Tobi Soniyi in Abuja
A Federal High Court in Abuja has granted leave to a group, Kingdom Human Rights Foundation, to initiate proceeding for an order to arrest the Minister of Transportation, Mr. Chibuike Amaechi, and his Science and Technology counterpart, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, over the recent allegations levelled against them by two justices of the Supreme Court.
The plaintiff, in its substantive suit, asked the court to make an order of mandamus compelling the Department of State Services (DSS) and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to “perform their statutory obligations” by immediately arresting and prosecuting the two ministers.
The group also sought an order of mandamus compelling President Muhammadu Buhari to immediately sack both ministers “in the public interest and public morality” based on allegations of attempts to influence court decisions, as recently alleged by the two justices of the Supreme Court.
Journalists yesterday in Abuja were served with copies of the enrolled order made by Justice Ahmed Mohammed granting leave to the plaintiff to go ahead with the suit. The order was granted on December 1.
The former Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Mahmud Mohammed, was said to have informed the president of the attempts by his ministers to influence the course of justice in the election petitions pertaining to the Rivers, Akwa Ibom, Abia, Ekiti and Ebonyi State governorship elections held between 2014 and 2015.
Justices Sylvester Ngwuta and Inyang Okoro, both of the Supreme Court, had accused Amaechi and Onu of attempting to influence the Supreme Court decisions in some election cases between 2015 and 2016.
Ngwuta and Okoro levelled the allegations against Amaechi and Onu in separate letters addressed to Justice Mohammed in his capacity as the CJN, after they were arrested by the DSS on allegations of corruption between October 7 and 8.
The justices had alleged that the DSS descended on them after they refused to perverse the course of justice on behalf of Buhari’s ministers.
Weighty as the allegations were, the president neglected to act on them.
Ngwuta had in his letter alleged that Amaechi delivered to him a purported instruction from Buhari asking him to help to sway the judgments of the Supreme Court on the Ekiti and Rivers States governorship elections in favour of their party, the All Progressives Congress (APC).
The Supreme Court justice, who is now being prosecuted by the federal government on charges of corruption, also alleged that Onu sought his help to influence the decision of the Court of Appeal in favour of the Labour Party candidate in the last year’s governorship election in Ebonyi State.
Okoro, on his part, also claimed that Amaechi told him that the president and the APC mandated him to inform him (Okoro) that they must win the governorship election appeals in Rivers, Akwa Ibom and Abia States at all cost.
Based on the allegations, the plaintiff on October 31 filed the suit through its counsel, Mr. Okere Kingdom, seeking various orders compelling Buhari to sack the ministers and also directing the EFCC and DSS to arrest and prosecute them.
Joined in the suit as defendants are Amaechi, Onu, the DSS, EFCC and Buhari.
After granting the plaintiff leave, the judge directed that “the originating summons, affidavit in support and the motion ex parte dated October 10, and any other processes filed in the suit shall be served on all the defendants”.
Justice Mohammed fixed December 15 for mention and ordered that fresh hearing notices be served on all the defendants.
The originating summons was filed pursuant to the provisions of the Security Agencies Act and Section 6 of the EFCC (Establishment) Act, 2004, as Order 3, Rule 9 and Order 34, Rule 34 of the Federal High Court (Civil Procedure) Rules, 2009.
The plaintiff, in the originating summons, stated that “the allegations made against the first and second defendants (Amaechi and Onu) by the two Justices of the Supreme Court of Nigeria were grievous enough to warrant their arrest, investigation and prosecution by the third and fourth defendants (DSS and EFCC)”.
The group also alleged that the allegations were weighty enough “to warrant their removal from office without delay by the fifth defendant (Buhari), who was also accused to have sent the first defendant (Amaechi) on the mission to ensure that the All Progressives Congress wins all their governorship election cases at all cost and by all means”.
It asked the court to declare that the failure of the president to sack Amaechi and Onu “is grievous enough to conclude that President Buhari’s fight against corruption is a window-dressing, witch-hunt, selective, high-handed, vindictive, malicious and prosecuted with gross disregard for the rule of law”.
It therefore sought an order of mandamus compelling the DSS and EFCC “to immediately and without further delay whatsoever, arrest, investigate and prosecute the first and second defendants (Amaechi and Onu), based on the allegations of corruption and attempts to induce or bribe the Justices of the Supreme Court”.
It also sought another order of mandamus compelling Buhari “to immediately and without any further delay whatsoever sack or cause the first and second defendants to resign from offices as Minister of Transportation and Minister of Science and Technology on the grounds of the public interest, public morality and to enable the third and fourth defendants (DSS and EFCC) speedily carry out their statutory responsibility of arresting and prosecuting the first and second defendants”.