June 22, 2009

Group asks CJN to probe Abia guber polls appeal case judges

By Innocent Anaba
Justice for Peace Foundation (JPF), a socio-political group, yesterday called on the Chief Justice of Nigeria to commence immediate investigation into allegations of corruption against the judges who presided over Abia governorship election appeal case in Port Harcourt, Rivers State.

The group wants the CJN, in his capacity as Chairman of National Judicial Council, to order an immediate investigation into the matter.

JPF in a statement by its Chief Campaign Officer, Comrade Kehinde Bakare, said that the “allegation over bribery leveled against the judges by the National Coalition for Justice is grave, extremely serious and damaging to the image of the Nigerian judiciary”.

Some national newspapers recently  reported that the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) was investigating allegations that the judges had compromised themselves by accepting cash gifts before delivering judgment in the controversial Abia governorship election appeal in Port Harcourt, last February.

The group warned that unless the NJC conduct a thorough investigation into the allegations and publishes its findings, Nigerians and the outside world would continue to view the Nigerian judiciary, especially the Court of Appeal, with suspicions, considering the weight of the allegations.

According to the group, “the Chief Justice of Nigeria as the head of the judiciary and a man reputed for his integrity, has a moral and constitutional responsibility to get to the root of this matter to ensure justice and save the name of the judiciary.

“The ICPC’s investigation into these grave allegations is unhurried and lacks transparency. They are merely confirming being in possession of a petition said to have been filed in March, three months after. The Commission should update Nigerians on the progress of their investigation but they are not doing that.

“The allegations are too grievous to be swept under the carpet. If the judges were found to have compromised their position in that case, then the judgment must be set aside and a new panel appointed in the interest of justice and transparency.

“If the allegations are found to be false, then the petitioners must be made to face the law. What is needed now is urgency and transparency in the investigation. This is why we believe that only the NJC has the capacity and weight to do a thorough investigation.”

Further the group said “we  will continue to mobilize all stakeholders and critical sections of the Nigerian public on this matter until justice is done.

“We call upon all lovers of democracy and those like us who desire a judicial system free from corrupt influences to support our clarion call for a full investigation into this allegation to clear the dark cloud of suspicion that has set upon the Court of Appeal since the publication of the ICPC acknowledgement of investigation two weeks ago”.