The rot in the Nigerian judicial system has been exposed again by a presidential aide who has recounted the level of bribery benefited by the jury.
One of the judges recently recalled from suspension by the National Judicial Council will be charged this week with offences bordering on receiving gratification from lawyers, the Special Assistant to the President on Prosecution, Mr. Okoi Obono-Obla, has said.
In a telephone interview with The PUNCH on Sunday, Obono-Obla alleged that the judge was found to have received gratification worth N90m from 100 lawyers.
The presidential aide alleged that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission would likely file charges against the judge and the lawyers by Tuesday (tomorrow).
The judge, whose name was not disclosed, will be the second among the recalled judges, to be charged after the NJC lifted their about-eight-month suspension.
The EFCC had shortly after the NJC announced the recall of the six judges in a June 1, 2017 statement, charged Justice Hyeladzira Nganjiwa of the Federal High Court in Yenagoa with 14 counts of unlawful enrichment to the tune of $260,000 and N8,650,000.
Obono-Obla told our correspondent on Sunday that the NJC deliberately cleared the judge (whose name was not disclosed) to resume work despite cases of receiving gratification from lawyers pending against the judicial officer.
The presidential aide said, “The judge will be charged. He was deliberately cleared by the NJC. But now, we have established a case of receiving gratification from 100 lawyers against him.
“The EFCC will file the charges against the judge and the lawyers by Monday or Tuesday.”
He said apart from charging the lawyers alongside the judge, “We are also going to bring disciplinary proceedings against those lawyers.”
The NJC had in a statement on June 1, 2017, lifted the suspension of six out of the eight judges barred from performing their judicial functions since October 2016 pending the determination of the corruption cases against them.
According to the statement, the affected judges asked to resume their judicial functions included, Justice Inyang Okoro of the Supreme Court; Justice Uwani Abba Aji of the Court of Appeal; and Justice Hydiazira Nganjiwa of the Federal High Court.
Others were Justice Adeniyi Ademola of the Federal High Court (who was prosecuted but discharged and acquitted), Justice Musa Kurya of the Federal High Court; and Justice Agbadu James Fishim of the National Industrial Court of Nigeria.
The NJC said in its statement that it took the decision asking the judges to resume duties at its meeting held between May 31 and June 1, 2017.
The NJC, in another statement by its Director of Information, Mr. Soji Oye, on June 10, further justified the recall of the judges.
Oye said contrary to claims by some Federal Government officials, there was no pending and valid suits against Justices Okoro and Ademola to justify their continued suspension.
But replying NJC in a statement on June 12, Obono-Obla said the recall of Justice Ademola, in the face of a valid appeal challenging the judge’s acquittal was “premature and ill-timed.”
Meanwhile, the EFCC had on June 8, 2017, which was shortly after the recall of the six judges, charged Justice Nganjiwa with 14 counts of corrupt enrichment before a High Court of Lagos State in Igbosere.
The judge was absent from court on June 13, the date scheduled for his arraignment.
Due to his absence the arraignment was adjourned until June 23.