Are the case files on 37 ex-governors missing or gathering dust in the Office of the Chief Justice of Nigeria? This is the puzzle the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari is trying to unravel.
The Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), under the leadership of a former President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Mustapha Akanbi, forwarded 37 case files on some governors to the Office of the CJN over allegations of corrupt practices.
It was learnt that while 27 case files were sent to the Office of the CJN between 2000 and 2003, 10 got to the same office between 2004 and 2005.
Sources said the case files were sent in compliance with Section 52 (1) and (2) of the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act 2000.
But the Office of the CJN, it was learnt, has not responded to the case files because of “lack of funds to engage Independent Counsel”.
Notwithstanding the controversy, President Muhammadu Buhari may at any time from now reconstitute the ICPC board, it was learnt.
The President may also overhaul the agency to give it more bite as the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
A top source in the commission, who spoke in confidence, said: “By our records, Justice Akanbi, during his tenure, forwarded about 37 case files on ex-governors to the Office of the CJN for investigation in compliance with Section 52 (1) and (2) of the ICPC Act.
“There was no official communication on all the case files in the last 16 years. We are unsure whether the files were missing or gathering dust in the Office of the CJN.
“It is a good development that the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN), has reopened the issue on the affected case files.
The source cited Section 52 (1) and (2) of the ICPC Act as a major setback for the fate of the 37 cases.
It was learnt that President Buhari is likely to reconstitute the ICPC board soon.
Of a seven-man board of the commission, only three are left, including Chairman, Ekpo Nta, Commissioner Abdullahi Bako (whose four-year tenure was renewed by ex-President Goodluck Jonathan) and the Secretary to the commission, Mr. Elvis Oglafa.
Those commissioners, whose tenure expired in November 2015, are Ado Bayero, Isa Ozi-Salami, Prof. Olu Aina and Mrs. Julie Nwariaku.
A presidency source said: “President Buhari will soon reconstitute ICPC with more bite like the EFCC. The government is already shopping for good hands.
There were fears that Mr. Nta might have been asked to proceed on terminal leave from September.
Although Ekpo was appointed acting Chairman of ICPC in 2011, he became the substantive head in 2012.
It was gathered that administratively, Nta ought to leave office in 2017 based on his substantive appointment.
A source said: “There is pressure to force Nta to proceed on terminal leave from September but there are issues on his exit date. He became the substantive chairman of ICPC in 2012 for five-year tenure. We believe he should leave in 2017.”
A government source however said: “Nta only took oath of office in 2011 with four commissioners who have exited after their four-year tenure. When he was appointed substantive chairman, he was not sworn in again by ex-President Goodluck Jonathan. So, technically, his exit date is 2016.
“If Nta is allowed to stay beyond November 2016, he would have spent six years in office as ICPC chairman. This is not the intendment of ICPC Act.
“In any case, President Buhari would have overhauled ICPC in 2015 when he effected change in EFCC but he decided to allow Nta to complete his five-year term in office. He cannot grant tenure extension under any technicality