollar cannot result in a reduction in the cost of manufacturing where other areas are whipping out the gains. Assuming a company had money to buy cheap Dollars, its Band A electricity supply has worsened. It has to buy more diesel to generate power, pay more for the security of its products, and pay for the high cost of transportation. Consumers gain nothing from “Naira gain”. They have no money to buy the goods.
Did you read this? “Once you join the rising spending power of Africa’s largest population with the historic availability of trillions of Naira for consumer credit that will bolster the real sector, you will see why Nigerians will be most pleased that they elected a financial engineer and businessman as president by the end of his first term in office, even as the signs are increasingly more evident today,” Ajuri Ngelale, Special Adviser to the President on Media & Publicity. Ngelale is undergoing financial engineering. Congratulations to him.
Correction: I wrote last week that the boat accident which claimed Nollywood actor Junior Pope and others was on Anam River. My apologies. It was on River Niger.

*Isiguzo is a major commentator on minor issues

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OPINION

EFCC, Naira Abuse And The Real Anti-Corruption War

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EFCC Operatives

By Emeka Alex Duru*

It is becoming clear that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), is not looking back in its battle against abuse of the national currency, the Naira. Or so it seems! Two quick moves by the commission within the month, indicate that it perhaps, means business in this regard.

On Wednesday, two days ago, EFCC arraigned a businessman and socialite, Pascal Okechukwu, popularly known as Cubana Chief Priest, before a Lagos court on three counts bordering on abuse of naira, by allegedly spraying and tampering with the nation’s currency at a social event.

According to EFCC, Okechukwu had on February 13, 2024, at Eko Hotel, within the jurisdiction of the court, while dancing during a social event, tampered with funds in the denomination of N500 notes, by spraying the same for two hours, and thereby committed an offence contrary to and punishable under Section 21(1) of the Central Bank Act 2007.

The commission also alleged that sometime in 2020, during a social event in Lagos, Cubana Chief Priest tampered with funds in the denomination of N500, by spraying the same for two hours.

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In Count 3, EFCC alleged: “That you, Okechukwu Pascal, sometime in January 2024, in Lagos during a social event, tampered with funds in the denomination of N500 (Five Hundred Naira) issued by the Central Bank of Nigeria by spraying the same and you thereby committed an offence, contrary to and punishable under Section 21(1) of the Central Bank Act 2007.”

The EFCC had on April 5, 2024, secured the conviction of controversial cross-dresser, Idris Okuneye, also known as Bobrisky, on similar charges for which he was sentenced to six-month imprisonment on Friday, April 12, 2024. The judge, Abimbola Awogboro, imposed the sentence after the 31-year-old socialite pleaded guilty to the alleged offences.

Earlier in February, a Federal High Court in Lagos had convicted an actress, Oluwadarasimi Omoseyin, of spraying and stepping on new naira notes at a wedding in Lagos.

Ms Omoseyin was apprehended on February 1, following the viral circulation of a video clip showing her spraying new Naira notes at a wedding in Lekki, Lagos State, on January 28. On February 2, the trial judge, Chukwujekwu Aneke, sentenced Ms. Omoseyin to six months imprisonment, but with the option of a N300,000 fine.

Many celebrities, according to the EFCC, are facing investigations and will soon be prosecuted for Naira abuse. We must commend the commission for waging the battle against abuse of the Naira.

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A country’s currency is its legal tender; its store of value, unit of account, and medium of exchange. It is a major tool in transactions by its nationals and residents. In the absence of money, the transactions would become inefficient, and the economy would not be able to produce. By extension, the currency counts among the indexes of national security of a country. How a country treats its currency goes a long way in determining how others see it and its citizens.

Over time, the Naira has been an object of abuse by Nigerians, especially of low value and fleeting identities. Careless spraying of the Naira or even trampling on it, has become an easy path for upstarts to announce their arrival in social circles. If proper analysis is done on the rising incidences of kidnapping, cyber fraud and the get-quick tendencies among the youths, flaunting of the Naira at public functions, will have some blame for the odious acts.

The desire to be celebrated has led many into crimes. It is nearly impossible for anyone who has struggled and toyed to make his or her money to flaunt or spray it in a meaningless fashion. Every effort at safeguarding the value and essence of the Naira should therefore be lauded.

But then, there is the greater task ahead for the EFCC. That is the real war against graft and other acts of corruption. Incidentally, that was even why the commission was established.  Established under the Economic And Financial Crimes Commission (Establishment) Act, 2004, EFCC has among other functions to investigate all financial crimes including advance fee fraud, money laundering, counterfeiting, illegal charge transfers, futures market fraud, fraudulent encashment of negotiable instruments, computer credit fraud and contract scam.

It is also empowered to examine and investigate all reported cases of economic and financial crimes to identify individuals, corporate bodies or groups involved. It can also identify, trace, freeze, confiscate or seize proceeds derived from terrorist activities, economic and financial crime-related offences or the properties the value of which corresponds to such proceeds.

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Given the initial success of the Commission in reining in advance fee criminals and scammers, it was generally seen as a bold move in tackling crime and other misdemeanours that had dented the nation’s image locally and abroad.

With time however, especially, due to the closeness of the leadership of the organisation to successive administrations and the willingness to be used in executing vindictive wars of any seating president, EFCC gradually began to be seen as an instrument of blackmail and intimidation by the government. The agency began to lose steam.

The result is that Nigeria is still rated among the countries with high levels of corruption. By the 2023 Corruption Perception Index (CPI) released by Transparency International (TI) in January this year, Nigeria ranked 145 among 180 countries surveyed. The EFCC had on its own, in 2015, admitted that about $20 trillion had been stolen from the national treasury by leaders who had access to the nation’s money between 1960 and 2005. That figure must have been exceeded over time.

Some of the perpetrators of the heinous acts against the country and their cronies are still in the government houses at the state or federal level or other agencies. The opacity and dirty deals in the oils sector, also portray Nigeria as a country that is neck-deep in corruption.

It is therefore not enough for the EFCC to go about raking in petty thieves, internet fraudsters or those abusing the Naira at social functions while leaving out the brains behind huge crimes. For the anti-corruption war to have meaning and be convincing, it must be comprehensive and encompassing.

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The EFCC may have done well in securing a conviction for those trifling with the Naira. But leaving the real thieves roam freely, casts doubt on the genuineness of its anti-corruption war.

  • Duru is the Editor, TheNiche Newspapers, Lagos (08054103327, nwaukpala@yahoo.com)            
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OPINION

Yahaya Bello, EFCC And Rule Of Law

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Bello

By Pelumi  Olajengbesi

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) stands as a cornerstone in upholding the rule of law and combating economic and financial crimes in Nigeria. Its unwavering commitment to investigating and prosecuting offenders has earned it commendation, fostering transparency and accountability in governance, even though there cannot be an institution without a challenge.

Despite facing institutional challenges, the EFCC’s track record of success has solidified its reputation as a formidable government agency, instilling a sense of propriety and caution among those in positions of political and economic influence.

However, recent events have generated concerns about the agency’s capability to function above interference, particularly in light of perceived political interference in its operations. A notable example is the recent stand-off between EFCC personnel and the immediate former Governor of Kogi State, Yahaya Bello, highlighting the roles played by the Nigeria Police, the Court, and his successor, which underscores this concern.

The recent decision of the Kogi State High Court, purportedly restraining the EFCC from taking action against the former governor came as a rude shock, sparking widespread debate and scrutiny of the Nigerian legal system. Many citizens perceive this as an instance where certain individuals are seemingly placed above the rule of law, fueling media arguments and public discourse.

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While awaiting access to the Certified True Copy of the judgment for clarity, it’s crucial to affirm the EFCC’s statutory authority, akin to other law enforcement agencies, to investigate and prosecute individuals suspected of committing offences. Sections 6 and 7 of the EFCC Establishment Act unequivocally empower the Commission, with constitutional backing that cannot be overridden by the courts.

The Supreme Court in the case of Dr Joseph Nwobike SAN v. The Federal Republic of Nigeria held thus: “Having regard to sections 6, 7, 14-18 of the EFCC Establishment Act, particularly 6(b), 7(1)(a), 2(f), 13(2), the EFCC has powers to investigate, enforce, and prosecute offenders for any offence, whether under the Act or any statute, insofar as the offence relates to the Commission of economic and financial crimes.”

Similarly, in the case of Ewulo v. EFCC & ors., the Court of Appeals held as follows: “It is no longer in doubt that agencies vested with statutory powers to investigate crimes cannot be restrained or arm-twisted by litigation to prevent them from exercising their statutory powers. Once there is semblance of legal justification in the exercise of statutory powers, the courts must refrain from making orders that have the consequence of stupifying the proper exercise of statutory powers.”

From the above, it is clear beyond a doubt that the Commission cannot be restrained from carrying out its constitutional responsibilities. Any attempts by an individual or group to use the instrumentality of the law to obstruct, delay, and/or circumvent the Commission’s constitutional responsibilities are therefore unlawful.

While respecting citizens’ constitutional rights is crucial, courts lack the authority to impede law enforcement agencies from executing their duties, regardless of the individual’s status. Upholding the rule of law necessitates ensuring equal accountability and justice for all, without exceptions or undue influence.

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  • Olajengbesi Esq, Legal is Managing Partner at Law Corridor, Abuja
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