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Conflicting orders: NJC bars three judges from promotion

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The National Judicial Council (NJC) on Thursday wielded the big stick against three High Court judges for issuing conflicting ex parte orders.

Two of the judges — Okogbule Gbasam and  Nusirat  Umar — will not move to the “higher Bench” in the next two years, it said.

The third, Edem  Kooffreh of the High Court of Cross Rivers State, will remain on the same spot for five years.

Gbasam is a judge of the Rivers State  High Court while Umar is of the Kebbi State High Court.

The trio received warning letters which also placed them on a watchlist by the NJC.

They were found culpable of issuing conflicting orders in cases involving the former National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Prince Uche Secondus.

Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) Ibrahim Muhammad had in August summoned them and their colleagues in Anambra, Jigawa and Imo states over conflicting orders that emanated from their courts.

A statement by the NJC  Director of Information, Soji Oye, said the decisions were reached at a meeting presided over by the NJC Deputy Chairman, Justice Mary Peter-Odili.

The statement was however, silent on the fate of the other three High Court judges in Anambra, Jigawa and Imo states.

Oye said although no written petition was presented against the three judges, the NJC  relied on its disciplinary power under the 1999 Constitution to investigate the circumstances that led to the spate of ex parte orders granted by some courts of coordinate jurisdiction on matters involving the same parties and subject.

He added that the NJC also approved the appointment of 63 judges for 16 states, including nine heads of court, during the meeting held on Tuesday and Wednesday.

The appointments, according to him, followed the notification of the retirements and deaths of some judges.

Oye’s statement partly reads: “The NJC rose from its two days meeting held on 14th and 15th December 2021, with a resolution to bar the three judges of courts of concurrent jurisdiction who granted conflicting ex parte orders in matters with same parties and subject matter from promotion to the higher bench for a period ranging from two to five years whenever they are due.

“Even though there was no written petition, allegations of corruption or impropriety against the subject judges, council nevertheless, initiated an investigation pursuant to its inherent disciplinary powers under the Constitution to unravel the circumstances that led to the spate of ex parte orders granted by these courts of coordinate jurisdiction over matters bearing same parties and subject matter.

“The meeting which was chaired by the Deputy Chairman of the council, Hon. Justice Mary Peter-Odili agreed with the recommendations of the Investigation Committee set up in September 2021 that Justice Okogbule Gbasam of the High Court of Rivers State be barred from elevation to higher Bench for two years whenever he is due, as he failed to exercise due diligence in granting the ex parte order in suit No: PHC/2183/CS/2021 between Ibealwuchi Earnest Alex & 4 others and Prince Uche Secondus & another, as there was no real urgency, in the circumstances of the matter, that would have required an ex parte order.

“His Lordship is also issued with a warning letter to be circumspect in granting such ex parte orders in the future.

“Council also resolved that Justice Nusirat I. Umar of the High Court of Kebbi State be barred from elevation to higher Bench for two years whenever due, having found fundamental defects and non-compliance with the law in granting the ex-parte order in suit No: KB/HC/M.71/2021 between Yahaya Usman & 2 others and Prince Uche Secondus & another.

“He is also issued with a warning letter to be circumspect in granting such ex-parte orders in the future.

“Hon. Justice Edem Ita Kooffreh of the High Court of Cross River State will not be promoted to a higher Bench for five years for allowing himself to be used as a tool for “forum shopping” and abuse of Court process in suit No: HC/240/2021 between Mr. Enang Kanum Wani and Uche Secondus, as it was evident that, in granting the ex parte order, he was seised of earlier orders of the High Courts of Rivers and Kebbi States, being courts of coordinate jurisdiction with his.

“He is also to receive a warning letter to be circumspect in granting such ex parte orders in the future.

“The council also placed him on its watch-list for a period of two years.”

Although the statement did not list the names of the 63 newly appointed judges and the heads of court, it named   Justice Mudashiru Oniyangi of the Court of Appeal, Hon. Justice Bello Duwale of the High Court of Sokoto State, Hon. Justices S. A. Omonua and O. S. Uwuigbe of the Edo State High Court, and Justices M. A. Pindiga  as well as  Beatrice L. Iliya of the High Court of Gombe State among  those on the retirement list

Others are  Muhammad  Abdulkadir, Grand Kadi, Sharia Court of Appeal, Kwara State and    Justice S. M. C. Ururuka-Ogeshi, president, Customary Court of Appeal, Abia State.

According to the statement, the judges, who passed on are A. K. Fowe of the High Court of  Ekiti State;   Chinonyerem Onii of the  High Court, Imo State and. Shehu Ahmad, grand kadi, Kaduna State.

It added that the NJC approved the promotion of 84 members of staff of the judiciary ranging from grade levels seven to 17.

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Google set to invest $9.5bn in US

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Google has announced plans to invest $9.5bn in its US offices and data centers around the country in 2022, up from more than the $7bn it spent in 2021.

According to CNN, the big bet on office space was coming at a point Google was embracing a hybrid work model. The Alphabet-owned company has called for many of its employees to work in an office three days a week after two years of being fully remote.

The Chief Executive Officer of Alphabet and Google, Sundar Pichai, said, “It might seem counterintuitive to step up our investment in physical offices even as we embrace more flexibility in how we work.

“Yet we believe it’s more important than ever to invest in our campuses and that doing so will make for better products, a greater quality of life for our employees, and stronger communities.”
Google said it would open an office in Atlanta this year and continue to develop and expand office space in Austin and New York. It added that it planned to continue investing in data centers in Iowa, Nebraska, and Tennessee, among other states.

As part of the announcement, Google said it expected to create at least 12,000 new full-time jobs at the company this year.

Google and other tech companies were among the first businesses to shift to remote work when the pandemic hit in early 2020. But that shift always appeared to be temporary. Like others in Silicon Valley, Google had previously invested billions in expansive campuses and lavish office benefits for workers.

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European markets pull back amid doubts over latest Russian pledges over Ukraine

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European stocks retreated on Wednesday following the latest round of talks between Russia and Ukraine, aimed at finding a solution to the conflict.

The pan-European Stoxx 600 fell 0.8% in early trade, with autos shedding 1.9% to lead losses, while oil and gas stocks gained 1.7%.

In terms of individual share price movement, Finland’s Nokian Tyres fell 6.6%, while Sweden’s Lundin Energy added 4.7%.

Investor sentiment was boosted on Tuesday following negotiations between Russian and Ukrainian officials in Turkey, at which Russia’s deputy defense minister claimed Moscow had decided to “drastically” cut back its military activity near Ukraine’s capital.

Alexander Fomin, who spoke following the talks in Istanbul, said Russia would slow its military operations near Kyiv and Chernihiv in order for peace talks to progress. Russia previously claimed that it would reduce military operations in other parts of Ukraine but then continued its advance.

Growing hope for a cease-fire appeared to boost investor sentiment Tuesday, as Dow Jones Industrial Average futures rose 200 points, or 0.6%. S&P 500 futures also climbed 0.6%, while Nasdaq 100 futures climbed 0.7%. Meanwhile, the price of U.S. benchmark West Texas Intermediate crude oil, which spiked on the heels of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, fell more than 4% to $100 per barrel.

Doubts have set in over the pledge, however, and while the Russian military has begun moving some of its troops in Ukraine away from areas around Kyiv to positions elsewhere in Ukraine, Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby warned the troop movements do not amount to a retreat.

Shares in Asia-Pacific were mixed in Wednesday trade as investors watch for developments surrounding the war in Ukraine. Stateside, traders are keeping tabs on a slew of key economic reports, while also monitoring the Federal Reserve’s planned interest rate hikes.

The Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey on Tuesday showed 11.3 million job openings, higher than the 11.1 million expected. The ADP will also release its private payrolls data ahead of the closely watched monthly jobs report, on Friday.

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Lagos Assembly kicks against harassment of residents by police

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Lagos State House of Assembly Speaker, Mudashiru Obasa, yesterday, cautioned police in the state against harassment, intimidation and extortion of residents.

Obasa said this on the floor of the House when lawmakers honoured outgoing Commissioner of Police, Mr. Hakeem Odumosu, who has been promoted to Assistant Inspector-General, and is due to retire in January 2022.

Obasa said Odumosu was honoured as the first Commissioner of Police in the state to stand before the lawmakers and address Lagosians on his experience policing the state.

The Speaker thanked Odumosu for his openness and responsiveness to issues affecting the peace of the state.

“It is important to call on those behind you to know that the relationship between the police and the people need to be constantly improved upon,” Obasa said, adding that men of the Nigeria Police Force need to build more trust among the people.

“Everybody must be treated with respect, dignity and honour. And that is how we can earn respect. Policing should not be about harassment and extortion but building trust among the people and making them comfortable,” Obasa said.

The Commissioner of Police, who led a team of officers to the House, thanked the lawmakers for their support. According to him, nothing could have been achieved in terms of security and peace in the state without assistance of the House.

He said he would remain grateful to Lagosians for making it possible for him and his team to effectively manage the security of the state.

Odumosu, who described Lagos as ‘mini-Nigeria’, said proactivity of the Assembly led to the creation of laws that helped the police remain successful in the state.

He said the Cultism Prohibition Law also helped to reduce illegal associations in tertiary institutions in the state and enlightened property owners and residents.

“We promise to continue to excel in providing watertight security for people of the state,” he told the lawmakers. He also promised he would encourage his successor to sustain the relationship between the police and the House, while urging the lawmakers to extend their support to his successor.

“Policing Lagos is not a tea party. Without the laws in Lagos, it would have been difficult to police the state. Don’t get tired, don’t relent in making laws that would make Lagos maintain its place as the most peaceful state in Nigeria,” he said.

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