Another Justice of the Supreme Court, Justice Sylvester Ngwuta, has accused the Minister of Transportation, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi, and his Science and Technology counterpart, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, of asking him to help to influence the apex court’s decisions in some election cases.
Ngwuta, who is one of the seven judges arrested recently by the operatives of the Department of State Services, said his current ordeal was connected to his refusal to accede to the requests made by the ministers. He made the allegation in his letter dated October 18, 2016, and addressed to the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Mahmud Mohammed.
Okoro’s letter, dated October 17, 2016, also addressed to the CJN, had stated:
“I strongly believe that my travail is not unconnected with the verbal report I made to you on February 1, 2016, about the visit to my official residence by H/E Rotimi Amaechi, former Governor of Rivers State, and now Minister of Transportation.”
“In that report, I told you my Lord that Mr. Amaechi said the President of Nigeria and the All Progressives Congress mandated him to inform me that they must win their election appeals in Rivers State, Akwa Ibom and Abia states at all costs.”
In his own letter, which was leaked to the media on Thursday, Justice Ngwuta alleged that Amaechi wanted to use him to influence the Supreme Court judgment with respect to election cases on the Rivers State governorship election and the Ekiti State governorship election.
He claimed that Onu contacted him to help sway the Court of Appeal’s decision on Ebonyi State governorship election matter. Ngwuta alleged that Amaehi had sought his help to make the Supreme Court to set aside the election of the incumbent governor, Ayodele Fayose, in order to pave the way for another election to enable his friend, Mr. Kayode Fayemi (now Minister of Solid Mineral and Steel Development), to contest the poll again.
Similar to the allegation by Okoro, Justice Ngwuta added that Amaechi had impressed it upon him that the President was interested in the judgment of the Supreme Court going in favour of the APC.
He said further that on the day the panel heard the Rivers State election case, and after members of the panel took a break, Amaechi called him on telephone while he was in his chambers, stressing that he switched off his mobile before the conversation went far. Justice Ngwuta stated:
“He (Amaechi) begged me to ensure that Fayose’s election was set aside and another election ordered for his friend, Fayemi, to contest. I told him I would not help him and that even if I am on the panel, I have only my one vote.”
“After the Rivers State Governorship election was determined by the Court of Appeal, he called to tell me his ears were full and he would like to tell me what he heard. I told him I was out of Abuja at the time.”
“On my return, he came in the evening and even before he sat down he barked, “You have seen Wike! I asked him whether that was a question or a statement. Then he made a call and asked me to speak with someone. ”
“The man he called said he was a DSS man. We exchanged greetings and I handed the telephone to him. Next, he said ‘Oga is not happy’. I asked him who is the unhappy Oga and he answered ‘Buhari’.
“I retorted ‘go and talk to his wife’. He got very angry and left, remarking ‘we shall see’ several times. Your Lordship may recall one morning when I pleaded not be on the panel for Rivers Appeal.”
“Your Lordship said I was already on the panel and asked me to explain why I made the request to be excluded. When I explained what transpired the previous night, Your Lordship told me Amaechi had also attempted to influence other Justices.”
‘How Onu invited me over Ebonyi poll appeal’
In a related development, Justice Ngwuta said Onu invited him and he honoured the invitation during which the Minister of Science and Technology sought his help to influence the decision of the Court of Appeal on the Ebonyi State governorship election case last year. He stated:
“The incident I will narrate below may or may not bear on this case. When the governorship election appeal from my state, Ebonyi, came to the Court of Appeal, one Mr. Igwenyi, a senior staff member of the Federal Judicial Service Commission came to my chambers and told me that the former Governor of Abia State, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, had pleaded with him to convince me to see him, Onu.
“I asked him to call Dr. Onu; he did and I wanted to know why he wanted to see me. He said it was confidential. I asked when he wanted to see me and he said he would like me to come in the evening. I told Igwenyi that he would have to take me to Dr. Onu in his car and bring me back. I had wanted him to listen to what Dr. Onu had to say but when we arrived, Dr Onu put him in a different room.”
“He asked me whether I know the Hon. President of the Court of Appeal and I told him that His Lordship was my Presiding Justice in the Court of Appeal, Benin Division. He asked of my relationship with the PJA and I said it was cordial. He nodded his head several times in apparent satisfaction.”
“He told me the candidate of the Labour Party was ready to switch over to APC if he could help him win the appeal in the Court of Appeal and that in appreciation of the undertaking to come over to his party, he had obtained the services of three Justices of the Court of Appeal to ensure victory for the Labour Party.”
“He said he needed one to convince the PJA to include his three Justices of the Court of Appeal in the five-man panel to hear the appeal. I told him I would not help him and that I could not, in good conscience, convey such request even to a Customary Court Judge.”
“He was disappointed and asked me whether I knew the husband of the PJA. I told him I did not know the man. I bid him good night and left. Igwenyi joined me in the passage and when he drove me back to my home, I told him what Dr. Onu wanted. Igwenyi apologised to me and assured me that he would not have bothered me if he had known what Dr. Onu wanted me to do.”
The Justice of the apex court also alleged that the operatives of the DSS planted some amounts of money in his house during the raid on his home to incriminate him. He said apart from the $25,000, £10 and a brown envelope containing the sum of N710,000 which was a monthly allowance paid to him for September 2016 and another N300,000 and some loose change contained in the bag he usually took to the office, he had no explanation for the large sum of money allegedly recovered from his house.
But he said he signed a document said to be containing the list of items recovered from his house under a life-threatening situation. He said:
“One of them came to where I was lying down and ordered me to sit up. One of the gunmen, who stood a few feet from me, came and stood next to me with his gun drawn. I was ordered to sign a paper which they said contained a list of what they were taking away.”
“Confronted with the life-threatening situation, I made an instant mental decision that it was better for me to comply with their orders and stay alive to tell my story rather than get shot and killed on the pretext that I attacked them or that I tried to escape.”
“I signed the paper and wrote my name as ordered. No one told me what offence I was alleged to have committed. No one told me of any petition or allegation against me. I do not know how they came about the huge sums of money I saw for the first time in my parlour on the early hours of Saturday, October 8, 2016.”
“The various sums of money alleged to have been recovered from me were said to be in the social media in the early hours of Saturday, October 8, 2016, when the invaders were yet to complete their search.”
“My Noble Lord, I am a victim of my own resolve never to violate my sacred oath of office as a judicial officer. Politicians and their collaborators have been hunting me on that account.”
“It started in Ebonyi State where I was falsely accused before a panel, set up by the NJC in August 2000. It was replicated in 2009 when I was pulled from my Division, Calabar, to preside over a motion filed by Senator Andy Uba, seeking to be a Governor without going through the process of election. In each case, I was exonerated.”