The recent DSS arrest of high ranking Judges and Justices has caused a lot of back and forth, the properness of the DSS’ actions has been subjected to repeated examination. I hold that the DSS, whilst in order per the law, might not have been in order re the execution of the operation. No charges or indictments appear likely and credible evidence not already obtained on the scene appears scant. This is quite unfortunate given the pressing need to sanitise the Nigerian judiciary. Notwithstanding, some of the arrested judges have since released their statements on what transpired that night. I would like to focus particularly on Justice John Iyang Okoro’s submission to the CJN on 17/10/2016.
The Justice, by his own admission, was given no details on why he was brought to the custody by the DSS – unlike Justice Ademola who claims the DSS admitted to him that it was to do with him presiding over the Dasuki and Nnamdi Kanu cases.
Justice Okoro then hazards a guess and surmises that his arrest bordered on an alleged visit to his residence by Rotimi Amaechi, an incident Justice Okolo states he verbally reported to the CJN on 01/02/2016 –
“In that report, I told you My Lord, that Mr. Amaechi said the President of Nigeria and the APC mandated him to inform me that they must win their election appeals in respect of Rivers State, Akwa Ibom State and Abia State at all cost” (emphasis mine).
I would like to examine the above to begin with, the alleged visit, concerning the PDP-led elections appeals to the apex court. Let’s assume, without conceding, that the visit occurred before any of the appeals in question was heard – Why did the judge omit the alleged conversations that must have taken place (if he is to be believed) about the other two appeals – in his own words, ‘Amaechi told him the president wanted to win ALL three’, also, Amaechi then further allegedly assured the judge that with he would be made a ‘member of the Appeals panel’ (with the knowledge of the CJN).
The letter refers to ‘Appeals’; Amaechi had allegedly stressed the need to win all three, yet the judge based his defence on what transpired on Akwa Ibom solely. The Rivers State Governorship elections appeal as brought by Gov. Wike was heard on the 27/01/2016, i.e., before the Akwa Ibom appeal – Why didn’t the judge ask the CJN to excuse him from hearing the Rivers appeal as well, after all, Amaechi had allegedly made reference to rigging all three with Justice Mohammed’s alleged knowledge?
Let’s then give the judge the benefit of the doubt by assuming Amaechi’s visit happened AFTER the River’s appeal, hence there was no need to discuss bribing with the judge for that case – The question stands once again: what did they discuss regarding the Abia case?
The below questions are outstanding re this case and it behooves the CJN to investigate and provide answers, confidence in the judiciary is at an all time low (this is buttressed only by the fact that the executive probably enjoys equally low goodwill).
- If Amaechi allegedly stated that Justice Okolo would be made a panel member in all the appeals – Why were only the alleged terms of the Akwa Ibom appeal discussed?
- Why did he report the incident only after the verdict on the Rivers case was announced? Despite Amaechi allegedly confirming that the ‘president wanted to win ALL pending appeals at all cost’ and that his presence was on the panel was panel was assured in order to make this happen?
- When or how did the Judge know at the time Amaechi allegedly offer to ensure his presence on the ‘Appeals panel’ that he’d only be a member of the Akwa Ibom panel – since this is the only one he asked to be excused from?
- On what day (s) did Amaechi and Umana visit the judge as alleged?
- Why is a supreme court justice entertaining parties to an appeal at his personal residence?
The above questions lead to one answer in my mind – The judge had a subterranean reason for not wanting to be on the Akwa Ibom panel. By his own admission, the DSS did not inform him of a reason he was arrested, yet he deduced that it was to do solely with his decision re Akwa Ibom. Are we to believe that Amaechi had no interest in Rivers? That if he could offer the judge inducements for Akwa Ibom, he extended none concerning Rivers? What about Abia?
The judge has further questions to answer and for the record, I do believe that clandestine meetings took place between all parties prior to the judgements being handed out. It is a small victory for the Nigerian people that details of these deleterious agreements are being willfully given up by the participants.
As for the veracity of the Judge’s claim re Amaechi? I am of the mind that individuals from both parties attempted to buy justice and had the DSS handled this case in a more orderly and diligent fashion, we’d be much closer to finding the truth. Justice Okolo has implicated himself, CJN Mohammed, the president, Mr. Umana and Mr. Amaechi with his deliberately political response; who will investigate these claims though? The CJN chairs the NJC, the body responsible for judicial conduct, will he investigate himself (with reference to the alleged claim by Amaechi that he was party to an arrangement to ensure Justice Okolo sat on the Appeals panel) and his colleague for professional infraction as well as a crime they both allegedly failed to report the police?
Justice Okoro has succeeded in shedding more light in practice we all suspected was rife, he just cannot hide in shadows though, he’s also in full view.
|Appeal Courts Decision:||Supreme Court Decision|
|Rivers: 16 December 2015 (APC)||Rivers: 27 Jan 2016 (PDP)|
|AI: 17 December 2015 (APC)||AI: 03 Feb 2016 (PDP)|