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Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, SERAP has despatched seven queries to Justice Mahmud Mohammed, the Chief Justice of Nigeria over the alleged visit of Rotimi Amaechi, minister of transport to Justice Inyang Okoro.
Amaechi has vehemently denied the visit and threatened to sue the judge. But SERAP in an open letter to Justice Mohammed, who is the Chairman of the National Judicial Council (NJC) seeks explanations on what he and the NJC knew or had reason to know regarding the report to them on 1st February, 2016 by Justice John Inyang Okoro of the Supreme Court of Nigeria about the alleged visit.
Okoro had alleged that Amaechi visited him at his official residence to discuss election Appeals in respect of Rivers State, Akwa Ibom State and Abia State.
Okoro also claimed he told the Chief Justice about the visit of Mr. Umana Umana, the APC governorship candidate to his residence to allegedly make the same request of assistance to win the appeal at the Supreme Court.
SERAP’s letter to the NJC chairman, which was signed by its executive director Adetokunbo Mumuni states that, “We consider these allegations as constituting a serious threat to the independence, impartiality and accountability of the judiciary, and should in the ordinary course of duties, have prompted action from your Lordship and the NJC to wit: undertaking prompt, thorough and transparent investigations, and where there is prima-facie evidence of political interference in the judicial system, to report the matter to the appropriate anti-corruption commissions and agencies for further investigation and possible prosecution.”
“SERAP strongly believes that the NJC has a responsibility to support judges in dealing with alleged corrupt inducements that are offered or the threats they receive, such as the allegations in this case.” In this respect, SERAP wishes to pose the following questions to your Lordship and the NJC: First, is it correct to suggest that Justice Okoro reported to you and the NJC on 1st February, 2016 his alleged meeting at his official residence with Mr Rotimi Amaechi?
Was Justice Okoro’s report documented by your Lordship and the NJC? If so, Nigerians would like to hear from your Lordship and the NJC whether Justice Okoro’s report was ever discussed, and what action, if any, was taken by your Lordship and the NJC to respond to the allegations raised in his report?”
“Second, is it fair to suggest that your Lordship and the NJC knew, or had reason to know, that the alleged visit by Mr Amaechi to Justice Okoro’s official residence would constitute a case of political interference in the judicial system and a corruption offence under Nigerian laws and the UN Convention against Corruption to which Nigeria is a state party?”

“Third, after the alleged visit was brought to the attention of your Lordship and the NJC, did your Lordship and the NJC take any step to promptly and thoroughly investigate the matter further?
“Fourth, would your Lordship and the NJC agree that the alleged visit to Justice Okoro’s official residence to discuss election Appeals has seriously undermined the public trust and confidence in the judiciary, and the image of the judiciary as the last hope of the common man?”
“Fifth, is it correct to suggest that it is part of the inherent and implicit constitutional duties of the NJC to ensure that the judiciary as a whole does not lay itself open to the risk of political interference, manipulation and coercion to act in a certain way?
” Is it also correct to suggest that such duties require the NJC to promptly and thoroughly investigate allegations of political interference in the judicial system, that is, when those in political power allegedly use their influence to force or induce judges to act and rule according to their interests and not in accordance with the application of the law?”

“Sixth, would your Lordship and the NJC accept that the alleged visit by Mr Amaechi to the official residence of Justice Okoro to allegedly discuss election Appeals was motivated, facilitated and encouraged by the apparent failure by the NJC to ensure, as part of its inherent and implicit constitutional duties: (1) that system was in place to ensure prompt and thorough investigation of allegations of political interference in the judicial system and where there is prima facie evidence, to refer such allegations to appropriate anti- corruption commissions and agencies for further investigation and possible prosecution, in strict accordance with the standards of national laws and international law including the UN Convention against Corruption; (2) that any such system was operating in a continuous and effective manner?”
“Seventh, would your Lordship and the NJC proceed to establish a system to ensure prompt and thorough investigation of allegations of political interference in the judicial system, and then ensure that through such system the alleged visit of Mr Amaechi to Justice Okoro’s official residence is promptly and thoroughly investigated by the NJC, and where there is prima facie evidence of political interference, that the matter is promptly referred to appropriate anti-corruption commissions and agencies for further investigation and possible prosecution?” “Nigerians are eagerly awaiting clarifications from your Lordship and the NJC on the issues raised above,” SERAP wrote.

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