Group seeks removal of CCT chairman over alleged corruption
‘Adoke recommended him for sack, prosecution’
Is it a case of the hunter now becoming the hunted at the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT)?
A group, the Registered Trustees of Mission for Peace and Development Initiative, has filed a suit at the Federal High Court, Abuja Division seeking a declaration that the Chairman of the CCT, Danladi Umar, is not a fit and proper person to sit in judgment and preside over the affairs of the tribunal to dispense justice.
In the court processes, the group claims that the then Attorney General of the Federation and Minister for Justice, Mohammed Bello Adoke (SAN) recommended to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to prosecute Umar, as the chairman of the CCT, for allegedly receiving bribe.
Adoke was said to have okayed Umar’s removal and prosecution following the report of the EFCC investigation into the allegation by a retired Comptroller of Customs, Mr. Rasheed Taiwo, that Umar demanded N10million bribe from him to help him nullify the charge against him.
In a letter to former President Goodluck Jonathan dated 7th May, 2014 with reference number: HAGF/SH/2014/Vol./41, Adoke was said to have also advised the President to initiate move to remove Umar from office as chairman of the Code of Conduct Tribunal because of the allegation of corruption against him.
The said letter from Adoke to the President reads: “I am of the humble opinion that the current state of affairs by which the tribunal is unable to seat while the institution is increasingly diminished by the pall of suspicion, should not be allowed to fester as it will expose the institution to public ridicule and undermine this administration’s efforts to combat corruption.
“In the light of the foregoing therefore, Your Excellency may wish to initiate the necessary steps for the removal of the chairman.”
The group is seeking an order compelling Umar to vacate his position as chairman of the CCT and the EFCC to carry out the instruction of the AGF to prosecute him for allegedly collecting bribe.
Umar, CCT, EFCC and the Attorney General of the Federation were listed as 1st to 4th defendants respectively.
Among the exhibits attached to the suit are photocopy of the cheque with which a bribe of N1.8 million was allegedly paid to Umar through Mr. Gambo Abdullahi, his personal assistant, statement of Umar himself where he admitted meeting privately with the petitioner in his (Umar) office at the CCT, statements made by his Abdullahi, Umar’s bail application and a letter to former President Goodluck Jonathan by the two other members of the tribunal.
In one of the exhibits, Abdullahi is being claimed to have admitted collecting N1.8million from Taiwo on behalf of his boss, Umar, and that he handed the money to Umar by hand. But Gambo later recanted and claimed that he collected the money for himself.
In its investigation report dated 24th June, 2014, signed by its Executive Chairman, Ibrahim Lamorde, the EFCC said: “Available circumstantial evidence suggests that the Tribunal Chairman might have indeed demanded and collected money from the complainant through his Personal Assistant.
“Efforts made to recover the telephone handset used by Justice Umar proved abortive, as he claimed that he had lost the telephone in 2012. Justice Umar also admitted that he met privately with the complainant in his chamber at the tribunal. This is a most unethical and highly suspicious conduct on his part.”
The commission was also claimed to have said that there was overwhelming evidence to prosecute Umar’s PA because he “could offer no coherent excuse for receiving N1.8million into his salary account from Taiwo,
who is an accused person standing trial at the tribunal.”
EFCC said the N1.8 million had been recovered. The commission also stated that Umar’s PA tried to cover up the reason for which the money was paid to him by making contradictory statements.
Two days later, precisely on 26th June, 2014, the AGF wrote back to Lamorde recommending that Umar and his PA, Abdullahi, be prosecuted. Consequently the commission prepared a draft charge containing two counts against Umar and his PA. Curiously, however, the charge was never filed, but it was exhibited in the instant action as Exhibit 19.
The plaintiff also exhibited a letter written to the then President, Dr Goodluck Jonathan by two other judges who are members of the tribunal, Justices Robert Odu and W. Agwaza Atedze. They both called on the president to investigate the allegation that the chairman demanded N10 million bribe so as to save the tribunal from embarrasment.
Another letter, written by the former Secretary to the Federal Government, Anyim Pius Anyim, to the EFCC chairman was also attached to the suit as Exhibit 15. In the letter Anyim said that the tribunal could no longer sit because of the allegation against the chairman.
The Plaintiff is asking the court to, among others:
• declare that by the combined effect of the provisions of Rules 1, 5 (1) & (11), Rules 3, F, L, of the Code of Conduct for Judicial Officers; Fifth Schedule Part 1, Paragraph 7 (B) Paragraph 9, 13, Part 11 & Paragraph 12 of the Constitution of The Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, as altered; and Sections 5, 10 (1), 13, 17 & 22 (3) of The Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act, the first defendant (Umar) is not a fit and proper person to sit in judgment and preside over the affairs of the Code of Conduct Tribunal and dispense justice to all Nigerians who appear before it, irrespective of gender, tribe, religion, or political persuasion, without fear or favour, malice or ill will, having run foul of the provisions of the Code of Conduct for Judicial Officers, and other extant provisions; and
• declare that Umar is not a fit and proper person and is estopped from sitting or further sitting in judgment and presiding over the affairs of the tribunal and dispense justice to all Nigerians who appear before it having run foul of the provisions of the Code of Conduct for Judicial Officers by secret meeting with an accused person standing trial before him without the presence of the prosecution, or court officials.