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Amaechi bribery saga, litmus test for Buhari’s anti-graft war

By Sunny Ogefere, Seye Olumide (Lagos) and Lawrence Njoku, Enugu
25 October 2016   |   4:17 am
The lingering accusation and counter-accusation, over the alleged culpability of Minister of Transportation, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi in the bribery scandal with some Justices of the Supreme ...
Rotimi Amaechi

Rotimi Amaechi

•‘Ex-gov lacks moral justification to remain in office’
• APC absolves ministers of corruption allegations

The lingering accusation and counter-accusation, over the alleged culpability of Minister of Transportation, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi in the bribery scandal with some Justices of the Supreme Court to pervert justice in the governorship election matters, has reach a stage where the Presidency and the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), must speak out.

Observers are of the opinion that it is necessary the presidency took a position now, to protect the administration’s ongoing anti-corruption drive.

Following the stunning revelations that Amaechi attempted to bribe some judges in the governorship election matters that were before the appellate court, the Rivers State chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) called on the former governor of Rivers State to resign his position, saying he lacks the moral justification to remain in office as a minister.

But in response, the Rivers State chapter of APC has stood in stout defence of the minister, as it dismissed the calls for his resignation by PDP, saying the former governor is clean of the accusations of trying to influence the rulings on some election petition cases.

Amaechi is currently facing serious accusations by two Supreme Court Justices of being behind their travails; including the raiding of their residences, arrest, detention and carting away of various vital items and documents as well as blackmail by operatives of Department of State Security Services.

The Justices had accused Amaechi of approaching them and demanded that Rivers, Akwa Ibom, Ebonyi, Abia and Ekiti states election petitions should be delivered in favour of his party, the APC.

Justice John Iyang Okoro, of the apex court had claimed that Amaechi told him (Okoro) that President Buhari gave directives that the justices of the Supreme Court must ensure that the APC wins its election appeals in respect of Rivers, Akwa Ibom and Abia states, at all costs and that if the ruling party lost in Akwa Ibom, where he (Amaechi) sponsored the candidate, he would have lost a fortune.

On his part, Justice Sylvester Ngwuta stated that his refusal at various times, to help the APC to pervert justice in the governorship election disputes involving Ekiti, Rivers and Ebonyi states was responsible for his ordeal.

In a letter dated October 18, which he forwarded to the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Mahmud Mohammed and the National Judicial Council (NJC); he specifically alleged that the minister had attempted to bribe him, and that after the Supreme Court affirmed the Election of Governor Nyesom Wike, his predecessor, Amaechi also called him (Ngwuta) on phone and said “Oga is not happy.”

It was based on this development and the danger it poses to the nation’s democracy, that the Chairman, Rivers State PDP, Felix Obuah, insisted that relevant authorities must commence investigation into the allegations while he called on the incumbent minister of transportation to first step aside from carrying out national assignments in the capacity as a member of the Federal Executive Council (FEC).

He said this would allow for an uninterrupted and objective investigation by the relevant government security and anti graft agencies.

Obuah also said it is necessary for Mr. President to relieve Amaechi of his position “pending the determination of the matter by the law enforcement and anti graft agencies.”

According to him, “For Amaechi to further prove his innocence of the various allegations against him, there was the need for him to resign, cooperate and allow the process of his investigation by not sabotaging any of such efforts in getting to the truth.”

The Rivers PDP chairman further explained that although the party was shocked at the extent Amaechi went about attempting to steal the mandate of Nigerian electorate, particularly in the affected states those revelations have however vindicated the PDP “as it has consistently complained about the corrupt and undemocratic dispositions of Mr. Amaechi and some of his APC folks.”

He said, “We demand thorough investigation into these revelations by the Justices of the Supreme Court and also call on Amaechi to resign immediately, as he lacks the moral rectitude to remain in office as a public servant, Obuah insisted.”

However, the Rivers APC Chairman, Dr. Davies Ibiamu Ikanya took a contrary view, insisting that the Amaechi is clean and not guilty as charged.

According to him, “We are convinced that God, who has always fought for Amaechi, will continue to save and strengthen him and will once again vindicate him.”

The party went ahead to lambast the PDP and others who have joined in calling on Amaechi to resign and for his probe based on the allegations of attempted bribery by some Justices.

He said those accusing the minister were drowning Judges who were looking for a tool to stay afloat, saying: “These calls being championed by the PDP are just the latest manifestation of the party’s frustration and fight against Amaechi in retaliation for his role in dislodging them from power during the 2015 presidential elections.”

According to APC, “These useless calls based on the unfounded and baseless attempted bribery allegations against the former governor confirms our fears and stand that the two discredited Justices made the allegations as part of a political strategy to destroy APC and run down the political fortunes of this rising star.

“PDP is only acting out its frustration over the key role that Amaechi played to end the corruption system engineered by the past PDP administration at the centre but let us assure the public that this plot has already failed before it was hatched because no sound Nigerian will buy this lame allegation that has no logical stand.”

The party recalled the failed plots by PDP to deny Amaechi the party’s gubernatorial ticket he won convincingly in 2007 and the efforts PDP also made to ensure that Amaechi was neither screened nor appointed as a minister.

“Having failed to deny him the 2007 PDP gubernatorial ticket and to stop his appointment as a minister, PDP is now sponsoring some Judges to implicate Amaechi in the hope that doing so will save them from paying for their heinous crime against the people of Rivers State and Nigeria.”

The party also admonished the affected Justices of the apex court to face their ordeals accordingly and leave Amaechi alone, saying: “Amaechi’s only crime was that he played a yeoman’s role in the efforts to see to the emergence of Buhari as the President of Nigeria.”

In similar vein, the Enugu State chapter of APC defended Amaechi and his counterpart in Science and Technology ministry, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu over bribery allegations by Okoro and Ngwuta.

In a statement by the party’s Publicity Secretary, Mrs. Kate Offor, it claimed it was outrageous that instead of defending themselves, the Justices were “looking for people to drag along in their predicament.”

According to the party: “The Justices going by the powers conferred on them by the 1999 Constitution, are aware that they have the power to call on the police or even their orderly to arrest anybody who is attempting to pervert the course of justice. It is not enough to whisper to the Chief Justice of Nigeria, who has not owned up to such allegation.”

The statement continued: “In the past we had forthright Judges like the late Justice Anthony Aniagolu who voluntarily declined to be Chief Justice of Nigeria after a military coup because he was the third in the hierarchy.”

Meanwhile, Nigerians are expecting the presidency and its security agencies to react on the matter following the allegations from the justices.

Before now, there had been the perception that President Buhari’s anti-corruption campaign has been a one sided war, which was perceived to be shielding some government cronies while members of the opposition parties were the prime target.