Why Did A Judge Weep In Court? By Okey Ndibe

Okey Ndibe
Okey Ndibe

I am used to reading shocking or bewildering headlines in Nigerian newspapers. So, at first glance, I thought little of it when a friend emailed me a scanned copy of a report in last Tuesday’s edition of the Sun newspaper. Written by Godwin Tsa, the report was titled “Judge weeps in court over allegations of bias.” I had every intention of ignoring the report. Yet, something drew me to it.

After reading it, I was overcome with a deep sense of sadness. And, more than the sadness, I felt a great outrage about the many ways Nigeria’s judiciary has been reduced to a shadow of its once glorious self.

As it turned out, the report was an appalling reminder of the devaluation of virtually all sectors of Nigeria. But first, let me reproduce most of the report for the benefit of those who didn’t get to read it.

It began: “A Judge of the Abuja Division of the National Industrial Court Justice Moren Esowe lost control of her emotions as she wept openly in court over allegations of bias brought against her.
“She was the presiding judge in the suit instituted by Ambassador D.C.B. Nwanna, challenging the moves by the Director-General of the Nigerian Intelligence Agency (NIA), Ambassador Ezekiel Oladeji, to prematurely retire him from service.

“But when the matter was called for further hearing, a tearful Justice Esowe painfully narrated to lawyers, litigants and members of the public in court the facts of a malicious petition against her, accusing her of manifest bias in favor of the claimant because she is from the same ethnic group (Igbo) with him.

“The said petition addressed to the President of the court also alleged that the judge had vowed to recall the claimant from the illegal and unlawful lockout the agency imposed on him. It further accused Justice Esowe of acting in contravention of her oath of office, which, according to the petitioner, was to protect government and its officials.

“Justice Esowe tearfully insisted that she was innocent of the false accusations against her and prayed that God Almighty who is the ultimate judge will vindicate and justify her in [the] fullness of time. Her words: ‘Somebody has written a petition to the president of the Court accusing me of bias against the defendants because I’m from the same ethnic group as the claimant. Since my days as a judge I have never handled a case with so much pressure on me. Today the biggest threat facing those who killed the soul of innocent people is by lying against them.’

“Speaking on the development, counsel to the claimant, Mr. Francis Maduekwe described it as unfortunate and brazen and [an] audacious misdemeanor on the part of the petitioners. He said since the matter started the director-general has shown actions that should be of grave concern to the Federal Government as they constituted impunity and executive recklessness which were at variance with President Goodluck Jonathan’s avowed commitment to the enthronement of due process, the rule of law and respect for the judiciary.

“Ambassador Nwanna returned to the country sometime in April at the end of his foreign assignment as Deputy High Commission to the Court of St. James (London) and reported to work at the headquarters of the agency. But to his surprise, the guards informed him at the gate that the director general had left instructions that he should never be allowed into the premises or any of the installations of the agency.

“The matter became a subject of litigation before the National Industrial Court. However, during the pendency of the case, agents of the defendants served the claimant with a letter purportedly terminating his appointment. The claim before the court is simply for a declaration of the court that the claimant is not yet due from compulsory retirement from service...”

Assuming that this report factually captured what transpired in court, then the events in the whole case must be seen as deeply disturbing. Forget the terrible condition of Nigerian roads, the absence of sound healthcare, and the epileptic nature of electric power – the greatest threat to Nigerians is, in my view, the awful collapse of any sense of the rule of law. And this collapse, I suggest, is a product of many years of national indifference to the erosion of standards of judicial practice. We have all failed to insist on, and work towards, a fiercely independent judiciary.

There are several worrisome aspects of the above report. One: the idea that an Igbo judge should not be allowed to preside over a case in which the claimant is also Igbo is patently absurd. There are manifest dangers in adopting an ethnic test in judicial matters. It amounts to stating that ethnic claims are superior to legal principles and facts, and that judges are not intellectually and morally equipped to rise above clannish considerations.

It’s an open secret that many unworthy men and women have been elevated to positions as judges. Unfortunately, out of self-interest, the governors and presidents whose task it is to nominate candidates for judicial positions often look for mediocre candidates. They seek to fill the judiciary with pliable judges willing to do the bidding of those in power, instead of those with stellar credentials, by which I mean sound legal minds, moral integrity, and utmost respect for the sacredness of the judicial role.

Perhaps, then, the uninspiring quality of Nigeria’s judiciary owes to this deliberate dilution in the caliber of those invited to become judges. Even so, the appellate process is a sensible safeguard against some of the worst excesses and failures of weak judges.

It is a bad day already in Nigeria. But for parties to a case to be allowed to play the ethnic card and disqualify a judge is, quite simply, deplorable. Where do we go from there? No matter the ethnicity of the judge who gets the case file, some ethnic ruse can be invented and deployed against him or her.

It seems to me that the case Mr. Nwanna filed against the NIA is straightforward enough. The ambassador is pleading, simply, that his retirement from service was premature. There are civil service and other official rules that govern retirements. Both the claimant and defendants have the same opportunity to invoke those rules in making their case in court. A judge should be able to examine the submissions and come to a reasoned verdict.

The case is all the more worrisome for the petitioners to accuse the judge, essentially, of disloyalty to the government and its functionaries. If it’s true that the authors of the petition against Justice Esowe suggested that her loyalty ought to lie with the government, then they should be identified and shamed. A judge’s mission is to see to it that the cause of justice is served at all times and in all cases. In the free exercise of their mandate, informed and self-respecting judges frequently rule against (powerful) governments and in favor of (weak) citizens and (vulnerable) groups.

The Nigerian Intelligence Agency ought to be a leader in combating the widening plague of sectarian violence in the country. The agency ought to be invested in shaping a culture where the rule of law and respect for the judiciary are widely embraced. Yet, the reported treatment of Mr. Nwanna – a former deputy high commissioner in London – by the agency’s DG leaves much to be desired. Why would a man be reassigned from his office in London only to be locked out of his office in Abuja? Is that kind of swashbuckling worthy of a serious leader of an intelligence agency? Why was the DG in such indecent haste to retire a man who has gone to court to seek enforcement of his right to unfettered access to his office? And why should the DG of an agency charged with securing Nigeria against serious national and international threats embark on a misadventure by using the ethnic argument to impugn the character of a judge? It all bespeaks a culture of recklessness and intimidation. It’s as if the director-general feels entitled to having things his way. And when he cannot, he must bulldoze any person or institution in the way.

Mr. Nwanna’s lawyer, Francis Maduekwe, made the right call when he accused the agency’s director-general of acting with “impunity.” The agency’s DG should not be permitted to get away with dictating which judge may hear Mr. Nwanna’s case. That’s conduct unbecoming of the leader of a major national security agency.  

That impunity should not stand. The president of the National Industrial Court ought to order a thorough investigation of Justice Esowe’s allegation that she had been subjected to undue pressure over Ambassador Nwanna’s case. What’s the nature of that pressure? And where did the illicit pressure come from? In the end, unless he discovers that Justice Esowe had compromised herself in the case, the court president should order her to proceed with the case.

A clear message ought to be sent here: that no agency or person, however powerful, should meddle with the judiciary. If Justice Esowe can be removed from a case on account of her ethnic identity, then the judiciary’s unflattering image would have reached a new low point. Lawyers, other judges, civil society activists, legislators, and enlightened citizens ought to pay attention to Justice Esowe’s tears. And they should rise in unison to resist this latest threat to the independence of a judiciary that is already bedeviled by too many scandals and acts of executive meddlesomeness.

Please follow me on twitter @ okeyndibe

38 comment(s)
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Why did the jugde weep in court

Okey Ndibe was on point on dis article,from my view i think the migth have being put on high pressure but not succumbing let to these ethnic card tin.like the jugde quoted according to prof Okey,TODAY THE BIGGEST THREAT FACING THOSE THAT KILLED THE SOUL OF INNOCENT PEOPLE IS BY LYING AGAINST THEM.

Re: Why did a Judge cry in the court?

If not for the DG's tribalistic tendencies , he would not have summoned courage to acuse a Judge of being biased because Ambassador Nwanna hails from the same tribe with the Judge, after all the Judge's appointment into that bench precedes the matter between the DG and ambassador Nwanna. Logically, the hand writing is very clearly written on the wall that Ambassador Ezekiel Oladeji (DG! NIA) forcefully retired Ambassador Nwanna because he is an Igbo man. Had it been Ambassdor Nwanna is a Yoruba man, all these controversies would not have been generated. If the DG does not have things against the Igbo race, he would not have gone to the extent of telling an Honourable Judge that he is biased because Ambassador Nwanna is an Igbo man.

Is this really "one Nigeria"?


the judge should have put in disclosure immediately in declaring her tribal lineage to the accused. her failure to do so calls for all due suscipitions. you might like it but it is common sense and very honorable legal proceedings she failed to fortify herself with. I am disappointed in your conclusion. you are surposedly highly educated and travelled wide; due proceedure once tampared with opens cans of worms. NIGERIA NEEDS TO BE UPLIFTED AND NOT BE BURIED IN TRIBAL CAKE SHARING.

Human being is full of

Human being is full of feelings and emotions sometime it goes that an emperor himself cry for his nation because he is the servant of his peoples and if they were keep on wrong and wrong it happens .
High School Diploma

That judge is too weak for this job!

I think the Judge was being melodramatic....why cry bcos of mere allegation? Every job has it's hazards and she hasn't displayed the backbone needed for her job. Also, Okeys article has an ethnic tilt too....accusing the DG without providing any proof exposes the fact that the writer was all out to defend his tribes people, otherwise why not explore the facts from the DG viewpoint as well. A balanced reporting or analysis was lacking in this article. Anyway ethnicity and religion will always becloud reasoning in this dear country of ours.
I rest my case.

Why did the Judge weep

In this era of Boko Haram of which more agents are suppose to be employed as promised by President Goodluck. But no they are being prematurely retired. Which way Nigeria? Which way are we going. Say right and do left. Nigerians are watching.

@ kamal

You comment is stupid, typical Nigerian educated illiterate. You sound retarded, for your information I am not Ibo. Did you read the article; you have a faulty thought process.

The weeping judge

It is regretably lugubrious that those entrusted with management of our affairs would rather put us to shame. It's not the first time that a request of this nature would be made in court but why must a judge cry to whip up sentiments? Let justice prevail!


We should not ignore the Supernatural Power of ALMIGHTY GOD. I know Mr Nwanna way back in South Africa as a man of integrity and dignity for him to face such degrading issues at this time of his life, when he has giving a lot of service to this nation Nigeria truthfully and unselfishly. JUSTICE IS GOOD NO MATTER HOW FAST A LIE TRAVELS, THE TRUTH THAT WALKS LIKE A TORTOISE WILL SURELY OVERTAKE THE FALSEHOOD. He that holds what belongs to a child and rise his hand, when he starts to feel pains in that hand he will bring his hand down, then the child will take back what belongs to him.

Why Did A Judge Weep In Court? By Okey Ndibe

The insistence of the DGNIA not to follow due process and respect the rule of law is enough for any sensible government to terminate his appointment. The civil service has a laid down procedure for the sanction of civil servants. And from all indications, these procedure where not followed, hence the court case. I also do not think the DGNIA has the powers to sack any seniour staff of the agency without going through these procedures. The government should do something about this case before the actions of the DGNIA breeds another form of shame and scandal to the nation. The fuel subsidy issues are enough bitter pills to swallow for now.

Sanusi's comment.

I don't understand Mr. Sanusi's line of reasoning here. He seems to have a grudge against Jonathan outside the current trend of discussion. He has the right to be upset, but what is under review here is a judge being accused of ethnic bias for sitting on a case involving a plaintiff from the same ethnic group. I hope Mr. Sanusi should get back to the main issue.

Move On

Justice is generally regarded as something that must be done and be seen to be done. If one party no longer see justice as being done, even though justice is done, the judge should excuse herself from the case. Afterall she will still get paid, abi she dey cry for the egunje she will miss. I heard that Nigerian judges are very rich these days!

Why did a Judge weep in court

For the fact that 2 Ambassadors and Judge is invole in this melodrama. I think that the Industrial court President should like in light speed end this whole saga.
Assign the case to another judge so that the rule of law will take place. Investigate the petion against Justice Esowe. Nigerians are watching.


Why are we this tribalistic in Nigeria? Can't we just look at ourselves, first and foremost, as Nigerians before ethnic consideration.

Can one then accuse Prof Ndibe of tribalism is writing about the theatre of the absurd that took place at the Industrial Court? My answer is NO! Would he have written about if it the Judge and the Plaintiff had been from another ethnic group? Possibly yes.

It however amazes me that the DG can retire an Agency Staff without following extant civil service rules. Has Amb Nwanna spent 35years in service or Is he 65years of age?

The Agency is not the DGs personal business or empire. He is an employee of Government like Nwanna.

Even if Ambassador Nwanna is accused of official misdemeanor, I thought there are service rules, which applies to how an errant Public Official can be disciplined.

I am therefore in support of Prof Ndibes article.




Nigeria is cursed with misfits like you

I am shocked at how low you reason. This is all you could deduce from Mr. Okey's concerns? Ethnicity?? You are a shame to society. Tell me why an agency should stoop so low just to 'punish' a staff. Are there no rules in the service to discipline a staff rather than resorting to brute force. You may be enjoying what the DG is doing to his staff and next to a judge of a high court. But remember that God watches over all of us.


It is indeed shameful that such drama still unfolds in a country such as Nigeria.
When a fish rots, it starts from the head; need me say more? Leadership must be demonstrated and seen to be demonstrated before a country or a community could rake in measurable development or progress made in time.
I am shell-shocked not only to have read this story but also to even comment on same.
This is laughable given that other progressive countries are way ahead and busy with projects that could enhance and improve the livelihood of their citizenry, whilst Nigeria is engrossed in trivial and infantile issues. Issues not even fit for toddlers and infants.
My heart bleeds for my dear country.
What a shame!

Weeping Judge

Both the Judge and the petitioner must be questioned and punished. For her to start crying over an annonimous petition. She supposed to ask for a proper investigation. Instead of throwing in the towel

My disappoint kent

Kamal is people like you that are the problem. How can you allege Okey is tribalistic. Did okey tell you that he was in court. Did he not say his write up is based on last Tuesday report. Did the Judge not cry in court. Did she not say her tears is because of the petition written against her accusing her of ethnic bias.

Nigeria is the land of injustice

Injustice,misrule, corruption, indiscipline and wickedness is the reason why no black nation on earth is progressing. Nigeria is a nation that does not respect children, youths, the aged, the civil servants working for the state and pensioners who have spent all their lives working for the state. How can a nation that treats her citizens like this progress? Nigeria as a nation is sure headed for the grave for no nation that operates like nigeria can survive!

Kamal Is Not Making Sense

@Kamal, you are not making any sense. Okey ndibe only wrote an article alerting the dangers of ethnicising the judiciary and the larger injustices in the nigerian society that is killing the nation. There is no nation premised on social, political and economic injustices that can survive, and unless the nigerian state changes her way, nigeria's collapse is inevitable.

Judge weeps in court

I find this piece of information extremely troubling and shaken by its deeper import. It is however not surprising that ethnocentric judicial recklessness does exist in our system. It does and has existed in the brief history of our amalgamation. What shakes my faith in the system is that in the present judicial configuration, when reform and transparency is the trumpeted agenda of the government, when accountability, civil and human rights watchdogs are demanding sanitization of our corrupt enterprise,the Director General of the NIA had the effrontery, in the purview of President Goodluck Jonathan, with dictatorial impudence terminate the service of an Ambassador and to further frustrate his efforts to seek due redress. It is a shame.

Dr. Ed

Weeping of a Judge in Court

Our great country has continued to sink deeper and deeper into anarchy, mediocrity and other low standards found in banana republics. Yet we continue to delude ourselves that we are the giant of Africa. Giant in what respect and in which area? Is it healthcare, standard of living, democracy, energy, education standards, roads, aviation, sports or industrialization? We should all be ashamed.

Why Did A Judge Weep In Court? By Okey Ndibe

This is a gross display of mistrust and a precipitate of premeditation from a Government Agency that is supposed to be a leader in combating the widening plague of sectarian violence in the country. Nigeria are watching

My disappointment

My disappointment here is that a person of Okey's calibre is medling into a case just because his tribesman/woman is involved. It's unfortunate that even the apparently enlightened Nigerians cannot reason above tribalism. Okey showed it clearly who he is defending and why. There are uncountable similar cases involving non-Igbos, i wonder why Okey is crying victim here.

Dear Okey, I agree with your

Dear Okey, I agree with your premise but disagree with many of your conclusions.
Nowhere is it stated that the DG is involved in trying to disqualify the judge, nowhere is it stated that he is even involved in the case.
To ascribe such to him without evidence is at the heart of the problem you were addressing. Whatever, the issue it should be argued with facts but to conclude that the DG is acting with impunity,recklessness is a stretch since you did not provide any evidence.
Also, you have only stated the story from the perspective of the claimant. To write an article like this requires having the facts from both side and coming to conclusion.
Ethnic sentiments is alive and well in Nigeria but someones track record should be important than whether they belong to the same ethnic group as the claimant. lets always get the facts before apportioning blame. The DG might as well be in the wrong but until we get the facts let play the neutral arbiter we are supposed to be

Is unfortunate that people

Is unfortunate that people are still thinking that this democracy is not for them. God help us all. Amb Oladeji should be made to suffer the consequences of bringing the Judiciary, Presidency and NIA into disrepute

Eminent jurists have come

Eminent jurists have come open to agree that there is massive corruption in the judiciary and as much as 80% of our judges lack the required integrity for that sacred office. Even if this were only partly true, do you consider it wrong to fear that a potentially corrupt judge might also not be above ethnic bias. If you do, we should redefine the word corruption. Do not blame the man who hardly trusts the integrity of judges in Nigeria because our judiciary is rotten from head down. Ethnic bias is only an aspect of the whole rot.


Is anyone in doubt as to what is going on? It will be a big fool that would not understand what is behind all these. This case is about Ambassador Ezikiel Oladeji, the NIA boss - a Yoruba man enviously against both an Igbo Ambassador and Igbo Judge, respectively. Just last week, it was the case about the Chief Justice of Nigeria - a Yoruba woman refusing to swear in her colleague - an Igbo Judge, even though the Abia State governor had clearly declared the Judge was the choice of Abia State. The President of Nigeria, GEJ, who has the power to approve the elevation of judges, had clearly given his approval. The Senate had unanimously declared that the judge should be sworn in. Yet the CJN refused. Is anyone still unaware of where it is all coming from?

This judge took a wrong action!

Why should a judge cry in court? That's arrant nonsense. Firstly, the petitioner has shown that he lacks the disposition, maturity and civility to head an agency. In fact he is a beneficiary of the lack-luster appointments by government that rather elevates mediocres. The judge should have charged this petitioner for contempt of court and get him locked up. Subsequently, the judge should sue him for defamation. This judge is as weak as water!

Weeping Judge

Which way Nigeria. Now Igbo person can not bring a case to Igbo judge

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