Abuja based group, Society for Rule of Law in Nigeria (SRLN) has urged the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Mariam Aloma Muktah to investigate recent allegations made by a retiring Justice of the Federal High Court, Justice Okechukwu Okeke, that a Supreme Judge, Justice Clara-Bata Ogunbiyi attempted to influence his judgement on the seized assets of the convicted former Managing Director of Oceanic Bank, Mrs Cecelia Ibru.
In a release issued today and signed by its National Coordinator, Comrade Chima Ubeku, SRLN, which alleged that it believed that Justice Ogunbiyi had hidden interests in the property, said; “If it was just about Justice Ogunbiyi’s daughter being a tenant in the house, she had no reason to have contacted the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Ibrahim Auta, as she admitted that she did when Justice Okeke gave an ex-parte order handling the management of some properties forfeited to the Federal Government to the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON).”
On May 27, 2013, during the valedictory court session in his honour, Justice Okechukwu Okeke (rtd) had alleged that extrajudicial attempts were made to influence how he determined a particular proceedings involving AMCON, which led to the ejection of Justice Ogunbiyi’s daughter and son-in-law from No. 5A, George Street, Ikoyi, Lagos.
Justice Okeke went on to say that on March 8, 2013, one Funke Ogunbiyi visited his office at about 9.04am and said that her mother (Justice Ogunbiyi) directed her to tell him (Okeke) to discharge the order forfeiting Ibru’s properties to AMCON, claiming that “there was no for the order.”
Reacting to the allegation yesterday, Justice Ogunbiyi admitted that she contacted the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Ibrahim Auta, after her daughter had narrated her ordeal to her, following the ex parte order issued by Justice Okeke for the sealing off of her daughter’s residence.
“In view of the grey areas surrounding the case, I, therefore, contacted Justice Ibrahim Auta, the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court and narrated my daughter’s ordeal and, therefore, enquired about the laws governing AMCON case,” she said.
While calling for an open probe of the allegations, SRLN said; “the CJN should as a matter of urgency and in the interest of the judiciary, set up a panel to investigate what happened so as to save the judiciary from crisis of confidence. This is moreso that Justice Ogunbiyi had already admitted calling Justice Auta because of the case.
“However, unlike past probes that had been carried out by the National Judicial Council (NJC), this one should not be done in secret. Justice Okeke should be brought before Justice Ogunbiyi in the full glare of Nigerians and be made to substantiate his allegations.
“To us, this is another golden opportunity for the CJN to demonstrate her resolve to sanitise the judiciary because these allegations bother on the integrity of the administration of justice in Nigeria and must not be swept under the carpet under any guise.”