Nigeria’s Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, has reacted to a recent letter in which Justice Sylvester Ngwuta of the Supreme Court claimed that the minister had tried to offer him a bribe.
In a statement, Mr. Amaechi, who was a two-term governor of Rivers State, said Justice Ngwuta’s allegation was “nothing but pure fiction, a dubious diversionary tale concocted to muddle the very serious issues of his arrest and investigation by the Department of State Services (DSS).” Justice Ngwuta is one of two justices of the Supreme Court recently targeted by the DSS is what the security agency described as a broad effort to expose and prosecute corrupt judges in Nigeria’s judiciary.
Two days ago, various media organizations published claims by Justice Ngwuta that he was targeted for harassment after he had rebuffed attempts by Mr. Amaechi to accept a bribe in order to render verdicts favorable to candidates of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in electoral disputes that came before the apex court.
In his response, Mr. Amaechi denied the judge’s allegations. “For emphasis, we want to state categorically that Amaechi did not and has never tried to lobby, induce or make the Hon. Justice Ngwuta to influence the outcome of any matter before the Supreme Court or any other court,” the minister wrote in his denial. He added that Justice Ngwuta’s narrative was “an unadulterated fallacy designed to deceive and distract from the real issues of DSS investigation of acts of corruption against him.”
The minister stated that it was sad and unfortunate that Justice Ngwuta had decided to drag the name of the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) into his “fabricated allegations.”
“Again, we make bold to state that Amaechi did not and has never lobbied, approached or attempted to make the CJN or any other Justice of the apex court to influence the Supreme Court judgment on the Rivers State and Ekiti State Governorship Elections petition appeals or any other matter before the apex court or any other court.”
Former Governor Amaechi, who has been locked in a fierce political dispute with Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State, noted that, within a period of 48 hours, he had observed “a carefully planned and coordinated political attempt” to drag him into the DSS arrest and investigation of judges in Nigeria. “The aim of the plot is two-fold: to smear and politically destroy the image and reputation of Amaechi, and deceitfully portray him as the person behind the arrest of judges. This is indeed most ridiculous and callous,” the minister’s spokesman declared.
The minister alleged that there was a “well-timed, heavily funded plot to ‘take out’ Amaechi politically,” adding that Justice Ngwuta and Justice Inyang Okoro, the other Supreme Court justice under investigation by the DSS, had been wittingly or unwittingly recruited into the “devious politics of ‘destroy Amaechi by all means.’”
The minister denied that he was behind the arrest and investigation of Justice Ngwuta, warning the embattled judge to leave him alone and face his issues with the DSS. Mr. Amaechi disclosed that he was talking with his lawyers in order to “explore lawful channels to seek redress for this gross defamation against his character and person.”