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7 Questions NJC Must Answer Over Allegations Against Amaechi

A group, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has demanded the some answers from the National Judicial Council over the allegations against the minister of transport Rotimi Amaechi.

In an open letter to the Chief Justice of Nigeria and the chairman of the NJC, Mahmud Mohammed, SERAP sought explanations on reports of allegation against Amaechi by a Supreme Court Judge Inyang Okoro. The letter signed by SERAP’s executive Secretary Adetokunbo Mumuni, the group said the allegations against against the serving minister is a threat to the independence, impartiality and accountability to the judiciary.

Mumuni said he believes the NJC has the statutory power and responsibility to support judges in dealing with alleged corrupt inducements that are offered or the threats they receive, such as the allegations in this case.

Justice Okoro, who was among the judges arrested by the Department of State Services had accused Amaechi of making efforts to bribe him. Okoro said the minister and the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate for Akwa Ibom Umana Umana approached him to help them influence judgement on the state’s gubernatorial election cases before the Supreme Court.

The judge also said Amaechi President Muhammadu Buhari and the APC were interested in the case. While Ameachi has in a statement debunked the claims by Justice Okoro, SERAP in its petition to the CJN called an investigation and expalnations on such allegations. READ ALSO: Judge TAKES AWAY Fani-Kayode’s mobile phone during trial Below are the seven question SERAP put to the NJC

1. Is it correct to suggest that Justice Okoro reported to you and the NJC on 1st February, 2016 his alleged meeting at his official residence with Mr Rotimi Amaechi? Was Justice Okoro’s report documented by your Lordship and the NJC? If so, Nigerians would like to hear from your Lordship and the NJC whether Justice Okoro’s report was ever discussed, and what action, if any, was taken by your Lordship and the NJC to respond to the allegations raised in his report?”

2. Is it fair to suggest that your Lordship and the NJC knew, or had reason to know, that the alleged visit by Mr Amaechi to Justice Okoro’s official residence would constitute a case of political interference in the judicial system and a corruption offence under Nigerian laws and the UN Convention against Corruption to which Nigeria is a state party?”

3. After the alleged visit was brought to the attention of your Lordship and the NJC, did your Lordship and the NJC take any step to promptly and thoroughly investigate the matter further?”  

4. Would your Lordship and the NJC agree that the alleged visit to Justice Okoro’s official residence to discuss election Appeals has seriously undermined the public trust and confidence in the judiciary, and the image of the judiciary as the last hope of the common man?”

5. Is it correct to suggest that it is part of the inherent and implicit constitutional duties of the NJC to ensure that the judiciary as a whole does not lay itself open to the risk of political interference, manipulation and coercion to act in a certain way? Is it also correct to suggest that such duties require the NJC to promptly and thoroughly investigate allegations of political interference in the judicial system, that is, when those in political power allegedly use their influence to force or induce judges to act and rule according to their interests and not in accordance with the application of the law?”

6. Would your Lordship and the NJC accept that the alleged visit by Mr Amaechi to the official residence of Justice Okoro to allegedly discuss election Appeals was motivated, facilitated and encouraged by the apparent failure by the NJC to ensure, as part of its inherent and implicit constitutional duties: (1) that system was in place to ensure prompt and thorough investigation of allegations of political interference in the judicial system and where there is prima facie evidence, to refer such allegations to appropriate anti-corruption commissions and agencies for further investigation and possible prosecution, in strict accordance with the standards of national laws and international law including the UN Convention against Corruption; (2) that any such system was operating in a continuous and effective manner?” 

7. Would your Lordship and the NJC proceed to establish a system to ensure prompt and thorough investigation of allegations of political interference in the judicial system, and then ensure that through such system the alleged visit of Mr Amaechi to Justice Okoro’s official residence is promptly and thoroughly investigated by the NJC, and where there is prima facie evidence of political interference, that the matter is promptly referred to appropriate anti-corruption commissions and agencies for further investigation and possible prosecution?”

“Nigerians are eagerly awaiting clarifications from your Lordship and the NJC on the issues raised above.” SERAP said.

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