Usoro replies Odinkalu, dismisses bribery allegation as ‘hate campaign’
The law firm of Paul Usoro & Co has dismissed the allegation that its principal, Mr. Paul Usoro (SAN) bribed a judge of the National Industrial Court (NIC), Justice James Agbadu-Fishim.
The firm said the senior advocate has no need or inclination to bribe and/or induce judicial officers or any other person in order to succeed in his practice of law.
In a statement released by a partner in the firm, Munirudeen Liadi, the firm said it read with utter disbelief and horror, the ‘recent hate campaign’ against Usoro by Professor Chidi Odinkalu, using as peg of the well-publicized gifts totaling N450, 000 that were given to Justice Agbadu-Fishim by Usoro.
According the Liadi, the judge and Usoro have been friends and were known to each other long before he joined the bench.
He said: “Mr. Usoro pointedly, categorically and consistently disclaimed any suggestion that he bribed or wished “to induce Honorable Justice Agbadu-Fishim or any other judicial officer” and stated in his letters to EFCC that he “does not bribe or induce Judges” and “has never bribed or induced any Judge”.
Liadi insisted that there is no way their principal could have bribed the judge because N700, 000 was paid for the only case which the chambers handled before the judge, and wondered how possible it would be to pay about 65 percent of the fees to the judge as bribe.
“The contents of Mr. Usoro’s letters to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) have not been factually disputed howsoever by anyone. Mr Usoro has not been charged to court for any infraction whatsoever and yet, Chidi Odinkalu claims in his recent hate publications that “Paul Usoro is charged with having bribed James Agbadu-Fishim” and that Mr. Usoro admitted “to having bribed a judge”.
“These are wholly untrue statements. As if these mischievous publications were not sufficient, Chidi Odinkalu proceeded further to purportedly conduct a vox populi to determine whether “when a lawyer pays N450k to a judge before whom his firm has a case (without telling the other side) it’s called (a) charity; (b) bribe; or (c) donation” and according to him, the overwhelming majority of respondents classify it as “bribe”. That is a rather strange method for a lawyer to determine the commission of a crime.
“In point of fact, Chidi Odinkalu does not need to conduct a poll to determine what constitutes bribe and the ingredients thereof and its applicability to the present matter. Section 18(b) of the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act, Cap C31, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004 (“ICPC Act”) could have easily and readily instructed him on what constitutes the ingredients of the offence of bribery, based on the specification thereat…,” the firm stated, adding that the law permits gifts to judicial officers as required by customs too.
Odinkalu, had in an earlier statement described Mr. Usoro’s aspiration to become the NBA president as the height of impunity.
He said Usoro is charged with having bribed Agbadu-Fishim, a judge of the NIC with N800, 000 paid in three installments of N300, 000, N400, 000 and N100, 000.
“Paul Usoro himself admits to having given the judge at least N450,000, claiming it was contribution towards his vacation. The judge is presently on trial for these acts. The payments he received from Paul Usoro are in evidence in the trial.
“In a sane country, Paul Usoro should be facing disciplinary proceedings at best and should have been disbarred. In Nigeria, someone is parading him to lead our Bar. That Bar belongs to us all.
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