One of the arrested Justices of the Supreme Court by the Department of State Security Service (DSS), Justice John Iyang Okoro has written to the National Judicial Council (NJC) where he indicted former governor of Rivers State, Rotimi Amaechi and the All Progressives Congress (APC) 2015 governorship candidate in Akwa Ibom State, Umana Umana for offering him bribe to get favourable judgment.
Explaining the circumstances that led to his travails, Justice Okoro said at the time he wrote the report to the CJN, the DSS had not confronted him with any petition or complaint from any quarters whatsoever.
“They grilled me, asked questions on some non-existing properties around the country. They also doubted the age of my children alleging that they are toddlers. This is sad and unbelievable.
“My Lord, I strongly believe that my travail is not unconnected with the verbal report I made on the first visit to my official residence by Amaechi in February, 2016. In that report, I told My Lord that Amaechi said the president of Nigeria and the APC mandated him to inform me that they must win their Election Appeals in respect of Rivers, Akwa Ibom and Abia states at all costs. For Akwa Ibom State, he alleged that he sponsored Umana for that election and that if he lost the Akwa Ibom appeal, he would have lost a fortune.
“Amaechi also said he had already visited you and that you had agreed to make me a member of the panel that would hear the appeals. He further told me that Umana would be paying me millions of naira, monthly, if I co-operated with them. My response, as I told you on that date was that it does not lie within my power to grant his request and that I would do all within my power not to be on the panel for Akwa Ibom state.
“My Lord graciously left me out of the panel for Akwa Ibom State. That notwithstanding, the APC in Akwa Ibom lost the appeal at the Supreme Court and believed that my presence in the Supreme Court made them lose the appeal.
“Could I have resigned from the Supreme Court simply because people of Akwa Ibom had a matter before it?”
Not done yet, Justice Okoro also narrated how operatives of the Department of State Security (DSS) disguised as officials from the Presidency to lure him out of his house.
“I received a phone call from an unfamiliar caller. He introduced himself as an official from the Presidency. He told me he had a letter for me from Mr. President. I immediately left my study room and went to open the door. Upon the door being opened, l saw so many heavily armed men with an inscription ‘DSS’ on their uniform. One of them, who was in mufti told me they were to search my house.
“I requested that I be allowed to inform the CJN but, they rebuffed (me). Rather, they seized my phone from me.
“My Lord, the DSS operatives searched all the rooms in the house meticulously. They also searched the Boy’s quarters and my official vehicles parked outside. At the end of the search, which lasted till about 1.30am of October 8, 2016, they took away the following items: One iPad 2; Three phones (only one active); $38,800; N3.5 million only and four cheque books.
“The above items were documented on the back page of the search warrant they produced and we signed. Also, the DSS operatives informed me that their Director-General, Lawal Daura wanted to see me that night.
“I requested to visit their office upon the break of the day but, they refused. In view of the presence of the heavily armed men who accompanied them and who were pointing their gun at me from all angles, I had no choice than to follow them to their office that night.
I was detained in their office till Sunday, October 9, 2016 and upon your Lordship’s intervention that Sunday, they released me in the evening of that Sunday. My Lord, I noticed that they also brought other judicial officers serving and retired to their office. So, before releasing us, they asked me to make a statement concerning the money found in my house.
I told them that I received $1,000 and £10,000 a year for the past three years of my sojourn in this court as annual medical/vacation allowances and having not spent more than £5,000 on each of three trips I have so far made abroad, I was entitled to have more than the amount recovered from me. Put differently, My Lord, the money was the balance of my estacode received from this court for the past three years. This is quite outside the estacodes I have received for the International Conferences I have so far attended since joining the bench of this court
“My Lord will recall that I also reported that Umana visited my residence before Amaechi’s visit. He also made the same request of assistance to win his appeal at the supreme Court. My Lord, up till now, I do not know what I have done. Over the years, from the Magistracy till date, I have done my best to eschew all forms of corrupt practices.”
Justice Okoro insisted in the letter to the NJC that in all his years of practice, he has never demanded nor received bribe from anybody.
“I have not received any bribe from anybody. My Lord is quite aware of my position as regards those who take bribe in the judiciary. I detest it and have no room for any adjustment. That is the truth, My Lord and I urge the NJC to disregard all the lies and media campaign orchestrated by those who felt I purposely refused to help them win their election appeals at the Supreme Court.
“I am confident that God will vindicate me at the end of this ordeal.
“I take it as a temporary set-back. I remain loyal to my oath of office and the need to be just and fair in handling matters before me. My Lord, thanks for your kind attention. Please, accept my assurances of the highest regards.”
But, Amaechi, through his Media Office, yesterday night, refuted Justice Okoro’s claims. He said the judge’s allegations were simply the product of a fertile mind.
“This accusation from Justice Okoro is a figment of his imagination; concocted to obfuscate and politicise the real issue for his arrest and DSS investigation of allegations of corruption against him.
“The claims by Justice Okoro are blatant lies, bereft of any iota of truth or even logic. Amaechi did not and has never approached him in respect of the cases he mentioned or any other case.
“This is a cheap attempt, albeit political move to drag the name of Amaechi into something he knows nothing about. Justice Okoro should face his issues and leave Amaechi out of it. He will be hearing from our lawyers.”
Meanwhile, another Justice of the Federal High Court, Musa Haruna Kurya was at the Lagos office of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to honour its invitation on an on-going investigation.
He reported at the commission’s offices at 10:00am, yesterday.
But, his colleague, Rita Ofili-Ajumogobia allegedly shunned the EFCC’s invitation.
The NJC had placed Ofili-Ajumogbobia on its “watch-list” and had barred her from being elevated from her present position, owing to gross misconduct.
Kurya, accompanied by his lawyer, was attended to by the operatives of the commission on arrival.
However, Ofilli-Ajumogobia, who was also supposed to be at the commission’s office on a similar invitation, dishonoured the call and refused to show up at all.
On Monday, two Federal High Court judges, Mohammed Nasir Yunusa and Nganjiwa Hyledzira, reported to the EFCC where they were quizzed for hours.