The immediate past Chief Judge of the Federal High Court (FHC), Justice Ibrahim Auta, has taken a retrospective look at his over six-year tenure and recalled his most critical period while in office.
Auta said the period preceding the 2015 general elections was the most critical in his career, because he was worried about the negative consequences of a decision by any judge of the court on the electoral process.
He spoke in Abuja at a dinner held in his honour by members of the Southern Borno Community in Abuja. Justice Auta, who hailed from Southern Borno, retired last month on attaining the mandatory retirement age of 65 years.
Justice Auta said: “My critical moment was the 2015 election. When it came, I said God help me. Because, as the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, there are divisions of the court in all the 36 states, with about 80 judges and I am here in Abuja.
“A judge may do something in Bayelsa, in Sokoto or in Maiduguri, they will say the Chief Judge is aware. But I have no way of knowing what all the judges are doing, but the buck stops on my table. When 2015 came, they started with the registration of parties. That was when I started seeing the danger line.
“I prayed to God to give me the wisdom to steer the ship of the court so that we will go through this election period without any bloodshed, which will be attributable to any action of the Federal High Court.
“Then suddenly, the cases started coming out, asking for the disqualification of this, the disqualification of that. And I know then that if we had disqualified anybody, there would be bloodshed, serious bloodshed, because parties would not take it
“And we made up our mind to see that we did not disqualify anybody, and the year 2015 came and passed without any hiccups. God did it for us, and I am always thanking God for that. We had a successful election without any blame put on the Federal High Court.
“I remember that around that time, one of the foreign embassies said Nigeria was going to disintegrate in 2015. They said it would be as a result of judgments or rulings that would come from the Federal High Court, but we vindicated ourselves.
“It is God, and not by our wisdom. That was my most challenging period. And God saw us through. I give God the glory. I also thank my colleagues for their support, because if they did not cooperate with me, we would not have been successful.
“So, I give kudos to the judges of the Federal High Court for seeing Nigeria through. And now, we have a government in place in the country,” Justice Auta said.
Other speakers are the event, including Borno State Governor, Kashim Shetima, Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen and Senator Mohammed Ndume, extolled Justice Auta’s virtues, with many describing him among others, as a courageous man, who sticks to the truth no matter whose ox is gored.
Justice Walter Onnoghen who was represented by a Supreme Court Justice, Justice Clara Bata-Ogunbiyi, said: “Justice Auta is truly a Nigerian; a man of courage, a man of character and a man that is fearless. No matter whose ox is gored, my lord will always stand by the truth.”
The CJN said the Judiciary was already missing Justice Auta’s contributions, but added that the retired jurist deserved a befitting rest having worked tirelessly for the country.
Borno State Governor Kashim Shetima described him as a worthy son of the state, who discharged his responsibilities diligently and devoted his working life to the growth of the nation’s Judiciary.
Represented by Deputy Governor Usman Durkwa, Shetima said: “Justice Ibrahim Auta is a man of uncommon integrity. We congratulate him for a meritorious service to his fatherland and wish him a happy retirement. The people and government of Borno are proud of you.”
A member of the event’s organising committee and serving Senator, representing Borno South, Senator Mohammed Ali Ndume, said the event was to celebrate a worthy indigene of Borno State, who is a mentor to most of the indigenes.
Ndume said: “Justice Auta is a true rare model to us. He encouraged most of us in various fields, and was instrumental to what many of us are today. You are a symbol of what we are and you have actually set a benchmark for us.
The Chairman, of the event’s organising committee, Ambassador Dauda Danladi, equally hailed Justice Auta, who he noted, put in almost 40 years of glorious and impeccable service to the nation.
Danladi said: “At a time when public officers are faced with great challenges and temptation, I could rightly be said that it is easy for the camel to pass through the eye of a needle that for a public servant to retire peacefully and unblemished.
“We are therefore proud to say that Justice Ibrahim Ndahi Auta has retired with his integrity intact, untainted and incorruptible. Throughout his glorious career as a jurist, he is known for his incisive, bold legal mind, forthrightness and for dispensing justice without any fear or favour, affection or ill will.”
Also at the well-attended event were President of the Court of Appeal Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa, Justice Binta Nyako of the Federal High Court, suspended Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) Babachir Lawal and President of the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) Ayuba Wabba.
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