By EHI EKHATOR
I might want to first thank my readers who kept in touch with me to comment on the recent happenings in Nigeria concerning the arrest of a few judges who were claimed to have taken bribes. I needed to take as much time as is needed to consider what to say before i am blamed again for taking a bribe from the opposition to compose the self-evident.
President Buhari administration has been adulated in a few quarters over his affirmed reality in battling corruption in the nation while others say he utilizes the DSS and other security divisions to scare his political adversaries.
The State Security Service (SSS), otherwise called the Department of State Services (DSS) employed a commando style in arresting two Supreme Court Justices, John Inyang Okoro and Sylvanus Ngwuta over petitions allegedly written against them by the people.
The DSS guaranteed that the result of its storm and search was the diverse hard currencies found in the homes of the judges which further buttressed an assertion of illegal pay-off against them.
“In one of the States where the Service operations were conducted, credible intelligence revealed that the Judge had Two Million United States Dollars ($2,000,000 USD) stashed in his house. When he was approached for due search to be conducted, he in concert with the State Governor, mobilized thugs against the Service team. The team restrained itself in the face of unbridled provocative activities by those brought in by the Governor. Unfortunately, the Judge and Governor also engaged the tacit support of a sister security agency.
The DSS was referring to the incident in Rivers State where Governor Nyesom Wike stepped in to prevent the SSS from arresting a judge in the middle of the night.
Justice Ngwuta had reportedly travelled to Qatar to receive bribes that he allegedly shared with Justice Okoro and other judges in order to help Wike win a case at the Supreme Court regarding his rerun election.
DSS added “SUMMARY OF RECOVERED MONEY
NAIRA – N93,558,000.00
DOLLARS – $530,087
POUNDS – £25,970
EURO – €5,680
“Other foreign currencies were also recovered. This were recovered from just three (3) of the judges.
“These in addition to other banking documents, including real estate documents have been recovered. Meanwhile preparations are ongoing to arraign them in a competent court of jurisdiction in line with the laws of the nation.
“The Service would want to clearly state that it has never invited Justice Walter NKANU ONNOGHEN for investigation, neither is he being investigated by this Service. In addition the Service would like to put it on record, that it has tremendous respect for the Judiciary and would not do anything to undermine it or its activities. The Service will also join hands with this noble institution in its fight to rid it of few corrupt Judges whose actions is undermining not only the Judiciary but the common bond of our national life.”
Fighting corruption in Nigeria would have surely improved the lives of her citizens if the fight was genuine. The tactics employed by the current administration to stamp out corruption is a window display if you look beyond the daily headlines.
Now Why the sudden launch of assault on the judges?
I have perused numerous Nigerians communicated their backings for the arrest while some completely express concerns over the assault. Eminent Nigerians like the former Minister of Aviation, Mr. Femi Fani-Kayode and an Renown Senior Lawyer, Chief Mike Ozekhome have condemned the kidnap of the judges at their homes in the middle of the night.
As indicated by Fani-Kayode, DSS lied about the affirmed cash found in the premises of the judges. He cautioned Nigerians not to believe such, as the division is scarcely searching for a reason to legitimize its unlawful activity.
“It is in this context that one has to view the absurd claims by the DSS that massive sums of cash ranging from 2 million USD to hundreds of thousands of euros and pounds sterling were found in the homes of all the judges that were arrested in the early hours of saturday morning.
“If anyone honestly believes that such large sums of cash were found in the homes of ANY of those judges then that person needs to have his head examined.
“The DSS has to say these outrageous things and tell these shameful lies in order to attempt to justify their illegal actions before the world. It is called disinformation and misinformation and that is their stock in trade.”
The Nigerian Bar Association in a statement released by the President, Abubakar Mahmoud, described the action of the DSS as abduction
Mahmoud said two Supreme Court justices, Inyang Okoro and Sylvester Ngwuta were “abducted”, with their families, adding that he had yet to have the full detail of other judges who could have been involved.
The NBA President condemned what it termed the Gestapo-style operation of the DSS.
He said: “I want to emphasise again that we are not under military rule and we cannot accept this unholy event and Gestapo-style operation.
“We, therefore, call on President Muhammadu Buhari to immediately caution all the state security agencies and to respect the rule of law and to respect due process.
“Any issues affecting the judicial officers, there are established procedures for handling them and we demand that this constitutional process must be obeyed.
“Given the unfolding nature of the event and the seriousness of the situation, the NBA hereby declares a state of emergency as it affects the affairs of the judiciary and I hereby constitute a crisis management team, comprising all past presidents of the association.
“I want to, on behalf of the association, make the very following clear and unequivocal demands: we demand the immediate and unconditional release of all the judges abducted from about 9pm yesterday (Friday).
“The release must be done immediately and without any conditions. Two, we demand that the Department of State Services should limit itself to its statutory and constitutional responsibilities.
“I’ll be meeting with the CJN later tonight or tomorrow. There will be consequences should these demands are not met.”
Similarly, Chief Mike Ozekhome described Buhari as a leopard that cannot change its spots. He said he was not surprised about the action displayed by the DSS. He reminded Nigerians that he had warned them of the implication of giving power to a dictatorial President.
“I am not surprised. I am rather surprised that some Nigerians are still surprised. Some of us warned, wrote, preached and talked. But, we were ignored due to political partisanship. A leopard cannot change its spots. It started with political opponents and the opposition. Some of us cried out. Then, they moved against some very senior and well-respected lawyers. Some clapped.
“They said it was anti-corruption. We cried out. It extended quickly to the National Assembly, another arm of government. Many described the government as tough, no-nonsense and anti-corruption-inclined. Some of us warned. Now, it is the judiciary. Up to the very apex court of the land, the Supreme Court, has been targeted and is now being intimidated and humiliated.
“Virtually all the judges are southerners. My prediction is that the media will be the next. The recent onslaught against the judiciary signals great danger to our democracy, freedom, human rights, independence of the judiciary and the doctrine of separation of powers as espoused in 1748 by the great French philosopher, Baron De Montesquieu.”
Edo State Commissioner for Housing and Urban Development, Frank Osa Evbuomwan, a member of the All Progressives Congress argued that the method used by the DSS was questionable, adding that if his house was broke into at the early hour, he would resist such move too.
He said “Much has written about the “sting” operation carried out by the DSS on some allegedly corrupt judges. While it is gratifying that something tangible appears to be under way in tackling corruption, one is still left with a sour taste in the mouth over the method employed.
“It is extremely difficult to justify breaking down doors and walls at an ungodly 1.00am, to arrest judges who ordinarily pose no flight or physical threats to anybody. Indeed, some of the judges are probably qualified to be senior citizens. In truth, if anyone was to come knocking at such an hour, I too will refuse to open my door!
“The news now is that the judges have been granted administrative bail on self recognition, driving home the point that ordinarily these men pose no flight or physical threats.
“These judges could have been picked at multiple points with little or no fuss and without all these distracting drama. By all means, tackle corruption head on, by all means arrest corrupt officials, but also by all means, utilize civilized methods.”
Nigerians should be aware that the current administration is not ready to fight corruption but fight anyone who stands on its way to achieving its political aim. The reason these judges were arrested were their alleged involvement in the loot which was allegedly given to them by Wike (a PDP governor) to skew the case in his favour.
If the DSS is involved in the fight against corruption, it suddenly means that the action was ordered by someone in Presidency or the President himself since this department is solely set up by the President for intelligence gathering which means that they can only take order from and report to the Presidency. Let us be honest with ourselves for once in our lives, President Buhari is more similar to a domineering jerk than an equitable President judging from his non-verbal communication and his disproportionate battle against corruption in Nigeria.
The former Governor of Rivers State, Rotimi Amaechi was investigated and the result forwarded to the Ecomomic and Financial Crimes Commission for embezzling billions of naira and till today, the case has been shutdown, instead he was rewarded with a Ministerial position.
Recently, Buhari Chief of Staff, (COS), Abba Kyari was accused of taking N500m from operators of MTN to help the telecommunications mitigate the fine imposed on it by the Federal Government.
The report revealed that Buhari was shown the evidence which implicated his chief of staff and till today, no news and the man remained in power.
Confronted with the evidence, The COS reportedly claimed he was helping the All Progressives Congress party raise funds for gubernatorial election in Bayelsa State, to which the President is said to have asked him if he was the party chairman, but did not relieve him of his post.
The same CoS was accused of taking money from Jide Omokore, a shady businessman who was massively involved in corruption in the oil sector in the preceding administration. Mr. Kyari reportedly took Mr. Omokore twice to the President so that the business man can make promise to refund some of the funds. Mr. Omokore reportedly promised to return N500m.
The report also said that when EFCC arrested Omokore, Buhari CoS told President Buhari that it was the EFCC chair, Birahim Magu who had bungled progress concerning Omokore. The same CoS was making plans to remove Magu from office in order to make his plans work since the Chairman was a stubborn man to control.
Other members of President Buhari circle have been accused one way or the other of engaging in massive corruption but the President has refused to act.
Members so far fingered are:
Chief of Army Staff, Yusuf Buratai who was found to have used Nigerian Army funds to purchase homes in Dubai.
The Minister of Internal Affair, Abdulrahman Dambazau who bought homes for millions of dollars in Boston in the United States. Other aides and officials within the government have been exposed for involvement in illegal employments and forgery of age and certificates.
The latest of the corruption in Buhari administration is the one raised by a federal lawmaker, Abdulmumin Jibrin who accused the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara of padding the budget.
After the outrageous issue was raised, even the president acknowledged the alarm that his budget was altered, he had a secret meeting with the whistle blower and after which an instruction was passed never to address the press on the issue anymore.
Hoping the EFCC or even the Presidency dog, DSS would take action is still a dream for many Nigerians. Meanwhile, Dogara after holding meeting with the same President came out with a hold statement that he cannot be prosecuted. Instead the whistle blower is now suspended for speaking that a member of the APC is corrupt.
The primary reason why this case is so important for the DSS now is because it has something to do with a PDP governor, Governor Wike of Rivers State. The federal government always find Rivers State a vital state due to the state contribution to the national income, so allowing it to be in the hands of the opposition is a big setback for the ruling party, therefore, Wike may not finish his tenure before he would be impeached, a tactics that had failed so far in Ekiti State.
Is Nigeria really fighting corruption with all seriousness or this is a political war in disguise? Are Nigerians being fed with the absolute truth or the sweet coated information? Why are the members of the oppositions and Buhari boys who have been accused of stealing still earning monthly salaries? Why do Nigerians forget so soon of other members of the APC who are still fancy-free after being accused of corruption?
The tactics of silence now employed by Buhari administration is by using the security outfit. It could be recalled that it was the same DSS who postponed Edo State election by citing security reasons, two days after President Buhari visited Benin.
The pattern of security risk was never explained but many Nigerians believed it was an avenue to have enough time in rigging the election.
The Force spokesperson claimed that the intelligence at his disposal indicated that there are plans by insurgents and extremist to attack vulnerable communities and soft targets, a statement that puzzled everyone knowing full well that Edo State had never experienced the cited reason for the election postponement.
Obviously, DSS is now being used to carry out political assignment for the ruling party rather than doing its primary assignment which is gathering intelligence regarding security for the country.
Who are the arrested Judges?
According to some findings in some quarters, Justice Liman gave judgment against Modu Sheriff and that hurt the APC.
Justice Liman also restrained INEC from announcing any results or figures howsoever generated or compiled purporting to be result of the re-run election for any or all of Khana, Bonny, Gokana, Andoni, Eleme and Tai Local Government Areas of Rivers State or any part of the re-run election scheduled for March 19, 2016 which election was subsequently suspended or postponed. Justice Liman narrowly missed been “stinged” by the DSS.
Justice Pingina insisted on due process in the Rivers State Governorship election tribunal sittings. He was removed midway during the sitting of the tribunal when APC saw that PDP was having the upper hand. The rest is history. Justice Pingina has just been “stinged” by DSS.
Justice Adeniyi Ademola, a judge, eldest grandson of a great former CJN of Nigeria, Adetokunbo Ademola was a judge who knew his onions. He came from a tradition. He could not be pushed around by powers that be. He ordered thrice that Dasuki be released. This did not go down well with Buhari and his government. They disobeyed his orders and concocted a new offence to rearrest Dasuki. Justice Adeniyi Ademola of the Federal High Court in Abuja also in May 26, 2016 dismissed Buhari’s preliminary objection in a suit filed by an Abuja-based legal practitioner Mr. Nnamdi Nwokocha-Ahaaiwe concerning Buhari certificate (WAEC). Justice Ademola has just been “stinged” by DSS
Justice Nnamdi Dimgba, a judge of the Federal High Court, Abuja was the judge who warned DSS to stop disobeying orders of court and told them not to come to his court again if they would not obey court orders. DSS was angry with this. They wanted to “sting” him but got a wrong name. However, they succeeded in breaking into his house and beating up his brother only for them to look into the paper they had on them to discover that it was not his name that was on the paper. That sure hurt them.
JSCs Ngwuta and Okoro sat on appeals that gave decisions against APC interest. They have just been “stinged” by DSS.
Don’t get me wrong, if the fight against corruption was genuine, the President would have my support. We all need corruption to be stamped out but being selective is another way to cause more problem than solution. These judges may be corrupt as alleged but the reason they are being singled out for prosecution currently is to weaken their stands against the APC.
Ehi Ekhator is a Nigerian journalist based in the United Kingdom. Publisher, Naija Center News