And he said it with a face so straight, Nigerians watching on Television let out a collective gasp in disbelief.
Amaechi now has the opportunity to prove that he meant those words. He’s got the opportunity to shut Nigerians up for good--Nigerians who still believe he isn't as clean as he claims he is.
And he’s got to begin with the allegations levelled against him by Justice John Inyang Okoro.
In a letter addressed to the Chief Justice of Nigeria and Chairman, National Judicial Council (NJC), Mahmud Mohammed, Okoro said he is being victimized by Amaechi because he refused to accede to the request of the Minister to swing judgments the way of the governing party—APC.
A Supreme Court Justice, Okoro was one among a handful of Judges whose homes were raided by the Department of State Services (DSS) on the night of October 7, 2016, for alleged corruption.
According to the DSS, wads of cash in local and hard currencies were found in the homes of these Judges.
Okoro said he could explain the sums of money found in his apartment.
Said Okoro: “Before releasing us, they asked me to make a statement concerning the money found in my house. I told them that having received the sum of USD24,000 (Twenty four thousand dollars) and £10, 000 (Ten thousand pounds) a year for the past three years of my sojourn in this court as annual medical/ vacation allowances, and having not spent more than £5,000 (Five thousand pounds) on each of three trips I have so far made abroad, I was entitled to have more than the amount recovered.
“Put differently, my Lord, the money was the balance of my estacode received from this court for the past three years. This is quite outside the estacodes I have received for the International Conferences I have so far attended since joining the bench of this court”, the Judge added.
We have no way of knowing if the Judge is lying about the source of his wealth. We’d rather leave that for the courts to prove.
But what he wrote concerning Amaechi shouldn’t be left for the courts alone. It should interest us all.
“My Lord, I strongly believe that this my travail is not unconnected with the verbal report I made to you on 1 February, 2016 about the visit to my official residence of H/E Rotimi Amaechi, former Governor of Rivers State and now Minister of Transportation. In that report, I told you my Lord, that Mr Amaechi said that the President of Nigeria and the All Progressives Congress mandated him to inform me that they must win their election Appeals in respect of Rivers State, Akwa Ibom and Abia State at all costs.
“For Akwa Ibom State, he alleged that he sponsored Mr. Umana Umana, candidate of All Progressives Congress for that election and that if he lost Akwa Ibom appeal, he would have lost a fortune.
“Mr Amaechi also said that he had already visited you and that you had agreed to make me a member of the panel that would hear the appeals. He further told me that Mr. Umana would be paying me millions of Naira monthly if I co-operated with them.
“My response, as I told you on that date was that it does not lie within my power to grant his request and that I would do all within my power not to be in the panel for Akwa Ibom State. That notwithstanding, the All Progressives Congress in Akwa Ibom State which lost the appeal at the Supreme Court believe that my presence in the Supreme Court made them to lose the appeal. Could I have resigned from the Supreme Court simply because people of Akwa Ibom State had a matter before it?”
These are very weighty allegations. And Amaechi’s immediate response from his aide, David Iyofor, won’t cut it.
“This accusation from Justice Okoro against Amaechi is a figment of his imagination, concocted to obfuscate and politicize the real issues for his arrest and DSS investigation of allegations of corruption against him”, said the Minister.
“The claims by Justice Okoro against Amaechi are blatant lies, bereft of any iota of truth or even logic. Amaechi did not and has never approached Justice Okoro in respect of the cases Okoro mentioned or any other case.
“This is a cheap attempt, albeit, political move to drag the name of Amaechi into something he knows nothing about. Justice Okoro should face his issues and leave Amaechi out of it. He will be hearing from our lawyers”.
We can’t wait. But we'll need a more robust rebuttal from Amaechi. A point-by-point rebuttal of Okoro's allegations.
We can pick as many holes as we want in Okoro's letter. First, why is he speaking up now? If he had these much allegations against Amaechi, why wait till he's drowning to drag Amaechi down with him?
The Governorship contest in Abia State was between PDP's Okezie Ikpeazu and APGA's Alex Otti. The APC contested the election in Abia, but Otti and Ikpeazu were always the front-runners. The APC stood no chance in Abia and only harvested paltry votes. How would Amaechi have coerced a Judge to rule in APC's favour in Abia, given that the party wasn't even in the races?
Justice Okoro said he reported the attempt to influence the ruling of the Rivers election to the Chief Justice in February of 2016. The Supreme Court upheld Nyesom Wike's election as Governor of Rivers State on January 27, 2016. How do you influence a judgment after it has been ruled by the highest court in the land?
Is Okoro just mixing up dates here or he's plain lying? Is his sense of time and space just warped?
Having said all of that, Amaechi is serving as Minister in an administration that claims to abhor corruption. President Muhammadu Buhari was also referenced by Justice Okoro in his allegations. This is not just Amaechi on trial here. This is President Buhari and all he stands for, on trial as well.
And they have to come clean. The sooner, the better for everyone.
Nigerians are watching and waiting. We expect more than banal press statements from the accused persons in the days ahead.