Ex-AGF Aondoakaa wants court to revisit judgement barring him from holding public office

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A former Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Michael Aondoakaa, has approached the Federal High Court in Abuja for a review of an earlier judgement which barred him from occupying public office in Nigeria.

Mr Aondoakaa, who was the AGF between 2007 and February 2010 during the late Umar Yar’Adua administration, argued in his fresh suit that the judgement barring him from public office was fraudulently obtained.

The Calabar division of the court in Cross River State, had in 2010, declared Mr Aondoakaa, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), unfit to hold public office on account of his “abuse of powers” while he was the AGF.

The Court of Appeal affirmed the decision in September 2015, and lately by the Supreme Court in December 2021.

Mr Aondokaa’s fresh legal action came after the judgement he seeks to upturn has been affirmed by the Supreme Court.

The court decision was a fallout of a suit filed in 2009 by a politician, Emmanuel Obot, accusing Mr Aondoakaa of using his office to frustrate the legal process and enforcement of a court judgement given in his favour.

According to Mr Obot, the Court of Appeal restored his mandate to represent the Uyo Federal Constituency of Akwa Ibom State in the House of Representatives in the aftermath of the April 2007 general elections.

He said Mr Aondoakaa, however, deployed his office as the AGF to frustrate the enforcement of the judgement by writing letters to relevant authorities preventing him from being sworn into the House Representatives as ordered by the Court of Appeal.

He said Mr Aondoakaa’s actions were informed by his shared pecuniary interest with Bassey Etim, from whom the Court of Appeal’s judgement retrieved the House of Representatives seat.

Delivering judgement on Mr Obot’s suit on June 1, 2010, the judge, Adeniyi Ademola (now retired), ruled that Mr Aondoakaa was “not a competent, fit and proper person to hold office” with regards to the oaths of allegiance and office. He also awarded N50 million damages against him in favour of Mr Obot.

But Mr Aondoakaa filed a fresh suit on December 14, 2,021 seeking a review of the Federal High Court judgement.

He filed the fresh suit at the Federal High Court in Abuja a few days after the Supreme Court affirmed the verdict on December 10, 2021.

The former minister based his request for a review of the verdict because he said Mr Obot obtained it by “fraud and misrepresentation of facts.”

He said Mr Obot fraudulently obtained the judgement based on a dishonest claim that he had a joint interest with Bassey Etim “in the over N700m interest in the judgement sum of N415m in the Utan Brama Victims’ case in suit number FHC/CA/8/95.”

He also said Mr Obot “fraudulently procured” a letter dated April 17, 2,008 written in the name of M.K. Aondoakaa & Co to ‘All Stakeholders, Utan Brama Fire Disaster, Mbo Local Government, Akwa Ibom State’.

He denied authorising the letter and maintained that he never had such letterhead on which it was written. He said: “the letterhead procured and used by Mr Obot purporting to emanate from him “was fraud and deceit”.

Mr Aondoakaa also said his administration as the AGF was not responsible for the payment of judgement debt to the Utan Brama fire disaster victims.

He pointed out that the full and final payment to the victims was before his appointment as the AGF during the administration of his predecessor, Bayo Ojo.

He added that contrary to the “fraudulent misrepresentation of facts” by Mr Obot, he had “no personal or private involvement in the payment of N415million payment in the Utan Brama victims’ case”.

He denied having “the N700million interest” in the judgement sum as he “was never a counsel to any of the parties and at no time was ever involved at Utan Brama fire disaster case in a private and official capacity at the same time”.

Faulting the Federal High Court’s decision barring him from holding public office, Mr Aondoakaa said the court “in furtherance of the said conscious, deliberate, dishonest and fraudulent allegations, believed same to be true, entered judgement in favour of the 1st defendant (Mr Obot)based on the purported conflict of interest and/ or that the plaintiff (Mr Aondoakaa) compromised his official position, with his private position in the 1st defendant’s suit.”

In the suit which named Mr Obot and the AGF as defendants, Mr Aondoakaa prayed the court for “an order setting aside the judgement of the Federal High Court in suit no: FHC/CA/CS/50/2009 between Emmanuel Obot versus the Attorney-General of the Federation and Michael Aondoakaa, delivered on June 1, 20,10 on the grounds of fraud.”

Mr Obot had in 2006 emerged as the winner of the primary election of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) ahead of the 2007 election for the Uyo Federal Constituency of Akwa Ibom State.

He said his name was presented to INEC, but only to be later substituted unlawfully with another name.

On December 12, 2007, the Court of Appeal, Calabar division, delivered a verdict, ordering the President of the Court of Appeal to empanel a new tribunal to hear and determine Mr Obot’s petition in Uyo.

But Mr Aondoakaa, in his capacity as the AGF, wrote the President of the Court of Appeal not to give effect to the decision of the Court of Appeal.

The then President of the Court of Appeal, Ayo Salami (now retired), however, ignored Mr Aondoakaa’s letter and went ahead to set up a new panel of judges for the tribunal.

On April 18, 2008, the new election tribunal panel gave its judgment ordering that Mr Obis be sworn into the House of Representatives to represent Uyo Federal Constituency.

Affirming the tribunal’s judgement on December 2, 2009, the Court of Appeal ordered INEC to issue a certificate of return to Mr Obot.

By Section 246(2) of the Nigerian Constitution, the decision of the Court of Appeal on legislative elections is final.

But Mr Aondoakaa, again, wrote the then INEC chairman, Maurice Iwu, to disregard the judgment of the Court of Appeal, which he described in the letter as an “obvious desecration of the institution of the judiciary.”

Not done, Mr Aondoakaa wrote Dimeji Bankole,then-Speaker of the House of Representatives, to disregard the judgement but “to allow the status quo ante to remain until the last word is heard from the Supreme Court.”

With his letters to INEC and the House of Representatives, Mr Aondoakaa prevented Mr Obot from being sworn in.

Offended by Mr Aondoakaa’s actions, Mr Obot, on May 9, 2009, filed a suit seeking the Federal High Court, Calabar Division, to declare him unfit to hold public office.

Mr Aondoakaa, who was still in office at the time, was sued both in his personal and official capacity.

The Federal High Court in its judgment on June 1, 2,010 granted Mr Obot’s prayers. As of that time, Mr Aondokaa had left office.

Mr Aondoakaa appealed to the Court of Appeal in Calabar.

On September 3, 2015, the court dismissed his appeal and affirmed the Federal High Court judgement.

The Court of Appeal, in its own decision, affirming the verdict, said Mr Aondoakaa “undermined and subverted the rule of law, the due administration of justice and the independence, authority and integrity of the judiciary,” the court had ruled.

Joseph Oyewole, a member of the three-man panel of the Court of Appeal, noted that the facts of the case said: “It is unthinkable that the occupier of the exalted office of Attorney General would subvert the ends of justice, as was crudely done in this case by the appellant,” he said.

He said a person occupying the AGF office “should epitomise all that is good and noble in the legal profession”.

“That office should never again be occupied by individuals of such poor quality as the appellant,” he added.

Drawing a contrast between what was said to be Mr Aondoakaa’s desecration of the judiciary and his filing of the appeal to seek justice from the same institution, Mr Oyewole said: “It is ironic that the appellant should approach the same time he so brazenly desecrated for succour against the consequences of his appalling conduct.”

Mr Aondoakaa had also further appealed to the Supreme Court.

But in its unanimous decision delivered on December 10, 2021, a five-man panel of the Supreme Court led by Mary Peter-Odili dismissed the appeal and affirmed the lower court’s judgement.

Kudirat Kekere-Ekun, who delivered the lead judgement, held that “The appellant (Aondoakaa), as the Chief Law Officer of the Federation and a Senior Advocate of Nigeria was reckless and acted in a manner most unbecoming of the occupant of such an exalted office.”

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