Soni Daniel, Northern Region Editor
There were indications last night that a judge of the Federal High court might be arrested for allegedly shunning an invitation to appear before the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission to be questioned on alleged corrupt practices in the discharge of her duties.
A competent source close to the development, said last night that the commission was left with no option than to look for the female judge after she deliberately refused to appear before its operatives to be interviewed on allegations of corruption levelled against her.
Justice Rita Ofili-Ajumogobia, a judge of the Federal High Court Lagos, it was learnt, was invited along with her male counterpart, Justice Musa Haruna Kurya to report to the EFCC Office in Lagos on Tuesday for interrogation but she spurned the agency’s invite and did not give any reasons for her action either.
A top source said that unlike Justice Ofili-Ajumogobia, Justice Haruna Kurya, accompanied by his lawyer, promptly reported to the EFCC at about 10 am on Tuesday in ‘order to respond to some findings of the EFCC in an ongoing investigation’.
The source said: “Sequel to the invitation letter the EFCC extended to some Judges, Honourable Justice Musa Haruna Kurya of the Federal High Court reported to the commission’s Lagos Office today at about 10:00am in order to react to some findings of the commission in an ongoing investigation.
“Justice Kurya, accompanied by his lawyer was immediately attended to by the operatives of the commission on arrival.
“However, another Federal High Court judge, Honourable Justice Rita Ofilli-Ajumogobia, who was also supposed to be at the commission’s office on a similar invitation dishonoured the call and refused to show up at all,” the source said.
Asked what the next step would be regarding the female judge, the source hinted that necessary steps might be taken to bring her to answer to the allegations made against her.
The source did not however say when she would be brought in to answer to the allegations.
Meanwhile, Vanguard learnt that the two judges- Mohammed Nasir Yunusa and Nganjiwa Hyledzira, who were questioned by the EFCC in Lagos on Monday, were released later that night after they had made statements to the commission.
The questioning of the judges, Vanguard learnt, was preparatory to assembling credible evidence in order to charge them to court for graft, which the Federal Government believes has become rampant in the judiciary and other arms of the administration.
But the move to bring the judges to book has been vehemently resisted by the National Judicial Council, NJC, which feels that it is its prerogative to handle disciplinary and administrative matters affecting the judges.
The NJC claims that allowing security agencies to try judges for alleged criminal breaches would amount to intimidating them and encroaching on its core mandate.
But a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mr. Benbelle Anachebe, says there is nothing wrong with the interrogation of suspected corrupt judges by security agencies since the NJC does not have the power to handle criminal matters relating to judges.
Anachebe said that since the allegations against the judges bordered on criminal issues of bribery and corruption, the EFCC and other anti-graft agencies have the right to invite and question them instead of the National Judicial Council, which has the power to deal with administrative and disciplinary matters relating to judges.
Anachebe said: “Of course, there is nothing wrong for the EFCC to summon the judges for interrogation once the issues at stake is beyond administrative and disciplinary matters.
“Just like a lawyer who commits a criminal offence should be handed over to the police for investigation and prosecution instead of the Nigeria Bar Association, NBA, so also should a judge accused of criminal offence should be subjected to questioning by the EFCC and other anti-graft agencies,” Anachebe said.