An investigation by SaharaReporters has revealed that Acting Chief Judge of the Ondo State High Court, Justice Temitayo Olubusola Adefunke Osoba, falsified her age in official documents to enable her to remain in service. As the most senior judge in the state, Justice Osoba took over in acting capacity after the immediate past Chief Judge, Justice Olasehinde Kumuyi, ended his tenure. On Monday January 23, 2017, former Governor Olusegun Mimiko swore in Justice Osoba as the “Acting Chief Judge” of Ondo State. The ceremony took place at the Cocoa Conference Hall in Akure, the state capital.
As Acting Chief Judge, Justice Osoba on Friday, February 24, 2017 administered the oath office on Governor Rotimi Akeredolu at the Ondo State Sports Complex.
Justice Osoba, who had been awaiting formal recommendations from the National Judicial Council (NJC) in order to become the substantive Chief Judge, apparently falsified her age, according to the scrutiny of her records.
Our investigation revealed that Justice Osoba was ultimately sworn in even though Justice Folashade Taiwo Aguda, the pioneer President of the Ondo State Customary Court of Appeal and a close associate of Mr. Mimiko, had been interested in the position. Prior to her elevation, Justice Osoba, who attended schools in Lagos, Ondo and Ekiti states, never headed any division within the state judiciary.
In her curriculum vitae (CV), read at her swearing-in, Justice Osoba claimed that she was born on the 20th of June 1957, which purportedly put her age at 60 years old.
But an independent investigation by SaharaReporters on Justice Osoba’s academic records revealed that she was actually born on June 20, 1950 not 1957. Our investigative team determined that the judge is due to clock 67 years old on June 20, 2017.
If Justice Osoba had declared her true age, she would have been disqualified from the office she currently holds. Section 291 (1&2) of Nigeria’s 1999 Nigeria Constitution (as amended) states: “A judicial officer appointed to the Supreme Court or the Court of Appeal may retire when he attains the age of sixty-five years and he shall cease to hold office when he attains the age of seventy years. A judicial officer appointed to any other court other than those specified in subsection (1) of this section may retire when he attains the age of sixty years and he shall cease to hold office when he attains the age of sixty-five years.”
Justice Osoba’s records show that she was born into the family of Reverend Timothy Omotayo Olufosoye and Mrs. Joan Olaneye Olufosoye in Ondo, Ondo West Local Government Area of Ondo state. According to a listing on Wikipedia, Reverend Olufosoye was the first archbishop and primate of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) and was consecrated as the first African bishop of Gambia and the Rio Pongas in 1965. In 1971, Reverend Olufosoye was transferred to Ibadan, the current capital of Oyo State.
Our investigation revealed that, between 1963 and 1967, Justice Temitayo Osoba attended Bishop Philips Primary School in Ondo town, which was founded in 1952. However, when our undercover reporter visited the school, located on Surulere Road in Ondo town, he found that the name of Justice Osoba, who used to be known as Temitayo Olubusola Adefunke Olufosoye, was not listed on the list of students registered between the years she presented in her falsified CV.
Our investigators also discovered that Justice Osoba attended Fiwasaye Girls Grammar School in Akure, but she chose to omit the school from her academic record in an apparent effort to conceal her real age.
Some of the judge’s academic record, which is being shielded from public view by the current principal of Fiwasaye Girls Grammar School Akure, Mrs. Olubukola Taiwo Bola, confirmed that the embattled Acting Chief Judge understated her age in order to place herself under the statutory retirement age of 65 years old for judges.
Our undercover reporter visited the girls’ school twice in the course of his investigation. However, he was rebuffed by the school principal, who happens to be married to Justice Ademola Bola of the Ondo State High Court number 6 in Akure.
Our reporter also visited Christ (Girls) School in Ado Ekiti, where Justice Temitayo Osoba claimed she attained secondary education from 1972 to 1974, according to her CV. The administrators and teachers at the school refused to allow our reporter access to the school’s records during the years listed by Justice Osoba. They insisted that the reporter submits a formal letter explaining what he wanted to look for from the school records.
In her CV, the Acting Chief Judge also stated that she attended Gambia High School, in Banjul, the capital of Gambia, between 1967 and 1968. However, a search on the school’s webpage did not yield information about student registrations. The phone contacts provided on the page failed to connect when our correspondent tried to dial.
Justice Osoba’s CV also stated that, between 1963 and 1967, she attended Uplands School in Sandecotes, Dorset in the South of England. Our reporters found that the school was based in the south coastal town of Poole, Dorset on the South coast and was a co-educational independent school that consisted of a junior and senior school, which merged with Wentworth College in 2009. Emails sent by our reporter to the office of the school registrar were not replied as at last Friday.
Our correspondent visited Justice Osoba’s Local Government in Ondo West to ascertain her real date of birth, but staff members at the “records department” balked at providing information about the judge. One staffer, a woman, claimed that it was impossible to see records of births in the library, but also asked our reporter to send an official letter to the chairman of the council on his request.
Meanwhile, documents obtained from the Ondo State judiciary in Akure revealed that part of Justice Temitayo Osoba’s records had been doctored. Two senior judiciary officials also told our correspondent that the Chief Registrar, Toyin Akinrinsola, was part of a scheme to hide evidence of the judge’s falsifications. One of the sources described
Mr. Akinrinsola as a questionable character, adding that the registrar “also doubles as the Chief Accountant of the High Court and was once implicated in the embezzlement of funds with some senior judiciary staff.” According to the source, “The case was later covered up at the Ondo State High Court of Justice. But by way of a little punishment [Mr. Akinrinsola] was demoted and made a Secretary at the Judicial Service Commission.”
A few sources at the state judiciary stated that the immediate past Chief Judge, Olasehinde Kumuyi, was determined to have Justice Osoba as his successor.
“He [Justice Kumuyi] convinced former Governor Olusegun Mimiko to install Temitayo Osoba as the new Chief Judge,” said one of the sources. According to the source, the former Chief Judge told Mr. Mimiko that Justice Osoba was the most dependable judge “to cover-up some atrocities and illegalities committed during the tenure of the last administration in the state.”
Said another source at the judiciary, “Mimiko called for Justice Osoba’s CV. And before we knew what was going on at the governor’s office, her name was forwarded and she was eventually sworn in as the Acting Chief Judge. And I have no doubt that the mission is to confirm her as substantive.”
A senior official of the Ministry of Justice claimed that agents of Nigeria’s secret police had investigated Justice Osoba's illicit change of her age. He added that the agency’s final report had been forwarded to the National Judicial Council (NJC). “I can authoritatively tell you that the Directorate of State Security Service (DSS) investigated this age falsification between the months of January and March of this year. And they found that Justice Temitayo Osoba had told so many lies in her records.” He added: “She could have tried to bribe her way out, but it was too late for her as the findings of the DSS report had been submitted to the National Judicial Council (NJC).”
On May 16, 2017, an Akure-based human rights lawyer, Femi Emmanuel-Emodamori, issued a 7-day ultimatum to Governor Akeredolu to remove Justice Temitayo Osoba on account of her age falsification. In making the demand, Mr. Emodamori said that the judge’s academic records at Fiwasaye Grammar School indicated that she was born in 1950, instead of 1957.
In his letter, which was also copied to the National Judicial Council (NJC), the lawyer stated that Justice Osoba had overstayed in office as an Acting Chief Judge, adding that her continued stay in office violated the provisions of the 1999 constitution.
SaharaReporters exclusively obtained a copy of the letter, which was also copied to the Ondo State House of Assembly (ODHSA) and the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA).
Mr. Emodamori’s letter pointed out that section 271 (5) of the Nigerian Constitution does not allow anybody to be in acting capacity as Chief Judge of a state for more than three months. He said it was illegal for Justice Osoba to continue to breach the constitution by occupying the office since the State Assembly and National Judicial Council had not confirmed her appointment after she was sworn in on January 23, 2017.
He added that the failure to remove Justice Temitayo Osoba would amount to an act of illegality since she could not be reappointed after almost four months in acting capacity in office. According to him, it would also bring Ondo State and the country's judicial system to disrepute.
“I'm personally not unaware of [a] series of rumor of allegation of falsification of age and academic qualification data surrounding your lordship,” the lawyer wrote. He added, “Part of which was that your lordship claimed to have been born in 1957 but was actually born in 1950 and enrolled as a student in Fiwasaye Grammar School in Akure in 1961.
“As a matter of fact, the loud whisper in the public domain is that your lordship was actually a classmate of one Adejisola Adegoke, the wife of one Dr. Laoye Adegoke, a retired Permanent Secretary, in the said Fiwasaye Grammar School.
“The deafening silence from virtually all the stakeholders in this matter is amazing. I would not be part of it.”
A source close to Governor Akeredolu told SaharaReporters that the governor was aware of the controversy surrounding the Acting Chief Judge’s understatement of her age. “Governor Akeredolu is aware of the age saga through the DSS report. A Lagos-based lawyer has also contacted and talked to the governor over the issue. But you know Akeredolu is a very close friend to his predecessor, former Governor Olusegun Mimiko. So he doesn’t want to be labeled to be victimizing Ondo indigenes since the Acting Chief Judge is from Ondo town.” The source added that Governor Akeredolu would prefer that the NJC handle the matter “rather than he being accused of sacking the judge for political reasons.”