Lawmakers probe judges’ arrest, alleged repatration of $13.9b
• Judicial officials’ absence stalls trial of Fani-Kayode, Usman
The Senate has ordered an investigation into the arrest of some judges by the Department of State Services (DSS).
Adopting a motion to that effect by the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters, David Umaur, the upper legislative chamber directed the panel to do whatever it could within its constitutional oversight powers to carry out the assignment.
The Senate was informed that the resolution taken by the National Judicial Council (NJC) on the matter had already been submitted to the committee and it would be part of the materials to be examined during the investigation.
The decision to probe the matter came barely a week after the Senate condemned the manner the judges were arrested.
The investigation will involve inviting the six judges affected by the arrest and officials of the DSS to testify at a public hearing to be conducted during the probe.
While ruling on the motion, Senate President Bukola Saraki noted that the committee did not need any extra power to conduct its investigation. “You do not need to come to us, you have your powers under the oversight and you should be able to use the powers and do whatever you deem necessary,” Saraki said.
Operatives of the DSS on Saturday, October 8, 2016 arrested six judges and later said its action was based on petitions against the judicial officers on alleged corrupt practices it received.
The judges arrested include John Okoro and Sylvester Nguta of the Supreme Court and a former Chief Judge of Enugu State, Innocent Umezulike. Others are Namdi Dimgba and Adeniyi Ademola of the Federal High Court, Abuja; Kabiru Auta, from Kano; and Muazu Pindiga of Federal High Court in Gombe.
In a related development, the absence of Justice Sule Hassan of the Federal High Court, Lagos yesterday stalled the trial of a former Minister of Aviation, Femi Fani-Kayode and an erstwhile Minister of Finance, Nenadi Usman over alleged money laundering.
Fani-Kayode, who is also a former director of media and publicity, Goodluck/Sambo Campaign committee and Usman, its finance director, are facing trial alongside one Danjuma Yusuf. Also charged is a company named Joint Trust Dimension Nig. Ltd.
They were arraigned on a 17-count charge bordering on unlawful retention, unlawful use and unlawful payment of money to the tune of about N4.9 billion.
They each pleaded not guilty to the charge and were granted bail. Yesterday, the trial of the accused could not proceed due to the absence of the trial judge, who was said to be away on an official assignment. The trial resumes tomorrow.
Meanwhile, the Senate yesterday disclosed that it had engaged the services of some foreign and local forensic experts in its investigation of alleged illegal repatriation of $13.9 billion in breach of the Foreign Exchange Act.
The Senate Committee on Banking, Insurance and Financial Institutions that is conducting the investigation declared that it had received relevant communication from some institutions, persons and corporate organisations linked to the matter.
The Chairman of the committee, Senator Rafiu Ibrahim , said the need to involve forensic experts was informed by the weight of the allegation. He said: “The committee has also written to the Central Bank of Nigeria and the Financial Reporting Council of Nigeria for information on the matter.
This is because the MTN and its bankers are in clear violation of Section 15 of the Foreign Exchange (Monitoring and Miscellaneous) Act, 1995. Memorandum 20 and 22 relating to the purchase and sale of Securities and Direct Foreign Capital Investment in Nigeria respectively.
“As you know, the allegation is a weighty one that involves the repatriation of $13.92 billion illegally out of Nigeria by Mobile Telecommunication Limited (MTN) through its bankers between 2006 and 2016.”
Besides MTN, other corporate organisations and individuals listed to appear before the committee include Stanbic IBTC, Standard Chartered Bank, Citi Bank and Diamond Bank.
According to the committee, some of the promoters of the corporate organsiations to appear before the committee include Dr. Pascal Dozie, Ahmed Dasuki, Gbenga Oyebode, Babatunde Folawiyo, Mohammed Sani Bello, Victor Odili and Minister of Trade and Investment, Dr. Okechukwu Elenemah
And just as the committee announced its readiness to begin the open investigative hearing on the matter today, Enelamah, has denied direct involvement in the alleged fraud.