Justice Okoro, Amaechi clash over bribery allegations

Justice Okoro, Amaechi clash over bribery allegations
October 19 11:44 2016

One of the Supreme Court justices recently arrested by the Department of State Services over allegations of corruption, Justice John Inyang Okoro, has alleged that he was harassed because he declined to help the All Progressives Congress (APC) deliver judgments in the Rivers, Akwa Ibom and Abia governorship election appeals in favour of the party.

Justice Okoro said this in a letter he wrote to the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Mahmud Mohammed‎ on Monday, October 17, 2016.

Justice Okoro alleged that immediate past governor of Rivers State and now Minister of Transportation, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, came to his house to persuade him to give judgments in APC’s favour and also promised to offer him millions of naira if he delivered.

“I’m confident that God will vindicate me at the end of this ordeal. I take it as a temporary setback. I remain loyal to my oath of office and the need to be just and fair in handling matters before me,” he added.

“My Lord, as at the time of writing this letter, the DSS has not confronted me with any petition or complaint from any quarters whatsoever.

“Rather, they have grilled me, asking questions on some none existing properties around the country‎. They have also doubted the age of my children, alleging that they are toddlers. This is sad and unbelievable.

“My Lord, I strongly believe that this my travail is not‎ unconnected with the verbal report I made to you on the 1st of February, 2016 about the visit to my official residence by His Excellency, Rotimi Amaechi, former Governor of Rivers State and now Minister of Transportation.

“In that report, I told you My Lord, that Mr. Amaechi said the President of Nigeria and the APC 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 cost.

“For Akwa Ibom, he alleged that he sponsored Mr. Umana Umana, candidate of APC, for that election and that if he lost the Akwa Ibom appeal, he would have lost a fortune‎.

“Mr. Amaechi also said that he had already visited you (the CJN) and that you had agreed to make me a member of the panel that would hear the appeals.

“He further told me that Mr. Umana would be paying me millions of naira monthly if I co-operated with them. My response, as I told you on that date, was that it does not lie within my power to grant his request and that I would do all within my power not to be in the panel‎ for Akwa Ibom State.

“My Lord graciously left me out of the panel for Akwa Ibom State. That notwithstanding, the APC in Akwa Ibom State which lost the appeal at the Supreme Court believed that my presence ‎in the Supreme Court made them to lose the appeal. Could I have resigned from the Supreme Court simply because the people of Akwa Ibom State had a matter before it?

“My Lord will recall that I also reported that Mr. Umana Umana visited my residence before Amaechi’s visit. He also made the same request of assistance to win his appeal at the Supreme Court.

“Mr. Umana talked about ‘seeing’ the justices who would hear the appeal. Pastor (Dr.) Ebele Ukpong who led Mr. Umana Umana to my house intercepted and said that the issue of ‘seeing’ the justices was not part of their visit and that as a pastor, he would not be part of such a discussion.

“Mr. Umana apologised. I advised them to go and pray about the matter and get a good lawyer. That was how they left my house,” he alleged.

Justice Okoro ‎claimed he did not know why he was being prosecuted, saying he had any received any bribe by anyone.

“I have not received any bribe from anybody, My Lord is quite aware of my position as regards those that take bribe in the judiciary,” he added.

Justice Okoro said that on October 7, at about 9.00 p.m., he received a phone call from an unfamiliar caller who introduced himself as an official of the presidency.

He said: “He told me he had a letter for me from Mr. President. I immediately left my study room and went to open the door. Upon the door being opened, I saw so many heavily armed men with an inscription ‘DSS’ on their uniform.

“One of them who was in mufti said to me they were to search my house. I requested that I be allowed to inform the CJN but they rebuffed, rather, they seized my phone from me.”

He revealed the operatives searched all the rooms in his house meticulously and also searched the boy’s quarters and his official vehicles.

According to him, at the end of the search, which lasted till about 1.30 a.m. of October 8, 2016, they took away the following items: one Ipad, three phones, USD 38,800, N3.5 million and four cheque books.

Justice Okoro also said that the operatives told him that their director-general (DG) would like to see him that night. He said that his request to allow him visit the DG first thing the following morning was rejected.

He said: “In view of the presence of the heavily armed men who accompanied them and who were pointing their gun at me from all angles, I had no choice than to follow them to their office that night.”

He added that he was detained till Sunday, October 9, 2016 when the CJN intervened.

Justice Okoro said before he was released, the operatives asked him to make a statement concerning the money found in in his house.

“I told them that having received the sum of USD 24,000 (twenty four thousand dollars) and £10,000 (ten thousand pounds) a year for the past three years of my sojourn in this court as annual medical/vacation allowances, and having not spent more than £5,000 (five thousand pounds) on each of the three trips, I have so far made abroad, I was entitled to have more than the amount recovered from me.

“Put differently, My Lord, the money was the balance of my estacode received from this court for the past three years. This is quite outside the estacode I have received for the international conferences I have so far attended since joining the bench of this court‎,” he stated.

Justice Okoro’s allegations were  denied by Amaechi’s media office on Tuesday, which said in a text: “The accusation from Justice Okoro against Amaechi is a figment of his imagination, concocted to obfuscate the real issues for his arrest and DSS’ investigation of allegations of corruption against him.

“The claims by Justice Okoro against Amaechi are blatant lies, bereft of any iota of truth or even logic. Amaechi did not, and has never approached Justice Okoro in respect of the cases Okoro mentioned or any other case.”

The media office described it as a “cheap attempt, albeit, political move to drag the name of Amaechi into something he knows nothing about”.

It advised Justice Okoro to face his issues and leave Amaechi out of it, adding that the minister would soon sue Justice Okoro over the allegations.