Monday, 15 September 2014

In Petition To Chief Justice Of Nigeria, Group Accuses Governor Obiano Of Bribing Supreme Court Justices

A non-governmental group called Anambra Watch has sent a petition to Nigeria’s Chief Justice, Aloma Miriam Mukthar, accusing Governor Willie Obiano of Anambra State of using a front to offer bribes to Supreme Court justices who will be determining several appeals arising from the November 16, 2013 governorship election.
The petition, which was signed by Chukwuka Okoye and Peter Nwafor, alleged that the state governor was trying to pervert the course of justice. The petitioners pointed fingers at Alphonsus Uba Igbeke as the agent of the governor in the scheme to bribe justices. According to them, Mr. Igbeke, popularly known as Ubanese, had been paying visits to the residences of the various justices who have been named as members of a panel to hear appeals filed against Governor Obiano by candidates of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and All Progressives Congress (APC). The appellants are praying the apex court to rule that INEC’s declaration of Mr. Obiano of the All Peoples Grand Alliance (APGA) as the duly elected governor of Anambra State was flawed and should be nullified. Both the governor and Ubanese are from the same area.
The Supreme Court has set aside Tuesday September 16 to hear the election appeals. However, the petitioners informed CJ Mukthar that Governor Obiano has recruited Mr. Igbeke to meet with some of the Supreme Court justices on the panel and offer them huge sums in foreign currencies.
The petitioners wrote: “Our investigations show that Chief Igbeke had visited three of the justices in their respective official residence in the last one week. Your lordship may wish to call for security reports from the operatives of Department of State Security Services (DSS) who monitor daily activities and movements at the homes of the justices.
As your lordship will recall, Chief Igbeke is not new in the act of perverting the cause of justice. It was Igbeke who bribed some clerks working in the chambers of Justice Galadima who leaked the judgment in the appeal involving Senator Margery Okadigbo and Uba Igbeke. The judgment was posted in the Internet before its delivery after Chief Igbeke failed in his bid to bribe all the justices in the panel to give judgment in his favor. The aim was to blackmail the justices who refused to be compromised. The Federal Judicial Service Commission while dismissing the staff of the Supreme Court and Court of Appeal who aided Chief Igbeke in the act of infamy recommended that Chief Igbeke himself be prosecuted by the Attorney-General of the Federation for masterminding the leakage of the judgment.  So with this notoriety it beats our imagination why some of the justices of the highest court in the land would be disposed to receiving such a character in their official residence or elsewhere to discuss cases coming up before them.”
The panel of seven justices constituted to hear the appeals against Mr. Obiano’s election is headed by Justice Mahmud Mohammed, the second most senior justice after the CJ. Noting that President Goodluck Jonathan is interested in the victory of Governor Obiano, the petitioners alleged that Justice Mohammed would go out of his way to please the president in order to be nominated as the next Chief Justice.
The Supreme Court panel is expected to rule on the following issues:
 1. Whether Mr. Obiano truly engaged in acts of multiple registrations as a voter contrary to the provisions of the Electoral Act which forbids such acts,
2. Whether the alleged multiple registrations if proven are enough to disqualify Obiano from contesting the Governorship of Anambra State,
3. In the light of several conflicting judgments relied upon, whether Mr. Obiano or Chike Obidigbo was the authentic governorship candidate of All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) in the election,
4. Whether the voters register used in the conduct of Anambra State governorship election, which INEC admitted it revised and updated ‘to correct errors’ less than three days to the holding of the election, is a valid voter’s register when the Electoral Act expressly prohibited such action,
 5. Whether the postponement and holding of election in Obosi ward in Idemili North local government area on a Sunday was not calculated to disenfranchise over 51,230 voters in that Christian populated area and a presumed stronghold of All Progressives Congress (APC) and its candidate, Chris Ngige,
6. Whether the Supplementary election held by INEC in 16 local government areas of Anambra State on the 30th of November 2013 after it had declared the entire election as “inconclusive” is valid in law,
7. Whether the failure of entire staff of INEC that conducted the election to swear to the mandatory oath of neutrality before the High Court registry was enough to nullify the entire election,
8. Whether the disenfranchisement of hundreds of thousands of voters in Anambra including the PDP governorship candidate, Mr. Tony Nwoye, his parents, siblings and relations did not amount to a substantial violation of the Electoral Act that should result in the outright nullification of the election,
9. Whether the respondents’ brief of argument filed out of time by lawyers to Mr. Obiano and APGA respectively will be countenanced in the determination of the appeals in the absence of any application by them to regularize their papers.
10. Whether the Election Petition Tribunal and Court of Appeal had the jurisdiction to entertain allegations of multiple possession of voter’s card as a ground for disqualification of a candidate under the constitution.
The petitioners commended Justice Aloma Mukthar for her “uncommon work” to “sanitize the judicial process, combat judicial corruption and enthrone fairness in the judiciary,” adding that her efforts had yielded fruit with the firing of “bad eggs in the judiciary from the Federal and State High Courts.” They regretted that some people in the society were “bent on sabotaging these noble efforts, thus the pressing need for eternal vigilance on the part of all stakeholders.”
In its petition, Anambra Watch requested “the immediate reconstitution of the panel,” urging the CJN to personally head a new panel.
Justice Mohammed may be elevated to the position of CJN once the incumbent retires mid-November this year. A new CJN is appointed by the Nigerian President on the recommendation of National Judicial Council, but subject to Senate approval.
The other members of the Supreme Court panel on the Anambra governorship election are Justices Muntaka-Coomasie, Bode Rhodes-Vivour, Nwali Ngwuta, Kumai Akaas, Olukayode Ariwoola and Inyang Okoro.
In May 2014, in a case involving Mr. Igbeke and Senator Margery Okadigbo, a full text of the judgment written by Justice Suleiman Galadima of the Supreme Court was leaked and published online at least 24 hours before it was delivered. An investigation by the Federal Judicial Service Commission discovered that Mr. Igbeke and one Collins Okechukwu had bribed some of the law clerks in the Supreme Court in order to obtain an advanced copy of the judgment.
The FJSC fired six court clerks implicated in the deal. It also recommended the immediate prosecution of Mr. Igbeke, but the Nigerian Attorney-General has yet to act on the recommendation more than a year later.
A source close to former Governor Peter Obi said that Governor Obiano’s use of Ubanese to bribe the justices of the apex court is due to the strained relationship existing between Obiano and his predecessor, who was his godfather. Governor Obiano and Mr. Obi are no longer on speaking terms, said the source, adding that the two men fell out when the current governor began marginalizing his predecessor in public events. He added that Governor Obi has asked Obiano to refund a huge sum of more than six billion naira, which the former governor claimed he spent to install the latter as the governor of Anambra State. The source said Mr. Obiano had rebuffed the demand, thereby setting the stage for the current crisis in APGA where at least five APGA members in the House of Representatives had defected to the ruling Peoples Democratic Party at the instance of Mr. Peter Obi.
Before the friction between the two men, Mr. Obi had been using his connection with the Presidency to swing judgments at the Election Tribunal and the Court of Appeal in favor of Obiano. “Okwute Ndigbo [Peter Obi’s praise name] has decided that this time around, he should leave Chief Obiano to cater for himself since Obiano is poking fingers in his master’s eye,” said the source close to the former governor.
Mr. Obi is expected to announce his formal defection to PDP at a grand rally where President Goodluck Jonathan would announce his declaration to contest the 2015 Presidential election. Governor Obiano had also reportedly made a promise to President Jonathan that he, Obiano, would be joining the PDP if the Supreme Court grants him victory.
The Supreme Court is expected to deliberate on the issues and deliver judgment on or before September 25, 2014 when the 60 days allowed by the Constitution to determine the appeals would elapse.
If the appeals succeed, a fresh governorship election will be held in Anambra State, possibly exclude Mr. Obiano from participating.


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