Re: ‘Appeal Court Justices Who Ruled in Favour of Nnamdi Kanu Transferred’ – Setting the Record Straight

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The above is one of the captions used to publish news reports that suggest that the Justices of the Court of Appeal that delivered the judgment striking out the charges filed against Mazi Nnamdi Kanu by the Federal Government were transferred. Stories such as this, highlights the recklessness of many media establishment presently, including those referred to as ‘front liners’. Seeing the above caption and reading the story, it would not be difficult for anyone to come to a conclusion that the transfer of the justices is a punishment metted out by the Federal Government against the Justices for delivering judgment “in favour” of Mazi Nnamdi Kanu.
In fact, one of the headlines read; “Nnamdi Kanu: FG goes after Appeal Court judges, transfers them”. To put the news report in proper context and bring out the deliberate mischief. The body of the news report reads:
“The three Justices that sat on the Court of Appeal panel that quashed the 15-count terrorism charge the Federal Government preferred against the detained leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, Nnamdi Kanu, have been transferred from their various divisions. Investigation by Vanguard revealed that the three appellate court justices were transferred, four days after they delivered the judgement that discharged the embattled IPOB leader.

Whereas the Presiding Justice, Jummai Hanatu Sankey, who was hitherto in the Gombe Division of the court, has been moved to Awka Division, Justice Oludotun Adetope-Okojie who delivered the lead judgement, was transferred to Owerri, while the third member of the panel, Justice Ebiowei Tobi, was moved to Gombe. A memo dated October 17, which was signed by the President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Monica Dongban-Mensem, stressed that the new posting for the Justices was with immediate effect as they were expected to report to their new stations by October 21.”
What is the back story from where the above report emanated and why should this be seen as a deliberate attempt to hit up the polity?
This report rightly quoted a memo dated October 17, 2022, through which the President of the Court of Appeal reshuffled the posting of ALL the Justices of the Court of Appeal. By quoting the above memo, it is safe to assume that the reporter of this news saw the content of the memo which listed all the Justices of the Court of Appeal. However, he chose to isolate the names of the three justices who sat on Kanu’s appeal to project.
There is really nothing to the story except that the Court of Appeal reshuffled its Justices and transferred almost all of them to new locations. The three Justices who decided the case of Nnamdi Kanu who are Justice of the Court of Appeal could not have been retained in their judicial division in an obvious general reshuffling. The news would have been correct in its insinuation if the October 17 memo had listed only the three justices for transfer or new posting without more. Even this would not have been a conclusive proof that the Justices were transferred because they delivered a judgment against the Federal Government.  But this is Nigeria and people get away with everything they choose to do.

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However, all the above issues raised so far are only but a part of the danger of this kind of reportage particularly as it concerns the judicial arm of government in Nigeria. The fact that anyone could make allegations that suggest that the judiciary is now subject to the whims of the executive arm of government is the greater slight to this arm of government and body of lawyers in whatever cadre. The steady attempt to continue to blur the dichotomy between the executive and the judiciary has persisted for the obvious reason that the judiciary is now seen as a toothless barking dog. It is this same unfounded insinuation that greeted this judgement. Even  among lawyers, the analysis was that which suggests that the Court of Appeal Justices were influenced to discharge Kanu by the Federal Government for political reasons.  How issues like this are considered as normal is the greater surprise. How lawyers can now freely argue that judges deliver judgment and carry out all their other judiciary duties at the convenience of the executive is the worst case of bizarre to experience.
Even if these are happening, among lawyers, in the midst of luminaries, let their be some element of shock. We all now wake up to do whatever pleases us with little or no regard to whatever implication such would have on our collective existence. There should be some form of consequences to these deliberate attempt to hit up the polity. There should be some form of reaction from legal luminaries to news such as this. In saner societies, this should have been a mudslide that would have stained all of our bibs and collarets and which would have forced us to at least speak legalese. But this is Nigeria where we are all laid back to issues of common interest if it is not personal, then it is not worth it. This is the real danger and this may be the end of all of us.
DNL

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