This letter was written by Justice Dimgba on September 4, 2016 to NJC in reply to a query issued him by CJN regarding DSS petition against him
RE: CORRUPT PRACTICES AND PROFESSIONAL MISCONDUCT BY JUSTICE NNAMDI DIMGBA OF ABUJA DIVISION OF THE FEDERAL HIGH COURT (MY ANSWER)
- I am in receipt of your letter dated 29th August, 2016, which letter was received and acknowledged by me at the National Judicial Council (NJC) offices on Friday, 2nd September, 2016.
By this letter, my Lord forwarded me a petition dated 5th August, 2016 against me by one Mr. Ahamed Ahmad of the Office of the Director General, Department of State Services, Abuja (DSS) on the above subject matter (Petition).
I have gone through the Petition and note that it contains a number of allegations, some against me, and some against some other individuals, but all connected to the performance of my official duties.
- I start by saying that I dispute the claims contained in the said Petition. I state that as far as they relate to me, the said allegations are monumental fabrications which I deny in totality and in absolute terms. I believe that this Petition and the allegations contained therein are aimed at intimidating and cowing me from the principled stand that I took against the disobedience of my Court orders in Charge No: FHC/ABJ/CR/145/16; FRN v. AIR COMMODORE UMAR MOHAMMED & EASY JET INTEGRATED SERVICES LTD, and to humiliate and embarrass me for having the courage to deliver judgments against the DSS on Fundamental Human Rights suits brought against the DSS in : (x) Suit No. FHC/ABJ/CS/465/2016, MANFRED KEHINDE AGBAJE v. DIRECTOR GENERAL, STATE SERVICES (DGSS) & 2 ORS delivered on 21st July, 2016; and (y) Suit No. FHC/ABJ/CS/466/2016, SELKY KILE TORUGHEDI v. DIRECTOR GENERAL, STATE SECURITY SERVICES delivered on 3rd August, 2016. These Judgments are attached to this Answer and marked as Exhibits ND1 and ND2 respectively.
- These two judgments as can be seen were delivered during the period from 11th July, 2016 when I started sitting as the vacation judge for the Northern territory of the Federal High Court, and on which day I released a document to the Registry of the Court dated 11th July, 2016 setting out the Guidelines for cases that may be heard by me during the Federal High Court’s Vacation, 2016. This document is attached to this Answer and marked as Exhibit ND3. At the heart of this document is the fact that the Court will accord primacy to cases that touch on the liberty of citizens and involve incarceration/detention. I thought it was important to state this at the very beginning because the cases which I have referenced above and which I believe are the driving force of the Petition and the DSS’s wild allegations against me are all cases that touch on the liberty of citizens and all involve incarceration/detention. And I had no choice than to do my duty in accordance with the oath that I had sworn , and to follow the guidelines which I had transparently set out at the very beginning of my work as a Vacation Judge.
- With the above background set, I intend to respond to the specific allegations in the order in which they were made in the paragraphs of the Petition.
- The primary allegations of the Petition are contained in paragraphs 1 to 5 of the Petition to the effect that “Justice DAFAI (sic)” (but spelt correctly as Justice GAFAI in the affidavit of Umar Danjauro in support of the complaint) led YAHAYA, SHAMSU and MAISARAUTA, who are alleged to be associates of AIR COMMODORE UMAR MOHAMMED to my house on 20th July, 2016 where it was arranged how UMAR MOHAMMED will be granted bail, and that the remand order and subsequent bail which I granted in the case were as a result of this pre-arrangement.
- I categorically deny holding a meeting with anyone in my house or in my office or anywhere else to pre-agree on the grant of bail to UMAR MOHAMMED on the 20th of July 2016 or on any other date for that matter. I did not meet with any Justice DAFAI or GAFAI and certainly not with any YAHAYA, SHAMSU and MAISARAUTA. In addition, this allegation does not stand up to a calm and dispassionate scrutiny, much less a rigorous one. It is stated in paragraph 4 of the supporting affidavit that the allegations and the Petition are based on “investigations conducted by the State Security Service”. But it would have been elementary to have stated in the Petition the following, at the very least: a) where is “the house of Justice Nnamdi DIMGBA of the Federal High Court 11” where the meeting with the delegation led by Justice DAFAI or GAFAI took place?; b) What time and hour in the day did this meeting take place, was it in the afternoon or was it at night? If in the afternoon was it when Justice Nnamdi Dimgba was sitting in Court. I was in the office on the said 20th July, 2016 and I sat on that day apart from doing office work, and I was not home till late in the evening on the 20th of July, 2016. Attached to this Answer and marked as Exhibit ND3A are copies of the cause-list, and some record of proceedings and enrol led orders for matters I handled on 20th July, 2016.
- Since Exhibit ND3A shows that I sat on the 20th July, 2016, if the alleged meeting with Justice DAFAI or GAFAI occurred in the afternoon, presumably I must have sneaked out in between sitting to go to my house to meet with the delegation led by Justice DAFAI or GAFAI and dash back to Court to continue sitting?; c) since there should be more than at least a thousand YAHAYAs, SHAMSUs, and MAISARAUTAs in Nigeria, the Petition being based on “investigations” by the highest agency in charge of our national security should have provided more details of the identities of these individuals which Justice DAFAI or GAFAI led to my house to discuss and agree UMAR MOHAMMED’s bail. Is it YAHAYA “JOHN” or YAHAYA “HUSSEINU” or YAHAYA “MUSA”, YAHAYA what? Is it SHAMSU “JOHN” or SHAMSU “IBRAHIM” or SHAMSU “AHMADU”, or SHAMSU what? Is it MAISARAUTA “JOHN” or MAISARAUTA “ABDULQADIR” or MAISARAUTA “MUSA”, or MAISARAUTA what? This “Justice DAFAI” or “GAFAI”, which Court is he from? Is he a judge of the Federal High Court, and which Division? Is he a Judge of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) High Court? Is he a Judge of the National Industrial Court (NIC) and if so, what Division? Is he a Judge of the High Court of Sokoto State? Kaduna State? Enugu State? Which Court is he, and what is his identity? I am not able to tell which Justice DAFAI or GAFAI that allegedly led the delegation to my house to discuss bail for UMAR MOHAMMED on 20th July, 2016.
As stated earlier, I had no meetings with anyone much less any with any delegation led by a Justice DAFAI or GAFAI.
- For the avoidance of doubt, there is a Justice BATURE GAFAI of the Federal High Court who sits in Awka Division.
The alleged meeting was said to have taken place on the 20th of July, 2016 in my house. If it is this Justice BATURE GAFAI that is being remotely referred to, I state that I had never met nor even set my eyes on Justice BATURE GAFAI before Monday 25th July, 2016 when I saw him first at Max Specialist Hospital in New Delhi India where he had also come with other Federal High Court judges as myself for medical check-up, and at the Surya Hotel New Delhi India where all the judges stayed. Even then, because Justice BATURE GAFAI is a much more senior, older and experienced judge to me, and coupled with the fact that I was seeing him for the first time, I related with him from a very reverential distance. The second time that I met Justice BATURE GAFAI was on the 10th and 11th of August, 2016 in Abakaliki and Afikpo, Ebonyi State, where we independently attended the funeral of late Hon. Justice E.S. Chukwu of the Federal High Court, Abuja Division. Again, for the reasons earlier expressed, I related with him from a very reverential distance.
- In none of those two occasions where I met Justice BATURE GAFAI in company of other Judges did we have any independent discussion, much less any that touched on a case that I was handling, including the AIR COMMODORE UMAR MOHAMMED case. It is also important to state that this arraignment and bail that is the subject of the present Petition had all been heard and disposed of on the 21st and 22nd of July, 2016 as can be borne out of the record of proceedings, prior to my travel to India for medicals, and the first and second opportunities that I had to know Justice BATURE GAFAI. Therefore, I restate in the strongest terms that the allegation of a meeting to arrange bail is a total falsehood and fabrication. Attached to this Answer and marked as Exhibit ND4 and ND5 are the records of the Court’s proceedings on the UMAR MOHAMMED case for the 21st July 2016 and 22nd of July 2016 respectively.
- The criminal charge, subject of this Petition, Charge No: FHC/ABJ/CR/145/16; FRN v. AIR COMMODORE UMAR MOHAMMED & EASY JET INTEGRATED SERVICES LTD, was dated and filed at the Registry of the Federal High Court on 19th July, 2016. Attached to this Answer and marked as Exhibit ND5A is the Criminal Charge. It is noteworthy that this Charge was signed by Muhammed Diri (Director of Public Prosecutions) and Ejike A. Orji (Senior State Counsel) for The Honourable Attorney General of the Federation. It was neither signed nor filed by the DSS, the Petitioner against me, who it should be noted are not even the Prosecution. Following my Guideline to accord primacy to cases involving liberty of citizens and incarceration , I believe that the counsel to the Defendants (UMAR MOHAMMED) Hassan M. Liman SAN and Ibrahim K. Bawa, SAN and for the Prosecution from the Attorney General’s office who filed the Charge, all agreed with the Court Registry (with my sanction) for the matter to be set down on 21st July 2016 for arraignment, given my belief that the 1st Defendant was under incarceration/detention. Because of the high volume of business which I had to deal with as the sole sitting Vacation Judge, the said 21st July, 2016 in open Court was actually the very first time I saw the charge and was apprised fully of the matter. As the record will show (Exhibit ND4), the Prosecution on that day was represented by E.A. Orji Esq. (Senior State Counsel) from the Attorney General’s Office. The Defence was represented by, as stated, Hassan M. Liman SAN, and Ibrahim K. Bawa, SAN leading 11 other lawyers. Upon arraignment and taking of the plea by the Defendants, parties’ counsel (for the Prosecution and the Defence) agreed that the matter be adjourned till the next day, the 22nd of July, 2016 for the hearing and ruling on the bail application. This was after I had informed the Court that I would not be sitting the following week as I would be travelling to India over the weekend on a medical trip. At the conclusion of the proceedings of that 21st July 2016, I had specifically ordered that “the 1st Defendant is to be remanded at Kuje Prisons pending the hearing and ruling on the bail application .”
- At the conclusion of the matters for the day when I had retired to my chambers for work, I was informed by my Registrar that she learned that when the parties and their lawyers stepped out of the Court after the conclusion of their case, rather than let the 1st Defendant be taken to Kuje prison as was ordered by the Court, operatives of the DSS who I believe had brought him to Court from their facility where he had been held, took possession of him and took him away in defiance of the Court order that he be remanded in Kuje Prison.
- On 22nd July, 2016 when the matter came up as had been adjourned on 21st July, 2016, the 1st Defendant was absent because the DSS failed to produce him in Court having even though they were aware being present in Court that the matter was adjourned to 22nd July, 2016, the following day.
Naturally, the lead Defence counsel, Hassan M. Liman, SAN complained to the Court about the attitude of the DSS operatives who defied the Court order and whisked his client away and even failed to produce him in Court. I did not make this part of the record of the Court. But in open Court and quite visibly agitated at the impression which will be created in the mind of litigants and lawyers that the Orders of my Court could be so openly defied and what impact this might have on the confidence which litigants and lawyers will have in my Court, I spoke to the Prosecution counsel E.A. Orji Esq. regarding my displeasure at the manner in which my order had been flouted and that I take exception to this. Judicial correspondents who were in Court picked on this judicial reprimand and reported it. Attached to this Answer and marked as Exhibit ND6 is a copy of a media report of this reprimand during the Court’s proceedings of 22nd July, 2016.
- Following the above reprimand, the day’s formal proceedings continued with the Defence arguing the bail application dated 21/07/16 and which was opposed by the Prosecution having also filed their counter affidavit and arguments. At the conclusion of arguments, and having made clear that I was not going to be sitting for about the next 9 days in view of my medical trip to India the following day, I stood the matter down to 2pm, and later retired to my chambers to write the ruling which was delivered at around 2.10pm admitting the 1st Defendant to bail and the terms spelt out therein. The decision admitting to bail is a reasoned decision and is attached to this Answer and marked Exhibit ND7. The enrolled Order admitting to bail is also attached to this Answer and marked as Exhibit ND8.
- The contention that the order of remand to Kuje Prison was pre-arranged to make it easy to release AIR COMMODORE UMAR MOHAMMED upon fulfilment of the bail conditions, and as part of the arrangement reached in the purported meeting led by Justice DAFAI or GAFAI to my house is incredulous to say the least. The question is, upon arraignment, where else will I, as a Judge, remand a criminal Defendant who has taken his plea other than to prison custody? I certainly cannot remand him to the comfort of his home or some other facility. It is also instructive to note that at no time did the Prosecution counsel oppose the order of remand to prison or apply that the 1st Defendant be remanded at the detention facility of the DSS where presumably he was brought to Court from, instead of to Kuje Prison. In any event, it is elementary that once a detained person has been charged to Court, and arraigned in Court from whichever custody of any security agency he is brought to Court from, the matter leaves the control of the security agency and the Court is now completely seized of the proceedings, including the decision as to where to remand the Defendant. So, in which way can I be faulted for exercising my powers and issuing directives in accordance with the established procedure? If anybody was displeased with the order of remand to prison custody, the proper approach is to appeal the decision of Court and ask for a stay of execution of the Order, rather than resort to self-help and defy the Court. Surely, no one, including the most powerful security agencies, is above the law.
- It is also important to stress that there is nothing peculiar in the order of remand of AIR COMMODORE UMAR MOHAMMED to Kuje Prison which I made. In a number of other arraignments which had been done in my Court including during the vacation period, I had always directed , save where special circumstances exist and are brought to my attention , that the Defendants be remanded in prison custody. Attached to this Answer and marked as Exhibit ND9 are enrolled orders/rulings in some of the other criminal trials where I ordered, as I believe I should, that the Defendants be remanded in prison custody. Not being aware of any special circumstances in the AIR COMMODORE UMAR MOHAMMED case, which for me is just one of a number of the numerous other cases that I was doing, I did not consider that I should apply a different standard of adjudication simply because the DSS had a special interest in the matter, which interest I repeat was not brought to my attention nor will I have considered as having given the case a different complexion than other cases before me.
- In relation to the allegation also in paragraph 5 that a “Registrar in DIMGBA’s Court collected the sum of Four Hundred Thousand Naira (N400,000) from SHAMSU, MOHAMMED’s lawyer for verification and perfection of the documents in respect of the bail of his client” I state that I am not aware of this arrangement nor did I instruct anybody to collect any funds for the purposes of bail processing. I state further that this allegation betrays ignorance or a deliberate falsification of the way the bail process works in the Federal High Court, and I believe in all the Courts. Condition No. 7 of my Ruling on Bail (Exhibit ND7) provides: “The Registry of this Court shall verify the satisfaction of the above bail conditions, and is free to call on the assistance of the Prosecution whenever they deem it necessary”. This is the customary condition that I put in all the bails I grant as will be seen also from Exhibit ND9. The “Registry of this Court” referred to in the ruling is not the Registry of my Court (Court 11) but rather the Registry of the entire Federal High Court (usually the Bailiffs section), which deals with the issue of verification of bail documents and perfection of bail. It is not my responsibility as a Judge or that of any of the individual staff to my Court and Chambers 11 (such as the Registrar to Court 11) to verify and process bail conditions. If staff of individual courts were to be the ones verifying satisfaction of bail conditions (a matter that involves significant leg work), what time will they have to do the work in the Court and in the Chambers? Every litigant and lawyer knows the Department in the Registry of the Federal High Court that processes bails.
- In sum, even though I restate that I am not aware of any such arrangements between a Registrar and Umar Mohammed’s lawyers as alleged above to facilitate the processing of his bail papers, I state that on its face the suggestion that the Registrar who collected any alleged money from Umar Mohammed’s lawyers is from “DIMGBA’s Court” is patently false and is not logically possible. In any event, it is for Umar Mohammed’s lawyers who allegedly entered into this arrangement with the so called Registrar to speak to this and I note they were not invited to respond to this Petition.
- Also, in further reaction to paragraph 5 of the Petition, I deny knowledge of any discussions and negotiations between “ one SADIQ, a member of MOHAMMED’s team with the Registrar regarding downward negotiation from the sum of One Million Naira (N1,000,000) initially charged by the Registrar to Five Hundred Thousand Naira (N500,000)”. I repeat the explanations contained in paragraph 12 to 17 above. I add that it would have been helpful for the Petitioner to have mentioned the “Registrar” in question that the Umar Mohammed’s lawyers dealt with where the issue of the perfection of the bail conditions was the subject. Since the Petition was based on “investigations” carried out by the highest national security agency, this information should have been easy to procure. I state again for the avoidance of doubt that I am not privy to, nor did I benefit from any collateral arrangements which Umar Mohammed’s lawyers might have had with any one in relation to the perfection of his bail. In relation to the issue of bail, my job begins and ends with the consideration of any bail application in open court presented to me, delivery of ruling, and the signing of the release papers in chambers once the relevant Department of the Federal High Court Registry, through the Deputy Chief Registry (DCR), advises me through a memo that they have verified the satisfaction of the bail conditions. On this occasion, and in relation to AIR COMMODORE UMAR MOHAMMED, I did no more than I had outlined above. Attached to this Answer and marked as Exhibit ND10 are the signed bail papers which the DCR had forwarded to me for my endorsement after their verification.
- In reaction to the allegation in paragraph 6, that “ on 25th July 2016 one YAHAYA delivered funds to Justice DIMGBA from the allies of Mohammed” I state that I do not know nor had ever met anyone called “YAHAYA” who is a judicial worker. This is a total fabrication. I had taken the pains to inquire of the Chief Registrar of the Federal High Court if he knows of any staff of the Court called “YAHAYA” and the Chief Registrar is unable to confirm that there is a staff of the Court by that name. In further reaction, I restate the point I made earlier that I left Nigeria on the evening of Saturday, 23rd July 2016 to India on a medical trip. I travelled in the company of Hon. Justice Stephen PAM and Hon. Justice Emeka NWITE of the Federal High Court, Jalingo and Kaduna Judicial Divisions via Emirate Airlines. We arrived in India on Sunday the 24th of July 2016, and started our medical examination at the Max Specialist Hospital New Delhi on Monday 25th July, 2016 till Friday 29th July, 2016. We left New Delhi, India in the morning of Saturday 30th July, 2016 and arrived in Abuja in the evening of Saturday, 30th July, 2016. The question that begs for answer therefore is, since the Petition says that “it was established” that “one YAHAYA delivered funds to Justice DIMGBA on 25th July 2016” when I was away in India, did the said YAHAYA travel to India to come and meet me there “to deliver the funds” or did he deliver the funds spiritually, and by what means? Attached to this Answer and marked as Exhibit ND11 are my travel documents to India and other documents showing that I was in India as at the 25th day of July 2016 when the funds were said to have been delivered to me by the “one YAHAYA” as “established” by the DSS investigations.
- In reaction to paragraph 7, I am not aware of what the associates of Mohammed resolved to do since I am not privy to their thinking, nor was I in contact with anyone on UMAR MOHAMMED’s behalf. It would have been helpful if the Petitioner had mentioned who these “associates” were and by what means and in what manner were they in contact with me when I was away in India? As stated, I was at the Max Specialist Hospital in India as at the 28th of July 2016 attending to my medical needs. I am also not aware that the alternate vacation judge, Hon. Justice Okon ABANG who was handling some highly engaging cases at the period in question had the time to engage with anyone on the subject of the bail which I had granted to UMAR MOHAMMED before my departure to India, much less examining the documents to satisfy the genuineness. On the contrary, upon my return to the office on 1st August 2016 to resume sitting, and on which day I signed the release papers following a memo from the DCR (See Exhibit ND10), I was informed that on account of the referenced busy schedule of Hon. Justice Okon Abang on the days in question, after waiting for him till very late on Friday the 29th August 2016 to sign the bail papers, Justice Abang indicated to the Registry staff that he was very tired and it was best to wait for the Judge who granted the bail to return since I was due back in the office on Monday 1st August 2016. I understand that Justice Okon Abang never opened the file much less express any opinion on the documents contained therein on the perfection of the bail and as verified by the appropriate Department of the Court’s Registry. I have since confirmed the veracity of this account from Hon. Justice Okon Abang.
- In reaction to the allegations in paragraphs 8, 9 and 10 of the Petition, I state that I am not aware and thus cannot speak to any discussions and arrangements which UMAR MOHAMMED’s team had with their intended sureties in satisfaction of the terms of the bail which I granted. I am not aware if an Ismaila Kaila GWARZO was approached to stand surety for him, and if the name of a GUMI was imposed on any title document. For the avoidance of doubt, I restate that my role as a judicial officer was limited to considering bail and other applications placed and argued before me, and to give a decision. On this occasion, and as could be seen in my ruling (Exhibit ND7) the relevant conditions of the bail are: “2. Two sureties in the sum of N50M (Fifty Million Naira) each, and who must each enter a bail bond for this sum; 3. The sureties can be private businessmen or professionals or be in the civil service of the Federation. And where in the civil service, a surety must not be less than the rank of a Director; 4. The sureties must be owners of developed landed properties in any of Abuja metropolis excluding the satellite towns; 5. The sureties must provide evidence of their payment of income Tax for the past 3 years; 6. The Applicant must deposit his international passports with the Registry of this Court, and must not travel out of the country without the Court’s permission.”
- Therefore, as none of the conditions of the bail mentioned any individual’s name but was very descriptive as to the class of persons who can be sureties, what business then can it be to me if a Mr. Ismaila Kaila GWARZO or a Mr. GUMI, or a Mr. MAIYAFE or even a Mr. BASHIR was being presented as a surety and whose name was or was not in the title documents or in the Tax documents. As I stated, my role is to grant the bail and impose the conditions of bail, and as I had ordered, it is for the appropriate department of the Court Registry to verify the satisfaction of the bail conditions and to advise me of this in a memo. Once that is done and the memo brought to me, it is not my practice to begin to second-guess the work which the appropriate department of the Federal High Court Registry has done. The concept of division of labour also applies to the work undertaken at the Federal High Court as in other courts, with the judges such as myself doing the judicial aspects of the work while the Registry led by the Chief Registrar of the Court do the administrative aspects of the work. My attitude is to respect the boundaries and to focus on my own work. If I begin to second-guess the work undertaken by the administrative wing of the Court, what time will I have to face the mountain of judicial work facing me daily, and to sit in court, research and write judgments and rulings?
- Another question that begs for answer is: from the terms of bail, some of which I have set out above, on what basis can the primary allegation of the Petition be justified that the bail was the result of pre-negotiations entered into by me with a delegation from UMAR MOHAMMED led by Justice DAFAI or GAFAI to my house. Even on a casual assessment, it is clear that this primary allegation should fall flat on its face given the Petitioner’s own admissions in the highlighted portions of the Petition about the difficulties which UMAR MOHAMMED’s team faced in fulfilling those bail conditions. One would have reasonably thought that bail terms which were pre-arranged would have been as easy as a walk through a recreation park and not one that would present hurdles in fulfillment.
- In reaction to the allegation in paragraph 12 that “the sum of Fifty Thousand Naira (N50,000) was given to BLESSING a Deputy Court Registrar to perfect the bail process and to help in reaching Justice Okon Abang” while I was away on my medical trip to India, and on what transpired between the Registry and Justice Okon Abang, I repeat the explanations that I had provided in Paragraph 15 above to 20 above. I am not privy to any collateral arrangements which UMAR MOHAMMED’s legal team had with any Registry official with a view to processing the bail which the Court had granted. I returned to Nigeria from India on 30th July 2016 and not 31st July, 2016 as alleged (See Exhibit ND11). I did not sign the bail papers on 31st July, 2016 which in any event was a Sunday. I returned to the office on 1st August 2016, and upon being presented with a memo and the bail documents by the Registry following the procedure which I had earlier outlined and to which I accord due deference, I signed the papers including the release/production warrants on that 1st August 2016. On the later, it is important to note that in view of the fact that the Registry was concerned that my order of 21st July 2016 directing that UMAR MOHAMMED be remanded in Kuje prison was still being flouted by the DSS, out of caution, the Registry presented me with two production warrants for my signature, one addressed to the Nigerian Prison Service and the other addressed to the DSS.
- I wish to state that information available to me suggests that despite the meeting of the bail conditions and i n defiance of the orders of Court (first on remand at Kuje Prison, and secondly on the release on bail), the DSS is still detaining the 1st Defendant in its custody even with the presentation to them of the production warrant from the Court. Even as I respond to this Petition, I still fear that my orders have continued to be disregarded, only for me to be faced with the travesty of this Petition. Attached to this Answer and marked Exhibit ND11A is a copy of a letter dated 25th August 2016 by a group, Lawyers In Defence of Democracy protesting the continued detention of UMAR MOHAMMED in defiance of Court orders.
- It is as result of the defiance to my Orders and the ridiculing of my authority that on 8th August 2016, when the DSS brought an application via motion ex parte dated 13th July 2016 in Suit No. FHC/ABJ/CS/506/2016, State Security Service v. Ali Mustapha for me to grant the DSS permission to detain the above Defendant (Ali Mustapha) for an additional period of 90 days pending investigation pursuant to the Terrorism Prevention Act, I made it clear to the counsel representing the DSS, G.O.A. Agbadua Esq., that I was not inclined to granting favours to the DSS while my orders were still being disobeyed and my authority ridiculed by the DSS, and that it would be counter-intuitive for me to do so. Consequently, I adjourned the hearing of the DSS’ application sine die pending the time that counsel deposes and files an affidavit before the Court confirming that all the outstanding Orders of the Court on the DSS have been complied with. Attached to this Answer and marked as Exhibit ND12 are the record of proceedings and also a printout of a press report of the said proceedings.
- In reaction to the allegation in paragraph 13 of the Petition that I personally prepared a Petition on behalf of the associates of UMAR MOHAMMED to the Attorney General of the Federation, I state that this allegation is not only unfounded but is a crass insult to my person and integrity because it is an absolute falsehood which I categorically deny. As a matter of fact, I am not even aware if any petition has been written to the Attorney General of the Federation by the associates of UMAR MOHAMMED to secure his release following the Court orders which the DSS has been defying. I am also not aware if any contempt proceedings have been prepared or filed against the DSS. But I state that if any of the above has been done, to wit, a petition to the Attorney General of the Federation or contempt proceedings against the DSS, indeed it must be the right cause of action to have taken in the present circumstances. They would constitute natural progressions and responses to the disobedience of Orders of Court which ensure to anybody’s benefit. I do not see how in fairness, I should be held answerable when litigants and citizens exercise lawful options which our law affords them, rather than resorting to self-help.
- In response to paragraphs 14 to 17 of the Petition on my general conduct as a judicial officer in the conduct of the cases involving the DSS, I wish to state that from the narration of events as contained in the preceding paragraphs and the explanations which I have offered (coupled with the inherent weaknesses in the factual basis of the Petition as highlighted), I am at pains to understand the assessment that I conducted myself in any manner that is inconsistent with my judicial oath.
On the contrary, I state that I conducted myself very much in the standard expected of me, and in defence of my oath of office. I am a new Judge appointed on November, 2015 and sworn in on December 2, 2015. Which Judge, including the most senior ones, will not try to defend the integrity and authority of his office? I handled the UMAR MOHAMMED bail application in the manner that I have handled all similar applications before me. I did not consider that it required a different standard of adjudication because the DSS was involved.
- I believe, as I said earlier, that this Petition is aimed at intimidating and cowing me from the principled position I took in defence of my Orders which have been defied. It is also aimed at embarrassing and humiliating me for daring to give Judgments against the DSS. But the Judgments I gave followed judicial procedures in evaluation of evidence and defences presented. I invite the Council to consider these Judgements (Exhibits ND1 and ND2) to evaluate if there is anything in the Judgments that fall below standard. In any event, rights of appeals exist and if the DSS was not satisfied with the outcome, it was open to them to appeal these Judgments before the appropriate Court rather than resorting to this policy of intimidation. There is nothing personal in the Judgments and Ruling which I have given that are adverse to the DSS. I have also given other decisions and granted other applications in the DSS’ favour. It is strange that in none of those other decisions which ended up in the DSS’ favour have I been accused of breaching my oath of office by the DSS. Attached to this Answer and marked as Exhibit ND13 are indicative decisions which I have given in the DSS’ favour.
- Finally, I state that since my appointment as a Judge and posting to the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court, I have tried to discharge my duties with maximum distinction and in obedience to the oath of office which I have sworn. The Council may wish to kindly conduct a discreet inquiry of my character and disposition from the lawyers who have appeared before me, some of them the most notable and senior in the profession. I have a judicial philosophy which is anchored on my fundamental religious belief that God is the ultimate Judge, and that as a mortal, I am merely doing God’s work as His agent on earth. For all the inducement in the world, I cannot see black and say it is white, and I cannot see red and say it is a shade redder than it really is. In taking any decision, I ask myself this very fundamental question: If God who I represent here on earth and on this judicial seat were to come down and in human form to take my seat and adjudicate on this case Himself, what decision do you think that He will reach? Once I am satisfied as to the correctness of any answer as instructed by my conscience and my understanding of the law in relation to the above fundamental question, to the extent that is humanly possible, I mirror whatever decision that I reach in the matter before me along those lines. And within this narrow compass, I try to show compassion to the lawyers and litigants who appear before me, both to the weak and to the strong, and also to the strongest. It is this same judicial philosophy that I have employed in all the matters that I have handled involving the DSS, including the present criminal charge against AIR COMMODORE UMAR MOHAMMED, whose arraignment and bail hearings is the subject of the present Petition.
- I pray, my Lord, that the Petition be dismissed for the reasons that I have tried to canvass above.
Dr. Nnamdi O. Dimgba
Judge, Federal High Court