Thursday, October 27, 2016

Rotimi Amaechi: Test of Buhari’s Anti-Corruption War

By Wale Suleiman
A judge is not a lawyer, and neither is he an advocate. A judge is a priest. His vineyard is the temple of justice. But a judge doesn’t make prophesies. He doesn’t have a crystal ball. He only makes pronouncements. But he’s guided, not by the gods, but by the rules that define justice. He is an interpreter of the law when justice is at stake.

That is why he is a revered priest because in his interpretation lies life and death. He must not succumb to the human whims, yet he is a human being. He must keep fidelity to the lifeless words of the law. That is why the law has been described as an ass. The law is a tyrant, and the judge is always a victim of that tyranny.
That is why dubious politicians don’t take chances. They find ingenious ways to sway the judge. They hire lawyers in good reckoning of the judges who act as go between, and dangle sometimes irresistible offers. Some judges succumb to the lucre and desecrate the temple. They compromise the law, and justice. This country has seen it often and often.
Thus when the Department of State Security recently raided the residences of some senior judges believed to have soiled their robes, many were not surprised. But many were scandalised only by the manner of the raid, which portrayed the system as crude and uncivilised.
But since after the raids, the tables have started turning and the hunters are becoming the hunted. The judges whose homes were raided started fighting back. It was Justice Adeniyi Ademola of the Federal Capital Territory High Court who fired the first shot. He wrote a well-publicised letter to the Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, and Chairman of the National Judicial Council, NJC, explaining why he became a target of the DSS. He pointed fingers at the Abubakar Malami, the Attorney General and Minister of Justice as the man behind his travails.
He said his arrest was a revenge from Malami, whose arrest and detention he ordered over a professional misconduct while he was judge in Kano between 2004 and 2008.
But when Inyang Okoro, a Justice of the Supreme Court, made his own ‘pronouncement’, and narrated how Rotimi Amaechi, Minister of Transport, committed blasphemy, it was not only damning, it was earth-shaking! Okoro, in a letter to the CJN wrote that his ordeal was tied to Amaechi’s visit to his residence, alleging that the minister “said that the President of Nigeria and the All Progressives Congress mandated him to inform me that they must win their election appeals in respect of Rivers State, Akwa Ibom State and Abia State at all costs.”
Justice Okoro also claimed that Amaechi stated that he sponsored Mr. Umana Umana, candidate of All Progressives Congress for that election and that if he lost Akwa Ibom appeal, he would have lost a fortune. Okoro further revealed that Amaechi had promised that if Umana won the court case, he (Umana) would pay the justice “millions of naira monthly” for subverting the law.
For a man who raised the bar of his integrity when he told the Senate last year, during his screening as minister, that he had never offered nor demanded bride in his entire life, the allegation came to some as shocking. But for many Nigerians used to politicians’ lies, the allegations only went to confirm their suspicion that Amaechi, just like many politicians, is also a pathological liar.
In truth, they are mere allegations, and a man is innocent until proven guilty. Okoro only reported Amaechi to the CJN, and has not sued him. But the minister wasted no time in debunking Okoro’s claims as ‘fiction’, and has the desperate antics of a sinking man. Amaechi seemed to have confirmed and condemned Okoro as guilty, even when the court is yet to hear his case. Yet Amaechi wants Nigerians to believe he never did as Okoro claimed, by simply saying the Justice lied.
Amaechi also wasted no time in saying he would sue Okoro for defamation of character. It is a step many expected him to take. Amaechi would prefer the law court to the court of public opinion where he is sure to lose. But going to court is a commendable first step. But that is not enough. He must pursue his case in court in order to clear his name. But while doing so, he should go a step further by immediately offering his letter of resignation. His continued stay in the cabinet of President Muhammadu Buhari is a stain on the reputation of Mr. President, and that of his administration.
This is more so as another Supreme Court Judge also made similar allegations against Amaechi in a letter to the CJN. Justice Sylvester Ngwuta, in his letter accused Amaechi of attempting to compromise him to rule in favour of the APC, in the Ekiti and Rivers states election disputes. Amaechi also called the allegations fiction and concocted lies by people who planned to destroy him politically.
These revelations must no doubt be embarrassing to Amaechi. And coming from senior judges, they are weighty allegations that require Mr. President’s action to save the integrity of his anti-corruption war. No nominee of Mr. President has cast public doubts on the integrity of Buhari’s administration as much as Amaechi.
When he was nominated as minister, no one expected he would be cleared in view of the significant disregard for due process unearthed by a probe instituted by his successor- Governor Nyesom Wike. Not only was he alleged to have benefitted from sale of government entities he sold, huge funds belonging to River State were also found to have disappeared from bank accounts. Specifically, the commission of enquiry heard with evidence that Amaechi diverted N3 billion CBN loan allocated to agriculture, to fund election.
Of course, Amaechi denied all the allegations against him and said Wike was on a witch-hunt. Not a few Nigerians were shocked when the APC–led Senate asked Amaechi to take a bow without a grill on the revelations from the commission of enquiry report. It was a sham ministerial screening exercise that looked more as confirmation, instead of screening.
But if Nigerians had moved on over Amaechi’s clearance to be minister, the new revelations that have come out of the closets have made his continuing stay in the cabinet an embarrassment to Nigerians who support Buhari’s anti-corruption crusade. Of what value is leadership that lacks the force of personal examples?
If Buhari wants Nigerians and the international community to continue to take his administration seriously, he must show by his actions that there is indeed no sacred cow in the fight against corruption. If Amaechi and other ministers mentioned in bribery attempts are allowed to stay a day longer in government, then the anti-corruption war is already lost, and the country must begin the search for genuine leaders.
*Suleiman wrote in from Abuja (This article was first published in ThisDay)


  1. Articles such as this by Wale Suleiman, beyond the fine prose, leaves the reader wondering why a writer would advertise a deep political slant and intention without a sting to his conscience? It leaves more questions than answers! Indeed, the reader is left to rue on several negatives. One, whether the allegations by the Judges were not even fairer to Amaechi? Two, whether the very cause of justice hasn't been sacrificed by the far-reaching subjectivity of a writer who is not only alien to the dynamics of Rivers politics and the crude tactics of Amaechi's successor, but has failed to question what has stalled the trial of Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi since the conclusion of the assignment of the so-called Commission of Inquiry headed by Justice George Omereji of the Highlands Court of Rivers State? Or is Amaechi's office one of those insulated from prosecution by Section 308 of the 1999 Constitution?

    1. This forum gives opportunity for the expression of all shades of opinion. Those who hold contrary views to that presented by any of our featured writers can mail us a rejoinder which will be given the same prominence as the the article they are reacting to.

  2. "I Didn't Authorise Amaechi Or Anybody To Induce Judges - Buhari"

    The Presidency has said that President Muhammadu Buhari will be the last person to authorise anybody to induce a judge to pervert the course of justice.

    Recall that two Supreme Court Justices, Inyang Okoro and Sylvester Ugwuta have accused former governor of Rivers state and Minister of Transporataion, Rotimi Amaechi of attempts to manipulate court judgments in favour of the All Progressives Congress. Justice Okoro said that during the visit, Amaechi said that President Buhari and the APC mandated him (Amaechi ) to inform Justice Inyang that they must win their election Appeals in respect of Rivers , Akwa Ibom and Abia States at all cost.

    The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu, said this in a statement yesterday.

    Shehu, therefore, advised journalists and other Nigerians to stop linking President Buhari to the "legal travails of some recently arrested Judges in the country."

    He said despite Buhari's personal familiarity with some judges, he (the president) had never used that familiarity to seek favours from them from 2003, 2007 and 2011 when he was challenging the fairness of the presidential election results from the lowest to the highest courts in the land during the periods in question.

    Shehu also stated that as a politician, the president had never suggested to his lawyers to approach any judge for assistance to win his cases.

    According to the presidential aide, Buhari lives by this principle and has never deviated from it.

    On the fate of the judges facing corruption allegations, Shehu said the president does not tell courts how to do their jobs and that anybody accused of corruption is protected by law to defend his/her innocence.

    The presidential spokesman noted that the purpose of the law is to punish the guilty and acquit the innocent, adding that the law projects the rights of everyone.

    Shehu stressed that the president does not have any powers to force any court to convict anybody who is innocent, saying that in a democratic society, that cannot happen without resistance by the people.


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