Senior Special Assistant to the President on Prosecution, Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation, Okoi Obono-Obla has accused the National Judicial Council of shielding corrupt judges.
In an interview with The Nation, Obono-Obla alleged that the NJC “descends heavily” on judges who have no godfathers or connection, but leaves judges known to be corrupt on the Bench because of their family history.
He said a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) once confided in him that litigants prefer to go to judges directly.
Obono-Obla said he agreed with the view expressed by Prof Itse Sagay (SAN) that the NJC was working against the anti-corruption crusade.
“I support Prof Sagay’s position. There is no doubt about it. We’re not saying that if we take people to court, if there’s no evidence you should convict them. Just do the right thing. We hear a lot of stories. We have eyes. We know the system. I have practised law for over 20 years. I know how the system works. We know the judges who are bad. It’s not all the judges who are bad. We know the bad ones.
“NJC is not doing enough. If they’re doing enough, all judges that have undergone criminal investigation, that have allegedly collected money from lawyers, they should make a list of them and send to Mr President, and recommend their retirement from the Bench. And they should stop protecting some judges,” he said.
Obono-Obla said several complaints have been taken to the NJC without being treated.
“We have taken complaints to NJC and they don’t want to handle them. Let me give you an instance. We reported a judge of the Rivers State High Court to the NJC. We got a petition from a woman who was elected a member of the Rivers State House of Assembly on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
“Her opponent challenged her case. He went to the tribunal and lost. He appealed and lost. The Court of Appeal ordered that a certificate of return should be issued to her. The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) issued a certificate of return to her.
“Her opponent went to the Rivers State High Court to file a lawsuit against her. The judge issued an ex-parte order restraining her from taking her sit for one year. For one year, she was not allowed to be inaugurated in the Rivers State House of Assembly.
“We petitioned against the judge as to why he should dabble in an election matter that the Court of Appeal had given a final judgment on.
“National Assembly election petition cases terminate at the Court of Appeal, so any judge who is knowledgeable, who has integrity should know that he should not issue an ex-parte order to restrain somebody who has been elected and gone through the litigation process to the end.
“Do you know what NJC did? It said that judge should be warned. And that he’s on their watch-list,” Obono-Obla said.