The axe of the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Ibrahim Muhammad is currently dangling on the head of a judge of the Federal Capital Territory(FCT), judiciary for issuing direct criminal summons against a former Governor of the Central Bank (CBN), Prof. Charles Soludo.
Already, the CJN has ordered the Judicial Service Committee (JSC) of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) to immediately initiate disciplinary action against them.
The Upper Area Court Judge whose indentity is being kept under wrap issued the criminal charges against the governorship candidate of the All Progressive Grand Alliance APGA, Anambra State over alleged serial abuse of office and breach of Code of Conduct for public officers when he was the Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria between 29 May 2004 – 29 May 2009.
The Upper Area Court had on 23 August 2021 issued a direct Criminal Summons against Soludo over perjury, corruption and false assets declaration which is completely outside the jurisdiction of the Upper Area Court.
He consequently ordered Soludo to appear before it over alleged serial abuse of office and breach of the Code of Conduct for Public Officers while he held office as the Governor CBN between 29th May, 2004 – 29th May, 2009.
Daily Sun had reported that the direct Criminal Complaint was brought by one Oliver Bitrus pursuant to Sections 88 and 89 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015.
The criminal summons marked DC/CR/556/2021 which was issued in accordance with the Criminal Procedure Code (CAP 30:255) from the Upper Area Court, Zuba, Abuja, was predicated upon the complaint filed on July 14, 2021 by counsel to the complainant, Ezea Ferdinand.
It commanded Soludo to appear before the court on August 23, 2021 in respect of the allegations made against him.
According to court documents, the complainant, Oliver Bitrus, alleged that between the period Prof. Soludo held office as a Public Officer he flagrantly breached the Code of Conduct for Public Officer by buying or acquiring interest in a property known and described as No. 50 Brondesbury Park, London, NW6 7AT, United Kingdom. The property is covered by File Plan of Tile No. MX362301.
Mr. Oliver claimed that this property, was bought or acquired using a proxy and/or nominee company known as Universal Energy Company Limited, and which investigation revealed was incorporated in the Isle of Man; and now used to round-trip public funds for the purchase. As a matter fact, purchase price of £2,150, 000 was paid on 20th October, 2006 in a single tranche, which sum was not fairly attributable to his income as the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria at the material time.
Further investigation also disclosed that presently, the property is being occupied by defendant, his spouse and children and used as their personal and official addresses for all their companies and other business undertaking.
The Complainant listed companies owned and operated by the Soludo’s and domiciled at the said property to include ” ZINORA LIMITED: A private company owned by Mrs. Nonye Soludo (spouse of Chukwuma Charles Soludo). This is company limited by shares which was registered on 29th January, 2013 with Company N: 8379214 and also has its registered office at No. 50 Brondesbury Park, London, NW6 7AT, United Kingdom.
“The SOLUDO FOUNDATION: Registered on 24th July, 2014 as a private company limited by guarantee with its registered office at No. 50 Brondesbury Park, London, NW6 7AT, United Kingdom. It also has the Company No: 9145134. The company has the following persons as members or directors – Nonye Frances Soludo, Chukwuma Soludo, Ozonna Tochukwu Soludo, Ifeatu Adaora Nnenna Soludo etal with having the above mentioned property as their address.
“”ALLSTERS INVESTMENT LIMITED: Registered on 2nd September, 2015 as a private company limited by shares with Company No: 9757553. It has its registered address at the same No. 50 Brondesbury Park, London, NW6 7AT, United Kingdom and also has the following persons as Directors – Mrs. Nonye F. Soludo, Miss Ifeatu Adaora Nnenna Soludo, Mr. Ozonna Tochukwu Soludo and Mr. Chinua Belolisa Naeto Soludo with all the directors having the property in issue as the address.
The Claimant further claims that a sequential trail of evidence has revealed that while holding public office as the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, the defendant abused his office and breached the Code of Conduct for Public Officers by using a proxy, nominee or trustee company – Universal Energy Company Limited, incorporated in the Isle of Man for syndication of fund, to acquire the property and deliberately failed to declare the said property or his obvious interest therein in his Assets Declaration Form submitted to the Code of Conduct Bureau. As a result, he flagrantly violated Article 11 of the Part 1, 5th Schedule to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as Amended) and thereby liable to the penal sanction of disqualification from holding any other public office for a period of 10 years and forfeiture of the illicit property to the Federal Government of Nigeria pursuant to Article 18(2) of the Law.
The Upper Court Judge may have landed himself into trouble for acting beyond the jurisdiction of his court, as trial on criminal charges on false declaration of assets is exclusively vested in the Code of Conduct Tribunal CCT but the Upper Area Court Judge assumed jurisdiction contrary to the provisions of the 1999 Constitution.
FCT Judicial Service Committee billed to discipline the Judge is under the Chairmanship of the Acting Chief Judge, Justice Hussein Yusuf.
A top source with knowledge of the development told Daily Sun that “from all indications, the Chief Justice of Nigeria and Chairman National Judicial Council (CJN),Justice Ibrahim Muhammad seems determined to put an end to impunity and misconduct in the Judiciary”.
It would be recalled that the CJN had on September 6, 2021, met with the Chief Judges of FCT, Rivers, Kebbi, Cross Rivers, Jigawa, Anambra and Imo States and directed some of them to admonish the Judges in their jurisdictions on the danger of granting ex parte injunctions.
The acting Chief Judge of the Federal Capital Territory is expected to submit his findings to the CJN within 21 days.