Savouring his court-ordered freedom after spending about eight years at Kirikiri prison, Lagos for alleged complicity in the attempted assassination of Alex Ibru, then publisher of Guardian newspaper, a former Chief of Army Staff, Lt- General Ishaya Bamaiyi, has come out with his book. “The book, titled “Vindication of a General” ought to have been aptly titled “Lies of a General”.

The book, which purports to be his own story, detailing his travails during his trial, is unfortunately riddled with falsehood and gross misrepresentation of facts as far as the incident regarding his false allegation against the first presiding judge, Ade Alabi was concerned. “Bamaiyi was charged along with Major Hamza, Al-Mustapha, former Lagos police Commissioner, James Danbaba, CSP Rabo Lawal and Col. Baba Yakubu, over the attempted murder of Mr Ibru.

As the trial got underway, the defendants tried all tricks in the book to delay and scuttle their trial and one of the strategies was to accuse the presiding Judge, who incidentally was the Chief Judge of Lagos State, Justice Ade Alabi, of demanding a bribe of $10 million (not N10 million as stated by Bamaiyi in his book), to enable him grant bail to the defendants.

First, the defendants made the allegation in the open court, ostensibly to annoy the judge and eventually to get the case transfered to another judge who would then start the case de novo. “The case was being prosecuted by the Lagos State Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, who was ostensibly incensed over this spurious allegation.

The defendants, thereafter petitioned the National Judicial Council (NJC) which investigated the allegation and exculpated the judge, having found that the allegation was spurious and baseless.

To underline his ignorance, Bamaiyi, in trying to pooh-pooh the NJC’s investigation, claimed in his book that the judge “refused to enter the dock” during the investigation. If the retired General had availed knowledgeable people, versed in law the privilege of going through his poorly written manuscript, they would have told him that NJC administrative panel is not a criminal court where a defendant facing criminal charges enters the dock. They would also have advised him against the defamatory statements he made in the book concerning the judge and Osinbajo. “According to Bamaiyi, “Specifically, that prof. Osinbajo brought what he said was the panel report during one of the motions. Unfortunately, pages one through to twenty-nine of the report were not produced”. He went on to allege that the NJC protected the judge, while he similarly alleged that Osinbajo and the presiding judge were invited to Abuja and directed to convict the defendants within six months. He went on with his cocktail of lies of how the judge allegedly demanded a bribe of N10 million.

As someone who was a witness during the trial and conversant with the facts, l say without any equivocation that nothing could have been farther from the truth.

Bamaiyi should have known the additional steps taken by his lawyer, Mike Okoye during the trial, in repeating this allegation of bribery and how he recanted and apologised to the judge.

Mike Okoye had addressed a press conference, where he repeated the allegation of Bamaiyi but in his own case, he alleged it was $10million and not N10 million as stated by Bamaiyi. These spurious allegations were published by the press and Mr Okoye was subsequently charged to court for criminal contempt. “He was charged before Justice Bode Rhodes-Vivour (now Justice of the Supreme court).

In court, Okoye recanted and apologised to the judge.

Below is the full text of the ruling by Justice Bode Rhodes- Vivour in the Mike Okoye Contempt case.

In the High Court of Lagos state “Holden in the General Division, Lagos “On Friday 8th Day of March, 2002

Before the Hon. Justice Bode Rhodes-Vivour “Suit No.LCD/9/2002 “Between The State “And “Mike Okoye

RULING

Mr. Mike Okoye, a legal practitioner was charged on an information with the following offences:- 

Count 1 “Statement of Offence

Contempt of Court Contrary to section 133 (4) of the “Criminal Code Cap 32 Vol.2 Laws of Lagos State 1994.

Particulars of Offence

Mike Okoye (M) on or about the first day of January 2002 at Lagos in the Lagos Judicial Division did cause the scandalizing of the court with utterances and statements spoken and made in news item  of “THISDAY” Newpaper of 7/1/2002 and concerning the Honourable Mr Justice A. Ade Alabi in the public capacity, to wit, qua the presiding trial judge seized  of the conduct of charge No. LCD/108/99: The State vs. Lt. Gen. R. Ishaya  Bamaiyi and 4 others.

Count 2

Statement of offence 

Contempt of court contrary to section133 (4) of the Criminal Code Cap 32 Vol. 2 Laws of Lagos State 1994.       
Particular of Offence:

Mike Okoye (M) on or about the 4th  day of     January 2002 at Lagos state in the Lagos Judicial Division, did cause the scandalizing of the court with utterances and statements spoken, published and made in a news item on the back page of  Daily Times newspaper of 7/1/2002 and concerning the Honorable Mr. Justice A. Alabi  in his public capacity to wit, qua the presiding trial Judge seized of the conduct of the charge number LCD/108/99: The State vs Lt. Gen R. Ishaya Bamaiyi and 4 others.

He pleaded not guilty to both counts , and immediately proceeded to read out a prepared text to the court. The operative part reads thus:

I apologize to the Bench and the Hon. Justice Ade Alabi for any injury he may have suffered from his unwarranted and unnecessary publications. I am aware that the publication has the effect of bringing to disrepute, office, integrity and position of Hon. Justice Alabi but l would want to disabuse the minds of the public of this impression and state that these allegations of corruption leveled against Hon. Justice Ade Alabi are not true to the best of my knowledge”.

Thereafter, the Lagos State Solicitor General applied to withdraw the charge on behalf of the Hon. Attorney General and the Commissioner of Justice. This is what he had to say:“I wish the  court understands the attitude of Office of the Attorney-General to prosecute or otherwise. Because Mr. Okoye has apologized and because more fundamentally, he has admitted that the allegations are not true, it is our view that the mischief/damage which this proceedings were filed to correct, to wit: maintenance of the institution and it’s officers,  I would, considering the plea of the accused person, be willing on behalf of the Attorney-General to withdraw the charge.”

After listening to

Mr. Femi Falana,  counsel for Mr. Mike Okoye
Mr T.E.Williams representing Chief F.R.A Williams
Mr Dabiri, Chairman, Nigeria Bar Association, Lagos Branch
Mr. L.Yusuf, Chairman, Nigerian Bar Association, Ikeja Branch
5.Mr O.O. Salu, representing  Mrs. Ayo Obe of the Civil Liberties Orgnisation.

I adjourned this suit till today. I adjourned for a ruling and not to seek appropriate directives as reported in the Guardian Newspaper of 2/3/2002. See proceedings of 1/3/2002.

It is about time that when a reporter is not clear as to what a judge said, he would do well to seek an explanation from  the registrar  of court, rather than credit the judge with what was never said.

The Honorable Justice Ade Alabi is the trial judge in suit  No.LCD/108/99.  The accused persons are Lt. General Bamaiyi, the former Chief of Army Staff, Major H. Al- Mustapha, Chief Security Officer to the former military “Head of state,  Rabo lawal, a Chief Superintendent of police, Mr  James Danbaba,  a one time Lagos  Commissioner of police and Col. T. Baba Yakubu, ex-administrator  of Zamfara State. They are charged with attempting to kill the Guardian Publisher, Mr. Alex Ibru.

During the trial, which is still in progress, Major Al-Mustapha accused the trial judge of demanding bribes from him. Mr. Mike Okoye who at the time represented one of the accused persons, held a press conference and told newsmen that he could prove the trial judge demanded for $10 million from the accused person. The Daily Times and THISDAY Newspapers of Monday 7th day of January 2002, gave wide coverage to Mr. Okoye’s wild, unguarded and unfounded statements which to me, amount to the most despicable assault on the Bench. Mr. Mike Okoye’s conduct constitutes an intolerable attack on the Bench and the well being of society. A crime of monumental proportions. Such dare devilry must be checked, otherwise the foundations of the judiciary may very well crumble.

The Honourable Attorney-General quickly rose to the occasion, filing this information.

One can imagine the days, weeks of grinding hell, an awful strain these unguarded and untrue accusations caused his Lordship , a judge  no doubt with transparent integrity and manifest probity, whose tireless energy and unquenchable enthusiasm are too clear for all to see.

Okoye said openly in court that his statement with the press are not true. The need to proceed with a trial with be pointless since the statement fundamentally addresses the issue and the trial will not do the same.

It is not the practice of courts to question the Attorney-General when he decides to withdraw a charge . He can not be questioned by anyone and owes no one an explanation for prosecuting or deciding against prosecution.It is clear that the offensive publications were given very wide coverage by the press and other electronic devices. “Petitions were addressed to the Executive, Legislative, and Judiciary, accusing the highly respected Jurist of taking bribes. It becomes imperative that a retraction is given similar wide publication.

1.Mr Okoye shall cause to be published, the entire statement he made to this  court on 1/3/2002 in the following Newspapers:

(a)    The Daily Times

(b)    THISDAY

(c)    The Punch

(d)    The Guardian and

(e)    THE Tribune

  This ruling and the proceedings in the suit shall be forwarded to
(a)The  Body of Benchers

(b)The Privileges  Committee and the

(c)And the Disciplinary Committee of the Bar.

The matter would be further adjourned to Friday, the 15th day of March  2002,  for compliance.
Rhodes-Vivour “  Judge “8/3/ 2002
Appearance “Mrs. B.B. Ayodele,  T.K. Shitta-Bey with her for Lagos state; “O.Okorojie, I. Okoli, L. Okoroafor, A. Ebohon with him holding F. Falana’s “Brief for the accused person; “T.E. Williams, M. Giwa Amu with him for Chief F.R.A. “Williams SAN as friend of the court “Bode Kowe holds brief of L. Yusuf, friend of the court.

B.Rhodes-Vivour. J

Based on this ruling, it would amount to sheer mischief for General Bamaiyi to make such defamatory statements against Hon. Justice Ade Alabi and Prof. Osinbajo on the so-called bribery.

Instead of belching out despicable lies against innocent people, Bamaiyi should rather use this time of respite for sober reflection on the controversial roles he played during the General Sani Abacha junta.

More importantly, it would also be interesting for the former Chief of Army Staff to explain how he came about the $4.8million dollars that was swindled off him while in Kirikiri prison, Lagos, for which Fred Ajudua is currently standing trial. “Ajudua, has been charged to an Ikeja High court by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for allegedly defrauding Bamaiyi of $4.8 million, having approached the former Army Chief while at Kirikiri prison that he could help him secure his freedom. “Already, a court registrar, Ronke Rosulu, an alleged accomplice of Ajudua in the fraud saga, is currently serving a 10 – year imprisonment, having been convicted by Justice Lateef Lawal -Akapo over her role in the fraud saga.

It may be necessary for the EFCC to ask Bamaiyi to come and explain how he came about such amount of money, even during his incarceration.

* Richard Akinnola is the Director, Media Law Centre

Subscribe for latest Videos

Disclaimer

Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.