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EFCC reports Justice Taiwo to NJC over restraining order on Okorocha, Saraki

…writes CJ to transfer all corruption cases away from Judge

By Soni Daniel, Editor, Northern Region

After granting similar injunctions stopping the probe of Senate President, Bukola Saraki, Imo State Governor, Rochas Okorocha, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission has dragged a Federal High Court judge before the National Judicial Council.

Okorocha Saraki
Saraki and Okorocha

The commission, apparently pissed off by what it considers as a brazen attempt by Justice Taiwo Taiwo to stop its constitutional duties, Will today formally present a strongly-worded petition before the NJC against the judge.

At the same time, the petition, which was personally signed by the chairman of EFCC, Mr. Ibrahim Magu, is to be made available to the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Abdul Kafarati, asking him to retrieve all corruption cases filed by EFCC from Justice Taiwo’s court.

A top EFCC source told Vanguard that the commission came to the unavoidable decision to move against Justice Taiwo after he gave similar restraining orders to two top politicians facing probe by the anti-graft agency within a week.

incidentally, the two injections issued in favour of Saraki and Okorocha against their investigation by the EFCC were argued by the same lawyer, Sunday Onubi and and granted by the same judge on May 15 and May 8, 2019 respectively.

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In the two injunctions sighted by Vanguard last night, the same set of government agencies and officials were listed as the respondents while Governor Rochas Okorocha and Senator Bukola Saraki were the applicants.

The judge effectively restrained the Attorney General of the Federation, the Inspector General of Police, the DSS, the EFCC and the ICPC from going ahead with the probe of the applicants despite decided cases that the agencies have the right to do so.

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In a ten-paragraphed petition addressed to the NJC dated May 21, 2019, accused Justice Taiwo of professional misconduct and impropriety and asked that he should be appropriately sanctioned to serve as a deterrent.

Part of the petition reads: “My Lord, we respectfully petition Your Lordship on the unwholesome Conduct of Honourable Justice Taiwo O. Taiwo for granting orders ex-parte restraining the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission from performing its statutory functions in the ongoing investigation of the Senate President, Bukola Saraki.

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“The EFCC is conducting investigation into allegations of corrupt practices by the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, while serving as the Executive Governor of Kwara State and also as the Senate President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. In the course of the investigation, Senator Saraki instituted two separate suits Nos. FHC/ABJ/cs/507/2019 and FHC/ABJ/cs/508/2019 essentially seeking to restrain the EFCC from performing its statutory and the matters were assigned to Justice Taiwo O. Taiwo.

“My Lord, it is a well established legal principle that no court has the power to stop the investigative powers of the EFCC or any agency established under the laws to investigate crimes. This principle has received judicial pronouncements in a host of cases, which include: Orji Uzor Kalu v Federal Republic of Nigeria, Attorney General of Anambra State v Uba and Obiwusi v EFCC 2018.

“My lord, despite this well established principle, Honourable Justice Taiwo made to separate ex-parte orders in the said cases on 14th May, 2019 restraining EFCC from performing its statutory functions of carrying out criminal investigation pending the determination of the motions on notice.

“My lord, by ignoring or refusing to follow the above laid down principle by superior courts; Hon. Justice Taiwo O. Taiwo acted in bad faith and had abused his powers as a judicial officer.

“It is our further contention that the conduct of His lordship, Hon. Justice Taiwo Taiwo, is contrary to Rule 3.5 of the Revised Code of Conduct for Judicial Officers of the Federal Republic of Nigeria which states that a judicial officer must avoid the power of issuing interim injunctions.

“My lord, it is apt to mention that this is not the first time that His Lordship Hon. Justice Taiwo Taiwo has engaged in judicial impropriety in matters concerning the EFCC. In one of such instances, in the 24th day of June, 2016, the EFCC applied and secured interim freezing order from the FHC Lagos whereby His Lordship Justice M. B. Idris ordered the Manager of Zenith Bank to freeze the bank account Numbers: 1003126654 and 9013074033 among others operated by Mr. Ayodele Fayose pending the investigation and possible prosecution of the criminal case involving the accounts.

“My Lord, Mr. Ayodele Fayose subsequently instituted another suit No. FHC/AD/15/2016 at the FHC, Ado Ekiti Judicial Division, praying the court for an order directing the EFCC and Zenith to unfreeze and make the said accounts operational.

My Lord, surprisingly, Justice Taiwo Taiwo, despite being aware of the pendency of the matter before Justice Idris and the order of His learned brother, freezing the accounts, ordered the EFCC and Zenith to unfreeze, unblock and make the said accounts operational thereby constituting himself as an appellate court over the decision of a court of coordinate jurisdiction.

“My Lord, by the code of conduct for judicial officers, members of the public expect a high standard of conduct from a judge who at all times must avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety in all his activities both in his professional and private life. We therefore respectfully urge your lordship to set appropriate machinery in motion to sanction against Justice Taiwo,” Magu said.

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