February 26, 2011

RUMBLE IN THE JUDICIARY: NBA probe panel compiles evidence

By Chioma Gabriel,  Deputy Editor
The 13-member probe panel of senior lawyers set up by the Nigeria Bar Association to investigate the corruption allegations  against the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Aloysious Katsina-Alu and the President, Court of Appeal, Justice Isa Salami has commenced the compilation  of allegations against the revered  jurists.

The NBA probe panel, chaired by a former President of the lawyers’ body, Chief Thompson Okpoko (SAN), is also mandated to look into alleged corruption in the entire judicial system and equally consider the matter of legal practitioners who allegedly promote corruption in the system.

The main allegations against the prominent jurist, Ayo Salami were brought by the former Ekiti state governor, Segun Oni whose tenure as governor of Ekiti state was over-turned by the Court of Appeal led by Justice Salami. Segun Oni in a petition sent to the probe panel is alleging amongst other things that the judgements in both Osun and Ekiti where the PDP governors lost to ACN gubernatorial candidates were purchased  by the leadership of ACN.

Sokoto guber case

In the case of  Sokoto state, when  Attahiru Bafarawa  left the ANPP for DPP in 2007,  the former governor  made the Secretary of his government, Muhammadu Maigari Dingyadi his successor, leaving out his deputy  Wamakko who became estranged from him towards the end of Bafarawa’s second and final term. Wamakko had stayed  back in ANPP to contest against Dingyadi who left ANPP with Bafarawa.

Also by then, Obasanjo’s minister of Water Resources, Mukhtari Shagari had picked the ruling Peoples Democratic Party’s (PDP) governorship ticket for the state but Obasanjo prevailed upon Wamako to cross over to the PDP and allegedly, forced Shagari, to hand-over his ticket to Wamakko and  be  his running mate.

This  alleged horse trading by Obasanjo ahead of the April 14 governorship election in 2007, is believed to have set the stage for the legal fiasco between  two of the most senior judges in the country.

The fiasco began with Dingyadi’s petition to the Sokoto State election tribunal against Wamakko’s victory on grounds that the governor violated Section 38 of the electoral law which forbade double nominations. Dingyadi’s  lawyers in their argument revealed that  Wamako  was already the ANPP governorship candidate when he was given the PDP ticket.

But the tribunal dismissed Dingyadi’s petition in October 2007, causing him to make an appeal  to the Court of Appeal sitting in Kaduna under the Presiding Justice, Zainab Adamu Bulkachuwa who led  four others. Dingyadi succeeded in his appeal  and in  April 2008,  the Court of Appeal  reversed the ruling by the election tribunal.

What drew the ire of the court  was that Wamakko’s waiver for not being old enough in the party to qualify as a contestant for its ticket of any elective public office in accordance with the party’s constitution was given to him in arrears when there was no provision in the party’s constitution that it could do so.

The court also said it  found that the deputy governor, Mukhtari Shagari’s INEC Form CF 001 “was manufactured purposely to meet the challenges of the election petition.”  The receipt upon which the form was deposed showed that it was paid for on April 27, 2007 whereas the form itself was purportedly deposed on February 12.

The court then annulled the April 14 election on the grounds that Wamakko was not qualified to contest the election. It equally ordered INEC to conduct fresh elections within 90 days  between the same parties and candidates to include DPP and PDP, Wamako and Dingyadi.

It was the court’s order which  allowed  Wamakko to remain in the race in the fresh election it ordered that sowed the seed of the controversy that is threatening  the judiciary today.

Ekiti, Osun judgements

The PDP was particularly bitter that its governors in both states last their seats on account of judgements of the appeal court.

Allegations by the PDP

Since the PCA/CJN face-off, the PDP has been  alleging that the judgements in both Osun and Ekiti where their governorship candidates lost to ACN candidates were purchased  by the leadership of ACN.

In their petition, the PDP is claiming  that it has evidence that the judgements of the appellant court was manipulated and that details of inappropriate communications between  some leaders of the ACN  and their lawyers with the President of the Court of Appeal and some of the judges during the period the cases were being considered are with  the National Judicial Council  NJC and the Presidency.

Justice  Salami , the President of the Appeal Court delivered the now controversial judgement on the 15 October , which voided votes in the stronghold of the PDP  The PDP in Osun and Ekiti is now  asking the security agencies and the NJC to unravel the alleged  inappropriate communications.

In a letter dated 16 February 2011, signed by Otunba Sunday Ojo-Williams, Acting Chairman of the party in Osun, the  PDP  went ahead and  quoted  names of top chieftains of ACN and their legal representatives who allegedly made constant communications with the PCA while the Osun and Ekiti cases lasted.

“We are more than convinced that a detailed transcript of the text messages and voice calls between and among the numbers we have provided and many others on the call logs will complete the picture of how the course of justice was perverted in the Osun Governorship Appeal judgement.

“The Osun Appeal judgement was financially induced and we believe that a transcript of the communication among the parties concerned should confirm the veracity of our claims. Our notion of justice is what is right, fair, appropriate and deserved.. Since the Osun judgement has been tainted with bias and suspected corruption, our prayer is that the National Judicial Council and the Supreme Court reverse this perverse judgement and order a return to status quo ante bellum.”

But in his reaction, a lawyer of the ACN, Akintola Adeniyi  said the allegations were spurious.

“We have gone to court over the allegations because those who made the allegations have to prove it. I represented ACN yes, but I never had anything to do with Salami. I didn’t set my eyes on him until August last year when we held the NBA conference in Kaduna, where he delivered a lecture.

After that, when he had problem with this elevation issue, I happened to be one of his lawyers and all of us who happened to file the case for Salami, are the ones they mentioned in that petition. You’ll have to discuss with your client, if you don’t discuss with your client, who will you discuss with?”

ACN lambasts Oni, says he lacks moral justification

The Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) in Ekiti State has lambasted ousted Governor Segun Oni over his petition against the Court of Appeal judgment which removed him from office. The party said Oni lacks the moral justification to complain against the nullification of an election that was conducted without a voter register. “Form EC8A with its collation was done at a police station which was not designated for that purpose”.

The state ACN Chairman, Chief Olajide Awe, in a statement decried Oni’s attack on the President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Ayo Salami saying Salami’s offence would seem to be his courage to insist on the truth and Oni’s inability to penetrate his court with filthy lucre.

The ACN through its chairman was reacting to Oni’s petition to the National Judicial Council (NJC) complaining against the judgment delivered by Justice Salami in which unlawful votes credited to him in Ido/Osi were deducted by Appeal Tribunal.

“If Oni has good advisers, he ought to have been told that NJC cannot help him out of his cul-de-sac no matter the amount of dirt thrown at the Court of Appeal and no matter the conspiracy being masterminded by the enemies of judicial integrity in our country. It was after all not Salami who threw Oni out of Government House on February 17, 2009. That was a panel comprised of an entirely different set of judges, yet it indicted the election that brought him in as fraudulent and non compliant with the Electoral Act.

”We have no doubt in our mind that the alleged petition to NJC would amount to nothing because we have nothing to fear as we have committed no offence nor do we believe in subverting and manipulating the system the way Oni and his cohorts do”,

Awe said had Oni been tried and prosecuted for illegally occupying an office for which he was not elected in the first place for over three years, he (Oni) would not have had the effrontery of petitioning the NJC claiming that the Appeal Court verdict robbed him of key votes in Ido/Osi council area of the state.

Awe said had Oni been tried and prosecuted for illegally occupying an office for which he was not elected in the first place for over three years, he (Oni) would not have had the effrontery of petitioning the NJC claiming that the Appeal Court verdict robbed him of key votes in Ido/Osi council area of the state.

Oni had recently launched verbal assault on the Appeal Court verdict the latest of which was an interview with a weekend newspaper where he challenged Justice Salami to defend the judgment he delivered on the Ekiti appeal case.

But Awe regretted that the weakness of the nation’s electoral laws in punishing indicted poll robbers had given politicians like Oni the temerity to assault the collective intelligence of Ekiti people in

particular and Nigerians in general whose votes were brazenly stolen in broad daylight in the 2007 general elections.

Prove your allegation-ACN

The Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN in Osun state has challenged the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP in the state to go ahead and prove its case that the Court of Appeal’s  judgment which over turned the victory of Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola last year November was a pervasion of justice.

The PDP in the state had petitioned the Nigeria Judicial Council that the ruling ACN in the state allegedly purchased  justice with a huge sum of money and also backed  up its allegation with call logs of alleged conversations between the President of Court of Appeal, Justice Ayo Issa Salami and some chieftains of the ACN.

But reacting to the PDP allegation, the ACN Director of Research and Strategy Hon. Sunday Akeere told our correspondent in Osogbo that the PDP was only crying wolf where there was none.

He described the PDP is a kettle calling the pot ‘black’, adding that the PDP allegation “is baseless and ridiculous.

His words: “the PDP knows  why it is  now fabricating these lies. We are not afraid of them, let them come forward and present their case the public. So, we do not want to engage ourselves in unnecessary frivolities with the PDP just for them to gain undeserved public sympathy. The people of this country  and Osun state know who truly won the 2007 governorship election in Osun state.

“When the Court of Appeal gave judgment in  their favour in Oyo and Ogun States, nobody queried the integrity of the Court.

One now wonders why they are now complaining with the  preponderance of all the evidences before the court and the weighty arguments advanced by  our legal team”.