By Our Reporters
The trial of Walter Kanu Onnoghen, the Chief Justice of Nigeria , CJN, appears to have opened up a can of worms about how politicians corrupt the Judges. Investigation by the Value News shows that Judges may have played into the hand of the politicians because of the alleged Justice Ayo Salami saga and the decision by the late Alloysius Katsina- Alu, the then CJN to transfer the duties of the Court of Appeal in looking into election petitions to the Supreme Court in 2011.
Recall that there was a gubernatorial election petitions in the Appeal Court and there was rumour that Justice Ayo Salami, the President had received money from the politicians to give judgment. The late Katsina- Alu, the then CJN, according to sources did not find this funny and was said to have ordered that the judgment must be stopped but it was allegedly turned down by the Appeal Court President.
In apparent show of anger , the late CJN, was said to have decided to take over the matter that was previously meant for the Court of Appeal which may have opened the door for corruption of theSupreme Court Judges by the politicians. It was gathered that the late CJN, ensured that the Law was amended that the Supreme Court can now handle matters relating gubernatorial election petitions to make it effective.
The embattled CJN, had alluded that there was no basis for the takeover of gubernatorial petitions by the Supreme Court from the Court of Appeal. The government may have simplified matters on how to handle gubernatorial elections in the 36 states of the Federation including the FCT with the establishment 40 Divisions of the Court of Appeal.
This is to ensure that If there are gubernatorial matters , may be within three months or four months, the 36 petitions arising from the gubernatorial elections in the states would have been answered. The late former CJN, may have made matters worse by allowing the Supreme Court to take upon itself to take 36 gubernatorial elections with a panel of three only thus playing into the hand of the politicians who are ready to spend any amount to get favourable judgment.
Many believe that what is happening to the apex Court as epitomised by Onnoghen, the CJN, is a self inflicted injury by themselves. Why should they take over jurisdiction of petitions on gubernatorial matters, an analyst queried.
There is no gain saying the fact that this question of corruption is the brain work of the politicians. The embattled Cross River state CJN , had reportedly said that since 1999,” the politicians have been corrupting all judges. He was said to have cited an instance before one of his interviewers, where a governor has boasted that it is not how much we are going to pay the lawyers, but how much we are going to pay to the judges”. It is as bad as that, he had said.
It is not surprising why he is not contesting with the President Muhammadu Buhari anti- Corruption war and expose of the amount in his various foreign Accounts. He has every reason to worry ”I have been practicing law for the past 50 yrs”, he reportedly said. He reportedly said that What the government can get from the Code of Conduct Bureau, CCB, it is getting it from public opinion, lamenting ”we are all bewildered”.
It should not surprise many as Buhari is not in a hurry to bow to pressures from both official and unofficial quarters to the embattled CJN of his position as the Head of the country’s Judiciary. This is to avoid giving the opposition People Democratic Party room to say he had sacked because he wants appoint a new CJN who wound dance to his tune. Note that Yemi Osinbajo, the Vice President , has said that the Katsina state born Nigerian President is not interfering with the CCB trial of the CJN. He wants the agency to do their job before any action would be taken against him.
Dennis Aghaya, Execution Secretary of the Abuja based Anti Corruption Data Base a Initiative and Research, who may have started the troubles for the CJN over non declaration of Assets and operating different foreign Accounts in Standard Chartered Bank may still be on. The President may have sent a signal to the Onnoghen last April that there is trouble when he confronted him with the rumour making the round that the anti-corruption was losing steam which he handled with a wave of hand.
Despite the different foreign Accounts that had been discovered in his name with huge Account balance as at November 2014 and November 2016, more suspicious funds in his domiciliary Accounts by the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit, NFIU, which had been mandated to take over the investigation from the CCB.
The Nation has reported there are alleged suspicious transactions including an $800,000 Stand Bank Investment Subscription and additional $630,000 allegedly lodged in some of the Accounts through what financial analysts described as structured payments in tranches of $10,000 each.
Most of the lodgments which were effected between 2012 and 2016 were said to have been undeclared in the CJN’s assets declaration form. The NFIU, may have restricted their investigation of the embattle CJN on the operation of the five domiciliary Accounts with about $3 million in which they were given brief on by the government to look into.
Although, the CJN, may have missed the CCB sitting twice, which people had said may delay the judgment on him.
Hiding under the Law,Onnoghen and his Lawyers were said to have taken the case to a Federal High Court in Abuja and the National Industrial Court of Nigeria which had ordered the CCB last Tuesday to stop further trial of the CJN, but Danladi Umar, the Tribunal Chairman , was said to have turned it down insisting that the trial must continue. Umar may have his reason for doing so. ”The Courts were of coordinate jurisdiction with the Tribunal and so lacked the powers to direct or supervise its proceedings”.
While the legal battle continues to free Onnoghen, the CJN, Detectives who had swooped into his foreign Accounts were said to have reported that most of the ”lodgments and transactions in the domiciliary Accounts are suspicious.
The findings was an indication that the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal need a thorough purge to restore the dignity of the Judiciary which is the last hope of the common man. the CJN, was said to have admitted that there is corruption in this country, an indication that Buhari knows what he is doing to sanitise the Judiciary which has been polluted by the politicians.
Appearing on Channels Television recently, Robert Clark, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, was emphatic that what the government seeks to do by going to the CCB is to ‘exposé the rot at the Supreme Court under Onnoghen, the CJN and not to vilify him”.
Clark who could not hide his feelings said ”any senior Lawyer saying ”there is no corruption at the Supreme Court as at today is a liar”, noting that” Lawyers are the vessel of corruption in the Judiciary”. A Appealing to Nigerians to support the government drive to reduce corruption, sanitise the Judiciary and ensure law and order, he said it is the only way for any of us to ”progress in this country”. In an emotional outburst , he had declared: it is difficult to get justice in from the country Judicial system, adding that it is worse , f the person is poor with no connection.
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