An anti-corruption coalition group, Civil Society Network Against Corruption (CSNAC), has urged the National Judicial Council (NJC), to investigate the role of a retired judge, Justice George Oguntade, in the alleged bribery and corruption probe of the chairman of the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT), Justice Danladi Umar.
Aside from facing the Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions to defend himself on petitions of corrupt acts, the CCT boss may soon be the guest of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), owing to petitions submitted to the anti-graft agency against him.
However, in a petition addressed to the chairman of NJC by CSNAC through its national chairman, Olanrewaju Suraju, the coalition urged the council to investigate the role of the retired Mr. Oguntade in the probe of Mr. Umar. The petition was especially concerned with how the former justice allegedly attempted to influence the case of Rasheed Taiwo, a retired Comptroller of Customs.
In its petition CSNAC cited an interview with Mr. Umar conducted by SaharaReporters and published on November 26, 2015. Given the information procured from this interview, the group argued, a thorough investigation of what transpired between Mr. Oguntade, Mr. Umar and others should be conducted to restore the confidence of ordinary Nigerians in the judicial system.
According to an excerpt of the interview, the tribunal chairman revealed that the said Mr.Taiwo was introduced to him by Justice Oguntade.
“He [Oguntade] called me to say that he has a brother who has a problem in my court and asked whether there was any way I could help him.
“For him to even ask whether I could help his brother was wrong. Which means he wanted me to commit an illegal act,” Mr. Umar stated during his interview.
Justice Umar claimed he merely advised Mr. Oguntade to find a good lawyer for his brother.
The report further stated that at the time the Chairman met with Justice Oguntade, Mr. Taiwo had not yet been served as he was evading his summons.
Roughly a week after, Mr. Taiwo visited Justice Umar introducing himself and stating that Justice Oguntade had told him to meet with Mr. Umar.
At that point, the CCT chairman said he understood what was happening and said as much to Mr. Taiwo.
“I have spoken about you with Justice Oguntade and I told him that you should go and get a good counsel, and that is the only thing I can do for you,” Mr. Umar informed Mr. Taiwo.
Justice Umar further stated that he was not aware of any transaction between Mr. Taiwo and his personal assistant. According to him, the whole episode was stage managed to tarnish his image and get him out of office.
However, CSNAC’s petition argued that the sale of judgements is quite common in Nigeria’s legal system.
"Over the years, judges and other judicial officers have been criticized for engaging in various corrupt practices, which include making pronouncements that are at variance with provisions of the law, ignoring judicial precedents, as well as giving judgments for a fee.
“These corrupt activities have no doubt caused a huge dent on the image of the bench, miscarriage of justice, as well as eroding the confidence of litigants in the judiciary.
"Former Nigeria Bar Association President Mr. J.B. Daudu SAN described some judges as couriers, accusing them of being the midwife between serving justices and litigants to sell judgements."
"CSNAC is therefore by this petition demanding that the Council carries out its constitutional responsibility by conducting a thorough investigation into the alleged role of Justice Oguntade (Rtd.) in the matter and appropriate sanctions be handed down where he has been found culpable.
"This will not only restore the confidence of ordinary Nigerians in our judicial system as the last hope of the common man, it will also show that the law is truly no respecter of persons and contribute greatly to ridding the bench of corruption, thereby returning the judiciary to its enviable status," the petition read.