One of the fall-outs from the recent raid by the Department of State Services [DSS] on Justices of Nigeria’s Supreme Court over corruption allegations is the can of worms being unearthed within the judiciary.
On such case is contained in the admissions made by a judge of the Supreme Court, Justice John Inyang Okoro over his annual medical/vacation allowances.
Confronted with the large sum of amount of money found in his house by DSS during the raid, Justice Okoro defended the monies as his ‘legitimate earning’.
In a letter addressed to the Chief Justice of Nigeria [CJN], Justice Mahmoud Mohammed, Okoro faulted the DSS for asking him questions about the source of the money.
According to him, out of the 38,800 USD and 3.5 million Naira discovered in his house, the sum of $24,000 USD and 10,000 were his annual medical/vacation allowances for the past three years.
However, more baffling is his assertion that he did not spend more than N5,000 on each of the three trips he has so far made abroad.
Inyang added that he was entitled to have more than the amount recovered from him by the DSS.
Normally, such trips gulp tens of thousands of foreign currencies depending on airline, class, choice of hotels, relaxations, etc.
He claimed that the recovered money was the balance of his estacode received from the Supreme Court for the past three years.
Nigerians will do well to ask why allocate medical allowances to someone who is not sick in the first place as Justice Okoro just admitted that he “did not spend” the allotted money?
He, thereby, incontrovertibly suggested that he was never sick, hence did not arise the need to spend on a non-existent health challenge.
Further, Justice Okoro said that “he did not spend more than N5,000 on each of the three trips he has so far made abroad.”
This again calls for concern: How did he fund his trips abroad with not “more than N5,000”?
Is he indirectly admitting that he was sponsored by some person else, or group of persons, or from proceeds of slush funds?
One more cause for thought is the motive behind storing such large sums of money in his closet, even though critics will argue that one chooses how to “save” his/her earnings.
Why would a learned judge want to hide lumps of cash in closet if they were legitimately received from financial institutions, and not proceeds of corruption?
Other fascinating aspects of Justice Okoro letter is his revelation over how former Rivers State governor, Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi tried to bribe and intimidate him into giving a contrary judgment in the Rivers, Akwa Ibom, and Abia States governorship elections.
Okoro, whose house was raided by the DSS on October 8, alleged that Amaechi had approached him to compromise the governorship election appeals from the mentioned states.
He narrated how Amaechi, on several occasion visited him, even at his home, to press his demands.
In a letter to the chief justice of Nigeria (CJN), he wrote:
“Mr Ameachi said All Progressive Congress 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 costs.
“For Akwa Ibom State, he alleged that he sponsored Mr Umana Umana, candidate of All Progressive Congress for the election, and if he lost Akwa Ibom appeal he would have lost a fortune.
“Mr Ameachi 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 cooperated with them.”
He reminded the CJN that he had reported the bribery attempt to him in February.
“I strongly believe that my travail is not undermined but with the verbal report I made to you on 7th February 2016, about the visit to my official residence by Honourable Rotimi Amaechi, former governor of Rivers state and now minister of transportation,” Okoro said.
However, Amaechi has denied the allegation, describing it as a figment of Okoro’s imagination.
He said: “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,” he said in a statement issued by his media office.
“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.”
He also threatened to sue the judge.
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