Yusuf Alli, Managing Editor, Northern Operation
The Federal Government is set for the prosecution of two Supreme Court Justices and seven other judges in spite of the memos written by three of them to the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Mahmud Mohammed.
The charges against the judges were ready at press time, following the conclusion of investigation by the Department of State Services (DSS), The Nation has learnt.
Also, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has started probing the accounts of six judges of the Federal High Court who are undergoing interrogation.
The anti-graft commission has allegedly discovered payment of bribe sums/financial assistance into the accounts of two of the six judges. The Nation could not independently confirm this.
Investigation by our correspondent revealed that the DSS has gathered tons of evidence against the judges.
Those under investigation are two Supreme Court judges namely Justices Sylvester Ngwuta and Inyang Okoro; the suspended Presiding Justice of the Court of Appeal, Ilorin Division, Justice Mohammed Ladan Tsamiya, who was picked up in Sokoto; Justice Adeniyi Ademola (Federal High Court); the Chief Judge of Enugu State, Justice I. A. Umezulike; Justice Kabiru Auta of Kano State High Court; Justice Muazu Pindiga (Gombe State High Court); Justice Bashir Sukola and Justice Ladan Manir from the Kaduna State High Court.
Of the nine judges, the NJC has recommended sanctions for Justice Mohammed Ladan Tsamiya; the erstwhile Chief Judge of Enugu State, Justice I. A. Umezulike; and Justice Kabiru Auta.
A source said: “The Federal Government is going ahead with the trial of the nine judges. The charges and evidence against them are ready. I can tell you that the DSS has conducted diligent investigation.
“Even if you look at the list, only three out of the nine judges have joined issues with some people. But these issues have nothing to do with the overwhelming evidence against them.”
The source added: “The trial will enable Nigerians to know how the sting operations were conducted, the findings of DSS and the charges.
“If a judge alleges that DSS operatives planted money in his residence, did they also lodge cash in his account(s)?”
NBA demands justice
It was further learnt that snippets of the findings were presented to the executives of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) with the bar deciding that justice must run its full course.
The bar has also asked that the judges being probed should step aside.
“This investigation was tight and it is in the public interest for the trial to begin as soon as possible,” the source said.
The six judges of the Federal High Court who were interrogated during the week and whose accounts are being scrutinised by the EFCC are Justices Mohammed Nasir Yunusa; Hyeladzira Ajiya Nganjiwa; Musa Haruna Kurya; Agbadu James Fishim; Uwani Abba Aji; and Rita Ofili-Ajumogobia.
A source in the anti-graft agency said: “We are looking into the accounts of all the judges so far quizzed by our team, based on petitions and preliminary investigations.
“It is too early to disclose our findings. But the affected judges have made statements in line with the law.”
The National Judicial Council (NJC) had in February sanctioned Justice Rita Ofili-Ajumogobia for misconduct on the bench.
The Council also barred her from elevation to the Court of Appeal or taking any judicial appointment.
A statement by the Acting Director of Information of NJC, Mr. Soji Oye said: “The NJC, under the chairmanship of Justice Mahmud Mohammed, at its meeting on February 24 and 25, 2016 decided to warn Justice Rita Ofili-Ajumogobia and put her on the “watch-list” of the council for the next four years.
“The judge will also not be considered for any elevation to the Court of Appeal or any ad hoc judicial appointment till her retirement from the Bench.
“The decision was sequel to the petition written against her by Victoria Ayeni, alleging misconduct and injustice on the part of Justice Ofili-Ajumogobia for failing to deliver judgment in Suit No FHC/AB/CS/31/2011, a pre-election matter between Victoria A. A. Ayeni and Olusola Sonuga and two Ors.
“She was also alleged to have adjourned the pre-election matter severally until the termination of the life span of the Ogun State House of Assembly. The decision of the Council on Justice Ofili-Ajumogobia is with immediate effect.”
Two of the six judges were alleged to have received over N2.75 million bribe from two senior lawyers Rickey Tarfa (SAN) and Joseph Nwobike (SAN).
The EFCC had on March 9, 2016 arraigned Tarfa and Nwobike before Lagos High Court on allegations of bribery and offering gratification to a public official.
“Nwobike and Tarfa are facing criminal prosecution for allegedly offering gratification to Federal High Court judges to restrain them from exercising the duties of their office.
“Subsequent investigation revealed that the two Judges allegedly received sums of money from the two senior lawyers severally.”
Judge apologises to convict
Meanwhile, a judge of the Federal High Court was alleged to have sneaked into Kuje Prison in the Federal Capital Territory to apologise to an inmate for wrongful conviction.
A reliable source said: “The judge disguised and went to the prison yard on September 13. The convict was jailed for being in possession of cocaine.
“But the Federal High Court judge met with the convict and expressed regrets for wrongful conviction.
“He said he knew that the convict was a victim of a set up and his conscience was troubling him.
“He offered to assist the convict in whatever manner to make his stay in prison comfortable.
“But security agencies have picked up the visit of the judge and they have started investigating it.” The Nation