Sanction Corrupt, Erring Judges; CACOL Charges The Nigeria Judicial Council (NJC)

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The Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders, CACOL welcomes the recent disciplinary action taken by the National Judicial Council (NJC) against Justice Rita Ofili-Ajumogobia of the Lagos Division of the Federal High Court over alleged gross professional misconduct that culminated in denial and perversion of justice and see it as a step in the right direction as the country battles the monster called corruption.

The NJC placed a ban that rules her out of any possible elevation to a higher court throughout her career on the bench, warned her against any act of misconduct and ruled her out of any possible consideration for any ad-hoc judicial appointment throughout her career on the bench after finding her guilty as alleged.

Justice Rita Ofili-Ajumogobia was alleged to have sat on justice by deliberately making endless adjournments on a pre-election matter which she knew quite well had a limited life-span and refused to deliver judgement until the life-span elapsed, thus rendering the entire process a waste.

The NJC has also queried the Chief Judge of Enugu State, Justice I. A. Umezulike over an allegation that he accepted N10 million donation from a litigant before his court.The CJ was alleged to have invited the litigant who was a plaintiff before him to the launching of a book he wrote, and accepted a donation of N10 million from the litigant.

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Mr.DeboAdeniran, Executive Director of CACOL speaking on the developments, said,‘’we congratulate the NJC for taking the bold step and implore the Council to do more in addressing the issue of erring Judges as this will help in the quest to sanitise the Nigerian Judiciary and rid the country of corruption. The cases of Justice Mohammed Yinusa and Justice I. A. Umezulike should be looked into as the allegations against them are grievous and requires punitive if they are found wanting.’’

It could be recalled thatLagos Federal High Court Judge, Justice Mohammed Yunusawas alleged EFCC to havetaken a bribe to tune of N225, 000 from Mr Rickey Tarka (SAN).In highlighting the relationship between Mr Tarfa and Justice Mohammed, the EFCC revealed that Rickey Tarfa’s lawyer firm had habitually been asking the Chief Registrar of the Lagos Judicial Division of the Federal High Court to assign his cases to Justice Mohammed Yunusa.

Mr. Adeniran said‘’it’s shocking that barely a month after Rickey Tarfa’s episode, Justice Mohammed Yunusa has again been fingered in another bribery case in which the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, has arraigned another Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, Joseph Nwobike, before a Lagos State High Court for allegedly bribing the Judge; this reveals that contrary to the claim that the Judiciary is impervious to corruption, there are corrupt and sharp practices going on in that arm of government. Perhaps this is what informed President Muhammadu Buhari’s position that the Judiciary is a ‘headache’ in the ongoing war against corruption.’’

The EFCC alleged that on March 19th, 2015, Nwobike, transferred the sum of N750,000 through his United Bank for Africa account number 1002664061 to Justice Yunusa in order that he refrains from acting in the exercise of his official duties; it also claimed that Nwobike had on September 28, 2015 intentionally and indirectly given the sum of N 300,000 to  Justice Yunusa through Awa Ajia NigLtd’s account No. 0000971931 domiciled in Access Bank Plc. belonging to Justice Nganjiwa Hyeladzira Ajiya of the Federal High Court in order that Justice Mohammed Yunusa acts in the exercise of his official duties.

The Executive Chairman of CACOL therefore charged the NJC to approach the sanitizing of the Judiciary holistically by putting in a place a well-organized system of checks and balances to curtail the corrupt activities of some corrupt Judges. ‘’The Judiciary is very crucial to the success of the anti-corruption war; the Judiciary can purge itself of corrupt tendencies if the right measures are put in place and implemented and this applies to other arms of government’’ Mr.Adeniran averred.

CACOL believes that there are a good number of such bad eggs in the Judiciary and calls on the NJC and other relevant authorities not to relent in their efforts at cleansing this all-important arm of the government and ridding it of its disturbing rots and decay. Justice remains indispensable for our national growth and development. We urge the NJC to also look into the all the cases with a view of establishing the veracity of the allegations and applying the necessary punitive where necessary to serve as deterrent to others.

Wale Salami

Media Coordinator, CACOL

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