Barring any unforeseen circumstances, the Federal Government will, this week, arraign all the judges accused of corruption, an authoritative source revealed yesterday.
In a bid to kick-start the trial, the Federal Government has listed politicians, senior lawyers and some bank officials to testify against the judges.The Department of State Service, DSS, had on October 8 and 9, raided the apartments and arrested seven judges over alleged corruption. The judges were consequently released on bail.
The seven judges affected include Justices Sylvester Ngwuta and John Okoro of the Supreme Court; Justice Adeniyi Ademola of the Federal High Court, Abuja, and Justice Muazu Pindiga of the Federal High Court, Gombe Division.
Another Judge of the Abuja Division of the Federal high Court, Justice Nnamdi Dimgba’s residence was also searched, but he was not arrested. Others are Justice Mohammed Tsamiya of the Court of Appeal, Ilorin, and the Chief Judge of Enugu State, I. A. Umezulike. According to the source, the judges would be arraigned in batches. He said: “All is set for arraigning of the judges. The charge is ready and it will be filed this week.
There are several people that were invited by the investigative bodies. Such people are senior lawyers, politicians and even some bankers. Statements have been taken from them, and some of them will testify against the judges.
“Also call logs of some of the judges and the links who brought the bribe for them will also be tendered as evidence against the judges.
Some of their bankers too will be brought as witnesses. “When their trial commences, a lot of revelations will be made and everybody will believe President Muhammadu Buhari was right when he said that the judiciary was his greatest headache”, the source said.
He noted that the FG had started the process by filing criminal charges against the Chief Registrar of the Supreme Court, Gambo Saleh and two others over N2.2 billion scam before an Abuja High Court.
The DSS had, in a statement soon after the raid of the Judges’ houses, given a breakdown of the recovered funds from the judges. The secret service said it recovered N93,558,000.00, $530,087, £25,970, €5,680,1,010 Rupees, 380 UAE Dirham, 430 Gambian Dalasi, among others.
Further, the DSS said that it also recovered from Justice Ademola N54 million, $171, 779.00, £80.00 1,010.00 Rupees and €4,400. It said that it recovered from Justice Ngwuta, N35,208,000, $319,475, £25,890, €280, 380 Gambian Dalasi 420, Argentine notes—420 Ghana Cedis.
The service also said that it recovered from Justice Okoro, N4,350,000, $38, 833, £25,890 and €1,000.00. The security outfit also said that other foreign currencies, banking and real estate documents were recovered. Soon after the DSS stated its position and released the judges, four of them defended themselves of allegations levelled against them by the DSS.
While Justice Ngwuta said that his ordeal was as a result of his refusal to accept the offer by a former Governor of Rivers State and Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi that he (Justice Ngwuta) should set aside the election of Governor Ayo Fayose, Justice Okoro said his arrest was because he never danced to the tune of Minister of Science and Technology, Dr. Ogbonaya Onu.
For Justice Ademola, he submitted that his ordeal was a result of a clash he had with the Attorney General of the Federation, AGF and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN sometime ago.
Justice Kanu submitted in his letter to the CJN that his persecution was as a result of the cases involving the DSS that he is handling.
Alongside, the seven judges, the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) had sent the names of additional six to the secret service for investigation. The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission had also invited eight for interrogation.
This has brought the total number of judges under investigation to 21. Speaking on the decision of the NJC sacking the judges under investigation, the source said it was a welcome development, adding that the decision had paved way for the trial to commence.
LeadersNG recalls that the NJC had, on Thursday, asked all the judges accused of corruption to stop performing judicial functions. This was just as the Council set up a three-man anti-corruption policy implementation committee.
According to the Council, Section 6 of the National Judicial Policy aims at putting in place multifaceted strategies and guidelines that will ensure transparency and eliminate corruption in the Judiciary.
“It seeks, amongst other measures, to provide a platform and opportunity to citizens who profess factual and credible knowledge of information on the nature and modalities of corruption in the judicial system to ventilate such.
“Council also decided that Judicial Officers shall not be standing trial for alleged corruption related offences and be performing judicial functions at the same time.
Council, however, decided that it will ensure that Judicial Officers who are being investigated for alleged high profile criminal offences do not perform judicial functions until their cases are concluded”.
Before now, Justices Inyang Okoro and Sylvester Ngwuta, both of the Supreme Court, had voluntarily stepped down from judicial functions. Justices Ademola and Dimgba had, however, continued to sit until the order of the NJC.