SaharaReporters has obtained a full list of top Nigerian judges under investigation by security agencies across the country. The list is contained in a confidential memo forwarded to President Muhammadu Buhari on a recent dramatic move by agents of the Department of State Security (DSS) against judges accused of accepting bribes as well as other acts of corruption.
A week ago, agents of the Department of State Security (DSS) embarked on an unprecedented raid of homes of numerous judges, arresting several of them, including two Supreme Court justices directly linked with alleged electoral judgment fraud in Rivers and Akwa Ibom states.
The judges named in a confidential list sent to President Muhammadu Buhari include Justices Nwali Sylvester Ngwuta and John Inyang Okoro of the Supreme Court, Justice Muhammad Ladan Tsamiya of the Court of Appeal, Ilorin Division, Justice Uwani Abba-Aji of the Court of Appeal, Justice Adeniyi Ademola of the Federal High Court, Justice Mohammed Yunusa of the Federal high Court, Justice Kabir Auta of the Kano State High Court, Justice Munir Ladan of the Kaduna State High Court, Justice Bashir Sukola of the Kaduna State High Court, and Justice Mu'azu Pindiga of Gombe State High Court.
Other high profile judges named in the confidential memo include Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa, the current President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Ibrahim Auta, the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Abdul Kafarati of the Federal High Court, Justice Nnamdi Dimgba and Justice Anwuli Chikere of the Federal High Court.
The memo accused Justice Chikere of receiving cash for a pre-election matter that came before her. Justice Chikere is married to Kenneth Anayo Chikere, a chieftain the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Rivers State and a former member of the House of Representatives. According to the source of the memo, Mr. Chikere acted as go-between to funnel significant amounts of cash to his wife who then proceeded to give favorable judgments to those who offered the cash.
The memo alleged that Justice Kabiru Auta collected bribes from a businessman named “Alhaji Kabiru SKY.” The bribe scandal led the National Judicial Council (NJC) to suspend the judge, but the council later recalled the judge, claiming there was not sufficient evidence that he auctioned verdicts from the bench.
Justice Abdul Kafarati has a litany of corruption allegations against him, even though he is due to become the new Chief Judge of the Federal High Court. Officials of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) allegedly found more than N2 billion in the judge’s bank account. The judge reportedly claimed he had earned the funds from his farming business in Yobe State. Recently, Justice Kafarati granted a N26 billion verdict in favor of Capital Oil CEO, Ifeanyi Uba, against the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON). Mr. Uba was the biggest debtor to AMCON. The memo stated that Justice Kafarati has a favorite lawyer, Prince Ajibola Oluyede, who funnels bribes to him to grant illegal orders and pay-to-play judgments.
Justice Yunusa also faces several allegations of corruption. The memo cited evidence that he took N5 million bribe from a senior lawyer, Rickey Tarfa. Justice Yunusa is also accused of disregarding case precedents set by the Supreme Court of Nigeria.
Justice Pindiga of the Gombe State High Court was thrust into national prominence on account of his involvement in the Rivers State election petition fraud. He reportedly received N100 million from Governor Nyeson Wike of Rivers State to influence a tribunal ruling in the governor’s favor. The judge was subsequently removed as the head of the tribunal, but he reportedly bought several cars and built houses from the proceeds of his alleged corruption.
Justices Munir Ladan and Bashir Suokla of the Kaduna High Court were recommended for arrest and prosecution based on several petitions alleging that they receive bribes in exchange for verdicts. Some lawyers reportedly characterized the two judges as “cash-and-carry” judges.
Some of the most extensive allegations in the memo pertain to Justice Adeniyi Ademola. In one instance, the judge allegedly accepted a $200k bribe to discharge a garnishee order against the Delta State House of Assembly. He was also accused of using his position as a judge to get his wife appointed to the position of Head of Service in Lagos State because of shady dealings with Bola Tinubu, national leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC). In 2010, the Cross Rivers State command of the DSS determined that Justice Ademola had accepted a bribe from some members of the “Peace Corps of Nigeria” and oil bunkerers under prosecution.
Justice Ademola was arrested last weekend and allegedly found to be in possession of $550k, part of which he reportedly claimed belonged to Justice Auta, the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court. Justice Ademola was also allegedly found with two unlicensed Pump Action Rifles in his Abuja home.
The judge has asserted that his ordeal was because he once tried current Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami (SAN), for professional misconduct when he was a judge in Kaduna. He has accused Mr. Malami of being behind his harassment, adding that the raid on his residence was a part of a retaliation plot by the AGF. The judge did not, however, deny the fact that he was found with huge cash at home.
Justice Ibrahim Auta of the Federal High Court faces several allegations of misconduct, according to the memo obtained by SaharaReporters. The accusations against him include accepting bribes in order to assign "lucrative" cases to certain corruption judges who give him kickbacks. Numerous real estate assets have been traced to him. In addition, law enforcement agents allege that he once accepted N500,000 from Mr. Rickey Tarfa.
Justice Tsamiya of the Court of Appeal is accused of demanding N200 million from an interested party in a case before his court. He was arrested last week after the NJC determined that he was guilty of demanding for bribes.
Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa, president of the Court of Appeal, is named in the memo where she is described as incurably corrupt and stupendously wealthy. Even though agents found that Justice Bulkachuwa abstained from taking bribes in the Rivers State election case, she is accused of engaging in bribery and taking kickbacks from judges to which she assigned "lucrative" cases.
Justice Abba Aji reportedly received N8 million from Mr. Tarfa. SaharaReporters learned that she was dropped from the list of judges recommended for elevation to the Supreme Court on account of her implication in the Tarfa bribe scandal.
In addition, Justice Bulkachuwa is alleged to have taken bribes from former Governor Godswill Akpabio of Akwa Ibom and Governor Patrick Okowa of Delta State in order to facilitate favorable judgment in election petitions.
The two justices of the Supreme Court, Ngwuta and Okoro, allegedly received significant bribes from Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State. Security agents allege that Mr. Wike gave the two judges N5 billion to ensure that other Supreme Court justices ruled in the governor's favor in a final election petition at the Supreme Court.
SaharaReporters had earlier reported that Justice Mary Odili of the Supreme Court played a role in the Wike case. Justice Odili reportedly wept in front of her colleagues, claiming that her husband, former Governor Peter Odili of Rivers State, would die prematurely if Mr. Wike's election was not upheld. Justice Odili reportedly coordinated the bribe scheme with Justice Ngwuta, who allegedly took delivery of some of the bribe in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Justice Walter Onnoghen, the nominee for the post of Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, is alleged to have taken part in the Wike bribe scandal. However, security agents decided not to go after him, telling President Buhari that the backlash would be intense if Justicd Onnoghen, a southerner, were bypassed for CJN in favor of a northerner.
Justices Ngwuta and Okoro were also named in the case of Akwa Ibom where the governor is alleged to have disbursed a huge amount of money to bribe Supreme Court justices to secure a favorable ruling. A senior lawyer, Damian Dodo (SAN) reportedly facilitated the deal using a female in his chambers whose name was given as "Kauma". The Akwa Ibom governor paid the highest bribe to the Supreme Court justices.
Both justices were among judges arrested last week in late night raids carried out by the DSS. Security agents claimed that Justices Ngwuta and Okoro were found with stashes of foreign currency at their homes. Both justices have since been released.
Other judges mentioned in the memo include Justices I. A. Umezulike, who two weeks ago was retired by the NJC, Ibrahim Buba, Rita Ajumogobia and an unnamed judge of the Lagos State High Court.