Some high court judges have come under the searchlight of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission as the war on corruption drags on.
The four (4) high court judges in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) are currently under the radar of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for allegedly frustrating the probe of high-profile corruption cases.
According to The Nation, the judges are said to have developed a penchant for going soft with suspects who approach their courts to stop their trial for corruption by EFCC. Their courts have thus become an attraction for suspects who want to frustrate their trials.
The Nation reports that the anti- graft agency is already mulling the idea of a tribunal to try suspects with overwhelming evidence of corruption cases against them.
A well placed source in EFCC said the agency’s suspicion was aroused by spurious injunctions’ persistently coming from the judges.
“In the past few weeks, we have discovered that almost every day, there was one judgment or the other against us. We have been subjected to arrangee injunctions,” the source said.
“Some judges in the FCT have been bought over by some high-profile suspects on trial for corruption. From our findings, four judges are involved.
“We are trying to reach out to the Chief Judge of FCT, Justice Ishaq Bello on our observations and the ethics of the Bench. What these big suspects do is that they always try to compromise these four judges. Thereafter, they bring applications to their courts under the enforcement of fundamental human rights to get reprieve and frustrate investigation by EFCC.
“Even before we interrogate these suspects, the judges would have issued orders for their release.”
The source said that although there are designated judges handling corruption-related matters “maybe we will come up with a tribunal to fast-track the trial of all these suspects who have looted our treasury.”
The Nation reports that the source however said that “the judges at the Federal High Court have improved on their treatment of corruption cases.”
The EFCC recently lodged a formal complaint of alleged misconduct against Justice M. N. Yunusa (Federal High Court) with the National Judicial Council (NJC).
He was alleged to have been bribed with N225,000 by a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Mr. Rickey Tarfa.
It was not immediately clear if these four judges might be referred to the NJC.
A petition against a judge passes through four stages in NJC as follows:
- Receipt of a petition by CJN.
- Sending the petition to the Preliminary Complaints Assessment Committee (PCAC) to determine the merit or otherwise of the issues.
- Genuine complaint goes to NJC Plenary
- NJC raises Fact-Finding Committee to hear from the petitioner(s) and the defendants and their lawyers.
The NJC and the President are empowered to determine a judge’s fate in line with the process outlined by the Part I, Paragraph I, Section 21(b) of the Third Schedule to the 1999 Constitution (as amended) and Section 292(1)( a)(i)
Part I, Paragraph I, Section 21(b) of the Third Schedule to the Constitution reads: “For the avoidance of doubt, the said Third Schedule, Part I, Paragraph I, Section 21(b) of the Constitution provides that “the NJC shall have power to recommend to the President the removal from office of (the Chief Justice of Nigeria, the Justices of the Supreme Court, the President and Justices of the Court of Appeal, and the Chief Judge and Judges of the Federal High Court) and to exercise disciplinary control over such officers”
Section 292(1)( a)(i) says: “A judicial officer shall not be removed from his office or appointment before his age of retirement, except in the following circumstances (a) in the case of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, the President of the Court of Appeal, the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Chief Judge of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, Grand Khadi of the Sharia Court of Appeal of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, and President, Customary Court of Appeal of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, by the President( of Nigeria), acting on an address supported by two-thirds majority of the Senate, praying that he be so removed for his inability to discharge the functions of his office or appointment (whether arising from infirmity of mind or body) or for misconduct or contravention of the Code of Conduct.”