• Senate judicial committee summons arrested judges
By Onyebuchi Ezigbo and Omololu Ogunmade in Abuja
The leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has demanded an immediate investigation into the allegation of attempted bribery made by a Supreme Court judge, Justice John Inyang Okoro, against the former Governor of Rivers State and Minister of Transport, Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, and the All Progressives Congress (APC) governorship candidate in Akwa Ibom State, Mr. Umana Umana.
The party said the allegations by a high ranking judge must not be swept under the carpet like other previous petitions.
In a statement issued yesterday by the PDP spokesman, Prince Dayo Adeyeye, the party said the judge’s allegations have again vindicated its position that there are so many corrupt leaders and members of the APC who are being shielded from prosecution.
“The attention of the leadership of the PDP led by Senator Ahmed Mohammed Makarfi has been drawn to a four-page letter written by Justice Okoro to the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) and Chairman of the National Judicial Council (NJC) dated October 17, 2016, in which he disclosed that the former Governor of Rivers State, and Minister of Transport, Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi and Mr. Umana Umana, the APC governorship candidate ofAkwa Ibom State attempted to bribe and sway justice against the PDP candidates in Rivers, Akwa Ibom and Abia States, respectively.
The party noted that in view of the fact that the allegation is “grievous, dangerous, criminal and unhealthy for our democracy and the rule of law, President Muhammadu Buhari must investigate or cause the relevant agencies to probe so as to ascertain its veracity.
“This information by a high ranking judge must not be swept under the carpet like previous petitions and the report of the Rivers State Judiciary Commission of Inquiry that revealed so many misappropriations of funds by the former governor when he held sway from 2007 to 2015.
“Another salient point is the revelation that Amaechi sponsored Umana based on return on investment; and we want to ask, with which funds? For emphasis, on page three (first paragraph) of the letter stated: “My Lord, Amaechi said the President of Nigeria and the APC 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 Umana, the candidate of the APC for that election and that if he lost Akwa Ibom State appeal, he would have lost a fortune.
“We wish Justice Okoro and the CJN did not keep quite over this bribery attempt since February 2016 until now for an administration that has flouted to have zero tolerance on corruption. It appears that the public would have remained in the dark without the prompting of the DSS harassments and invasion of his home.
“This allegation against Amaechi has again vindicated us that there are so many corrupt leaders and members of the APC but due to party affiliation and their huge contributions to the Buhari presidency, they are seen as ‘sacred cows’ and shielded from prosecution.”
Meanwhile, the judges who were arrested following the raid of their houses on October 7, 2016 by the Department of State Services (DSS) will soon appear before the Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters to narrate their ordeals before the committee.
The judges’ appearance is coming on the heels of the recent receipt of the resolution of the NJC by the committee and the eventual report of such receipt to the Senate by the committee chairman, Senator David Umaru, yesterday.
At the commencement of yesterday’s plenary, Umaru had raised order 43 in the Senate Standing Rules with the intention to make a personal explanation to the chamber on the correspondence the committee received from NJC on its resolution at the end of its emergency meeting of October 11, 2016 on the arrest and raid of judges’ homes.
Umaru therefore sought the leave of the Senate to invite the seven judges to appear before the committee to tell it all they knew about the incidents of raid of their homes and eventual arrest on October 7.
Umaru added that the move was in furtherance of their oversight duties.
He said: “Mr. President, by virtue of the 1999 Constitution as amended and Order 96, Rule 37 of our rules, the powers of this committee to oversight the Judiciary and particularly its powers include judicial matters and judges and justices of the court.”
“I am bringing this to the attention of the Senate so that we can take the permission of this Senate to enable us conduct proper oversight on this matter and invite the justices to enable us interact with them in order to conduct proper oversight as we are enjoined by the provision of our rules and the 1999 constitution.”
Responding, the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, gave the committee the full fledged authority to invite the judges, saying it did not even need the mandate of the Senate before taking such action since action was part and parcel of its oversight functions.
“You do not need to come to us. You have your powers under the oversight and you should be able to use the powers and do whatever you deem necessary. So, do your job in line with your powers,” Saraki said.
The seven judges to be invited by the committee are two Supreme Court judges, John Okoro and Sylvester Ngwuta; a former Chief Judge of Enugu State, Innocent Umezulike; Nnamdi Dimgba and Adeniyi Ademola of the Federal High Court, Abuja as well as Kabiru Auta of Kano High Court and Muazu Pindiga of Federal High Court in Gombe.
The NJC in the resolution had described the arrest of the judges as both a threat to democracy as well as the independence of the judiciary.