Sunday, July 14, 2024

Nigerian Lawyers Lambast Judges Amid Controversy Surrounding Alleged Flying Of Jurists To London For Training By Asset Recovery Agency, AMCON

Nigerian lawyers have criticized judges of the Federal High Court for attending a training in the United Kingdom reportedly bankrolled by the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON).

There were reported how top judicial officers were reportedly flown abroad by the government agency for the training.

It was learnt that Ahmed Kuru, AMCON Managing Director and the Director and Chief Executive Officer of the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU), Modibbo Tukur, were actively involved in the annual training for the judges in London.

Controversy Surrounds Flying Of Judges To London For Training By Nigeria’s Asset Recovery Agency, AMCON
Sources accused AMCON of flying the judges to London for the training at huge expense even when almost all the resource persons are from Nigeria.

“Hon. Justice John T. Tsoho, the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice A.O. Faji of the Federal High Court and other Federal High Court Judges from Nigeria are currently in London for the training, which was declared open on Monday, July 31 by the High Commissioner for Nigeria in the UK, Sarafa Tunji Isola,” a source had told reporters.

Another source had lamented that despite costing Nigerians the loss of thousands of jobs through lack of expertise in its debt recovery operation and liquidation of several companies, AMCON sponsored judges to the UK for training amid economic challenges in Nigeria.

“Despite causing job losses and destroying several businesses in Nigeria, AMCON sponsored judges to the UK for training and put them in a hotel.

“This comes at a time Nigeria is having challenges saving forex. This whole training during the judges’ vacation is an organised racket by AMCON to bribe the Lordships and get them to compromise cases. We heard that foreign currencies were doled out to them.

“What if other agencies also take judges to various countries for training?” one of the sources had said.

“Kuru and the head of NFIU are in London with some federal high court judges, claiming to be training them on financial-related cases.

“It turns out AMCON used third parties to arrange the façade or so-called training when only the National Judicial Institute (NJI) has the statutory power to train judges,” the source had said.

Meanwhile, some lawyers have taken to the Nigerian Bar Association WhatsApp group to condemn the move.

They wondered why AMCON who has several cases before the court would be training “a class of judicial officers how to handle their cases.”

“Lawyers’ Whatsapp groups are buzzing over the scandal. The FHC Chief judge is in hot soup,” a lawyer told reporters on Sunday.

One of the posts in the group seen by reporters read, “It’s not the work of NBA to train judges. There is National Judicial Institute, Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, Law Faculties, etc. The closest that AMCON, EFCC, etc should do is to sponsor or collaborate with these institutions to train judicial officers.

“For a party to a class of cases to be training a class of judicial officers to handle their cases is rather scandalous and a terrible affront on separation of powers and independence of the judiciary. This our culture of never saying ‘no, thank you’ had destroyed every ethical fabric of our nation.”

“The FHC should have drawn a list of the parties involved in AMCON cases and invited them and their lawyers as participants in the conference na! Very funny excuse,” another one read.

An article written by Ismail Mustapha, a Nigerian public affairs analyst living in London was also shared in the group.

The article is titled, “Thank you, Your Lordships…… But No Thanks”.

It read, “It with rude shock that I read how a Nigerian famous litigant and beneficiary of the most of the exparte orders issued in any Nigerian court gathered Nigerian federal high courts in the United Kingdom to thank them for granting “arbitrary” exparte orders. It breaks my heart so much so that I remember with nostalgia how revered our judges were, at least as I knew them growing up as a son of a senior civil servant in the Ikoyi area of Lagos; even my father could not look into their lordships’ faces back then despite being neighbours. Our judges were so honourable and respected when we were teenagers. For this, I thank our fathers!

“But no thanks to the ingenuity and scheming of some corrupt Nigerian government officials, here we are on a summer afternoon in London that a federal high court chief judge is thanking Ahmed Kuru the CEO of AMCON for convening a training for the judges, who sit in justice/arbitration in several cases between his company and several diverse.

“Interests across Nigeria and the rest of world. Without a doubt, justice cannot be served by their lordships who have all gathered in a London hotel to enjoy the generosity of amcon and its management in any such cases that involve AMCON.

“While foreign training will not be out of place for the officers of our judiciary, where and when absolutely necessary, since no man is an island. This will be by the National Judicial Institute and should not involve any litigating party. This whole show of shame is a total erosion of the independence of the judiciary and class insubordination of the State by all the persons involved.

“Shamelessly, this is how the self-praising AMCON CEO who is known for disrespecting the orders of the same courts, gathered our so-called respected judges and he is spending the hard-earned forex that President Bola Tinubu and all Nigerians are struggling and working hard to earn for Development.

“Kuru’s profuse thanksgiving statement to their lordships presented Nigerian judiciary to the rest of the world in a bad light and assumably for sale. This charade of training in London chaperoned by a famous Lagos law firm that is also an AMCON solicitor is a sign of serious compromise against the Nigerian public and a wanton usurpation of the work of the National Judicial Institute.

“While His Excellency, the Nigerian High Commissioner to the United Kingdom welcomed the honourable justices to the beautiful London city of King Charles, he unfortunately forgot to acquaint them with the lofty values, and discipline of the British jurisprudence and judiciary which has global recognition and respect, but he led them on celebrate the Nigerian folly. What a distinguished show of how not-to-represent and present your own people to the world!

“How would a litigant and his lawyers at whose pleasure their lordships are on London summer holiday trip tagged training not have their way in any matter involving them and other Nigerian and foreign business interests in any Nigerian court? It is clear that the soul of justice is for the highest bidders. Haven’t we dried our briefs with multiple holes in the public arena? Aren’t we sending very bad signals to the rest of the international business community about a judiciary that will serve a particular interest and not equity?

“The corollary of all of this, is in the fact that while President Tinubu and Team Nigeria are in talks with the World Bank CEO in Abuja assuring them of ease of doing business and reforms, especially the massive auditing of the central bank, AMCON a subsidiary of CBN is on a prodigal jamboree with Nigerian judges in London.

“Now that the paw is in the bottle. It is expedient that the Chief Justice of Nigeria immediately moves to save the dignity of our judiciary and order the recusal of the judges at this training from all AMCON-related cases, this absurdity of training is a joke taken too far.

“The judiciary is far too important to be messed up by these marauding self-serving public officials. Nigerians must stand for the honour and protection of the integrity of their institutions.”

Meanwhile, the authority of the Federal High Court of Nigeria has said the training was neither organised at the instance of AMCON nor funded by the agency.

Chief Registrar of the court, Sulaiman Amida Hassan in a statement on Sunday described the report as a calculated attempt to malign it and revealed that the training was bankrolled by the National Judicial Council (NJC) as part of the statutory functions.

“An online report by Sahara Reporters, dated 4th August 2023 concerning the Federal High Court has caught the attention of the Chief Registrar and by extension, the Honourable Chief Judge and Judges of the court,” he said.

“It should be noted that the said training was solely organised and paid for by the Federal High Court of Nigeria, funded by the Federal Government through the National Judicial Council.

“The relevant Budgetary Sub-Heads utilized are as follows: *0103 International Travels and Training * 0104 International Travels: Others (Medical) and *0502 International Training (Course Fee).

“While acknowledging the presence of the Federal High Court Judges for training in London, it is pertinent to state that both the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria, (AMCON) and the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit, (NFIU) are vital statutory stakeholders with regard to the jurisdiction of the Court.

“Their involvement in the training is purely participatory, as experts in their specialised fields. Having regard to the global feature in the Court’s jurisdiction, It has been the tradition to organize foreign training for its Judges on a yearly basis.

“This is one of such trainings which are deliberately scheduled during the period of the long vacation in order to minimize disruption of Court sittings. These workshops are considered integral components of judicial duties. The Court is committed to empowering its Judges with the relevant tools to develop their judicial competence.

“The objective is to keep them abreast of international best practices obtainable, hence the need to hold the training outside the shores of Nigeria.”

The Chief Registrar’s denial however contradicts the statement of Justice T. Tsoho, the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court while speaking during the training in London.

Tsoho had during the training described AMCON and NFIU as some of the two most important and indispensable agencies of the Federal Government of Nigeria especially as it relates to the stability of the financial system and the economy pursuant to the catalytic role they play.

He said an invitation was extended to AMCON and NFIU to be integrated into the training programme, hence their participation.

“This training must be considered as an integral component of our judicial duties. The Executive must ensure that the welfare of judges, which includes training, is paramount in its policies, while notwithstanding the autonomy of the Judiciary as an Arm of Government. In our 2019 International Training in Dubai and the United States of America, our Court accommodated AMCON and the FCCPC.

“In 2021, we integrated AMCON into our Programme in Cairo. This year, we extended a window of participation to AMCON and the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (‘NFIU’),” he had added.


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