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Corrupt Judiciary Inquiry: EFCC Grill Senior Lawyers For Bribing Judges

There is palpable tension within Nigeria’s legal profession as the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on Thursday drilled some elite lawyers alleged to have transferred huge sums of money to the bank accounts of some judges.

A source close to the EFCC identified the Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SAN), who answered an invitation to the EFCC Office in Ikoyi, Lagos, in the morning, as Paul Usoro and Chief Gabi Adetola-Kaseem, as well as Chief Felix Fagbohungbe.

The invitations by the anti-graft body are a sequel to the recent interrogation of two Federal High Court judges: Agbadu James Fishim and Uwani Abba Aji, and one judge of the Industrial Court. 

It was gathered at the time of this report late on Thursday that the lawyers were still at the EFCC office answering questions from investigators. 

The source further disclosed that the commission had also invited another senior lawyer, Adeniyi Akintola, but he did not show up.  When SaharaReporters reached Chief Akintola by phone, he denied receiving any invitation from the EFCC, and claimed he had just met with the Attorney General of the Federation in Abuja.

Chief Akintola was said to be in Abuja to defend a judge before the National Judicial Council (NJC) following a petition by a litigant.  It is unclear whether his meeting with the Attorney General has anything to do with any judge in trouble.

Our source said the EFCC chairman was shocked that prominent senior lawyers who have an official relationship with the EFCC may also be involved in corruption within the judiciary.  

The source stated that the leadership of EFCC may have opted to invite the senior lawyers following suggestions that the commission was planning to cover-up their illegal activities to preserve their working relationship. 

Up to 30 senior lawyers are under probe for bribing judges  according to an EFCC source.

It would be recalled that the EFCC last week questioned Justice Fishim and Justice Aji over alleged corruption issues. With the interrogation of the two, the number of judges quizzed by the EFCC rose to five, out of the eight judges on its radar. 

The EFCC source said: “We have discovered that corruption in the judiciary is widespread. 

Some Senior Advocates of Nigeria who have assisted the commission in handling some of our cases in the past are involved. Some of these lawyers had assisted us with useful legal opinions on several matters. So, we are in a dilemma’’. 

The source stated that the commission had concluded arrangements to arraign a Federal High Court judge, Justice Rita Ofili-Ajumogobia, after investigator found she is a director of a UK-based company ad had paid up a mortgage loan taken to finance a home in London 5 years earlier than the mortgage was due for total repayment. Justice Ofili reportedly wired over $900,000 to a bank account at Lloyds Bank from proceeds of corruption.  

It would be recalled that Justices Fishim and Abba-Aji, accompanied by their lawyers, presented themselves before EFCC operatives at the Lagos Zonal Office in Ikoyi in response to their invitation.  It was gathered that the two have so far made useful information available to the agency.