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Alleged Amaechi's visit to Justice Okoro: 7 questions the NJC must answer-SERA

Source: pointblanknews.com
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Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, (SERAP) has sent an open

letter to ustice Mahmud Mohammed, Chief Justice of Nigeria in his capacity

as the Chairman of the National Judicial Council (NJC) seeking

explanations on what “he and the NJC knew or had reason to know regarding

the report to them on 1st February, 2016 by Justice John Inyang Okoro,

Justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria on the alleged visit by Mr Rotimi

Amaechi, Minister of Transportation to the official residence of Justice

Okoro to allegedly discuss election Appeals in respect of Rivers State,

Akwa Ibom State and Abia State.”
The letter dated 21 October 2016 and signed by SERAP executive director

Adetokunbo Mumuni states that, “We consider these allegations as

constituting a serious threat to the independence, impartiality and

accountability of the judiciary, and should in the ordinary course of

duties, have prompted action from your Lordship and the NJC to wit:

undertaking prompt, thorough and transparent investigations, and where

there is prima-facie evidence of political interference in the judicial

system, to report the matter to the appropriate anticorruption commissions

and agencies for further investigation and possible prosecution.”

The letter reads in part: “SERAP strongly believes that the NJC has a

responsibility to support judges in dealing with alleged corrupt

inducements that are offered or the threats they receive, such as the

allegations in this case.”
“In this respect, SERAP wishes to pose the following questions to your

Lordship and the NJC: First, is it correct to suggest that Justice Okoro

reported to you and the NJC on 1st February, 2016 his alleged meeting at

his official residence with Mr Rotimi Amaechi? Was Justice Okoro's report

documented by your Lordship and the NJC? If so, Nigerians would like to

hear from your Lordship and the NJC whether Justice Okoro's report was

ever discussed, and what action, if any, was taken by your Lordship and

the NJC to respond to the allegations raised in his report?”

“Second, is it fair to suggest that your Lordship and the NJC knew, or had

reason to know, that the alleged visit by Mr Amaechi to Justice Okoro's

official residence would constitute a case of political interference in

the judicial system and a corruption offence under Nigerian laws and the

UN Convention against Corruption to which Nigeria is a state party?”

“Third, after the alleged visit was brought to the attention of your

Lordship and the NJC, did your Lordship and the NJC take any step to

promptly and thoroughly investigate the matter further? Fourth, would your

Lordship and the NJC agree that the alleged visit to Justice Okoro's

official residence to discuss election Appeals has seriously undermined

the public trust and confidence in the judiciary, and the image of the

judiciary as the last hope of the common man?”
“Fifth, is it correct to suggest that it is part of the inherent and

implicit constitutional duties of the NJC to ensure that the judiciary as

a whole does not lay itself open to the risk of political interference,

manipulation and coercion to act in a certain way? Is it also correct to

suggest that such duties require the NJC to promptly and thoroughly

investigate allegations of political interference in the judicial system,

that is, when those in political power allegedly use their influence to

force or induce judges to act and rule according to their interests and

not in accordance with the application of the law?”

“Sixth, would your Lordship and the NJC accept that the alleged visit by

Mr Amaechi to the official residence of Justice Okoro to allegedly discuss

election Appeals was motivated, facilitated and encouraged by the apparent

failure by the NJC to ensure, as part of its inherent and implicit

constitutional duties: (1) that system was in place to ensure prompt and

thorough investigation of allegations of political interference in the

judicial system and where there is prima facie evidence, to refer such

allegations to appropriate anticorruption commissions and agencies for

further investigation and possible prosecution, in strict accordance with

the standards of national laws and international law including the UN

Convention against Corruption; (2) that any such system was operating in a

continuous and effective manner?”
“Seventh, would your Lordship and the NJC proceed to establish a system to

ensure prompt and thorough investigation of allegations of political

interference in the judicial system, and then ensure that through such

system the alleged visit of Mr Amaechi to Justice Okoro's official

residence is promptly and thoroughly investigated by the NJC, and where

there is prima facie evidence of political interference, that the matter

is promptly referred to appropriate anticorruption commissions and

agencies for further investigation and possible prosecution?”

“Nigerians are eagerly awaiting clarifications from your Lordship and the

NJC on the issues raised above.”
“According to reports, Justice Okoro in his recent letter to your Lordship

stated that he reported to you the alleged visit by Mr Amaechi to his

official residence to allegedly discuss how to win election Appeals in

respect of Rivers State, Akwa Ibom State and Abia State. Justice Okoro

also said that he told your Lordship about the visit of Mr. Umana Umana to

his residence to allegedly make the same request of assistance to win the

appeal at the Supreme Court.”
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