Two Justices of the Supreme Court – Justice Inyang Okoro and Justice Sylvester Ngwuta – are among the 15 judges under probe by the EFCC and the Department of State Services (DSS) for alleged corruption.
It was also learnt yesterday that the National Judicial Council (NJC) will write to judges under probe to stop perform their official responsibilities until their innocence is established.
The NJC, which took the decision last week, was said to have decided to formally notify the judges to avoid a haphazard compliance with the directive.
A source said the letters will be sent to them before the end of this week.
It was also learnt that the EFCC is preparing charges against the six judges it had interrogated.
One of the judges, whose case file was being “fine-tuned”, might face a 12-count charges.
Also, all the 15 judges under investigation by the EFCC and the DSS have had their movement restricted to the country pending the conclusion of the probe.
The EFCC team is believed to have discovered that suspicious funds were lodged in the accounts of more Supreme Court Justices.
The Federal High Court and the National Industrial Court (NIC) judges under investigation are: Justices Mohammed Nasir Yunusa; Hyeladzira Ajiya Nganjiwa; Musa Haruna Kurya; Agbadu James Fishim; Uwani Abba Aji; and Rita Ofili-Ajumogobia, Presiding Justice of the Court of Appeal, Ilorin Division, Justice Mohammed Ladan Tsamiya, Justice Adeniyi Ademola( Federal High Court); the former Chief Judge of Enugu State, Justice I. A. Umezulike; Justice Kabiru Auta of Kano State High Court; Justice Muazu Pindiga (Gombe State High Court); Justice Bashir Sukola and Justice Ladan Manir, from the Kaduna State High Court..
An EFCC source said: “From our findings so far, there is much rot in the Judiciary.
“More Supreme Court Justices have questions to answer on suspicious funds in their accounts. We cannot give you their names but it is certain that the apex court needs a surgical cleansing.
“We are already preferring charges against some of the six judges of the Federal High Court and the National Industrial Court interrogated by our team. In fact, one of them will face a 12-count charge.
“ We do not want piecemeal arraignment of the judges in court. We plan to file charges against all of them at once.”
On the restriction of the 15 judges, the source said: “It is only in exceptional circumstances like ill-health and any emergency that these judges will be allowed to step out of the country. They have all been watch-listed pending the conclusion of investigation or their trial.”
The NJC is said to be unhappy with the Executive’s delay in acting on its recommendation of the retirement or dismissal of erring judicial officers.
The practice is that the council writes to the President (in the case of a judge of a federal court) and to the governor (in the case of a judge of a state court) about its recommendation. Either the President or the governor is required to write back to the NJC about its acceptance and execution of the council’s recommendation.
It was learnt that in most cases the Executive has always been reluctant in implementing the recommendations of the NJC and writing back.
The Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Mahmud Muhammed, expressed a similar reservation in an October 26, 2016 letter to a group, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP).
In the letter written by his Senior Special Assistant, H. S. Sa’eed, the CJN said: “The failure on the part of the executive arm of government to act upon recommendations by the NJC cannot be blamed upon the NJC.”
He said the Constitution empowers the NJC only to recommend to the President and the governors the removal from office of judicial officers and to exercise disciplinary control over such judicial officers, which in effect is the extent of its power to discipline.
The CJN added that it was not within the powers of the NJC to implement its recommendation of retirement or dismissal, but that the most it could do is to suspend an erring judicial officer until its recommendations are accepted by the Executive.
The Nation’s investigation revealed that the President and some governors are yet to act on some specific recommendations involving judicial officers, such as Justice Musa Ibrahim Anka (Zamfara High Court), Justice Mohammed Yunusa (Federal High Court), Justice Olamide Oloyede (Osun State High Court) and Justice I. E. Umezulike (Chief Judge of Enugu State) and Kabiru Auta (Kano State High Court).
In 2011, the NJC directed that Justice Anka be sacked, having been found guilty of gross misconduct (bribery and corruption). It found that the judge received bribe from Zubairu Abdulmalik to deliver judgment in his favour.
Justice Anka, before then had been on suspension by the NJC since July 2010, following a petition written against him by Zamfara State DSS, alleging that he received bribe from one Zubairu Abdulmalik in order to deliver judgment in his favour.
The NJC, in July, recommended to President Muhammadu Buhari that Justice Yunusa be compulsorily retired for granting interim orders and perpetual injunctions, restraining Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF), Inspector General of Police (IGP), Independent Corrupt Practices and related offences Commission (ICPC) and EFCC from arresting, investigating and prosecuting some persons accused of corruption in some cases.
Also in July, the NJC recommended to the Osun State Governor, the compulsory retirement from office of Justice Olamide Oloyede for failing “to conduct herself in such a manner as to preserve the dignity of her office and impartiality and independence of the judiciary.
The NJC, in a statement on July 18, 2016, said Justice Oloyedee “derailed when she wrote a petition against the Osun State Governor and his Deputy to members of the State House of Assembly and circulated same to 36 persons and organisations”.
The petition was said to have contained political statements, unsubstantiated allegations and accusations aimed at deriding, demeaning and undermining the Government of Osun State.
On the case of Justice Auta, the NJC, in a statement on September 30, 2016, recommended to the Kano State Governor, Alhaji Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, that the judge be dismissed and be handed over to the police for prosecution following its findings on the allegations levelled against him by Alhaji Kabiru Yakassai.
Yakassai had petitioned the NJC, claiming that he paid N125, 000.000.00 into an account approved by the Judge.
The NJC also recommended that Justice Auta be handed over to the Assistant Inspector-General of Police, Zone 1, Kano, for prosecution
Also in September, the NJC recommended Justice Umezulike to the Governor of Enugu State, Rt. Hon. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, for compulsory retirement.
The council confirmed the allegations levelled against him by Barrister Peter Eze.
It was alleged that Justice Umezulike failed to deliver judgement in suit No E/13/2008: Ajogwu V Nigerian Bottling Company Limited in which final addresses were adopted on 23rd October, 2014.
The judgement was however delivered on 9th March, 2015, about 126 days after addresses had been adopted, contrary to constitutional provisions that judgement should be delivered within 90 days.
It was learnt that neither the President nor the governors have written the NJC in relation to its recommendations on the judges.