By Esezobor Okaima, Abuja
Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, John Tsoho, yesterday, debunked allegations that his court intentionally froze the accounts of #EndSARS promoters.
Rather, Tsoho explained the court only played its role as an interpreter of the law.
He said the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) had approached the court seeking an order to freeze certain accounts of corporate bodies and names of individuals were not attached to the applications.
The chief judge, who spoke at the opening of the 2020/2021 legal year, Abuja, said three months before the #EndSARS protest, the CBN had approached the court seeking an order to freeze certain accounts of corporate bodies.
He was reacting to a speech by the Nigerian Bar Association Chairman, Olumide Akpata, who was represented on the occasion by Yusuf Kadiri.
Akpata had expressed disdain on the role played by court in freezing accounts of #EndSARS promoters.
“I must remind us of the dwindling hopes of the common man in the judiciary. Following the #EndSARS protests, this court was involved in the press, in a rather uncomplimentary manner on account of freezing of bank accounts of individuals and organisations believed to have bankrolled the protests,” Akpata said.
In his reaction, Tsoho said: “Three months before the protests, the CBN kept bringing applications almost in their hundreds based on what they call deliberate resolve to ruin the economy through money laundering.
“So if it was the #EndSARS people that were involved in the activities under cover, then it is unfortunate for people to begin to call and vilify the court making damaging allegations against the court.
“If steps were not taken, Nigerian economy would have collapsed, that is to say about three months ago, the dollar would have exchanged far above N500.”
Meanwhile, Tsoho lamented that COVID-19 pandemic eroded policies of the Federal High Court in the last legal year, 2019/2020.
He said he would focus on enhancing effective administration of justice, welfare of judges and staff and overall management of the court.
Tsoho said despite the effect of COVID-19, the court disposed 8,585 with 123,513 cases pending out of 10,464 cases filed, comprising 2,851 civil and 2,599 criminal cases; and 1,965 fundamental rights applications.
Attorney General of the Federal and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, said the judiciary had risen above the challenge of COVID-19 by developing virtual court proceedings.
This, he said, was to ensure the wheel of justice was kept in motion.
Malami, who was represented by Dayo Apata, , the solicitor general of the federation, noted the need to maintain the use of ICT, particularly as the country seemed to be experiencing a second wave of the pandemic.
Speaking on the #EndSARS protests, on behalf of the Body of Senior Advocates of Nigeria (BOSAN), Joe-Kyari Gadzama said: “It is worthwhile to consider the attack on the judiciary signals a general and growing disenchantment with the entire justice architecture. The man on the street is not particularly concerned with the case load of the judge or magistrate, all he knows is that the system is sluggish.”
On corruption, Gadzama said: “It is important that the judiciary guards its reputation jealously.”