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Senior lawyers are divided on whether or not the Minister of Transport, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, should step aside, following allegations that he tried to influence the outcome of some election petition cases.

Two justices of the Supreme Court, Inyang Okoro and Sylvester Ngwuta had accused the minister of offering them bribe to help influence the apex court’s decisions in some election cases.

In separate letters to the Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, the two accused Amaechi of instigating their ordeal because they refused to deliver judgement in his favour.

The two justices were among the seven judges arrested recently by operatives of the Department of State Services, DSS.

Speaking with news men on whether the minister should relinquish his post pending investigation of the bribery allegations made against, a former President, Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, Dr. Olisa Agbakoba, SAN, said that although the bribery allegation has not been proved, international best practice demands that he should step down pending investigation of the matter.

According to Agbakoba the way the matter is handled will depend on how the President wants people to perceive his fight against corruption.

He said: “International best practice suggest that whenever such allegations are made and you occupy a very serious position, then it is in your interest to take a leave of absence.

“It happened when the minister for defense in Canada was accused of giving a contract to his friend, he stepped aside pending when the matter was investigated.”

Agbakoba wondered why three weeks after the DSS operatives raided the homes of the judges; the Federal Government was yet to file charges against them.

Also speaking on the issue, human rights lawyer, Fred Agbaje, said Amaechi should be suspended from office pending when the allegation is resolved.

He said: “It is a mere allegation until proven against him. He will still have to remain in office. But what government can do for now is that he can be suspended from work until the allegations leveled against him are proven.”

Professor Fidelis Oditah, SAN, wondered why the judges waited until now before raising the bribery allegation.

“Why didn’t they (judges) complain when he told them to miscarry justice? Why did they wait until they were arrested before saying such childish things? Whether it is true or not is now irrelevant,” he said.

Also speaking, Chief Gani Adetola-Kaseem, SAN, said the onus is on the judges to prove the bribery allegation.

He said: “It is an allegation which Amaechi has denied. So, the onus is on the judges to establish the truth. There are consequences for all these because attempted bribery is a crime.

“So, it depends on the evidence they have against him. Right now it’s the judges’ words against Amaechi’s words.”

Similarly, Norrison Quakers, SAN, stated that there was no need for Amaechi to step down as a minister, since Nigeria operates constitutional democracy that says an accused is presumed innocent until proven guilty.

“It is a mere allegation that has not been proven; it has not been established. Our law is clear that everyone is presumed innocent until proven guilty.

“Yes, his name has been mentioned in a bribery scandal. It has not been subjected to any form of investigation, therefore it will be improper for us to draw concussions until the issue is established.

“It is not one that will require his exiting from the government of the day because what the judges said are mere allegations and has to be substantiated and has to be proven.
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“It is when the allegation has been proven and Amaechi is confronted with facts that it will become necessary for such a political officer holder to give up his office.

“You and I know that here in Nigeria; until somebody kicks the person out, nobody will leave government office on account of mere allegation,” he said.

All Progressives Congress, APC, in Rivers State had earlier defended the minister, saying he cannot offer bribe to to buy justice.


The party which claimed that the minister has fear of God, dismissed the allegations that Amaechi had met the two justices to seek favour for APC governorship candidates.

Already, the NBA had asked judges affected to step aside pending the investigation of the matter in order to give the process a level playing field.

In another development, Enugu State House of Assembly yesterday ratified the compulsory retirement of the former Chief Judge of the state, Justice Innocent Umezulike, as recommended by the National Judicial Council, NJC.

This followed a letter brought before the assembly by Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi for the ratification of the recommendation.

Speaking during the debate, Mr. Sunday Udeokoye (PDP-Awgu North) described the compulsory retirement of Umezuike as ‘painful’ to his constituency.

“Umezulike is from my constituency and he is a sound judge and made an impact as a chief judge.

“It is painful that he had to leave when he still had two years before this unfortunate incident.

“Since it has been backed by law, what happened to Umezulike can happen to anybody and for that we all take the condition in good faith,” he said.

Also speaking, Dr Emeka Ogbuabo (PDP-Isiuzo) said Umezulike was appointed a judge in 1993, but regretted that he did not retire with a national honour.

Umezulike was sanctioned on Septemebr 29 after investigations of abuse of office and corruption by NJC.

The state governor has already appointed Justice Ngozika Emehelu as the Acting Chief Judge.

Ugwuanyi sent the message to the assembly seeking its stand on the compulsory retirement in pursuant to the constitution as amended.

The assembly unanimously agreed on the ground that the constitution backed such punishment for misconduct.

Meanwhile, the Chief Judge of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Justice Ishaq Bello yesterday reiterated his support for the ongoing anti graft war, but added that it should be done in line with laid down rules and procedures.

In an address to mark the commencement of the court’s 2016/2017 legal year in Abuja, Justice Bello solicited the support of relevant agencies in eradicating corruption within the judiciary, adding however that it should be within legal limits and in line with the laid down rules and procedures.

While admitting that the judiciary is going through trying times, Justice Bello said: “I am bold to say that the judiciary is determined to eradicate corruption within its fold and seek support of relevant security agencies.

“However, this should be within the legal limits and in line with the laid down rules and procedures.”

He expressed dissatisfaction with the low utilisation of Alternative Dispute Resolution, ADR, by lawyers and litigants and urged lawyers and other court users to embrace the system in order to enjoy the many advantages it offers and to also decongest the court.

He noted that out of the 22,634 cases the court contended with in the 2015/2016 legal year, 9,895 were completely dealt with.

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