The judge involved in the stealing of N47million judgment sum placed in his care, SaharaReporters can disclose, is Justice Ganiyu Safari. The National Judicial Council (NJC) has been trying to identify the perpetrator of the heist.
Justice Walter Onnoghen, Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) and Chairman of the NJC, reportedly wrote to Justice Olufunmilayo Atilade, Chief Judge of Lagos State, requesting explanations on the disappearance of the sum of money from the till of the Lagos State judiciary.
Justice Atilade was said to have carried out an investigation which revealed that Justice Safari stopped the money from going into the account of the Chief Registrar’s office, which holds such funds, and diverted it into an account operated by him.
The diversion occurred while Justice Safari was the Chief Registrar of the High Court of Lagos State. Justice Atilade queried Justice Safari, asking him to explain why he diverted the money.
Investigations, however, revealed that efforts are being made to cover up the misdeed as well as create the least embarrassing escape route for the judge. Sources told SaharaReporters that the judge has already being provided with an escape hatch with the request that he should refund the diverted sum.
However, added sources, he has been unable to raise it. The attempt to spring him from the embarrassing situation, disclosed sources, has also come in the shape of intense pressure being heaped on lawyers demanding investigation into the malfeasance to withdraw their petitions to the NJC and Lagos State Chief Judge if Justice Safari is able to raise the money. Justice Safari walked into trouble following his appointment as the Chief Registrar of the High Court of Lagos State at the twilight of the tenure of Justice Inumidun Akande, the immediate past Chief Judge of Lagos State. He had previously served as a Chief Magistrate in an area of the state before his promotion to the position of Deputy Chief Registrar (DCR).
Two parties, said sources, had approached the court over a disputed sum of N47 million. The trial judge ordered one of the parties to deposit the sum being contended the Chief Registrar.
However, Justice Safari directed that the money should be deposited in a separate account from which he eventually re-routed it into his own account.
The illegal act, perpetrated over seven years ago, blew up in Justice Safari's face, following the conclusion of the case and the demand of the winning party that the judgment sum be paid. The failure to get the judgment sum paid pushed the victorious party into petitioning the NJC and Chief Judge of Lagos State.
Justice Safari's matter brings into sharp focus how judicial officers such as court registrars, prosecutors as well as prison officials carry out theft-like schemes.
Litigants are often required to deposit security fees with the Chief Registrar and exclusively payable to a dedicated account domiciled at Zenith Bank branch on Oba Akran Avenue, Ikeja. The fees, which are supposed to refundable after resolution of disputes, said sources, are rarely refunded.