Two Nigerian lawyers have urged President Muhammadu Buhari to probe the former Chief Justice of the Nigerian Supreme Court, Alfa Belgore, whom they accused of being massively corrupt and engaging in subversion of justice. They said Justice Belgore had obtained a grand house in the upscale Asokoro area of Abuja through his corrupt activities.
In a joint telephone conversation with a correspondent of SaharaReporters, the two lawyers stated that retired Justice Belgore had a knack for bringing the judiciary to shame. “It appears that, instead of promoting the development of the judiciary and the administration of justice, Justice Alfa Belgore specializes in corrupting the process,” one of the lawyers, an Abuja-based Senior Advocate of Nigeria.
The two lawyers said the immediate reason they were calling for a thorough investigation of the former Chief Justice was Mr. Belgore’s role in trying to induce the Court of Appeal to squash the trial of Senate President Bukola Saraki by the Code of Conduct Tribunal. SaharaReporters had revealed that Mr. Saraki had hired Justice Belgore to broker a judgment by the Court of Appeal that would have squelched the senator’s trial by the Code of Conduct Tribunal.
“If SaharaReporters had not exposed his attempt to intervene with the Court of Appeal on behalf of Dr. Saraki, he would have easily scuttled the case,” one of the two lawyers said.
According to the two lawyers, who spoke on condition of anonymity, many other Nigerian lawyers “are embarrassed by the conduct of former Justice Belgore.” They added that the retired Chief Justice had a history of meddling in trials and either offering bribes to willing judges or intimidating those who reject his inducement.
The lawyers alleged that former Director General of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), Olaniyi Oladeji, used Justice Belgore to thwart the course of justice in a lawsuit filed by former Ambassador Dozie Nwanna. “
According to the lawyers, Mr. Nwanna had filed a lawsuit seeking to reverse his premature retirement, which deprived him the opportunity to become the next DG of NIA. They said Mr. Oladeji, former Attorney General of the Federation, Mohammed Adoke, and former First Lady Patience Jonathan, employed Justice Belgore to sabotage Mr. Nwanna’s lawsuit. They said that the NIA bought a swanky home for Justice Belgore in Asokoro in exchange for his illicit work “to delay or attempt to deny justice to Nwanna.”
According to the two lawyers, Justice Belgore threatened Justice Maureen Nkechinyereugo Esowe, the first judge in Mr. Nwanna's lawsuit. “When she refused to be cowed by Justice Belgore, he sponsored a petition against her alleging bias on her part. “In a conduct that was unbecoming of a man who once occupied the post of Chief Justice, Belgore accused Justice Esowe of trying to use her court to protect Ambassador Nwanna because they were both Igbo. He also claimed that Nwanna’s lawyer, Chike Maduekwe, was Justice Esowe’s cousin, which is blatantly false.”
The lawyers said Justice Belgore must have had access to Mrs. Esowe's personal data, and found out that she was related to former Ambassador Ojo Maduekwe. “Both Justice Esowe and Chief Ojo Maduekwe are from Abia State, but Nwanna’s lawyer, Chike Maduekwe, is from Anambra State,” one of the lawyers disclosed.
According to one of the lawyers, the petition orchestrated by Justice Belgore “made Justice Esowe to weep in court and to return the case file to the president of the National Industrial Court, Abuja. The matter was then reassigned to Justice Benedict Kanyip who was bold enough to reverse the capricious termination of Ambassador Nwanna's employment by the then DG of NIA, Oladeji.” By the time the judgment was delivered in December 2013, Mr. Oladeji had already bequeathed the office of DG of NIA to a successor who was Mr. Nwanna's junior in service.
The lawyers also alleged that Justice Belgore was notorious for using his influence to collect funds from high net-worth personalities as well as politically powerful persons in exchange for intimidating or inducing judges, many of them students when the former CJN was in active service.
“The Presidency should order an investigation into how Justice Belgore got a brand new mansion in Asokoro,” one of the lawyers urged.
In 2014, the National Judicial Council (NJC) sacked a young female judge, Justice Gladys Olotu, for alleged judicial misconduct. However, Mrs. Olotu filed a lawsuit against her firing. She also alleged that her real offense was that she scorned Justice Belgore’s entreaty to pervert justice in a case brought by a widow against an oil company seeking compensation on behalf of her late husband. The sacked justice accused Justice Belgore of seeking to influence her to rule in favor of the oil company.