Posted by Ehi Ekhator | 27 October 2016 | 3,233 times
I quite appreciate readers who kept in touch with me in response to my comment on recent happenings in Nigeria, especially 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 Muhammadu Buhari’s administration has been adulated in a few quarters over his affirmed reality in battling corruption in the nation, while others say he engages the State Security Service (SSS), otherwise called the Department of State Services (DSS) and other security divisions, to scare his political adversaries.
The DSS employed 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, mobilised 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 who communicated their backing for the arrests, while some completely expressed concerns over the assault. Eminent Nigerians like the former Minister of Aviation, Mr Femi Fani-Kayode and a renowned 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 legitimise 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 US$2 million, 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, if these demands are not met.”
Similarly, Chief 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.
His words: “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 been 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, utilise civilised 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 was 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 the 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 Jack 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 Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for embezzling billions of naira. Till today, the case has been shut down; instead, he was rewarded with a ministerial position.
Recently, Buhari’s Chief of Staff, (CoS), Abba Kyari, was accused of taking N500 million 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 remains in power. Confronted with the evidence, the CoS reportedly claimed he was helping their party, All Progressives Congress, 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 Kyari 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 N500 million. The report also said that when the EFCC arrested Omokore, Buhari’s CoS told the President that it was the EFCC chair, Ibrahim 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 EFCC 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, General Yusuf Buratai, who was found to have used Nigerian Army funds to purchase houses in Dubai.
*The Minister of Internal Affairs, General Abdulrahman Dambazau (retd) who bought houses 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, 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 remains 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. Eventually, the whistle-blower is now suspended for speaking out 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, Nyesom Wike of Rivers State. The Federal Government always find Rivers State vital, due to the state’s 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 is this a political war in disguise? Are Nigerians being fed with the absolute truth or the sweet-coated information? Why are the members of the opposition 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 President Buhari’s administration is 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 extremists 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 assignments 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 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 rerun election for any or all of Khana, Bonny, Gokana, Andoni, Eleme and Tai local government areas of Rivers State or any part of the rerun election scheduled for March 19, 2016, which election was subsequently suspended or postponed. Justice Liman narrowly missed being ‘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 High Court Judge – eldest grandson of a great former CJN of Nigeria, Justice Adetokunbo Ademola – knew his onions. He came from a tradition. He could not be pushed around by powers that be. He ordered thrice that former National Security Adviser, Col Sambo Dasuki (retd) be released. This did not go down well with Buhari and his government. They disobeyed his orders and concocted a new offence to re-arrest Dasuki. Justice Ademola of the Federal High Court in Abuja, also on May 26, 2016 dismissed Buhari’s preliminary objection in a suit filed by an Abuja-based legal practitioner Mr Nnamdi Nwokocha-Ahaiwe, concerning Buhari’s certificate (WAEC). Now, 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 currently being singled out for prosecution is to weaken their stands against the APC administration.
•Mr Ekhator, Publisher of Naija Centre News, is a Nigerian journalist based in the United Kingdom.He can be reached via e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; Phone: +447459853859; Twitter/instagram: @ehiehidan
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