We refer to the confessions of crime made by Hon Justice John Inyang Okoro, JSC and Hon Justice Sylvester Ngwuta JSC and call on both justices of Nigeria’s apex court to resign from office and service within the next 120 hours.
Our considered call made with deepest sense of responsibility and after the broadest consultation is founded on the fact that both Justice Okoro and Justice Ngwuta confessed to have suppressed an alleged corruption advances from two ex-governors, serving as ministers in the federal government, contrary To clear provisions of the law.
While Justice Okoro claimed that he was approached by the former governor f Rivers State and current Minister of Transportation, Barr. Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi to influence the outcome of the Appeal Court in the Akwa Ibom State gubernatorial Election Petition, Justice Ngwuta deposed to an affidavit claiming that both Amaechi and Dr Ogbonnaya Onu, tried to influence the outcome of Supreme Court cases in Rivers and Abia State respectively.
Our concern here is not whether the allegation by the senior judicial officials as contained in their respective letters to the National Judicial Council (NJC) are true of false, as the NJC and /or the Federal High Court will be in a position to establish that in trial, when the judges are expected to substantiate the allegations.
Of immediate concern to us is that both judges have confessed to committing of crimes if their allegations are true and would still have committed a crime, if they are false.
Section 23, Sub-sections 1, 2 and 3 of the Corrupt Practices an Other Related Acts, 2000 ion of persons Act states as follows:
‘Duty to Report Bribery Transactions :23
(1) Any Public officer to whom any gratification is given, promised or offered, in contravention of any provision of this act, shall report such gift, or offer together with the name, if known of the person who gave ,promised or offered such gratification to him, to the nearest officer of the Commission (ICPC) or Police officer.
(2) Any person from whom gratification has been solicited or obtained or from whom an attempt has been made to collect such in contravention of any provision of the act, shall at the earliest opportunity thereafter report such soliciting, or obtaining ,or attempt to obtain the gratification together with the name, if known or a true and full description of the person who solicited or obtained, or attempted to obtain the gratification from him to the nearest officer of the commission or Police officer.
(3) Any person who fails without reasonable excuse to comply with subsections (1) and (2) shall be guilty of an offence , and shall on conviction, be liable to a fine, not exceeding One hundred Thousand Naira ,or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years or both fine and imprisonment.
In the case of Justice Okoro, he claimed to have informed the Chief Justice of Nigera (CJN) only on February 1, 2016, nearly one year after the said advances were allegedly made. In the case of Justice Ngwuta no such report, according to his own confession was made at all until after his arrest by the Directorate of State security (DSS) and subsequent bail on self-recognition.
These judges were by the letters of the cited law supposed to approach the Police or the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) and lodge a report, which ,they failed to do.
Given the foregoing, both judges have admitted guilt and have indicted themselves to be guilty in line with Section 23 (1 and 3) of the cited act. And this is not within the bracket of responsibilities of the National Judicial Commission (NJC).
In making this call, we are fully conscious and well –advised on the legal principle that confession is superior to any other evidence.
This is without prejudice imposed by law on the two judges to prove their assertions as it affects the accused ministers in court, failing which the two judges would have fallen into the self-made trap of lying under oath and contravening the law of perjury, which is still criminal in nature and beyond the responsibilities of the NJC.
We are equally surprised that, particularly in the case of Justice Okoro, who claimed to have informed the CJN, albeit one year later, the office of the CJN did not advise or remind the former on what steps to take in the light of the subsisting law, so cited ,but rather sat on the complaint if true. Hence the only reason why we would not call on the CJN to resign is because he has two weeks to retire from the bench, from office and from service.
Our considered call must be sharply distinguished from well-intended request by the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) for the judges to stand aside as a confidence boosting measure, curiously opposed by the NJC.
Whereas NBA’s request is founded on temporary withdrawal of service, as was done in the case of Justice Ayo Salami, JCA, former President of the Court of Appeal, pending the consideration of the allegations in the NJC and in court, ours is a call for resignation based on respective self-indictments evident in the respective statements of the two senior judges.
We call on all well-meaning Nigerians, to take timely steps to get these two otherwise honourable justices, who have brought odium to the judiciary to grant the institution a reprieve from the shadows of corruption.
We insist that anyone, no matter his/her current position, political persuasion or standing in society indicted by any prima fascie evidence produced in the course of trial of the judges, including the ministers mentioned should be prosecuted, but certainly not on the basis of verbal public declarations by embattled ,highly placed suspects.
Once again we call on all facets of the judiciary and all strata of the Nigerian society to appreciate the common good contained for Nigeria in winning the way against corruption, which this federal government is advisedly pushing to the hilt.
Hon. Auwal Jalla Aliyu, North East
Engr. Yahaya Bashir, North West
Mr. Sola Lawal, South West
Hon Fortune Panebi, South South
Engr Usman Adaji, North Central
Arc. Okelo Madukaife , South East , Secretary
Engr. Joe Igbokwe , Chairman.