Writes CJN, says government behind his travails
Alleges APC bent on winning elections in Rivers, A-Ibom, Abia
Presidency, exGov Amaechi react
Justice Ademola hands off NSA Dasuki’s case
By Soni Daniel, Northern Region Editor, Levinus Nwabughiogu & Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA—One of the Supreme Court judges, whose home was invaded by the Department of State Services, DSS, penultimate weekend, Justice John Inyang Okoro, has alleged that his travail in the hands of the operatives was in connection with alleged desire of the Presidency and All Progressives Congress, APC, to win at all cost, election appeals in Rivers, Akwa Ibom and Abia states.
This came as indications emerged, last night, that a female judge of the Federal High Court might be arrested for allegedly shunning an invitation to appear before the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, to be questioned on alleged corrupt practices in the discharge of her duties.
Also yesterday, one of the embattled Judges, Justice Adeniyi Ademola, said he would no longer preside over the criminal charge the Federal Government preferred against the detained former National Security Adviser, NSA, Col. Sambo Dasuki, retd.
Justice Okoro, in a letter written to the Chief Justice of Nigeria and Chairman of National Judicial Council, NJC, Justice Mohammed Mahmoud, dated October 17, 2016, said the recovered money was exclusive of those he received from international conferences attended since he joined the Supreme Court three years ago.
Buhari’s govt’ll never victimize anyone —PRESIDENCY
The Presidency last night said that the government of President Muhammadu Buhari would never victimize anyone for whatever reason.
It however stated that the law must run its full course on anyone who breaks it, stressing that the current administration would never be cowed from its anti-corruption war.
The presidency was apparently reacting to the allegation credited to Justice John Inyang Okoro, one of the Judges arrested by the operatives of the Department of State Services, DSS that the federal government was victimizing him unduly in relation to the gubernatorial elections in Akwa Ibom and Rivers States.
A presidency source who craved anonymity said that “it is not in the character of this government to victimize anybody.”
Justice Okoro’s letter
The letter read: “On Friday, the 7th day of October, 2016, at about 9 pm, I received a phone call from an unfamiliar caller. He introduced himself as an official from the Presidency. He told me he had a letter for me from Mr. President.
“I immediately left my study room and went to open the door. Upon the door being opened, I saw so many heavily armed men with an inscription “DSS” on their uniform. One of them, who was in mufti, told me they were to search my house. I requested that I be allowed to inform the Chief Justice of Nigeria but they rebuffed, rather, they seized my phone from me.
“My Lord, the operatives of the Department of State Security searched all the rooms in the house meticulously. They also searched the boy’s quarters and my official vehicles parked outside.
“At the end of the search, which lasted till about 1.30 am of 8th October, 20126, they took away the following items: One IPad; three phones (only one active); USD 38,800; N3.5m and cheque books (four in number).
“The above items were documented on the back page of the search warrant they produced and we signed.
“Also, the DSS operatives informed me that their Director General wanted to see me that night. I requested to visit their office upon the break of the day but they refused.
“In view of the presence of the heavily armed men, who accompanied them and who were pointing their guns at me from all angles, I had no choice than to follow them to their office that night.
“I was detained by them in their office till Sunday, 9th October, 2016 and upon your Lordship’s intervention that Sunday, they released me in the evening of that Sunday.
“My Lord, I notice that they also brought other judicial officers (serving and retired) to their office. So, before releasing us, they asked me to make a statement concerning the money found in my house.
“I told them that having received the sum of USD24,000 and 10,000 Pounds a year for the past three years of my sojourn in this court as annual medical/vacation allowances, and having not spent more than 5,000 Pounds on each of three trips I have so far made abroad, I was entitled to have more than the amount recovered from me. Put differently, My Lord, the money was the balance of my estacode received from this court for the past three years.
“This is quite outside the estacodes I have received for the International Conferences I have so far attended since joining the bench of this court.
“My Lord, as at the time of writing this report, the DSS has not confronted me with any petition or complaint from any quarters whatsoever. Rather, they have grilled me, asking questions on some none-existing properties around the country.
“They have also doubted the age of my children, alleging that they are toddlers. This is sad and unbelievable.
Reason for the raid
“My Lord, I strongly believe that this my travail is not unconnected with the verbal report I made to you on 1st February, 2016 about the visit to my official residence by His Excellency, Rotimi Amaechi, former Governor of Rivers State and now Minister of Transportation.
“In that report, I told you My Lord, that Mr. Amaechi said that the President of Nigeria and the All Progressives Congress mandated him to inform me that they must win their election Appeals in respect of Rivers State, Akwa Ibom State and Abia State at all costs.
“For Akwa Ibom State, he alleged that he sponsored Mr. Umana Umana, candidate of All Progressives Congress for that election and that if he lost Akwa Ibom appeal, he would have lost a fortune. Mr. Amaechi also said that he had already visited you and that you had agreed to make me a member of the panel that would hear the appeals.
“He further told me that Mr. Umana would be paying me millions of Naira monthly if I co-operated with them. My response, as I told you on that date, was that it does not lie within my power to grant his request and that I would do all within my power not to be in the panel for Akwa Ibom State. My Lord graciously left me out of the panel for Akwa Ibom State.
“That notwithstanding, the All Progressives Congress in Akwa Ibom State, which lost the appeal at the Supreme Court, believe that my presence in the Supreme Couirt made them to lose the appeal. Could I have resigned from the Supreme Court simply because people of Akwa Ibom State had a matter before it?
“My Lord will recall that I also reported that Mr. Umana Umana visited my residence before Amaechi’s visit. He also made the same request of assistance to win his appeal at the Supreme Court.
“Mr. Umana talked about “seeing” the Justices who would hear the appeal. Pastor (Dr) Ebebe Ukpong, who led Mr. Umana Umana to my house, intercepted and said that the issue of “seeing” the Justices was not part of their visit and that as a pastor, he would not be part of such a discussion. Mr. Umana apologised. I advised them to go and pray about the matter and get a good lawyer. That was how they left my house.
“My Lord, up till now, I do not know what I have done. Over the years, from the Magistracy till date, I have done my best to eschew all forms of corrupt practices. I have not received any bribe from anybody.
“My Lord is quite aware of my position as regards those who take bribe in the judiciary. I detest it and have no room for any adjustment. That is the truth.
“I urge my Lord and the National Judicial Council to disregard all the lies and media campaign orchestrated by those who felt I purposely refused to help them win their election appeals in the Supreme Court.
“I am confident that God will vindicate me at the end of this ordeal. I take it as a temporary set-back. I remain loyal to my oath of office and the need to be just and fair in handling matters before me.”
Reacting to the allegation, last night, Transport Minister, Mr. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, in a statement, described it as a figment of Justice Okoro’s imagination.
The statement read: “This accusation from Justice Okoro against Amaechi is a figment of his imagination, concocted to obfuscate and politicize the real issues for his arrest and DSS investigation of allegations of corruption against him.
“The claims by Justice Okoro against Amaechi are blatant lies, bereft of any iota of truth or even logic. Amaechi did not, and has never approached Justice Okoro in respect of the cases Okoro mentioned or any other case.
“This is a cheap attempt, albeit, political move to drag the name of Amaechi into something he knows nothing about. Justice Okoro should face his issues and leave Amaechi out of it. He will be hearing from our lawyers.”
Judge risks arrest
Meanwhile, 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, EFCC, 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 learned, 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 reason 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, yesterday, 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.”
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 but did not, however, say when she would be brought in to answer to the allegations.
Justices Yunusa, Hyledzira released
Meanwhile, Vanguard learned 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 made statements to the commission.
The questioning of the judges, Vanguard learned, was preparatory to assembling credible evidence in order to charge them to court for alleged graft, which the Federal Government believes has become rampant in the judiciary and other arms of the administration.
Justice Ademola hands off Dasuki’s case
Also yesterday, one of the embattled Judges, Justice Adeniyi Ademola, yesterday said he would no longer preside over the criminal charge the Federal Government preferred against the detained former National Security Adviser, NSA, Col. Sambo Dasuki, retd.
Justice Ademola was among the seven Judges whose homes were “invaded” and thoroughly searched by operatives of the Department of State Service, DSS, between October 8 and 9.
Meanwhile, the Judge who was in charge of the trial of the erstwhile NSA since the day he was docked before the Federal High Court in Abuja, announced his withdrawal at the resumed sitting on the matter on Tuesday.
Addressing the open court, Justice Ademola anchored his decision to hands-off the case on the recent clampdown of some judges by the DSS.
He said the DSS, which investigation culminated into the criminal charge before him, specifically accused him while in custody that he collected “huge sums of money” from Dasuki.
However, before he disqualified himself from the trial, Justice Ademola engaged Dasuki who listened attentively from the dock, in a question and answer session.
The Judge began: “I am sure the prosecution and defence counsel in this matter are conversant with what has been going on in the last seven days, in this country.
“One of the allegations being made against me by the Department of State Security is that I received certain sums of unspecified money from the defendant.
“Of course, I have responded to that allegation of receiving an unspecified sums of money from the defendant but it will be wise for him to answer some questions.”
He then looked at Dasuki and asked: “Do you know me at all or have come in contact with me?
“No I don’t know you my Lord” Dasuki responded.
“Did you at any time give me money in respect of the on going trial?
“No, my Lord, I didn’t give you any money”, Dasuki replied
“Did you send any money to me; to any member of my family; or through any counsel?”, the Judge further queried.
“No, my Lord, except maybe the DSS agents who are reporting the allegation did”, Dasuki who was visible displeased answered.
Directing his gaze at the prosecution counsel, Justice Ademola said: “I am happy that the defendant has answered these questions. In the interest of fair hearing, I am minded to return the case file to the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court for further action”.
Neither the prosecuting counsel, Mr Dipo Okpeseyi, SAN, nor the defence lawyer, Mr. Adedayo Adedeji raised issue against the decision of the judge.
The prosecution counsel Okpeseyi SAN, said: “We are guided by your Lordship’s decision, even though we had come here today for a ruling and continuation of trial”.
The defence lawyer said the judge took the right step in view of recent happenings.
While refusing Okpeseyi’s request for an adjournment to enable the parties to meet with the CJ on the way forward, Justice Ademola ruled:
“This court is minded to transfer this case to the Chief Judge. The defendant has vehemently denied in open court today, the allegation made by the DSS.
“Therefore, this case file has been returned to the CJ in line with principle of fair hearing. This criminal matter has been adjourned to another date as may be fixed by the new judge”.