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Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Muham-madu Lawal Uwais has scoffed at allegations of abuse of office and corruption, saying he is ready to pay the supreme sacrifice for Nigeria.
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Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Muham-madu Lawal Uwais has scoffed at allegations of abuse of office and corruption, saying he is ready to pay the supreme sacrifice for Nigeria.
"I will die for Nigeria," he told a team of THISDAY reporters who spoke with him in his conference room at the Supreme Court, Abuja yesterday.
Asked if he was worried for his life and the institution, which he has devoted 38 years of his life as a lawyer, Uwais replied, "I am worried for both myself and the institution. Worried for myself because you don't know to what extent people will go in present day Nigeria. My office was broken into. No report. Police has reported nothing to us.
"They came here, took photographs, arrested all my staff here. Even the lift attendants who are not here, were arrested and interviewed by the police. Some of them we had to beg the police to release because they were prolonging their detention.
"Up till now, there is no interim report or anything from the police. To go back to your question, I say I fear for myself because of this incident. You don't know to what extent people will go. All these allegations, all these calumnies to give money to others to do their dirty jobs. You don't know what extent they can get.
"I do fear for my life, but that will not stop me doing my work. If I die today for the sake of Nigeria, I feel fulfilled, so I will do my work the way I know it best until I leave this office. With regards to the institution itself, this is an honourable institution, I have been here.
"I have served under not less that five Chief Justices here. I do not know any one of them that was harassed out of office. None of them. From Chief Justices Sir Darnley Alexander, Fatai Williams, (George) Sowemimo, Ayo Irikefe and Mohammed Bello, none of them had people who were next to them aspiring by hook or by crook to succeed them.
In your 26 years at the Supreme Court, have you witnessed what happened yesterday before?
Never. I have been in this court since 1979. This is my 26th year in the Supreme Court and to the best of my knowledge, there was no moment when lawyers or litigants came to the face of the court to say that the judge or the judges are corrupt and that they would not like them hear their case. It has never happened at least in the 26 years that I have been in this court.
We have seen these petitions alleging abuse of office and specifically that you caused two cars each to be allocated to your wives. We want a response to that as well as the others?
First of all, I am sure this is the same petition (raising a sheaf of papers), may be addressed differently. It is addressed to the chairman NJC, which is myself. It is addressed to Mr. President. It is addressed to the Inspector-General of Police. It is sent to EFCC. It is sent to so many legal luminaries. So it is so much in circulation. But this is the copy, which I have. I also have a copy because the president has sent his own copy to me for us to look into. I have one in the first case also, the case that was served in Port Harcourt, like you said.
These petitions are all over the place. But the point is, there is no address. It is anonymous. This is an imitation by Justin Akpovere. If you remember in (Delta State Governor James) Ibori's case, there was an allegation that I was given N5 billion and it was this same people.
Derivation Front that made the petition. The matter we referred to the police to investigate. They could not trace their address. They described him in the report as a phantom, I am sure you have that report. That is one. Two, when you read this petition. We all agree that this is somebody from within and I have an idea who it is. It is a Justice of this court. To be frank, he is behind this, because a number of things that have been said there, for instance, the issue of my son who is working with the UBA are backgrounds known to some people who work here. My son was with Urban Development Bank. Urban Development Bank was given N1 billion as a take-off grant as the capital. The founding Managing Director put that money in finance houses and merchant banks. Those finance houses and merchant banks became distressed, so the money could not be recovered and the bank went into difficulties. It could not even pay salaries of the staff. Some of the senior members were the first to leave the bank. My son was with them for 5 years.
Then they enticed some of the other employees of the bank to join where they went and this is how my son got invited to join UBA and he joined UBA in 1998. When the NJC was established, although the constitution started working in May 1999, we didn't start functioning. We didn't have a board. We didn't have the staff.
I had to use the secretary to the Federal Judicial Service Commission to double as acting secretary of the NJC and secretary of the Federal Judicial Service Commission. This we did until the year 2000 when members of the commission were appointed. So in the meanwhile, we had to have an account, where money meant for the NJC will have to be kept and here she is, she will tell you that story.
I can only say I know it is as a result of her own advice that we opened an account with the UBA and this came about because she went to the Ministry of Finance, discussed with the officials there about the money, where it should be paid, how it should be kept and they asked how many banks we have account with. She explained and they said for convenience, because there is money for the FJSC and NJC, we should centralize the fund, and she decided not me, that we should have an account with the UBA. That was the background to my son working in UBA and to how, of course, she negotiated with the senior officer, not himself. She was responsible for the discussion and for seeking to have us open account there, not my son, so this is how we came about to open account there. You know there was an act passed in the year 2002 by the National Assembly, it is called Political and Public Office Holders Salaries, Allowances etc and new salaries, allowances as recommended by Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission came into force. The NJC pays the salaries and allowances of judges of the superior court in the states as well as federal judges. So NJC will receive this money and will disburse it to the states judiciaries and the Federal Court. The money was paid into the account and it was being disbursed to the state and other beneficiaries. That was what is being said, that I kept in the UBA and denied judicial officers of the money, that it was on fixed deposit or something and that my son is getting rapid promotion in the bank and so on. Now this is a chap who worked 4 or 5 years with Allied Bank before he transferred to Urban Development Bank and before he went to UBA.
When was this account opened?
The account was opened March 2000.
They said this account in UBA was the reason why your son was employed in UBA.
How can that be? I think what they were saying is that my wife Maryam introduced me to Hakeem Bello Osagie, the chairman of the bank and that is how my son got employed. But that is not true. Like I said, I never discussed the employment of my son. I knew Hakeem Bello Osagie because this court was in Lagos before it moved to Abuja in 1996 and I knew his father very well because his father and a colleague of mine, Justice Andrew Obaseki went to the same school. Justice Obaseki was a justice of the Supreme Court and they went to the same school with late Prof. Bello Osagie. Through Justice Obaseki, I knew Prof. Bello Osagie.
For Hakeem Bello Osagie, I didn't even know him, but on the pages of newspapers. They said he is chairman of the bank. He is alive, you could confirm if I have ever approached him to talk. My son got employed through his colleagues who earlier left the Urban Development Bank. I didn't speak to anybody. I didn't secure any job for him in the UBA.
How many cars do you have? Or how many official cars do you have?
There is no truth in that allegation to start with. What they said is that each of my wives has 2 cars with official drivers. That is a lie. It is not true. In the Supreme Court, every justice of the Supreme Court has a Mercedes as his official car and he has what is called backup car. Normally, it is a Peugeot. In addition to that, I will go back to 1992. You remember the Mercedes that were given by Gen. Ibrahim Babangida to the justices of the Supreme Court, which led the Concord to say it was bribe and there was even a court case. There were 13 of those cars. Those of us who were there had those cars. During the time of Mukhtari Dodo as Chief Registrar, we bought Mercedes 240E.
We got money and we bought new Mercedes 240E. So those of us who had the old ones still have the new ones and in addition, we have the Peugeot that each Justice is given as a backup car. So I have all those, that is from the side of the Supreme Court. Because I am chairman of the National Judicial Council, they bought me a Peugeot 607. Later on it wasn't in good condition so they decided to get another car, and they insisted because I travel a lot, that, we should have a Lexus Jeep. So we have that jeep. That makes 5 cars. The Federal Judicial Service Commission, I am the chairman also, made a car available to me and that is a Honda and NJI, National Judicial Institute, I am the chairman, they made a Station Wagon car available to me, that is how many cars that I have. Of course I can't enter all the cars at the same time. My wives use them and they use one each. I have 2 wives. We have one driver that is staying with us in the house. Anytime his services are required, any wife can take him out with a car. The other drivers don't stay with us. They work during office hours.
After office hours they go away. Those are the cars officially that I have, not 15 cars and not 2 cars to each of my wives.
The petitioners were kind enough to acknowledge that you used to be an honest man but that because you are afraid of the challenges of retirement, you are doing a lot of things to enrich yourself. One of them is that one of your wives goes around embassies and ministries looking for jobs or contract.
Unfortunately, I feel very bad that somebody close to me as a judge of this court will talk of my wife like that. My wife is a lawyer. She is self employed. She employs lawyers who work under her. She has her own office. When will she start running from ministry to ministry, embassy to embassy looking for job? As a matter of fact, what I earn is enough to keep us contented. It is just that all her life, even before she got married to me, she was working. She was a state counsel in Kano Ministry of Justice. When we got married, she transferred her service to the Nigerian Law Reform Commission. Later on she left Nigerian Law Reform Commission to go to the Central Bank and worked in the Central Bank until she decided because she was having young children, she couldn't work in the bank to attend to those children. She felt the time has come when she could set up her own practice. She will be in charge of herself and her own time and therefore can attend to her little children as she wanted. This is how she went into private practice and she has been quite successful as far as you can see. Her office is on Aguiyi Ironsi. It is a rented building, but she has some 2 or 3 lawyers that she has employed. She doesn't go to any ministry or embassy to look for job. She has friends, lady ambassadors, who are from Finland and Norway. These are her friends and she doesn't even visit them in their offices. She visits them in their houses.
Like I said, this petition is internal and there is a purpose. We will come to that and it is this particular justice who is using this against me.
The Globe Motors case versus The Honda Place. Can you throw more light on that?
The Globe motors case was filed as an appeal in this court. It started from the High Court. It is about importation of Honda cars. The parties reached some agreement. They wanted to settle the case in the High Court, so they reached some agreements, which they brought to the court and based on that agreement, the court gave its judgment. Later on, Globe Motors wanted to pull out of that agreement and they went and started other cases in the High Court and the question was whether they could do so and that went on until the case came up to this court. When the case came up to this court, it went before a panel headed by Justice Adolphus Karibi Whyte. I think Globe Motors applied to them for extension of time to do something and they granted that. This was in November 2001, later on the same case came up by that time I think Karibi Whyte had retired. So I put Justice Belgore to lead the panel and on that panel, we had Justice Ogwuegbu who has retired. Justice Uwaifo, Justice Ejiwunmi and Justice Mohammed. All the three have retired. Only Justice Ejiwunmi and Justice Belgore are left with us. When they sat in chambers, they decided to dismiss the appeal by Honda. This is not our practice. Our practice is that if you file a case, you are supposed within 10 weeks, to file a brief. If you fail to do so for up to a year, we ask the registrar to bring such cases before us so that we dismiss them because it doesn't show seriousness.
In the Honda Motor case, they were out of time by only 2 months and yet I don't know how the case was reached. It was heard in chambers and it was dismissed, contrary to our practice, which is to allow up to a year. After it was dismissed, the Honda Place people discovered what happened and applied to us to relist it. That is to put it back on the list and the case was a motion. There was no lawyer representing any side at all and this is a case like I said they were out of time for less than 2 months. How the case got to be heard in chambers is still a mystery to us. When we received the application, we all knew something went wrong. Even Justice Uwaifo knew. What I did, was to appoint a panel to rehear the application. Meanwhile Justice Belgore disqualified himself because he said his cousin, Babatunde Belgore who was the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court then, had a lot of interest in the case. In the meanwhile, he said he knew the chairman of Globe Motors, he was his friend, so because of that he asked that he should be disqualified from the case. Justice Ogwuegbu, I am not sure what happened, whether it is because he was sick for a long time before he retired or whether he was away that as he used also to sit as a justice of the Supreme Court of the Gambia or whether he was away to Gambia, I can't remember now. But somebody had to take his place, so I brought in Justice Iguh, who had retired also. Then I brought in Justice Mohammed, Justice Uwaifo and Justice Ejiwunmi who were on the panel with Justice Belgore when the case was dismissed. So the 5 of us heard this application about the case. We granted it because we felt that the panel headed by Justice Belgore did the wrong thing. We said 12 months so how come in less than 2 months, the case was being dismissed? Because the court made a mistake, we said we will relist it. That is how the case came back to us and in the meanwhile, the panel also got changed. Like I said, when we heard the case, Justice Iguh has retired, Justice Mohammed has retired and Justice Uwaifo has retired. Virtually the 4 people, who sat with Justice Belgore at the beginning have left us. This is how I brought in Justice Katsina Alu, Justice Musdapher, Justice Kalgo and Justice Edozie. That is the new panel and that is the allegation that the case was dismissed, we sat on appeal, we didn't call the original panel to hear it and that we relisted it. It is not true. I will show you the papers. There were 3 original members of that panel and the 2 who are missing. Belgore disqualified himself from sitting on the case. Like I said Justice Ogwuegbu either he was away in the Gambia or he was sick I can't remember now, I have to replace him and those who sat with Belgore admitted that they made a mistake. I have the ruling by Uwaifo which I will show you.
When they dismissed the appeal in chambers, Justice Belgore was involved, but when it was relisted, he disqualified himself...
Like I said, the Chairman of the Globe Motors, Chief Willie Anumudu is his friend. He comes to him. Normally when you have a case, you come to speak to me, you think I could be of assistance to you, I won't stop you from talking, but when you finish, if the panel is to be set up and I am to be there, I will say I am sorry, I am disqualifying myself.
They come to me to report, because I am responsible for constituting the panel. They come to me if I put them on a panel. Sometimes before then they will alert me, there is so, so case, they don't want to take part in it, or if I set up a panel, they see themselves on the panel, they come and say sorry for some reasons, I don't want to be on the panel and we don't ask even why. We don't even want to know the reason. Once a judge says sorry, I don't want to be on this panel, we exclude him. Any judge who doesn't want to sit on a case is free to say so and it is only if I am not satisfied I can ask why, but I don't really ask why. By practice, once you say you don't want to be involved, we say alright, we will get somebody in your place.
Since the case was relisted, was yesterday the first time it is being heard?
No, it had come up on a number of occasions.
And they (Globe Motors) were represented?
Late Chief Rotimi Williams was their lawyer at first. After the relisting, his chambers came to the motion. When we passed a motion for relisting, Globe Motors was represented by the son of Rotimi Williams, Ladi Williams. His other son, T.B. Williams were all in the crew that came for that application.
How come that they did not raise any objection until now? Did they at any point indicate their discomfort at the way the case was going?
On the 12th of May, the last time we had the case, we had arguments. Before then, Prof. Ben Nwabueze came into the case. He said he was part of the case of Chief Rotimi Williams and from about January he had been dealing with the case. We have had a number of days that the case came up, but because papers were not filed, they will ask for this, ask for that, until we fixed the hearing of the appeal against the 12th of May. Even then, they didn't oppose. They didn't say they didn't like the panel. There was nothing like that, so we heard the appeal. Alhaji Abdullahi Ibrahim who was for Honda presented his case.
Prof. Nwabueze answered their own side and we adjourned the case for judgement. I think the judgement is coming on the 15th of July. Suddenly now, after this petition I suppose was circulated, they then decided to come with a motion which we heard yesterday. The first step they took is they wrote a letter to the National Judicial Council, asking the National Judicial Council to change the panel. We have heard the appeal. We have adjourned it for judgement. This petition is that they learnt that I have been bribed and that of the panel of 5, 2 of us are going to dissent. The 3 of us are going to give judgement against them. They said from that information, they wanted the panel to be changed because their interest was being prejudiced.
They accused you of interfering in the High Court of Rivers State. How did you get involved in that?
I got involved because of my being chairman of the National Judicial Council. You know the National Judicial Council supervises all the judges of the superior courts. As chairman, I receive complains against judges all over the country and I received a petition from a lawyer in Lagos, a lawyer of Halliburton against the judge in Port Harcourt. The whole case belongs to Port Harcourt. It was an allegation of Halliburton doing something that affected a community. A community of about 416 people. This case went to the High Court. Judgment was given against Halliburton, but their lawyers according to their petition, filed a motion to the court to stay the enforcement of the judgment which they received against the community, and the judgment was in the sum of over N800 million. At the same time, they filed a notice of appeal in the Court of Appeal in Port Harcourt. Every lawyer knows it that if an appeal is filed in a case, it operates as a stay of execution. You don't rush to do that because you will be overreaching the Court of Appeal. You have to wait to have the appeal determined. You can ask that the amount of money should be put in the court so that when they win or lose the appeal, the money can be released. At least you know the money is there. That was not the situation here. What happened was there was motion before the judge to stay action in the case and there was an appeal in the Court of Appeal in Port Harcourt, but the judge refused to hear the motion for stay. In the meanwhile, the lawyer of the community went to a bank in Port Harcourt, where Halliburton had account and when they went there, it was with thugs. The place was attacked, the bank manager was forced to issue a bank draft and Halliburton had about a little over N700 million in their account, which was not up to the judgment sum. The bank manager, under fear, had to sign and issue a bank draft to these people. It was as a result of that, that the lawyer there wrote a petition to me complaining about what the judge was doing, and when I read it, I could see these facts that I have told you are there. What they are complaining about is, if this money is given to the community of 416 people, should they succeed in their appeal, how can they recover this money? So this is the report I received. I realised if I should write to the CJ, it will take time, so I telephoned him and he happened to be in Abuja. I said this is the petition which I have received. He said oh, he wasn't aware, but he will give instruction to the registrar in Port Harcourt that if the cheque is brought to him, I think they wrote it in the name of the court, that he should not release it. He should keep it since there is an appeal pending. This is what happened. I didn't interfere unduly. Like I said as chairman of NJC, I always receive petitions. I refer these petitions to the judges. When they answer, if I am not satisfied with the answer I present it to the NJC for further investigation. If I feel satisfied, that is the end of it. It has nothing to do with my son. They said my son is lawyer to Halliburton. It is not true. My son practices here in Abuja. He doesn't know Halliburton. The lawyer who wrote me that you will see the name at the end of the letter is Oghogho Akpata that I don't even know. I know of the name Akpata. We had a judge here, a colleague, who was Justice Ephraim Akpata who was with INEC. But I don't know this fellow from Adam.
They also allege that you and a few others have so many houses and bank accounts all over the world.
I don't have houses all over the place. I can tell you that I have, first of all, a house in Zaria, which is a family house. When my father died, I happened to be the eldest son, so I inherited that house. I have a house I built myself. It is just a three bedroom house because later in life I discovered as my family was growing up, when we come on leave, we could not stay in the family house, so I decided to build a separate house of 3-bedroom. I took loan from the government of Northern Nigeria, this is as far back as 1970. I took loan and built that house and the other house which I have is in Kaduna. That was built between 1977 and 1978. I was a High Court Judge then. I took loan from was called Nigeria Building Society, that later transformed into Federal Mortgage Bank.
It wasn't until, not more than 10 years ago I was able to liquidate it because I took 15 years to repay the loan. They said I borrowed N57,500 to build the house, and after 13 years of paying N500 a month from my salary, they then said I was still owing N40,000. I said how could that be, when I have 2 years to finish. I borrowed N57,500 and after 14 years, if you multiply N6000 by 13 years, it gives you ideas how much payment I have made. To tell me I am still owing N40,000 didn't look like the truth. There was dispute and I said they are not keeping their accounts well. At their own instruction, my bank was deducting from my salary N500 every month paying to them. I said I have bank statements and they said that is not good enough.
They said I have to show proof that my bank after deducting it from my salary had paid to their account. I went to the bank, which is Union Bank. They said all the documents have gone to the archive, they had to assign 2 of their officers to go through their archives to trace all these things for 13 years and that they will charge me money for that. So I had to resort of going to a friend. A wealthy friend to lend me N40,000 to repay this fee and forget about it. I did so because the house since I built it, from 1979 to date has been rented by Peugeot Company. They put their staff there and I have been receiving rent and I told this friend of mine, if I receive the rent, I will pay you off your N40,000. He was kind enough to lend the money. I don't want to embarrass him by telling his name but if need be, he is there. He is alive. He is in Lagos. He can answer you. When I collected the rent for two years, I paid him off his N40,000 and I had the balance of N8,000. That is my third house. The fourth and fifth houses were built with a loan. I had a plot in Lekki and I decided because there was no road, no water, and we were leaving Lagos to move to Abuja, I decided to sell it. I sold it for N2.6 million and I said I will use that money to build a wall round the plot I have in Asokoro and boys quarters that I was not going to borrow any money any more considering all the trouble I have had with mortgage banks. I felt that if my children grow up, they can develop on that. This same friend of mine came to me and said, what I was doing is not helpful. He said I can build 2 houses on the land, sell one to repay part of the loan. I didn't like it, but somehow he convinced me. He arranged for a loan. I borrowed money from the Union Bank, about N22/23 million naira. That money was used in building those 2 houses. My idea was to sell one and to retain one like he suggested, but luckily for me, some oil company called Chevron came forward. They needed a house for an office and another to use as a guest house. They offered to rent those 2 houses. They offered to pay 4 years rent in advance and on each house, they paid N2.5 million. For 4 years I got about 20 million, I collected that and paid straight to the bank. They couldn't believe it in the bank. Later on, I was able to pay the balance and the interest. This is how I came to have those 2 houses.
Those are the houses I have. There is one in Karu, which my son, who works in the UBA lives. I told you I had sold my land in Lekki when we were moving here. When we were in Lagos, it was alright. People from the North find it difficult to come all the way to Lagos to see you, to ask for favours or whatever. But I knew Zaria is my home. If I move to Abuja, I will have a lot of people coming to me. My house may not be enough. Federal Housing Authority was building houses and selling. They sent us forms while we were still in Lagos. I completed the form, I wanted to buy a house in Kubwa, which were going for N450,000. I had to deposit 50% of that. Later on, they said they cannot give me a house in Kubwa. I could have a detached house in Karu, but I will have to pay much more; about N600,000. I had to look for N150,000 to make up that. That is how I got the house there. Those are the houses I have in my life.
What about the foreign bank accounts?
I don't have. As a student I studied in England and I was on Northern Nigeria Government Scholarship. We used to receive cheques from crown agents and we must have account.
I opened account with Barclays bank BCO. It was very close to Nigeria High Commission and I had that account up till the time I returned to Nigeria. At the time I returned to Nigeria, I think I had something like 2 pounds, ten shillings in the account. Since I came to Nigeria, my salary was not even enough for me and there was no extra that I could keep in any foreign bank. By 1979, the Obasanjo's government, said we should all close foreign account, up till today, I have no account anywhere outside Nigeria. It is not true. I challenge anyone who says I have an account to tell which bank where it could be traced.
At the beginning you made a statement that the authors of the petition is in the Supreme Court, probably a justice.
Who do you have in mind?
I wouldn't like to give you names, but I can tell you why we say that. There are people overdriven by ambition, to succeed me and we are aware they are in concert with politicians and others, that you will see more of these petitions, you will see more of these allegations. This is their plan. What is being said is that I have stayed in office far too long and that those who will succeed me have not long to go. So why wouldn't I go now to give them more time to be in office? Since I wouldn't go, they will force me out of office by all these allegations and so on. I will just be fed up and say look what is there in this office, afterall I have less than a year to go, I will put in my letter of retirement. This is what they want. This is the plan behind it. I can mention names, but I won't like to do it here. I know what is going on. This is the background.
They are doing a lot of damage.
Of course, this is why I said they are blinded by ambition. Even this Globe Motors thing is connected to that. The leaking of information from within the court to people to look at them is from here. We all know that. Even the language of some of the petitions gives an idea. When you work with somebody over the years, anything he writes you know it. You can tell and not only that, some of the things said here were being said even before.
Will that be the background to the leaking of the judgement in the Ibori case?
No. I wouldn't know about that one. But that time, it was not really an intensified campaign of calumny. I can tell you the background. You know Moses Oddiri is the one behind it. Before he was hiding it, but he came to the open and I tell you the original plan they had was that to get me disqualified from participating in the case. There were plans to pay money into my account and then it will be released to the press that I have taken bribe and that will force me to disqualify myself. Even if I deny it, because of that allegation, it was thought I will disqualify myself in taking part in a particular case. That was the plan, it was leaked to us, then somebody was assigned to go and look for my bank account and he succeeded in doing that but at least that story came back to me and I went to my bank and blocked my account that on no account should any money be paid, except my salary or it comes from me. Up till today, if you try to pay money into my account, the bank manager will have to telephone me to say so. Of course, I have been with Union Bank, they have been good to me. I told you how they gave me loan to build a house here. I have been with them since 1958 when I started earning my first salary. I have account in Lagos, even the loan I got for building the house was through the bank in Lagos. Moloney branch and I have an account in Kaduna because I started there. My account with them there has gone dormant because there is no payment. All the same, I blocked those accounts, you can revive an account by payment into it.
Are you worried for yourself and the institution?
I am worried for both myself and the institution. Worried for myself because you don't know to what extent people will go in present day Nigeria. My office was broken into. No report. Police has reported nothing to us. They came here, took photographs, arrested all my staff here. Even the lift attendants who are not here, were arrested and interviewed by the police. Some of them we had to beg the police to release because they were prolonging their detention. Up till now, there is no interim report or anything from the police. To go back to your question, I say I fear for myself because of this incident. You don't know to what extent people will go. All these allegations, all these calumnies to give money to others to do their dirty jobs. You don't know what extent they can get. I do fear for my life, but that will not stop me doing my work.
If I die today for the sake of Nigeria, I feel fulfilled, so I will do my work the way I know it best until I leave this office. With regards to the institution itself, this is an honourable institution, I have been here. I have served under not less that 5 Chief Justices. I do not know any one of them that was harassed out of office. None of them. From Chief Justices Sir Darnley Alexander, Fatai Williams, (George) Sowemimo, Ayo Irikefe and Mohammed Bello, none of them had people who were next to them aspiring by hook or by crook to succeed them. It has never happened. If that happens this time around, we could see it is a sorry story for this institution and then it is always easy to start a thing, but you don't know where it will end. Will it be nice to hear that each time there is a Chief Justice, he is going to be harassed by the untoward behaviour amongst those that will like to succeed him? That will be a very bad thing.
In the Concord case we remember that you and your colleagues went to court. In this case what are you going to do?
Now, you remember why we went to court in Concord case? I will tell you, you may not know. The whole justices of the Supreme Court in 1991 were going to Ilorin for the wedding of 2 daughters of Justice Kawu, who was then a justice of the Supreme Court. When we got to Oyo, we were then having Peugeot. I think it was 505 or 504. When we got to Oyo we were involved in an accident. A huge lorry lost control. It will hit a car and then will come back to the road, again, hit the next one and in the process, one of us, Justice Shehu Mohammed lost his life because the time they were hit near a ditch. He dropped on his head and died and then so many others, like the Chief Justice himself, Justice Uche Omo, Justice Nnaemeka Agu, Justice Kutigi, all sustained serious injuries. Mr. Clement Akpamgbo SAN, was then the Attorney-General of Babangida. People said that if we had stronger cars maybe, lives could have been saved, that injuries would not have been much. Akpamgbo himself sold that idea to Babangida and it was decided to order those Mercedes 200 through Julius Berger here. They came eventually here in Abuja. About that time, there was this case by Moshood Abiola. Abiola was told he could come to the Supreme Court with his case, the case came to the Supreme Court and we said we have no jurisdiction, because we could only hear disputes between state and state, we don't hear dispute by an individual. We said we have no jurisdiction. Of course, the cars were registered here in the motor vehicle registry in the name of the Chief Registrar of the Supreme Court since they are official cars and they were driven to Lagos, delivered in our court premises. Then once people saw that, they said it was bribe from Babangida for us to give the ruling which we did. That is how the story started and we got the Chief Registrar of the Supreme Court to explain to Concord, that these cars were not bribe. They are registered. If they were bribes, they won't be registered in the name of the Chief Registrar, that they can check that for themselves in the vehicle registration office here in Abuja. They ignored that and went on publishing. By that time Akpamgbo was out of office, Babangida was out of office. Gen. Sani Abacha had succeeded (Chief Ernest) Shonekan, so (Dr. Olu) Onagoruwa was the Attorney-General to Abacha. You would expect in a situation like that, the Attorney-General of the day would issue a statement defending the judiciary, but in his own wisdom, he chose not to do it.
In the meantime, we have colleagues overseas who were asking questions. Some of our friends and colleagues overseas were asking us why should this be? We explained, but back at home, even the other newspapers joined in the quarrel. We said alright, if we have offered explanation, it is not accepted, if the Attorney-General of the day will not make a statement, knowing very well these vehicles were not bribe, we should go to court. We went to court, but what happened, you remember Abacha set up Justice (Kayode) Eso Panel to investigate the judiciary. The late Remi Fani-Kayode who was a member of that panel wrote a paper that all of us should be removed from office because we have disgraced the judiciary by going to court because at the end of the day, if we have judgment in the High Court, and in the Court of Appeal, then what happens when the appeal comes to the Supreme Court. Some of the members I think they were 7 or 8, were in favour of recommending that we should be removed from office. But the others who were in majority said no. They said they will write their own report separate from the others and this is what stopped them from recommending to Abacha that all of us should be removed from office. We said okay, if that is the case, if we have similar situation, we will not react that way. We didn't agree with them. We felt that this is political, maybe you don't agree that you have the right to sue and we have authority. Since then we said all right, we accept. We said we would not embarrass the judiciary. If we are accused, if we can answer we will answer. If we can't answer, we keep quiet, but the time will come in my case when I will answer. I have just a year to go. When I retire, I am a free citizen. I can sue anybody for libel or defamation. For now, I am inhibited, but I know by the time I leave office, if I choose to do so, if I consider it necessary, I will do so.
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