MAGISTRATE, BAILIFF, 7 OTHERS IN TROUBLE OVER N200M PROPERTY
Whoever works in the Temple of Justice (Judiciary) is supposed to be a man of honour, dignity and should live above board like Caesar's wife. But to some staff of Kogi State Judiciary, this idea meant nothing to them. Now they are in the soup over illegal sale of N200 million property put in the care of a Kogi State High Court under the guise of execution of judgment.
The offence was allegedly committed in 2007 by nine suspects but three of them are now cooling off at the Force Headquarters, Alagbon, Lagos. They are Tanimu Usman Mohammed, a sitting magistrate, Alhaji Ibrahim Dasuki, a bailiff and Muyiwa Mebendu, court clerk and six others at large.
The former chief economic adviser to the president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria who is also the chairman of Nordic Industries Limited, Chief Philip Asiodu had petitioned the inspector-general and alleged that the suspects and some others still at large, conspired and illegally sold the company's equipment under the High Court's care, purporting same to have been publicly auctioned.
Nordic Industries was adjudged a debtor to another company, PCE Technical to the tune of N3,056,300.00 by a Lagos State High Court of Justice. This Lagos State judgment was registered in Kogi State High Court and execution was ordered by the Kogi State High Court. Another Kogi State High Court differently constituted had ruled that the payment of the judgment debt be made by instalments not later than the end of October 2007.
It was alleged that the first suspect used the 2nd, 3rd, others still at large and the police, to sell the properties of the judgment debtor, purporting same to be auction sale on the order of court.
During police investigation, the chief sheriff of Kogi State who is the rightful person to order the sale of any property by auction sale denied knowledge of the one done by the suspects as he never consented to the sale. The Chief Registrar of the Kogi State High Court confirmed that the auction sales conducted by the suspects was not in accordance with any known procedure and therefore illegal. It was also discovered that the complainant company, Nordic, had already commenced payment to the creditor company by paying the sum of N1,000,000.00 as ordered by the court at the time of the auction sale.
In order to give credence to their sale, the suspects allegedly forged the signature of the commissioner of police in Kogi State which assisted in the illegal auction sales. Police discovered that one Mr. Peter Eze of Pechez International Hotel Limited of No.1, Ajasa Street, Off Aminu Kano Crescent, Wuse II, Abuja, was the criminal receiver of the auctioned items.
The items auctioned, according to the police, were one Toyota Hilux, two Bedford OX6 trucks, one Terex pay loader caterpillar, one Perkins engine driven water pump, three air conditioners, 25 drums of diesel and oil, one excavator hydraulics pump, two tow ropes, one oil cooler for scraper valued at N200 million all belonging to Nordic Industries Limited of No. 58/60, Broad Street, Lagos.
To show that the Kogi State Judiciary had no hand in the illegal sale, the Chief Registrar, E. A Egwu, on May 19, 2007, complained to the state police commissioner, Lokoja, drawing his attention to the crime.
The chief registrar said the property in question had earlier been attached to court order but the order was varied by a subsequent court order only to be sold illegally at ridiculous price by the said staff without following due process as laid down by law.
Said the chief registrar in the letter: 'All administrative efforts towards recovering the property have been frustrated by the said staff who have vowed not to reveal the names of the buyers. Their actions are not only criminal but are embarrassing to the state Judiciary,' urging the police to invite them for questioning for the purpose of recovering the said properties.