Another of Nigeria’s most infamous Supreme Court judges, Justice Nikki Tobi, has retired. His departure followed the quiet departure, four months ago, of Justice James Ogebe. He was the infamous chairman of the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal who accepted to validate the heavily-flawed April 2007 election of Umaru Yar'Adua and Goodluck Jonathan in return for hefty bribes and elevation to the Supreme Court. He retired quietly in April.
Judge Tobi retired yesterday after attaining the age of 70. He lived a lie as a person and consequently as judge, trying unsuccessfully to ape the famous British judge, Lord Denning, but lacking the strength of character to do so.
Justice Ogebe, who led a pack of justices of theCourt of Appeal to declare the election of Yar'Adua and Jonathan "free and fair" could not attend on the final day when the panel was to give its ruling because he had compromised himself beyond redemption. He left the dirty deed of reading the script to one Justice John Fabiyi, a funny judge whose performance was both “comical and hysterical,” according to lawyers who observed the final proceedings.
Justice Fabiyi was also rewarded with a seat on the Supreme Court for his despicable role in manipulation the verdict.
Tobi who started as a local teacher in Rivers state, studied law and eventually became a professor of Law at the University of Maiduguri. But his life fell apart when he was accused of an amorous affair with Kate Hamza, the wife of the Chief Librarian at UNIMAID. He eventually left UNIMAID when religious extremists threatened to kill him after the marriage between Kate and her husband fell apart, a sad development that was blamed on then Professor Tobi.
He returned to Rivers State, and to the embrace of Justice Karibi-Whyte who assisted him to get a job as a High Court judge. He was later to become a Court of Appeal judge on the ticket of Delta State under the Obasanjo regime.
Tobi's ascension to Supreme Court was opposed by Justices Alpa Belgore and others because they said his judgments always played to the gallery, and were watery and childish. But he eventually got his wish.
Tobi did a constitutional review of the problematic and disjointed 1999 constitutition for the Abdulsalam Abubakar military government, that exercise was highly flawed, but it was not a surprise because he became a court of appeal justice under the military. He became a Supreme Court judge under former President Obasanjo. Part of what he did under Obasanjo was to chair Obasanjo’s Third Term Constitutional Review Commission for the former military man’s ambition that collapsed miserably in 2006.
Obasanjo fell out with Justice Tobi because when he brought Kanu Agabi (SAN) to bang together a constitution that would ensure Obasanjo a third term in office, but it leaked and Obasanjo reportedly blamed Tobi for mishandling the process.
But during the sessions of the confab, Tobi presided over and voted for the rejection of the proposed increment of derivation funds due to the Niger Delta region.
Then came the last presidential election appeal at the Supreme Court, and Justice Tobi again stood against justice. In his bizarre ruling at the Presidential Elections Appeal, he scandalously asserted that there was no need for serialization of ballot papers.
As was reported by Saharareporters during the appeal stage of the 2007 petitions process, Tobi, when approached by Yar'Adua through Aondoakaa, James Ibori as well as Jonathan, was promised his son, Ebowei, would be elevated to the Court of Appeal. Although Ebowei was eventually nominated to the court, a series of exposés that was done by SaharaReporters frustrated its realization.
Tobi is retiring from the Supreme Court a sad man, another disastrous end to another career. Not only did his son fail to ride on his back to get to the Court of Appeal, when Justice Tobi asked recently to be named the chairman of the body of Benchers, a position to which he was “qualified” as the second most senior judge at the Supreme Court, the CJN told him that it was not a position for a retiring justice. Justice Dahiru Musdapher was given that position.
Justice Tobi will have a lot to chew in retirement: even yesterday when he was supposed to have been given a valedictory session at the Supreme Court, that event was also canceled at the last minute.