Nigerian Judges have had their homes ransacked. Here's a tale of the cesspool of filth in which they thrive
Timed for simultaneous impact, the eminent members of the bench were picked up in homes in pristine neighbourhoods of Port Harcourt, Sokoto and Abuja. The abodes were ransacked and upturned and huge sums of money discovered.
At the time of writing, two Supreme Court Justices in Sylvester Ngwuta and Inyang Okoro, Presiding Justice of the Court of Appeal, Ilorin Division, Justice Mohammed Ladan Tsamiya; Justice Adeniyi Ademola( Federal High Court); the Chief Judge of Enugu State, Justice I. A. Umezulike; Justice Kabiru Auta of Kano State High Court; and Justice Muazu Pindiga ( Gombe State High Court), are singing in DSS custody.
Said Abdullahi Garba, a DSS personnel who signed a statement sent to Pulse in the wake of the raids: "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 Governor referred to in this statement turned out to be the number one citizen of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike, who obstructed the arrest of Justice Abdullahi Liman of the Federal High Court in Port Harcourt; aided by the State Police Commissioner, Francis Odesanya.
Odesanya will be suspended by his superiors for his role in the saga, Presidency sources have told Pulse.
A SaharaReporters account of events read this way: "Justice Liman, who is yet to be apprehended, reportedly took $2million from Ahmed Makarfi-led faction of the Peoples Democratic Party to give a judgement that “overthrew” the faction led by a former Governor of Borno state, Ali Modu Sheriff.
"Governor Wike reportedly transferred the funds in cash to Liman in Ghana, before it was ferried to his home in Port Harcourt. The bribe was to be shared between Liman and the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court of Nigeria, Justice Ibrahim Auta. When the team arrived the house in Port Harcourt where the loot was kept, Gov. Wike mobilized his men to counter the DSS team with the aid of the State’s Police Commissioner.
"Another source also stated that one Justice Uche Nma Agomoh of the Federal High Court in the same city who was a lackey of the former president of the Nigerian Bar Association, Joseph Daudu was also involved in the scam.
All weekend, Pulse received tons and tons of calls and E-mails detailing the corruption in the judiciary. Each E-mail revealed more and more layers of mind-boggling corruption and kickbacks.
Judgments and rulings have been up for sale in Nigeria for as long as anyone can recall, some of the evidence in our in-box reveals.
As the DSS raided and upturned residences on Saturday, Justice Ademola was found with N54,000,000 on him, Justice Ngwuta had N35, 208,000 on him and Justice Okoro was found with N4,350, 000. There was also a list of dollar and pound denominated currencies in the names of the Judges.
The Nation newspaper reports that some of the Judges have been in on the act of selling judgments in Nigeria, so much it had become a pastime.
Quoting an unnamed source in the DSS, the newspaper said the National Judicial Council (NJC) and the Justice Ministry were contacted prior to the raids, but only the Justice Ministry cooperated with investigators.
The NJC is the administrative disciplinary body for Judges and Lawyers alike.
The DSS was also armed with search warrants, the body has since explained. There'll also be tapes and video evidences to nail the Judges in court.
Said the source: “If you crosscheck, the operation was spontaneous and simultaneous in the judges’ quarters. It started between 10.30pm and 11pm on Friday night. It was painstaking and professionally conducted. Technically speaking, the DSS gave the time and the cameras used for the operation were digitalised...
“The DSS is in custody of some audio and video tapes of some of these judges. By the time we start running these tapes, Nigerians will appreciate that we have done a good job.
“The DSS did not just jump into investigation, it received petitions on these judges on how they literally took money. The worst aspect is that they took money with both hands.
"Some of these things were becoming disturbing and people were bringing facts and figures. We went to verify these. If a judge builds a house, it is easier to discover because he might have bought the land from an individual or an agency or estate agent. There is no way you can cover up all these things.”
The Judges also took some of their corrupt activities out of the country's shores, according to the story in The Nation.
Said the source: “A Supreme Court Justice has a property worth N1.5billion. If not DSS, which other agency will unravel this? Are you expecting the police to take on these judges?
“Another Supreme Court Justice credited everything to his son. If the son started earning a living from the day he was born( assuming he was earning N1million), he cannot be able to earn one quarter of what he is claiming to have.
“We said it is very simple, tell us the business or the work you have done to have been able to earn so much.
“A judge entered a department store not to buy anything but to collect bribe, inside a supermarket from a go-between. Unknown to the judge and the collector, there are cameras in the store. The video clip is there.
“Another judge under probe has perfected the art of being a bribe collector on behalf of others. He is notorious in crossing the borders to Benin Republic, Niger Republic and Ghana. We know some of the hotels where he used to lodge.”
The DSS source went on: “We have the case of a judge who issued bail conditions to an accused person but the conditions were not met and the suspect was released. After the court session, the accused person sent word to the judge that he could not meet the conditions but take this amount to set me free.
“Of course, the judge did not act alone; the court clerk, the bailiff and the Registrar were involved. The DSS knew all that transpired, the amount involved and who took what. When we confronted the Registrar to give us the details of how the bail conditions were met, there was no single evidence.
“The judge in Port Harcourt is under probe for about $2.5million. Out of that amount, $500,000 was moved elsewhere and we know where it went".
The DSS was also condemned for its 'gestapo' technique, but most Nigerians spoken to for this story have since cut the agency some slack as more information on the raid is made available.
The DSS is under the Executive arm of government and President Muhammadu Buhari has been slated for reproducing acts reminiscent of his days as a military dictator. The presidency was quick to explain its role in the operations, Sunday.
To be sure, matters bordering on crime are within the purview of the Police. But the DSS Act also empowers the agency to act in matters relating to national security. Was the DSS action ultra vires or beyond its statutory powers?
For the moment, most Nigerians do not care too much. Judges have gotten away with so much in Nigeria--granting interlocutory and perpetual injunctions; and granting bail applications and rulings with corruption smeared all over them.
If President Buhari intends to live up to his promise of fighting corruption, cleansing a Judiciary dogged by allegations of graft and bribery will be a good place to start.
More lawyers and Judges will be arrested in the days ahead for alleged corrupt practices, several security sources have told Pulse. It's a shake up; perhaps on a scale we've never seen in the other arms of government.
As long as the Judges are tried in accordance with the laws of the land, there'll be few admonitions out there. Judges, after all, are not under immunity nor are they above the laws of the land.