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Justice A. M. Liman

25.05.2024 Featured Not the First Time: Kano Judge Who Issued Order ‘From US’ Is Known for Controversial Rulings

Published 25th May, 2024

By Sodeeq Atanda

The ongoing inflammatory atmosphere in Kano State over the dethronement and re-enthronement of Kano Emirs drew much of its strength from a judicial intervention halting the execution of a new law enacted by the Kano State House of Assembly on Thursday.

Justice Abdullah Muhammad Liman of the Federal High Court, Kano Division, had issued an interim injunction preventing the state government from dethroning all the five emirs in Kano, who derived their powers from the Kano Emirate Council Law of 2019. The judge ordered that the status quo be maintained.

Some legal practitioners have questioned the legitimacy of the judge assuming jurisdiction over a chieftaincy matter that is lawfully within the purview of state high courts alone.

READ ALSO: FLASHBACK: ‘Jonathan’s Medicine’: How Ganduje Removed Emir Sanusi in 2020

Notwithstanding the order, the Abba Kabir Yuasuf-led state government moved ahead to dethrone the five emirs and re-instal Muhammad Sanusi, previously sacked in 2020, as the emir under one Kano Emirate Council.

Shortly after giving Sanusi his reappointment letter, Yusuf claimed that the judge was still in the United States when he issued the order. Describing the order as an abuse, Yusuf threatened to report Liman to the Nigerian Governors Forum.

“The person that issued the court order was in America but he is ordering us to stop what we are doing. This issue of abuse I must present it before the Governor’s Forum so that we can tackle it accordingly,” said the governor. “We are agents of following due process, that’s why we did what we did openly before everybody. Those that are meant to maintain that rule of law remains must follow that also.”

Over the years, however, Liman’s judgements and judicial actions have become a public issue, with some people accusing him of corruption and professional misconduct. He has spent some of his professional life defending such accusations and coming out unhurt. The National Judicial Council (NJC) recently dismissed a petition against him.

Below are some of his recent decisions that have attracted negative public reactions.

MICHAEL IGBINEDION’S N25B CORRUPTION CASE

In April 2015, Liman presided over a corruption case involving Michael Igbinedion, a younger brother to Lucky Igbinedion, a former Edo State governor, who had been accused of laundering N25 billion of state funds. Patrick Eboigbodin was the ex-governor’s brother’s co-defendant in the matter.

Liman was then sitting at the Edo division of the Federal High Court. He convicted Michael over three counts out of the 81-count charge preferred against him by prosecutors from the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). Michael was permitted to pay a fine of N1 million for each of the three counts rather than spend two years in jail.

Curiously, Liman denied Eboigbodin, a former aide to the former governor, the option of fine after finding him guilty on 10 counts. Not only was he sent to 20 years imprisonment, the judge further ordered him to pay a compulsory fine of N250,000. His conviction caused some Nigerians to ask why a principal criminal was allowed a fine and the co-offender wasn’t given such a fine. The fines were also considered ridiculous compared to how much they stole.

2016 DSS ARREST

In 2016, the Department of State Service (DSS) went all out arresting serving judges on account of sharp practices. In the ensuing exchange of words, the secret police claimed that Liman had $2 million cash suspected to be illicit money in his residence in Port Harcourt.

Nyesom Wike, then governor of Rivers State, successfully prevented the operatives from arresting Liman.

Hours after, the Nasarawa-born judge issued a rebuttal, claiming that the DSS missed their target and that he had never had such money in his life. He said he could “have abandoned this horrible profession that has lost its dignity” if he had such money. He admitted that he had a “notoriety for delivering controversial judgements; because the cases are also controversial and the stakes probably very high”.

PETITION BY PETERS OMORAGBON

In 2022, Peters Osawaru Omoragbon, the governorship candidate of the National Conscience Party (NCP) in the Edo State 2020 governorship election, publicly accused Liman of “misconduct and dereliction of duty.”

Omoragbon initiated a case before Liman’s court in Edo State in May 2020 against the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), and a ruling was subsequently fixed for December of the same year. According to Omoragbon, the said ruling had not been delivered more than one year after.

Omoragbon’s statement published by Vanguard read in part: “A case of misconduct and dereliction of duty against Honourable Justice M. Liman of the Federal High Court, Kano Division (formerly of the Federal High Court, Lagos Division) dated January 3rd, 2022 by Pastor Peters Omoragbon, Gubernatorial Candidate of the National Conscience Party at the 2020 Edo State Governorship Elections.

READ ALSO: Ganduje’s Associate Habeeb Muhammed Holds On to Doctors’ N7.8m for Saudi Work Visa

“The National Conscience Party instituted an Independent legal dispute against INEC and the AG of the Federal Republic of Nigeria on May 5, 2020, through Originating Summons with an Affidavit of Urgency. This case was not heard until October 13, 2020, where all the parties adopted their written submissions and judgement reserved till December 18, 2020.

Even though the bureaucratic bottlenecks constituted a stumbling block to my aspiration as Governor in the Edo State Elections, I was very hopeful that no matter the undue delay, justice would eventually be served. It must be recalled that prior to the Edo State Governorship elections in 2020, INEC had ignominiously deregistered some political parties including the NCP. This led to a series of legal disputes against the INEC and judgement awarded against INEC, some of which are pending rulings at the Supreme Court.”

Ladies and gentlemen of the Press, as at today January 3rd, 2022, the ruling that was to be given on December 18, 2020, is yet to be delivered by Justice M. Liman. I am constrained by circumstances beyond my control to call this press conference over the deliberate act of dereliction of duty by Honourable Justice M. Liman over the legal dispute instituted by our Party, the National Conscience Party against INEC and the Attorney General of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

It was in the light of this abuse of office that I directed my Legal Team led by Barrister Marcus Eyarhono Esq to formally petition Justice M. Liman to the National Judicial Council for his dereliction of duty.

GANDUJE’S CORRUPTION CASE

In 2023, the Kano Public Complaint and Anti Corruption Commission was making plans to criminally sue Abdullahi Ganduje, a former governor of Kano State and now the national chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), over bribery allegations.

Daily Nigerian had published a video of Ganduje stashing dollar bundles suspected to be bribes collected from a contractor into his attire in 2018.

However, the same judge granted an all-encompassing interim restraining order following an ex-parte application to stop the state anti-corruption agency “from harassing, arresting, inviting, or detaining the Applicant (Ganduje) or his children, or any member of his family, or any appointee who served under his administration, or forcefully taking over properties of his children or any member of his family, or any appointee who served under his administration, pending the hearing and determination of the substantive originating motion”.

GANDUJE’S SUSPENSION

Two factions of the APC in Kano State suspended Ganduje from the party earlier this year. Both factions claimed that Ganduje was unfit to lead the party again, situating reasons for the suspension on the bribery allegations against him.

READ ALSO: JUST IN: Kano APC Suspends Ganduje Over Corruption Allegation

“We the leaders of the APC in the Ganduje ward, Dwakin-Tofa Local Government engaged in thorough deliberations and subsequently decided to suspend the erstwhile governor of Kano State, Abdullahi Ganduje, in light of the allegations of bribery involving foreign currency. It has come to our attention that Ganduje has been summoned to court to answer for these accusations, a development that we believe could besmirch the reputation of our esteemed political party,” Haladu Gwaju, the ward legal adviser, said on April 15.

“Because of this, we have reached a resolution to pass a vote of no-confidence on Ganduje and to collectively on behalf of all executive members of the APC in Ganduje ward, Dawakin Tofa to suspend him until he clears his name and that of his family in court.”

A week later, another faction led by Jaafar Adamu, issued another fresh suspension notice to Ganduje. However, a faction led by Ahmad Ganduje, threw its weight behind the former governor.

In trying to calm the political storm, Ganduje approached Liman’s court, and the judge issued a protective order in his favour. This was despite the fact that a state high court had earlier upheld the suspension.

READ ALSO: BREAKING: Abba Yusuf Orders Arrest of Ex-Kano Emir Bayero for ‘Creating Tension’

Liman, who became a judicial officer on July 28, 2000, was born on February 11, 1959. Currently 65 years of age, he recently enjoyed the nod of the NJC to be elevated to the Court of Appeal.

Chidi Anselm Odinkalu, a legal practitioner and teacher, has faulted his appointment, however. He argued that, being less than five years to the 70-year retirement age for judicial officers, Liman was unqualified for the position.

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Published 25th May, 2024

By Sodeeq Atanda

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