With the rampant complaints against judges in recent times, the National Judicial Council (EFCC), Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Department of State Services (DSS) have stepped up their move in probing judges over alleged misconduct, New Telegraph has learnt.
Although, the NJC has the statutory power to hire and fire judges, the EFCC and DSS had, however, joined in the bid to bring corrupt judges to book. According to a top source in the NJC, the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Mohammed Mahmud is set to bring all the erring judges to book within the remaining two months he had in office. “Very soon, you will see judges going to jail. With allegations of misconduct with overwhelming evidence, some of the serving judges may soon be in court to answer charges of misconduct, especially corrupt practices,” a highly placed source told our correspondent at the weekend.
The source, who preferred anonymity, told New Telegraph that the Council had received petitions against some judges, especially those who sat on the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) leadership tussle suit where conflicting judgements were delivered and others presiding over sensitive cases with alleged report of compromise.
The source further stated that such petitions had been referred to a panel that will look into its merit and seek the response of the affected judges. “The CJN is really not comfortable with the ways things are going on in the judiciary circle, especially as it relates to conflicting judgements. “The CJN has called for all the judgements alleged to be conflicting.
He has asked the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to remit all conflicting judgements against it to his office for necessary action. “Remember, the electoral body had earlier complained that it is confused on which judgement to obey in some cases,” the source stated.
The CJN had, last Monday at the beginning of the New Legal Year, revealed that the NJC had received petitions against some judges for delivering conflicting judgements. The CJN, however, added that the probe is ongoing and that any judge found guilty will not go unpunished. For the DSS, New Telegraph learnt over the weekend, that the secret service is presently investigating some judges over alleged misconduct.
Though the names of the judges under investigation were not mentioned, but an impeccable source told New Telegraph that some of them are involved in controversial decisions. New Telegraph scooped that the DSS is probing some of the judges handling cases involving the arms deal scam.
A source who spoke with New Telegraph revealed that one of the reasons why the DSS has not obeyed the court order was because such orders “were not genuinely obtained, but rather purchased.” According to the source, “some of the judgements are questionable. The DSS has already commenced investigation to establish a link between the judges handling some of the cases and the defendants as the case may be. That is one reason why the secret service has refused to obey some of the orders, because we know that they are obtained not on sound ground.”
The source further stated that any judge found guilty would definitely not escape justice. Similarly, the EFCC is already prosecuting some senior lawyers over their alleged shady dealings with judges handling their matters.
The commission, however, promised to intensify efforts to bring all the cor- rupt judges to book with immediate effect. The commission had, on March 9, 2016, arraigned Rickey Tarfa (SAN) before Justice A. A. Akintoye of the Lagos State High Court, Igbosere on a 27-count charge bordering on alleged willful obstruction of authorized officers of the EFCC, refusing to declare asset, making false information and offering gratification to a public official.
The anti-graft agency in the charge had alleged that Tarfa, on the 29th day of January 2014 in Lagos, intentionally gave the sum of N1.5 million to Justice Nganjiwa Hyeladzira Ajiya of the Federal High Court directly from his Zenith Bank Account No. 1002926967.
Tarfa was also alleged to have, on 15th day of December, 2015 in Lagos, intentionally gave the sum of N500,000 to Justice Mohammed Nasir Yunusa of the Federal High Court indirectly through Awa Ajia Nigeria Limited’s account No. 0000971941 domiciled in Access Bank Plc.
In a similar development, the EFCC also arraigned Dr. Joseph Nwobike (SAN) before Justice R.I.B Adebiyi of the Lagos State High Court on a five-count charge of allegedly offering gratification and attempting to pervert course of justice. Nwobike was alleged to have bribed a Federal High Court Judge to refrain from exercising the duties of his office. Nwobike had admitted in his statement to the EFCC that he gave N750,000 to Justice Yunusa to assist the judge in the treatment of his ailing mother who is alleged to be suffering from kidney disease.
The anti-graft agency had alleged that Nwobike, on the 28th day of March 2015, in Lagos intentionally gave the sum of N750,000 to Justice Yunusa of the Federal High Court directly through his United Bank for Africa Account No. 1002664061 in order that the said judge refrains from acting in the exercise of his official duties.
Sources said both Justices Yunusa and Ajiya are under investigation by the EFCC and the NJC. Another controversial judge with a link to a popular politician is also under investigation. There are petitions against the judge at the NJC.
The NJC had, not too long, sacked some judges over alleged gross misconduct and breach of code of conduct for judicial officers. Specifically, the NJC had, on April 19, sacked Justices Tanko Yusuf Usman and Idris Evuti of the High Court of Niger State, among others, over falsification of age.
There is strong indication that the two judges will be prosecuted for the alleged offences committed. It will also be recalled that the factional chairman of the PDP, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff had petitioned the NJC against Justice A.M Liman of the Port Harcourt division of the Federal High Court. Sheriff, in his petition dated July 4, alleged that he on two different occasions met with Justice Liman on his (Justice Liman) request both in Kaduna and Accra, Ghana respectively. Feelers at the NJC however showed that investigation had commenced on the said petition.
There are also feelers that the DSS had established prima facie against some of the judges and a suit will be filed against them. Reacting to this, an Abuja- based lawyer and rights activist, Adesanya Tomori, stated that it is a good idea to bring all the bad eggs in the judiciary to book without further delay
“The judiciary is the last hope of the common man. It will be a disaster on the entire state if the judiciary is allowed to collapse totally due to the activities of corrupt elements. I think it is not enough for the NJC to sack judges who it has been proved that they are corrupt; they should also be tried at the court of law.
That is only when such can serve as deterrent to others. “If it is only sacking without any punitive measure, it cannot pass any message to others.
This is because, some of them might have even earned their pension through corrupt means, when NJC sacks them, they will just go home and begin to enjoy their proceeds. But if after the sack, they are prosecuted and sentenced accordingly, the judiciary will be more sanitised,” the source said. Before now, stakeholders in the judiciary had expressed concern over the spate of allegation of corruption in the third arm of government.
Most recent was the call by the body of Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SAN) during a special court session to mark the 2016/17 new legal year. Speaking on behalf of the body of SAN, Chief T.J Okpoko had challenged the CJN and NJC over various conflicting judgements by judges in recent time.
“In our nation as it stands today, no one needs to be told that the bar and bench are at a crossroads… I call on the regulatory authorities to step in immediately to do the damage control so as to save our justice system from further ridicule,” he stated.