Okowa, Wike, Emmanuel: We Have No Hand in Judges' Allegations

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  •   PDP asks Buhari to suspend Amaechi, others

By Davidson Iriekpen in Lagos and Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja

The governors of Delta, Rivers and Akwa Ibom states – Ifeanyi Okowa, Nyesom Wike and Udom Emmanuel – yesterday debunked the claim made by the Rivers State Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC) Davies Ikanya that the governors were behind the allegation by Justice Sylvester Ngwuta and Justice Inyang Okoro of the Supreme Court, who accused Minister of Transport, Rotimi Amaechi of prompting them to pervert the cause of justice to favour the APC governorship candidates, especially in Rivers and Akwa Ibom states.

Also yesterday, Wike declared that the ruling APC is deliberately threatening the foundation of democracy in Nigeria by its “orchestrated intimidation of the judiciary through false allegations and illegal arrests.”

On the same day, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) asked President Muhammadu Buhari to borrow a leaf from the step taken by the National Judicial Council (NJC) to suspend indicted Judges, by also suspending his ministers involved in the corruption saga.

Governor Okowa declared that he had no hand in Amaechi’s ‘judicial scandal’ and said that the Rivers APC’s allegation was false, misleading and a calculated attempt to smear his hard earned reputation.

He urged Ikanya to concern himself with the dwindling fortunes of his party in Rivers rather than embarking on a wild goose chase.

In a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Charles Aniagwu, Okowa denied the allegation as not only spurious but laughable.

He said: “The attention of Governor Okowa has been drawn to yet another spurious allegation by the Rivers State branch of the All Progressives Congress (APC).

“Ordinarily we wouldn’t have joined issues with a jobless party Chaiman like Ikanya, but in order to set the records straight, it is pertinent to state that Okowa has no hand in the latest scandals swirling around the Transportation Minister.

“As governor of Delta State, Okowa is too busy delivering on his SMART Agenda to be enmeshed in such petty accusations of orchestrating any accusations against the transport minister.

“How is it possible for anyone to imagine that two respected Justices of the Supreme Court were told to lie that Amaechi made attempts to influence their judgements in his party’s favour?

“Rather than encourage the former Governor to defend himself, the Rivers APC is busy looking for people to rope into their inglorious adventure.”

“We therefore call on the general public to disregard the said publication as there is no iota of truth in it.” Statement added.

In his own reaction, Governor Emmanuel also debunked the APC allegation.

The spokesman of the governor, Ekarete Udo in an interview with THISDAY last night said the governor “is an embodiment of transparency and was  overwhelmingly elected by the people and does not need further affirmation.”

He added that the APC should learn to handle Amaechi, “who is now the albatross on the party’s neck.”

Wike said it was a reckless and ridiculous statement coming after the APC had been exposed.

“The revelations underscore the desperation of the APC to take Rivers State and other states under PDP controls.

“It is just ridiculous and laughable. Unfortunately, it is the APC that has been using state machinery to try to seize control and undermine PDP controlled states. Recall how the National Chairman of APC lamented after they lost at the Supreme Court. They claim Amaechi is a threat to us here. He is not. I defeated his candidate when he was governor and also defeated him in the rerun election,” said Wike.

‘Democracy in danger with orchestrated intimidation of the Judiciary’

Meanwhile, while speaking at the Government House, Port Harcourt yesterday during a courtesy visit by the Port Harcourt Branch of the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA), the Rivers State governor warned lawyers against allowing the “deliberate destruction of the judiciary under any guise.”

“Because of the harassment of judges by the ruling party, no judge will ever deliver judgments against the interest of the federal government and the ruling party,” Wike remarked.

According to him, the ruling party and her officials have elevated the art of frivolous petition writing against judges as a means of subverting the course of justice.

He said: “Our democracy is in danger. Our democracy has been threatened.  What is happening to the judiciary is very deep. NBA must be careful of the deep implications of what it is also doing in the course of the present attack on the judiciary.

“All these actions are geared towards silencing everybody as we head to 2019. If anybody tells you that they are fighting corruption in the judiciary, tell the person that he is lying.

“They have empowered politicians to write frivolous petitions against judges. Whether or not the petition is true, the judge is compelled to step aside.”

Speaking further, he said: “Any judge who delivers a judgment that is against the interest of the ruling party is hounded down by the DSS. They have intimidated judicial officers and put fear in them in a manner that is negatively affecting governance.”

Wike also accused the APC of masterminding the crisis in the PDP for fear of losing power to the opposition party at the state and federal levels.

The governor particularly cited the ongoing Ondo PDP crisis as a point of reference “where frivolous petitions have been used to further the interest of the ruling party and destroy the judiciary.”

On the December 10, 2016 date scheduled by INEC for Rivers rerun elections, Wike said the fact that it was announced less than 24 hours after the Senate ultimatum was an indication that INEC had been lying to people that insecurity was behind the repeated postponement of the rerun elections.

Earlier, the Chairman of the Port Harcourt Branch of the NBA, Mr. Victor Briggs commended Wike for his commitment to the development of the state

The Port Harcourt NBA thanked the governor for the construction of the ultramodern law centre for the branch.

He assured the government that lawyers would always support all development programmes.

Suspension of Judges: PDP Asks Buhari to Do Same to Ameachi, Others

In a related development, the PDP yesterday urged Buhari to suspend all his ministers indicted in the bribery saga involving seven judges.

The NJC had this week announced the suspension of Justices Sylvester Ngwuta and Justice Inyang Okoro of the Supreme Court. Others are Justice Mohammed Tsamiya –Presiding Justice of the Court of Appeal, Ilorin Division; Justice Kabiru Auta – Kano State High Court; Justice Adeniyi Ademola – Federal High Court, Abuja; Justice I. A. Umezulike – former Chief Judge of Enugu State and Muazu Pindiga – Federal High Court, Gombe Division.

The NJC said the suspension was based on the investigation of these Justices by the Directorate of State Security (DSS) on various allegations of corruption.

In a statement issued by its Spokesman, Dayo Adeyeye, PDP said if Buhari retains these ministers in the face of the serious allegations against them, he would be confirming the fears that the action against the judges was a deliberate attempt to blackmail them.

“It is important to note that Justices Ngwuta and Okoro have alleged that they are the targets of a witchhunt because they refused offers of inducement and bribes made to them by the Minister of Transport, Rotimi Amaechi and the Minister of Science & Technology, Chief Ogbonnaya Onu – to subvert the course of justice in appeals against the decisions of lower courts in election petitions in Abia, Akwa Ibom, Ekiti and Rivers States.

“In order to allow for a fair and independent investigation, it is incumbent on President Buhari to ask these ministers to step aside pending the conclusion of investigations into these issues. The Judiciary has set a very good example in its quest to fight corruption.

“It has proven that it is ready to reform itself and we commend the NJC for taking this bold step. Likewise, we call on the administration of President Buhari to emulate the decision of the NJC mandating the seven Justices to suspend the performance of their judicial functions pending the conclusion of investigations against them.

“Anything less will confirm the long held notion that President Buhari and his administration consider themselves to be above the law and not subject to the provisions of our laws and the institutions of our democracy.

“If President Buhari retains these Ministers in the face of the serious allegations against them, he will reveal that the entire judicial corruption saga is nothing more than deliberate attempt to blackmail the judiciary in order to subjugate it and make it a rubber stamp Institution of the administration.”