More judges are under probe by security and anti-graft agencies for allegedly receiving monthly stipends from the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA), Our Newsmen learnt at the weekend.
The stipends were allegedly paid from the $15billion meant for arms procurement, which was mismanaged by the administration of ex-President Goodluck Jonathan.
It was also learnt that the National Judicial Council (NJC) has received more than 20 petitions against some judges.
A Preliminary Complaint Assessment Committee is said to be sieving the petitions to establish whether or not there are prima facie evidence against their Lordships.
But the committee has found no merit in the four petitions against Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court because “he acted within the law”.
According to sources, security and anti-graft agencies are looking into the activities and conduct of more judges bordering on abuse of oath.
The NJC has sanctioned more than nine judges this year for some infractions.
They are: Justice O. Gbajabiamila (Lagos State High Court); Justice Idris M. J. Evuti (Niger State High Court); Justice Tanko Yusuf Usman (Niger State High Court); Justice Rita Ofili-Ajumogobia; Justice Mohammed Yunusa of the Enugu Division of the Federal High Court; Justice Olamide Oloyede (Osun State High Court); Justice Ladan Tsamiya of the Ilorin division of the Court of Appeal; JusticeI. A. Umezulike, Chief Judge of Enugu State; and Justice Kabiru Auta of Kano State High Court.
But many more judges may be shown the way out of the bench for corrupt practices.
It was learnt that security and anti-corruption agencies have stumbled on documents showing that some judges were on monthly stipends from the ONSA.
The said stipends were disbursed from an account which was tagged “Security Vote”.
Some judges benefited from the account in form of “assistance”; others were bought Sports Utility Vehicles (SUVs) for official purpose, it was learnt.
A source, who spoke in confidence, said: “In one instance, there were allegations that some outstanding allowances and SUVs were purchased from the account for judges based on a request by some heads of some courts.
“Many contingency requests were accommodated from the three arms of government by ONSA under the guise of Security Vote. This is one of the reasons why the prosecution is opposed to the open trial of ex-National Security Adviser, Mr. Sambo Dasuki.”
Another source said since May, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had been watching four high court judges in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) who allegedly frustrate the probe of high-profile corruption cases.
The judges were said to have developed a penchant for going soft with suspects who approach their courts to stop their trial by the EFCC for corruption.
“The affected judges have been indulging in ‘arrangee’ injunctions,” the source added.
Meanwhile, the NJC has more than 20 petitions against judges in the lower and appellate courts.
A member of the NJC said: “There are many outstanding petitions before the NJC against more judges. These allegations border on delay in delivering judgment, abuse of judicial oath, request for bribe and others.
“But the Preliminary Complaint Assessment Committee is going through the claims, affidavits in support and evidence against the judges.
“It is when a prima facie case is established against them that a report will be tabled before the NJC for investigation and disciplinary action.
“The process is cumbersome and painstaking. Those behind these petitions owe the NJC a duty to prove their allegations beyond reasonable doubt. Otherwise, petitions without evidence won’t be considered by the council.”
The source added: “For instance, four petitions were filed against Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court but all the allegations were frivolous.
“The committee discovered that the judge discharged his duties within the law; he committed no infractions and the petitions were dismissed at the preliminary stage.”
According to the rules, the Chairman of NJC may “ assess a complaint or may, at his discretion, refer it to a Preliminary Complaint Assessment Committee where such has been established.
“The Preliminary Complaint Assessment Committee shall review the complaint referred to it and advise the Council whether the complaint should be: • dismissed; • terminated and not proceeded with because an intervening event has taken the complaint; • terminated because remedial action has been taken that makes action on the complaint no longer necessary; • referred to the subject Judicial Officer for his response; • referred to an investigation committee should his response not be sufficient to dispose of the matter without an investigation.”
Paragraph 21 of Part One of the Third Schedule to the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria( as amended) says: “The National Judicial Council shall have the power to:
Recommend to the President from among the list of persons submitted to it by the Federal Judicial Service Commission, persons for appointment to the Offices of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, the Justices of the Supreme Court, the President and Justices of the Court of Appeal, the Chief Judge and Judges of the Federal High Court, and the Judicial Service Committee of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, persons for appointment to the Offices of the Chief Judge and Judges of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, the Grand Kadi and Kadis of the Sharia Court of Appeal of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja and the President and Judges of the Customary Court of Appeal of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja;
recommend to the President the removal from office of the Judicial Officers specified in sub-paragraph (a) of this paragraph, and to exercise disciplinary control over such Officers;
recommend to the Governors from among the list of persons submitted to it by the State Judicial Service Commissions persons for appointments to the Offices of the Chief Judges of the States and Judges of the High Courts of the States, the Grand Kadis and Kadis of the Sharia Courts of Appeal of the States; and President and Judges of the Customary Courts of Appeal of the States;
recommend to the Governors the removal from office of the Judicial Officers specified in sub-paragraph (c) of this paragraph, and to exercise disciplinary control over such officers;
collect, control and disburse all moneys, capital and recurrent, for the judiciary;
advise the President and Governors in any matter pertaining to the judiciary as may be referred to the Council by the President or the Governors;
appoint, dismiss and exercise disciplinary control over members and staff of the Council;
control and disburse all monies, capital and recurrent, for the services of the Council; and
deal with all other matters relating to broad issues of policy and administration.
Justice Gbajabiamila allegedly delivered judgment in a matter before him 22 months after written addresses were adopted by all the parties and 35 months after the close of evidence in the suit.
Justices Evuti and Tanko Yusuf Usman, guilty of allegations that they falsified their dates of birth.
Justice Rita Ofili-Ajumogobia of the Federal High Court barred from elevation to the appellate court for allegedly adjourning pre-Election matter severally until the termination of the life span of the Ogun State House of Assembly.
Justice Mohammed Yunusa was recommended for compulsory retirement for making orders restraining the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission and other law enforcement agencies from investigating some persons, including a former Minister of Aviation, Stella Oduah.
Hon. Justice Mohammed Ladan Tsamiya thrice, in his residence in Sokoto, Gwarinpa, Abuja and Owerri where on each occasion, he demanded from him the sum of N200, 000.000 (Two Hundred Million Naira) to influence the Court of Appeal Panel in Owerri or risk losing the case.
Justice Oloyede was sanctioned because of the petition she wrote to the Osun State House of Assembly against Governor Rauf Aregbesola, and failure to conduct herself in such a manner as to preserve the dignity of her office and impartiality and independence of the judiciary.”
The Chief Judge of Enugu State failed to deliver Judgment in Suit No E/13/2008: Ajogwu V Nigerian Bottling Company Limited in which final addresses were adopted on 23rd October, 2014. The judgment was however delivered on 9th March, 2015, about 126 days after addresses were adopted, contrary to constitutional provisions that judgment should be delivered within a period of 90 days.
Justice Kabiru Auta allegedly received N125million from a litigant through an account approved by him.