A Pro- Democracy and non-governmental organisation, Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA), has asked the acting Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Tanko Muhammad, to resign forthwith following a strong allegation of age falsification instituted in court of competent jurisdiction by a concerned stakeholder against him.
HURIWA said the National Judicial Council has already established a precedence that if the head of the judicial arm is facing strong legal challenge strong enough to constitute a cog in the wheel of progress in the administration of the judiciary, then he has to quit or be suspended pending the determination of the matter. HURIWA said it would amount to double standard should Justice Tanko Muhammad not be suspended whilst he faces the legal challenge that touches on his legitimacy as a jurist of highest standing in Nigeria. “He who goes to equity must do so with clean hands and what is good for the goose is good for the gander”.
HURIWA recalled that a 46-year-old businessman, Tochi Michael, has dragged the Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Tanko Muhammad, before an FCT High Court over alleged age falsification.
HURIWA recalled that in the originating summon with suit No. FCT/HC/BW/CV/79/2019, filed before the court in April, the petitioner alleged that the CJN deliberately falsified his date of birth.
HURIWA stated that Mr Michael alleged that the CJN falsified his date of birth from December 31, 1950 as contained in all his official records including that of WAEC to December 31, 1953 upon his appointment as a judicial officer.
HURIWA recalled that the petitioner in the originating summon is praying the court to determine whether such act of the CJN does not constitute a criminal act of perjury, falsification and forgery.
HURIWA quoted Mr Michael as affirming in the originating summon also that he is praying the court to determine whether by falsifying his date of birth from December 31, 1950 to December 31, 1953 upon being appointed to Nigeria Bench as a judicial officer he has not breach the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
HURIWA recalled too that the petitioner is also praying the court to determine whether Mr Muhammad has not breached the Code of Conduct for judicial officers and consequently brought the image of Nigeria Judiciary to a state of disrepute and odium.
HURIWA recalled that the petitioner in his reliefs is praying the court for a declaration that the defendant falsified his date of birth and that the defendant has desecrated the breach of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (FRN).
He is also praying for an order directing the Inspector General of Police (IGP) to prosecute the defendant for the offence of perjury and an order which the court may deem it fit.
Counsel to the CJN, Sam Ologunorisa, SAN, informed the court that the plaintiff and his counsel were not in court.
HURIWA recalled that Ologunorisa told the court that it seems the plaintiff and his counsel were “running away” from the suit they filed, stressing that the court should do the needful in the interest of justice.
HURIWA in a statement by the National Coordinator Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko and the National Media Affairs Director Miss Zainab Yusuf demanded that the acting CJN excused himself of the duties of the CJN and clear his name or be fired by the National Judicial Council since the case of forgery touches on the integrity of the Judicial system of Nigeria just as the continuous stay of Justice Tanko Muhammad as head of the judiciary whilst such a weighty matter is decided will harm the image and credibility of the judicial arm of government. “Justice Onnoghen was forced out of office even before an allegation of failure to declare assets correctly was determined by a highly compromised Code of conduct Tribunal. Tanko Muhammad must be suspended until such a time that he is either cleared or the matter determined one way or the other. If he is convicted then he should ve fired”.
HURIWA affirmed thus:
“Age falsification is a disease that has eaten deep into Nigerian civil service and labour market. The Nigerian labour force is filled with senile and over aged employees. This continues to affect production adversely in our institutions, establishments and businesses.
Even though, there is no clear cut definition of age falsification as a crime in the Nigeria constitution, a person can still be sent to jail for it because it is an offence to falsify any document. A Court can ask a person found guilty of falsifying such documents to either forfeit something or even go to jail (Aduba 2014).
Similarly, According to Legalmatch, an online legal document stated that such offences are taken very serious in developed countries like united states of America and is generally classified as felony, thus the person if found guilty may have to pay monetary fine or incarceration in prison facility between five to ten years.
WHAT THEN IS FALSIFICATION OF AGE? It is an act of either subtracting time from one’s age or adding time to one’s age which is called forgery because it is false. Again, forgery has been defined to mean the act of making a false document or altering a genuine one for same to be used. (Blacks Law Dictionary, 8th Edition) HOW CAN IT BE ESTABLISHED? For forgery or falsification of age to be established or sustained, the document purportedly forged must be a false representation of the genuine document. Under our law, forgery CANNOT be grounded in respect of a document in absence of its original. Mere presentation of series of documents without pinpointing the original one from the counterfeit, cannot establish a case of forgery or falsification of age. A party alleging falsification of age, must show that; there is a document in writing; that the accused knew the document to be false and the accused presented the said document to the other party with the intention that it would be acted upon to the detriment of the victim in the belief that is genuine. (See SMART vs STATE (1974) 11 SC. 173). The law is well settled in the case of Daggash v. Bulama (2004)14 NWLR (Pt. 892) 144; that where allegation of crime (as in this case) is directly in issue in a civil or criminal proceedings, it must be PROVED BEYOND REASONABLE DOUBT and the onus of proof is on the person who asserts.
See Section 465 of the Criminal Code Act provides the definition of forgery as thus: “A person who makes a false document or writing knowing it to be false and with intent that it may in any way be used or acted upon as genuine, whether in the state or elsewhere, to the prejudice of any person or with intent that any person in the belief that it is genuine be induced to do or refrain from doing any act, whether in the state or elsewhere is said to forge the document or writing”.
In conclusion, our Ministries, Agencies, parastatals and even the political class, individuals with fake certificates, age declarations, false asset declarations are holding sway and desecrating institutions that should be sacrosanct, not even the continuous biometrics of government have deterred them from these actions.
We are bound to continue to fail as a nation if we do not sanitise the system and make the offenders of the offence of forgery pay for their crime.”