REVEALED: How Code Of Conduct Tribunal Judge Received N10 Million Bribe.
Former Attorney General (AGF) of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mohammed Adoke (SAN), had recommended the removal from office and prosecution of the Chairman of the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT), Mr Danladi Umar, by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) over alleged collection of bribe.
The justice minister’s recommendation, which came before the tenure of President Goodluck Jonathan expired last May, was predicated on the report of an investigation by the EFCC into an allegation by a retired Comptroller of Customs, Mr. Rasheed Taiwo, that Umar demanded N10 million bribe from him to quash a case against him.
Consequent upon this recommendation, the registered trustees of the Mission for Peace and Development Initiative has now filed a suit at the Federal High Court (FHC) in Abuja, seeking an order for the removal of Justice Umar as chairman of the CCT on account of corruption allegations.
Apart from recommending Umar’s prosecution, the then AGF had also through a letter to former President Jonathan dated 7th May, 2014 with reference number: HAGF/SH/2014/Vol./41 advised the president to initiate a move to remove Umar from office as chairman of the CCT because of the allegation of corruption against hm.
Adoke in the letter said: “I am of the humble opinion that the current state of affairs by which the tribunal is unable to seat while the institution is increasingly diminished by the pall of suspicion, should not be allowed to fester as it will expose the institution to public ridicule and undermine this administration’s efforts to combat corruption.
“In the light of the foregoing therefore, Your Excellency may wish to initiate the necessary steps for the removal of the chairman.”
These and many more shocking revelations are contained in court processes filed last Friday at the Federal High Court in Abuja by a non-governmental organisation, the Registered Trustees of Mission for Peace and Development Initiative, seeking an order compelling Umar to vacate his position as Chairman of the CCT and the EFCC to carry out the instruction of the AGF to prosecute him for allegedly collecting bribe.
Umar, CCT, EFCC and the Attorney General of the Federation were listed as 1st to 4th defendants respectively.
Among the exhibits attached to the suit are the photocopy of the cheque with which a bribe of N1.8 million was allegedly paid to Umar through Mr Gambo Abdullahi, his Personal Assistant (PA), the statement of Umar himself where he admitted meeting privately with the petitioner in his (Umar) office at the CCT, statements made by his PA, Umar’s bail application, letter to former President Jonathan by the two other members of the tribunal, among other exhibits.
In one of the exhibits, Abdullahi, the PA to Umar, admitted collecting N1.8 million from Mr. Taiwo on behalf of his boss, Umar, and that he handed the money to Umar by hand.
However, Abdullahi later recanted and claimed that he collected the money for himself.
In its investigation report dated 24th June, 2014, signed by its Executive Chairman, Ibrahim Lamorde, the EFCC said: “Available circumstantial evidence suggests that the Tribunal Chairman might have indeed demanded and collected money from the complainant through his Personal Assistant.
“Efforts to recover the telephone handset used by Justice Umar proved abortive, as he claimed that he had lost the telephone in 2012. Justice Umar also admitted that he met privately with the complainant in his chamber at the tribunal. This is a most unethical and highly suspicious conduct on his part,” the report also stated.
The commission also said that there was overwhelming evidence to prosecute Umar’s PA because he, “could offer no coherent excuse for receiving N1.8 million into his salary account from Taiwo, who is an accused person standing trial at the tribunal,” the commission added.
EFCC said the N1.8 million had been recovered. The commission also stated that Umar’s PA tried to cover up the reason for which the money was paid to him by making contradictory statements.
Two days later, precisely on 26th June, 2014, the AGF wrote back to Lamorde recommending Umar and his PA, Abdulahi be prosecuted.
Consequently, the commission prepared a draft charge containing two counts against Umar and his PA. Curiously, however, the charge was never filed but it was exhibited in the instant action as Exhibit 19.
The plaintiff also exhibited a letter written to the then President Jonathan by two other judges who are members of the tribunal, Justices Robert Odu and W. Agwaza Atedze. They both called on the president to investigate the allegation that the chairman demanded N10 million bribe so as to save the tribunal from embarrassment.
Another letter, written by the former Secretary to the Federal Government, Anyim Pius Anyim, to the ECFF chairman was also attached to the suit as Exhibit 15. In the letter, Anyim said that the tribunal could no longer sit because of the allegation against the chairman.
The plaintiff, Mission for Peace and Development Initiative, is asking the court to declare that by the combined effect of the provisions of Rules 1, 5 (1) & (11), Rules 3, F, L, of the Code of Conduct for Judicial Officers, Fifth Schedule Part 1, Paragraph 7 (B) Paragraph 9, 13, Part 11 & Paragraph 12 of the Constitution of The Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, as altered, Sections 5, 10 (1), 13, 17 & 22 (3) of The Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act, 1st defendant (Umar) is not a fit and proper person to sit in judgment and preside over the affairs of the CCT and dispense justice to all Nigerians who appear before it, irrespective of gender, tribe, religion, or political persuasion, without fear or favour, malice or ill will, having run foul of the provisions of the Code of Conduct for Judicial Officers, and other extant provisions.
It also asked the court to declare that by the combined effect of the construction of Rules 1, 5 (1) & (11), Rules 3, F, L, of the Code of Conduct for Judicial Officers, Fifth Schedule Part 1, Paragraph 7 (B) Paragraph 9, 13, Part 11 & Paragraph 12 of the Constitution of The Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, as altered, the 1st defendant is not a fit and proper person and is estopped from sitting or further sitting in judgment and presiding over the affairs of the Code of Conduct Tribunal and dispense justice to all Nigerians who appear before it, irrespective of gender, tribe, religion, political persuasion, without fear or favour, malice or ill will, who appear before it, having run foul of the provisions of the Code of Conduct for Judicial Officers, by secret meeting with an accused person standing trial before him exparte, without the presence of the Prosecution, or Court Officials.
It asked for a declaration that by virtue of the combined effect of the provisions of Section 6 (b), (h) and Section 7 (1) (a) and (b) & (2) of the EFCC Act, Cap., E1, LFN, 2004, the EFCC, sued as the 3rd Defendant herein, is under a statutory duty and obligation to prosecute the 1st Defendant having investigated him (1stDefendant), and found him culpable of the offences of conspiracy, bribery, abuse of office and money laundering, and having actually prepared a charge sheet against him, which charge has inexplicably not been filed till date.
However, the group, in an Originating Summons filed on its behalf by Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN), wants the court to order Justice Umar to hands-off the trial of any Nigerian, having confessed to corruption and admitted meeting with an accused person standing trial before him, in the absence of the prosecution and court officials.
The plaintiff wants the court to order the Tribunal to halt further sittings or proceedings against accused persons brought before it, or currently standing trial before it until it is reconstituted to exclude its present Chairman.
Also, the Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) is praying the court for an order directing the EFCC to start prosecuting Justice Umar, having investigated him and found him culpable of the offences of conspiracy, bribery, abuse of office and money laundering, which the Commission had actually prepared a charge, but failed, refused to file same till date for inexplicable reasons.
The plaintiff further wants an order that the AGF should cease from further regarding or according recognition to Justice Umar as the rightful chairman of the CCT.
In addition, a nine-paragraph affidavit in support of the originating summons deposed to by one human rights activist and anti-corruption campaigner, Mr Ogah Columba, averred that in spite of the corruption cases hanging on the neck of Justice Umar, he could still sit, morally and legally to try any Nigerian citizen for any case of corruption.
“That in consonance with the anti-corruption stance of the present government, we decided to dig into the ugly, murky cases of corruption against the 1st respondent (Justice Umar) and we are shocked at a grand cover up by powers-that-be who refused to prosecute him for receiving N1.8 million bribe out of N10 million he demanded from an accused he was trying in his Tribunal, notwithstanding the clear instructions of the then AGF, Mohammed Bello Adoke (SAN) that he should be prosecuted,” the affidavit stated.
It further averred that EFCC chairman, Ibrahim Lamorde, on June 24, 2014 wrote to the AGF, where he concluded that there was sufficient evidence, even if circumstantial, that Umar collected money from an accused person, Rasheed A. Taiwo, through his P. A, Mr Abdullahi, and that there was an attempt to cover up judicial corruption.
A date is yet to be fixed for the hearing of the matter.