Civil Society Network Against Corruption (CSNAC) is a coalition of over hundred and fifty Anti-corruption organizations whose primary aim is to constructively combat corruption vigorously and to ensure the effective monitoring of the various Anti-graft agencies in the fight against corruption and contribute towards the enthronement of transparency, accountability, probity and total commitment in the fight to eradicate corruption in Nigeria.
Following the recent arrest of some Justices by the Department of State Security (DSS), one of the affected Justices, Justice Inyang Okoro has alleged that the Transport Minister, Mr Rotimi Amaechi and the Governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Akwa Ibom State, Mr. Umana Umana tried to bribe him on separate occasions in order for him to influence the outcome of the suit on 2015 governorship election in Akwa Ibom in favour of APC and Mr. Umana. All of which was disclosed in a letter he wrote to the Chief Justice of Nigeria and Chairman of the National Judicial Council (NJC).
According to SaharaReporters an online newspaper’s report of October 19th, 2016, Justice Okoro wrote that his ordeal in the hands of DSS was likely tied to former Governor Amaechi’s visit to his residence, alleging that the minister “said that the President of Nigeria and the All Progressives Congress 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 costs.” Justice Okoro also claimed that Mr. Amaechi stated that he “sponsored Mr. Umana Umana, candidate of All Progressives Congress for that election and that if he lost Akwa Ibom appeal, he would have lost a fortune.”
He further narrated how Mr Amaechi claimed to have visited the Chief Justice of Nigeria and the later had accepted to make him a member of the panels that will hear the appeals and offering millions to be paid by Mr. Umana if he (Justice Okoro) cooperated with him.
The report further stated that Justice Okoro stated that Mr. Umana, the APC’s governorship candidate, later visited his residence in yet another attempt to offer a bribe. According to him, Mr. Umana “also made the same request for assistance to win his appeal at the Supreme Court. Mr. Umana talked about ‘seeing’ the Justices who would hear the appeal. Pastor (Dr.) Ebebe 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 apologized. I advised them to go and pray about the matter and get a good lawyer. That was how they left my house.”
If Justice Okoro’s allegation is anything to go by, then he definitely has a case to answer with the Commission. By virtue of Section 23 of the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act, 2000, Public Officers are duty bound to report bribery transactions. Section 23(1) provides as follows:
“Any public officer to whom any gratification is given, promised, or offered, in contravention of any provision of this Act, shall report such gift, promised or offer together with the name, if known, of the person who gave, promised or offered such gratification to him to the nearest officer of the commission or police officer”.
By virtue of the above stated section, Justice Okoro had a duty to report the attempt to bribe him by Messrs. Amaechi and Umana. His failure to do same and only resorting to use the information as a first line of defence against his raid by the State Security Service will not exonerate him from the offence committed under the Act.
Furthermore, by virtue of Section 23(3), anybody who fails without reasonable excuse to comply with Subsection (1) is guilty of an offence. It provides as follows:
“Any person who fails, without reasonable excuse, to comply with sub-sections (1) and (2) shall be guilty of an offence and shall on conviction be liable to a fine not exceeding one hundred thousand Naira or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years or to both fine and imprisonment”
From the foregoing, it is evident that the learned Justice has committed an offence punishable under the Act. The claim of Justice Okoro to ‘verbal’ reportage of the bribery attempt to the Chief Justice of Nigeria does not assuage for Section 23(3) of the ICPC Act. Where Justice Okoro is able to substantiate his claims against Messrs. Amaechi and Umana, both should be investigated and prosecuted accordingly. The alleged offer of bribe to Justice Okoro is an offence which contravenes Section 9 of the Act and liable upon conviction to seven (7) years imprisonment.
In order to rid the society of corruption and ensure the success of this administration in its fight against corruption, all hands need to be on deck. The Judiciary is unarguably the most important arm of government in this regard and it is important that the bench is populated by upright Judges with impeachable character and integrity for a successful fight. It is extremely necessary to rid the judiciary of judges who will be clogs in the wheel of progress of the country.
In view of this, CSNAC is therefore by this petition calling on the Commission to commence an immediate thorough investigation into the allegations made by Justice Okoro and also ensure that prosecution and proper punishment is meted out in line with established laws, rules and regulation. This we believe will contribute immensely to returning Nigeria to its rightful position in the comity of Nations.