It has come to the notice of the leaderships of Southeast Based Coalition of Human Rights Organizations (SBCHROs), comprising: International Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law (Intersociety), Anambra State Branch of the Civil Liberties Organization (CLO), Center for Human Rights & Peace Advocacy (CHRPA), Human Rights Club (a project of LRRDC)(HRC), Forum for Justice, Equity & Defense of Human Rights (FJEDHR), Society Advocacy Watch Project (SPAW), Anambra Human Rights Forum (AHRF), Southeast Good Governance Forum (SGGF), International Solidarity for Peace & Human Rights Initiative (ITERSOLIDARITY) and Igbo Ekunie Initiative (pan Igbo rights advocacy group) that the widely condemned way in which Hon Justice John Tsoho of the Court 3 Division of the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, has handled the case of Citizen Nnamdi Kanu (POC-Prisoner-Of-Conscience)) and ors so far may most likely be connected with ambition as per who becomes the next Chief Judge of the Federal High Court when the current CJ, Hon Justice Ibrahim Auta leaves office in 2017.
Reliable sources have informed that the current CJ (Ibrahim Auta) and his second in command, Hon Justice Adamu Abdu Kafarati may most likely bow out of the Bench in 2017 at the same time on the grounds of mandatory retirement age of 65 and 35 years of service respectively; thereby clearing the coast for Hon Justice John Terhemba Tsoho to emerge as the next CJ. While Hon Justice Ibrahim N. Auta was born on 6th September 1952, Hon Justice Adamu Abdu Kafarati was born in 1954. Hon Justice John Terhemba Tsoho (current third in command), on his part, was born on 24th of June 1959. Though Hon Justice John Tsoho can be made Chief Judge on the basis of his seniority and next in command, but the President is at constitutional liberty to alter his seniority eligibility, particularly if he is found to be in his black book; hence his present hostile disposition in Nnamdi Kanu’s case for the purpose of pleasing the establishment on the altar of his life and liberties.
Appointment into the office of the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court in Nigeria is based on political discretion of the appointing authority (president) or order of seniority. The Retirement age or period for judges of the Federal High Court including the Chief Judge is completion of 35 years of service or attainment of 65 years of age. The appointment as a judge of the Federal High Court is based on mandatory attainment of ten years of practice as a licensed (membership of NBA) legal practitioner in Nigeria. Hon Justice John Terhemba Tsoho is of the Court 3 of the Federal High Court in Abuja and known in some legal quarters as a pro establishment or career judge.
It is recalled that the current Chief Judge (CJ), Hon Justice Ibrahim Auta headed a military tribunal constituted by late Gen Sani Abacha that condemned to death Late Ken Saro Wiwa and other eight Ogoni activists; leading to their hanging on 10th of November 1995 without a right of appeal. They were arrested in 1993, held without charge and trial until the then military authorities successfully plotted “strawmen” that engineered conspiratorial murder of some elements of Ogoni origin who were military apologists and protagonists of oil spillage in Ogoni Land.
It was upon the said basis that Ken Saro Wiwa and eight others campaigned against and got framed up, arrested, detained, falsely charged, murderously convicted and sentenced by hanging and brutally executed on 10th of November 1995. This is what we mean by Auta Justice! It is therefore safe to say that what is playing out in the case of Nnamdi Kanu (POC) and ors being handled by Hon Justice Terhemba Tsoho may most likely be the return or repetition of Auta Justice.
From the long delays of the CJ (Auta) in reassigning the case file to a new judge; to belated and careful scouting and appointment of the person of Hon Justice John Tsoho; who is a career judge as the new trial judge; there are intense fears that the matter before him is already sealed and delivered in accordance with the whims and caprices of Gen Muhammadu Buhari, who has since found Nnamdi Kanu (POC) guilty, waiting for mere judicial certification to swiftly execute the guilt. Further attestation to these facts was the hostile conducts and pronouncements of the trial judge since the commencement of the case.
Even before the trial was yet to commence, Hon Justice John Tsoho had already found Nnamdi Kanu (POC) guilty during his ruling on bail application on 29th of January 2016. To him, Nnamdi Kanu (POC) is already an offender (criminal) who will repeat (career criminal) the offence if granted bail. This is when the phantom charges against him are yet to be commenced, proved and concluded; and when the 1999 Constitution still presumes him innocence until last court says otherwise. As if that was not enough, Hon Justice John Tsoho goofed unpardonably on the point of law during his ruling on whether to release to Nnamdi Kanu (POC) his seized two international passports and some specified amount in local and foreign currencies. The items were not contained in the pieces of investigative evidence pleaded by the DSS, upon which Nnamdi Kanu (POC) requested their recovery and return. The Judge after upholding the arguments of the defense counsel on point of law shockingly opted for his personal opinion and damned the written law.
President Muhammadu Buhari had on 30th of December 2015 told the whole world during a presidential media chat that “Nnamdi Kanu entered Nigeria illegally or improperly (without international passport)”. This was based on false DSS security report given to him, yet the same DSS tendered before the Court seized two international passports of UK and Nigeria origins belonging to Citizen Kanu (POC). It also took the same trial Judge (Justice John Terhemba Tsoho) 13 days (11th of February 2016) to sign his ruling on bail application to enable the defense counsel to properly file their appeal at the appellate court.
The despicable and widely condemned ruling was given on 29th of January 2016 and the 14 mandatory days for appeal expired on 12th of February 2016. That is to say that the ruling was only signed few hours to the expiration of the 14 mandatory days for filing of appeals at appellate court. The trial Judge was approached severally by the defense counsel to sign his ruling and he reportedly kept giving inexcusable excuses until the defense counsel came hard on him, resulting to his belated signing of same on 11th of February 2016. The plan was to frustrate them from filing proper appeal or notice of appeal at the appellate court before the expiration of the mandatory 14 days.
With the way things are going, if not properly checked and nipped in the bud, the trial Judge having appeared biased against Nnamdi Kanu (POC), will detonate the ticking time bomb in Nigeria following the unfolding drama before his Court. A repeat of Auta Justice in the same pattern and manner the current CJ (Ibrahim Auta) handled the phantom charges against Ken Saro Wiwa and eight others 21 years ago (1995) is already around the corner in Nnamdi Kanu’s case. To worsen it all, the DSS and Federal Government have, again, come up with an application seeking to try Nnamdi Kanu (POC) and ors in camera; “to enable them present witnesses against them under protective circumstances”.
Nigerians and members of the international community should not express surprises if the trial Judge, as usual, grants or rules in favour of secret trial of Kanu (POC) and others. Seeking for secret trial of Nnamdi Kanu and ors is a total indication of trumped up charges and trumped up trial with trumped up witnesses and pieces of evidence. This is not only a case of persecution; but also a clear manifestation of the fact that Auta Justice is already returned!
We, hereby, warn that using Auta Justice and hate rulings in furtherance of judicial persecution of Nnamdi Kanu and ors is a time bomb waiting to explode. Our reasons for this informed position and warning will be fully explained in our coming letters and advocacy positions. The desperation of ethnic cleansers hiding under the cloak of Federal Government of Nigeria to continuously oppress, suppress, subdue and exterminate Nnamdi Kanu (POC) and Igbo Ethnic Nationality in Nigeria, has long been unearthed. It is also alarming and shocking how a child can be beaten and asked not to cry in Nigeria.
To the extent that the Federal Government of Nigeria under Gen Muhammadu Buhari can send its crude security forces to go and open fire on innocent Nigerian citizens who gathered peacefully in an open place; is not only a declaration of war against Igbo race, but also amounts to experimenting with Syrian mass butcheries. As if that was not enough, the Southeast zone till date has completely been sidelined in all recent federal appointments. Once the statutory tenures of few sons and daughters of the zone appointed by previous administrations in few federal offices expire, elements from Muslim north are appointed as their replacements in total disregard to the provisions of the 1999 Constitution. This is what modern conflict theorists called “entrenching culture of structural violence”. While these are on, the judiciary, which ought to be the last hope of the oppressed and suppressed, is also riotously intimidated and hijacked; all in a bid to deny Nnamdi Kanu (POC) and ors justice and murder him at all costs.
In all, we are giving the trial Judge, Hon Justice John Terhemba Tsoho three options. That is to say (1) he should hands off the case and its case file; (2) be dragged before the NJC; and (3) be made to face local and international advocacy campaigns. On the other hand, for the purpose of fair hearing and the avoidance of doubt, we offer him an opportunity to prove us wrong over the foregoing by showing the world that he has nothing to do with the reported CJ ambition between now and 2017 and that he will henceforth change his hostile attitudes and dispositions towards Nnamdi Kanu (POC) and ors in the case before his honourable Court. \But if truly he is gunning for CJship, then he should hands off the matter for obvious conflict of interest including his compulsory disposition to do that which pleases his potential appointing authority.
Finally, we make bold to say that we shall resist unstoppably all attempts to sacrifice the lives and liberties of Nnamdi Kanu (POC) and ors for selfish interests such as CJ ambition powered by sheer act of puppetry and politico-judicial leprously.
For: Southeast Based Coalition of Human Rights Organizations (SBCHROs)
Board Chairman, International Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law & Coordinating Head, SBCHROs
Mobile Line: +2348174090052
Chairman, Anambra State Branch of the Civil Liberties Organization & Media Coordinator, SBCHROs
Mobile Line: +2348035090548