Lawyers, politicians hail Justice ’s transfer
By Ben Agande & Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA — A HOST of lawyers and politicians, yesterday, hailed the redeployment of Justice Okon Abang from Abuja to Asaba by the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Ibrahim Auta, saying it was long over due.
While one of the lawyers wondered if Justice Abang’s redeployment to Delta State was not to hurt the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, because most of his controversial rulings had been against the PDP, Governor Ayo Fayose of Ekiti State said Abang should have been sacked.
Justice Abang was among 10 judges of the high court that were affected by a redeployment circular the Chief Judge issued on December 21, 2016.
Other judges affected by the redeployment exercise are Justice Mohammed Liman from Port Harcourt to Enugu; Justice S. Saidu (moved from Lagos to Port Harcourt); Justice A. Faji (from Asaba to Lagos); Justice R. Aikawa (Sokoto to Lagos); Justice B. Quadri (from Port Harcourt to Abuja); Justice Mallong Hoommuk (from Port Harcourt to Lafia); Justice K.K Dagat (from Lagos to Kano); Justice Saleh Idrissa (Kano to Sokoto); Justice H. Oshomah (Lafia to Port Harcourt) and Justice J. Omotosho (Kano to Port Harcourt).
The CJ stressed that their transfer was owing to “recent developments in the court.”
Abang should be removed not transferred — Fayose
According to Fayose, “for a judge like Okon Abang, whose judgements were described as fraudulent and rape on democracy by Justices of the Appeal Court, what he deserved is outright sack, not transfer.
“If the appellate court could go to the extent of saying that he (Abang) embarked on a wild goose chase, spoke from both sides of his mouth and acted like Father Christmas, in saner climes, such a judge does not deserve a place in the judiciary.
“To us, Justice Abang is nothing but a cancer that is capable of destroying the judiciary and by extension the entire country if he is allowed to continue as a judge. He should be shown the exit door from the judiciary.’’
Abuja lawyers hail Abang’s re-deployment
Legal practitioners in Abuja, yesterday, commended the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Ibrahim Auta, for re-deploying Justice Abang, who they termed “controversial,” from Abuja to the Asaba division of the court
Some of the lawyers, who spoke to Vanguard, described the action of the CJ as a right step in the right direction, noting that it would save the judiciary from “further embarrassment.”
Most of the legal practitioners, including Senior Advocates of Nigeria, who pleaded anonymity, said the judge ought to have been re-deployed before now.
According to a SAN, because he still has a case pending before the judge, “I can tell you that almost everyone is pleased with this development. Though Justice Abang is a fine gentleman, he has, however, turned very controversial since he was transferred from Lagos to Abuja.
“Aside several petitions that had been lodged against him before the National Judicial Council, NJC, since he came to Abuja, his various controversial judgements, especially on sensitive political matters, did not help matters.”
Another lawyer, who simply gave his name as Mr. Lawrence A., said: “Redeployment of Justice Abang is a welcome development. The judiciary, as you know is very conservative. Since the learned judge came to the Abuja division, it has been one controversy or the other.
“Most times when I hear of any controversial ruling coming from the Abuja division of the court, even without reading the story, I will just guess that it was delivered by Abang and most of the time my guess turned out to be right.”
He should’ve been transferred to APC state
However, another lawyer, Mr. Ekeke said: “I was not surprised at all that Justice Abang was affected by the redeployment. Most of his judgements have been overturned by the Court of Appeal. The CJ took a wise decision. I am, however, concerned that he was redeployed to Delta State, which is a state controlled by the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, especially when you take into cognisance the fact that most of his recent decisions were against PDP.”
Abang’s transfer a
National Vice Chairman of the Senator Ali Modu Sheriff faction of the PDP, Dr Cairo Ojougboh, dismissed Abang’s transfer as a non-issue, saying no issue should be made out of it.
Ojougboh said what happened was a normal administrative procedure that should not be misinterpreted.
“As a political party, we don’t get involved in what the judiciary is doing with their staff just as the judiciary does not get involved with our internal matters. If we have a case, we approach the judiciary for adjudication and it’s not about individual justices or judges,” he said.
He said Nigerians should not politicise normal procedures like transfer of Justices by relevant authorities “because it is not their business who is transferred where.”
Some Abang’s controversial decisions
Some Abang’s controversial decisions include a judgement he delivered on June 27, 2016, which sacked Governor Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia State from office over alleged tax infractions.
He directed INEC to issue fresh Certificate of Return to Mr. Sampson Ogah, who came second in the PDP governorship primaries conducted in Abia State on December 8, 2014.
However, a five-man panel of Justices of the Court of Appeal in Abuja, in a unanimous decision on August 18, lampooned Justice Abang, who they said delivered judgement that was bereft of justice, adding that he “stood the law on its head.”
He equally gave a verdict on June 29, 2016, that directed INEC to recognise Mr. Jimoh Ibrahim as PDP governorship candidate for the Ondo State governorship election that was held on November 26.
The verdict was however vacated by the Court of Appeal on November 23 for being “perverse and fraudulent”, even as the appellate court declared Mr. Eyitayo Jegede, SAN, as the rightful candidate of the PDP for the poll.
Pending cases before Abang
Some high-profile cases currently pending before Justice Abang include trial of the embattled National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Chief Olisa Metuh, that of the former Chief of Defence Staff, Alex Badeh and that of former governor of Adamawa State, Admiral Murtala Nyako (retd).
The CJ gave all the re-deployed judges the nod to conclude all the trials pending in their courts, especially in cases where at least three witnesses have been called by the prosecution.
“Affected judges are expected to resume in their new divisions by January 30, 2017. The judges shall continue with the hearing of criminal cases currently before them, as well as at least two witnesses have testified,” the circular further read.