Tobi Soniyi in Abuja
The Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Ibrahim Auta, has again re-assigned the case against a former Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, Mr. Steve Steve Oronsaye.
Indication that Justice Auta had reversed his earlier decision became public yesterday when the judge to whom the case was re-assigned, Justice James Tsoho, declined to take any step in the case.
Justice Auta had earlier this year re-assigned the cases from Justice Gabriel Kolawole (before whom Oronsaye) had been arraigned) to Justice James Tsoho, who was recently redeployed from the court’s Lagos division.
Yesterday, parties were in court, hoping that Oronsaye and others, named in a 35-count charge, would be re-arraigned before the new judge.
But, when the case was called, Oronsaye and two other defendants, Osarenkhoe Afe and his company, Fredrick Hamilton Global Services Limited were present. Oronsaye and Afe went into the dock.
Prosecution lawyer, Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), noted that other defendants in the case – Global Services Limited, Cluster Logistic Limited, Kangolo Dynamic Cleaning Limited and Crew Investment and Construction Company Limited – were not represented.
Jacobs urged the judge to direct that the charge be read to the defendants in court and that “no guilty” plea be entered for the other defendants in accordance with Section 478 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA).
At that point Justice Tsoho told parties that there was no need for the charge to be read because there is a new development in relation to the case.
“This file came to me in error. The instruction is that I should return it to the judge that started it. As you know, I am just coming. I don’t know the intricacies involved. I have received instruction from the appropriate quarters,” the judge said
Jacobs however, wondered why it was only the Oronsaye case that was returned to the old judge.
He noted that other criminal cases that were commenced by other judges, before his (Tsoho’s) redeployment to Abuja, but re-assigned to him, have not been withdrawn.
Responding, Justice Tsoho said: “I have also learnt that the other criminal cases re-assigned to me came in error.
“I don’t think I need to make any explanation on that. If you require detailed information, you should refer to the appropriate quarters,” he said.
The judge, in a short ruling, said: “It has been realised that this case came to me in error. I have been directed by the Chief Judge to return the file to my Lord, Justice G. Kolawole. I wish you goodluck.”
Oronsaye and two others, Osarenkhoe Afe and his company, Fredrick Hamilton Global Services Limited, were earlier arraigned on July 13, 2025, on a 24-count for allegedly laundering about N1.2billion.
They pleaded not guilty to the charge.
They were charged under Section 14 of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2004 and section 1(1) of the Advance Fee Fraud and Other Fraud Related Offences Act, 2006, with offences said to be punishable under Section 1(3) of the Advance Fee Fraud and Other Fraud Related Offences Act, 2006.
The prosecution later amended the charge, included four companies as defendants and raised the count to 35.