Posted by From Emmanuel Onwubiko on
THE Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Muhammadu Lawal Uwais, and his colleagues at the nation's apex court are ready for probe over the alleged N5 billion bribe...
* Ready for probe
THE Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Muhammadu Lawal Uwais, and his colleagues at the nation's apex court are ready for probe over the alleged N5 billion bribe that they were accused of receiving in the ex-convict suit involving Delta State Governor James Onanefe Ibori.
A group, the Derivation Front, had last year alleged that the Supreme Court panel of seven justices, including the Chief Justice, were bribed to turn a verdict ordering a fresh trial of the allegation of Ibori as an ex-convict.
Uwais, who spoke yesterday with some journalists, also said that a pending petition at the National Judicial Council (NJC) against Justice Husseini Muktar of the Abuja High Court would only be dealt with after the subsisting appeal had been disposed of.
Justice Muktar had on November 18, 2004 returned a verdict that due to several material contradictions in the allegations against Ibori, the governor is not an ex-convict.
A lawyer, Mr. Moses Odiri, wrote the petition to the NJC against Justice Muktar. On the N5 billion bribe allegation, the Chief Justice who has previously defended the integrity of the Bench, said he and his colleagues were ready for probe by the police.
He queried: "Apart from the Ibori case, have you ever heard of anybody accusing the Supreme Court or its justices of taking bribe?"
Uwais added: "I have been on the Bench for 31 years. This is the first time ever in my career that I am being accused of taking bribe. It has been done twice in this Ibori's case. Why should that be? Take time to think about it."
The Chief Justice continued: "We have nothing to hide, we can assure you, and if the various bodies charged with the responsibilities to investigate misconduct are interested, the NJC, the ICPC, the police and EFCC, we are ready, we are prepared to appear before them and explain our side."
Uwais also blamed the International Police (INTERPOL) for failing to make the report of a probe on the N5 billion alleged bribe public. He` confirmed that his decision to go to court for alleged libel over the now rested National Concord almost cost him his job during the late Gen. Sani Abacha's regime.
Justice Uwais had on February 6 last year alleged intimidation and blackmail over the Ibori case.
The Chief Justice, who read an address before judgment was delivered in the Ibori matter that day, said that since November 6, 2003 when the case was adjourned for judgment, a group of people called "Derivation Front" with one Mr. Edikeme Akpovilli as its National Co-ordinator, had been writing "insulting and contemptuous" letters to him.
Uwais said that the group had written him alleging "that I was given a sum of N5 billion for distribution among my brethren of this court in order to influence the judgment of this court, which they claimed they knew would be decided in favour of the Governor of Delta State, James Onanefe Ibori."
He continued: "The next letter was written to me on January 29, 2004 threatening to display to the public the court's judgment to be delivered this morning. A couple of days ago, they capped their scurrilous and base allegations by attaching to a letter dated February 2, 2004 addressed to the Inspector-General of Police, the last two pages of what they perceived as part of the judgment to be delivered in this matter this morning."
Uwais, who made the letters and the attachments available to the press, said: "Let me make it clear to all and sundry that no matter how highly or lowly placed they are, we shall not allow ourselves to be stampeded, blackmailed or intimidated into taking any step that is contrary to the dictates of our conscience."
He added: "Finally, let me mention that the letters by themselves constitute the offence of contempt of this court since they sought to interfere with the decision of this court. The authors of the letters are challenged if they are not cowards to be bold enough to make their identities known if they are sincere in their actions and believe in their cause."`
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