Another judge says Amaechi asked him to influence judgments

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Minister of Transportation, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi

Olusola Fabiyi, Abuja, Fidelis Soriwei and Ade
Adesomoju
Another Justice of the Supreme Court, Justice
Sylvester Ngwuta, has accused the Minister of
Transportation, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi, and his
Science and Technology counterpart, Dr.
Ogbonnaya Onu, of asking him to help to influence
the apex court’s decisions in some election cases.

Ngwuta, who is one of the seven judges arrested
recently by the operatives of the Department of
State Services, said his current ordeal was
connected to his refusal to accede to the requests
made by the ministers.
He made the allegation in his letter dated October
18, 2016, and addressed to the Chief Justice of
Nigeria, Justice Mahmud Mohammed.

Maintaining his innocence, the judicial officer said
he was a victim of his resolve never to violate his
“sacred oath of office”.
Ngwuta’s letter which came 48 hours after that of
his colleague, Justice John Okoro, who was also
arrested by the DSS operatives, accused Amaechi,
a former Rivers State Governor, of asking him
(Okoro) to influence the apex court’s decision on
poll judgment in Rivers, Akwa Ibom and Abia
states.
Okoro’s letter, dated October 17, 2016, also
addressed to the CJN, had stated, “I strongly
believe that my travail is not unconnected with the
verbal report I made to you on February 1, 2016,
about the visit to my official residence by H/E
Rotimi Amaechi, former Governor of Rivers State,
and now Minister of Transportation.
“In that report, I told you my Lord that Mr.
Amaechi said the President of Nigeria and the All
Progressives Congress mandated him to inform me
that they must win their election appeals in Rivers
State, Akwa Ibom and Abia states at all costs.”
In his own letter, which was leaked to the media
on Thursday, Justice Ngwuta alleged that Amaechi
wanted to use him to influence the Supreme Court
judgment with respect to election cases on the
Rivers State governorship election and the Ekiti
State governorship election.
He claimed that Onu contacted him to help sway
the Court of Appeal’s decision on Ebonyi State
governorship election matter.
Ngwuta alleged that Amaehi had sought his help to
make the Supreme Court to set aside the election
of the incumbent governor, Ayodele Fayose, in
order to pave the way for another election to
enable his friend, Mr. Kayode Fayemi (now Minister
of Solid Mineral and Steel Development), to contest
the poll again.
Similar to the allegation by Okoro, Justice Ngwuta
added that Amaechi had impressed it upon him
that the President was interested in the judgment
of the Supreme Court going in favour of the APC.
He said further that on the day the panel heard the
Rivers State election case, and after members of
the panel took a break, Amaechi called him on
telephone while he was in his chambers, stressing
that he switched off his mobile before the
conversation went far.
Justice Ngwuta stated, “He (Amaechi) begged me
to ensure that Fayose’s election was set aside and
another election ordered for his friend, Fayemi, to
contest. I told him I would not help him and that
even if I am on the panel, I have only my one vote.
“After the Rivers State Governorship election was
determined by the Court of Appeal, he called to tell
me his ears were full and he would like to tell me
what he heard. I told him I was out of Abuja at the
time.
“On my return, he came in the evening and even
before he sat down he barked, “You have seen
Wike!”
“I asked him whether that was a question or a
statement. Then he made a call and asked me to
speak with someone. The man he called said he
was a DSS man. We exchanged greetings and I
handed the telephone to him. Next, he said ‘Oga is
not happy’. I asked him who is the unhappy Oga
and he answered ‘Buhari’.
“I retorted ‘go and talk to his wife’. He got very
angry and left, remarking ‘we shall see’ several
times.
“Your Lordship may recall one morning when I
pleaded not be on the panel for Rivers Appeal.
“Your Lordship said I was already on the panel and
asked me to explain why I made the request to be
excluded. When I explained what transpired the
previous night, Your Lordship told me Amaechi had
also attempted to influence other Justices.”
‘How Onu invited me over Ebonyi poll appeal’
In a related development, Justice Ngwuta said Onu
invited him and he honoured the invitation during
which the Minister of Science and Technology
sought his help to influence the decision of the
Court of Appeal on the Ebonyi State governorship
election case last year.
He stated, “The incident I will narrate below may
or may not bear on this case. When the
governorship election appeal from my state,
Ebonyi, came to the Court of Appeal, one Mr.
Igwenyi, a senior staff member of the Federal
Judicial Service Commission came to my
chambers and told me that the former Governor of
Abia State, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, had pleaded with
him to convince me to see him, Onu.
“I asked him to call Dr. Onu; he did and I wanted
to know why he wanted to see me. He said it was
confidential. I asked when he wanted to see me
and he said he would like me to come in the
evening.
“I told Igwenyi that he would have to take me to
Dr. Onu in his car and bring me back. I had
wanted him to listen to what Dr. Onu had to say
but when we arrived, Dr Onu put him in a different
room.
“He asked me whether I know the Hon. President
of the Court of Appeal and I told him that His
Lordship was my Presiding Justice in the Court of
Appeal, Benin Division. He asked of my relationship
with the PJA and I said it was cordial. He nodded
his head several times in apparent satisfaction.
“He told me the candidate of the Labour Party was
ready to switch over to APC if he could help him
win the appeal in the Court of Appeal and that in
appreciation of the undertaking to come over to his
party, he had obtained the services of three
Justices of the Court of Appeal to ensure victory for
the Labour Party.
“He said he needed one to convince the PJA to
include his three Justices of the Court of Appeal in
the five-man panel to hear the appeal. I told him I
would not help him and that I could not, in good
conscience, convey such request even to a
Customary Court Judge.
“He was disappointed and asked me whether I
knew the husband of the PJA. I told him I did not
know the man. I bid him good night and left.
“Igwenyi joined me in the passage and when he
drove me back to my home, I told him what Dr.
Onu wanted. Igwenyi apologised to me and
assured me that he would not have bothered me if
he had known what Dr. Onu wanted me to do.”
The Justice of the apex court also alleged that the
operatives of the DSS planted some amounts of
money in his house during the raid on his home to
incriminate him.
He said apart from the $25,000, £10 and a brown
envelope containing the sum of N710,000 which
was a monthly allowance paid to him for
September 2016 and another N300,000 and some
loose change contained in the bag he usually took
to the office, he had no explanation for the large
sum of money allegedly recovered from his house.
But he said he signed a document said to be
containing the list of items recovered from his
house under a life-threatening situation.
He said, “One of them came to where I was lying
down and ordered me to sit up. One of the
gunmen, who stood a few feet from me, came and
stood next to me with his gun drawn.
“I was ordered to sign a paper which they said
contained a list of what they were taking away.
“Confronted with the life-threatening situation, I
made an instant mental decision that it was better
for me to comply with their orders and stay alive to
tell my story rather than get shot and killed on the
pretext that I attacked them or that I tried to
escape.
“I signed the paper and wrote my name as
ordered. No one told me what offence I was alleged
to have committed. No one told me of any petition
or allegation against me.
“I do not know how they came about the huge
sums of money I saw for the first time in my
parlour on the early hours of Saturday, October 8,
2016.
“The various sums of money alleged to have been
recovered from me were said to be in the social
media in the early hours of Saturday, October 8,
2016, when the invaders were yet to complete their
search.”
He added, “My Noble Lord, I am a victim of my
own resolve never to violate my sacred oath of
office as a judicial officer. Politicians and their
collaborators have been hunting me on that
account.
“It started in Ebonyi State where I was falsely
accused before a panel, set up by the NJC in
August 2000. It was replicated in 2009 when I was
pulled from my Division, Calabar, to preside over a
motion filed by Senator Andy Uba, seeking to be a
Governor without going through the process of
election. In each case, I was exonerated.”
NBA asks NJC to suspend arrested judges
Meanwhile, the Nigerian Bar Association on
Thursday called on the National Judicial Council to
suspend some serving judges recently arrested by
the operatives of DSS on allegations of corruption.
Four of the seven judges, arrested by the DSS in
different parts of the country between October 7
and 8, are still serving while the rest of the three
had been recommended for compulsory retirement
and dismissal by the NJC before the arrest.
In what appeared to be a departure from its initial
position of outright condemnation of the raid and
arrest of the judges, the NBA called on the NJC to
take the step in the interim to protect the sanctity
and integrity of the judiciary.
The NBA President, Mr. Abubakar Mahmud (SAN),
made the call at a valedictory court session in
honour of retiring Justice of the Court of Appeal,
Justice Sotonye Denton-West.
Justice Denton-West was, until her retirement, the
Presiding Justice of the Court of Appeal, Akure
Division.
Mahmud, who barely a week ago described the
arrest of the judges as unconstitutional, unlawful,
bereft of due process and clearly outside the
mandate of the DSS, said affected judges should
be made to withdraw themselves from all judicial
activities until they proved their innocence.
He said in view of the accusation and counter-
accusation between the affected judicial officers
and some politicians and government agencies,
following the October 7 and 8 incidents, the
National Judicial Council must take urgent steps to
salvage the image of the judiciary.
The NBA President said, “In the interim, however,
particularly having regard to what appears to be an
ongoing accusations and counter-accusations
between some of the judges and other
personalities or agencies, it appears to the NBA
that it is extremely important that the NJC takes
very urgent steps to safeguard the public image
and sanctity of the courts.
“We therefore strongly recommend that, without
prejudice to the innocence or otherwise of the
judges involved in the ongoing investigations, they
should be required to excuse themselves from
further judicial functions or required to proceed on
compulsory leave until their innocence is fully and
completely established or until the conclusion of
all judicial or disciplinary proceedings.
“We believe this will be necessary in order to
protect the sanctity and integrity of judicial
processes that may involve the judges concerned
and safeguard the public image of the institution.”
Denton-West agreed with the Chairman, NBA, Ondo
State branch, Adetunji Oso, who had contended
that the judiciary was not immune to corruption
that was pervading the Nigerian society.
Denton-West said she was once a victim of
corruption in the judiciary.
She said, “Indeed, I know and believe that there is
corruption, unfortunately even in the folds of the
judiciary. I have personally been a victim of
corrupt act from the judiciary on some occasions.
“The Nigerian judiciary in the past had been one of
the greatest in the world, but it is time to relive and
embrace the rule of law in its entirety. It seems
only lip service is paid to this great doctrine. It is
essential that the rule of law must be observed in
order for society to run smoothly, otherwise, the
beauty of democracy will elude us.”
Oso advised that rather than argue about the level
of corruption in the judicial system, efforts should
be directed at curbing it.
Oso suggested that any judge, accused of
corruption, should first be dealt with internally/
administratively by the NJC before he or she was
released to be prosecuted in the regular court.
Other speakers, including the President of the
Court of Appeal, Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa;
Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the
Federation, Abubakar Malami (who was
represented by the Solicitor General of the
Federation, Taiwo Abidogun); Onomigbo Okpoko
(SAN) of the Body of Senior Advocates of Nigeria;
and Mrs. Hairat Balogun (SAN), who spoke for the
Body of Benchers, eulogised Justice Denton-West.
EFCC quizzes female judge in Lagos
Also, Justice Rita Ofili-Ajumogobia on Thursday
reported to the Lagos Office of the Economic and
Financial Crimes Commission.
The source added that the judge, who was
expected to report to the commission’s office on
Wednesday, did not honour the agency’s invitation
as scheduled.
The source stated, “Honourabe Justice Rita Ofili-
Ajumogoboa has reported to the EFCC today.
“She came to the Lagos office of the commission
by 6pm.”
On Wednesday, Honourable Justice Musa Haruna
Kurya of the Federal High Court reported to the
commission’s office in Lagos.
Two other judges, Mohammed Yunusa and
Nganjiwa Hyledzira, had reported to Lagos office of
the commission on Monday. Ngwuta’s allegation,
unadulterated fallacy, says Amaechi
Ngwuta’s allegation, unadulterated fallacy, says
Amaechi
Amaechi, in his response to the latest allegation on
Thursday, described the allegation against him by
Justice Ngwuta as pure fiction.
He stated this in a statement he personally signed
in Abuja on Thursday.
Amaechi said that he did not and had never tried
to lobby, induce or make Justice Ngwuta to
influence the outcome of any matter before the
Supreme Court or any other court.
He said, “The Hon. Justice Ngwuta’s narrative as it
concerns me is simply not true, an unadulterated
fallacy, designed to deceive and distract from the
real issues of DSS investigation of acts of
corruption against him.
“It’s indeed very sad and most unfortunate that the
Hon. Justice Ngwuta had decided to drag the name
of the Honourable Chief Justice of Nigeria into his
fabricated allegations.”
The former governor insisted that he did not and
had never lobbied, approached or attempted to
make the CJN or any other Justice of the apex
court to influence the Supreme Court judgments on
the Rivers State and Ekiti State governorship
elections appeals or any other matter before the
apex court or any other court.
He lamented that within a space of 48 hours, he
had observed a carefully planned and coordinated
political attempt to drag him into the DSS arrest
and investigation of judges in Nigeria.
“The aim of the plot is two-fold: to smear and
politically destroy the image and reputation of
Amaechi, and deceitfully portray me as the person
behind the arrest of judges. This is indeed most
ridiculous and callous,” he added.

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