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Sunday, 20 November 2016

Corruption: EFCC, DSS slam travel ban on 15 judges

•Detectives screen Supreme Court’s petty cash book, payment vouchers to contractors

•Probes five firms over alleged N80.4m bribe to S’Court staff

Ahead of the ongoing probe and pending their arraignment, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Department of State Security Service (DSS) have restricted the movement of not less than 13 judges to the country.

The judges cannot travel abroad because they have been watch-listed until permitted by a court.

It was also learnt that security agents have started screening the Petty Cash Book of the Supreme Court and payment vouchers to contractors.

The Petty Cash Book which emanated from draw down from Secret/Operation Account was said to have revealed a lot on how about N2.2billion was spent on miscellaneous expenses.

The interim report indicated that the “discoveries were messy and least expected in such a scared place.”

About 15 judges are undergoing probe by the EFCC and the DSS.

Those under investigation are two Supreme Court judges-Justices Sylvester Ngwuta and Inyang Okoro; the former Presiding Justice of the Court of Appeal, Ilorin Division, Justice Mohammed Ladan Tsamiya; Justice Adeniyi Ademola (Federal High Court); the ex-Chief Judge of Enugu State, Justice I. A. Umezulike; Justice Kabiru Auta of Kano State High Court; Justice Muazu Pindiga (Gombe State High Court); Justice Bashir Sukola and Justice Ladan Manir, from the Kaduna State High Court.

Justice Agbadu James Fishim (National Industrial Court);  Justice Uwani Abba Aji Justices Mohammed Nasir Yunusa, Hyeladzira Ajiya Nganjiwa;  Musa Haruna Kurya; and Rita Ofili-Ajumogobia (Federal High Court).

Out of the judges, the NJC has recommended sanctions for Justice Mohammed Ladan Tsamiya; the erstwhile Chief Judge of Enugu State, Justice I. A. Umezulike; and Justice Kabiru Auta.

Investigation by our correspondent revealed that all the judges have been watch-listed and their movement restricted to the country until investigation is concluded.

A reliable source, who spoke in confidence, said: “All the security agencies and the Nigerian Immigration Service have been notified that the affected judges are undergoing investigation. The implication is that they cannot go out of the country except permitted to do so.

“Actually, many of the judges have had their passports either seized or kept in custody of investigating agencies.

“The restriction is to make the ongoing investigation easier. As a matter of fact, some of them have been reporting intermittently or in some cases daily for questioning to either the EFCC or the DSS. It is not a punitive action but it is a way of facilitating investigation.

“For instance, we have had instances when detectives followed Justice Ofili-Ajumogobia to inspect some assets in Delta and Edo States. If she had been abroad, they won’t be able to do so.

“We are tracking many assets of some of these judges and this exercise requires verification and updated interrogation.

“But as soon as they are arraigned in court for trial, their bail will be at the discretion of the court.”

As at press time, it was gathered that some security agents were already screening the Petty Cash Book of the Supreme Court on how about N2.2billion, allegedly drawn from the court’s Secret/Operation Account, was spent on miscellaneous expenses.

Some vouchers of payment to some judges and contractors were still being screened by security agents.

Another source said: “The discoveries were messy and least expected in such a scared place. They actually border on non-compliance with Financial Regulations or gross abuse of the process.

“Some miscellaneous expenses and allowances were completely outside the approved rates by the Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) on remuneration for public and judicial officers.

“These details will soon be released to the public so that Nigerians can appreciate the rot and the weak system at the apex court.”

Meanwhile, about five firms have been implicated in the offering of bribes to some management staff of the Supreme Court.

According to a document obtained last night, the companies/ contractors include Willysdave Limited; Welcon Nigeria Limited; Dean Musa Nig. Limited; Ababia Ventures Limited and MBR Computers Limited.

“These companies have made useful statements on about N80.4million bribe sums so far detected. They are helping ongoing investigation.

“But the number of the companies could be more than the list at hand. We are still screening more vouchers, transfer details and procurement process. There are heaps of documents to go through. The documents we have got are sufficient for the trial of some judges and a few other accomplices.”

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