The gubernatorial candidate of the All Progressives Congress, APC, in Akwa Ibom State in the 2015 elections, Okon Umana, on Wednesday dismissed as baseless allegations by Justice Inyang Okoro that he and his party attempted to induce the judge to swing the ruling of the Supreme Court in their favour.
Mr. Okoro, caught in the State Security Service crackdown on senior judicial officers after being accused of corruption and abuse of office, wrote to the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Mahmud Mohammed, narrating how Mr. Umana visited him, along with the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, and a clergyman, Ebebe Ukpong, in an attempt to induce him to manipulate the ruling on the Akwa Ibom governorship election petition in their favour.
The security operatives had visited Justice Okoro’s home in Abuja to conduct a search on October 7 and 8 as part of its investigation in the case of alleged corruption and abuse of office levelled against him.
At the end of the operation, the SSS said they found $38,800 and N3.5 million in cash as well as other documents pertaining to its investigation.
But Mr. Okoro accused the SSS of working for the government in power to harass and intimidate him apparently for resisting pressure to help influence the outcome of the Supreme Court ruling on Akwa Ibom gubernatorial election.
Specifically, he accused Mr. Amaechi of being behind his ordeal, citing a verbal report he said he made to the Chief Justice on February 1, 2016 about the former Rivers State governor’s visit to his official residence.
Mr. Okoro said Mr. Amaechi had approached him to say President Muhammadu Buhari and the APC wanted him to plead with the Supreme Court judges, to ensure the outcome of the election appeals in respect of Rivers, Akwa Ibom and Abia States were in their favour at all costs.
Mr. Amaechi has since denied the allegations, describing it as “baseless and spurious” and “blatant lies bereft of any iota of truth.”
However, Mr. Umana in his reaction on Wednesday accused Mr. Okoro of making the allegation without any evidence, saying the alleged meeting was fiction.
“No such meeting to discuss how to bribe judges took place between him, Mr Umana Okon Umana and Dr (Pastor) Ebebe Ukpong as alleged,” Mr. Umana said in a statement by his spokesperson, Iboro Otongaran.
“If we assume, without conceding, such a meeting took place, for a man of Justice Okoro’s standing and knowledge of the law, he ought to have known the legal implications of such a visit, and should have reported to appropriate authorities immediately. He did not do that, but only reacting after the authorities have established a case against him,” Mr. Otongaran argued.
He said Justice Okoro’s claim in his letter to the Chief Justice of Nigeria was “not only false, it is diversionary and an afterthought. Justice Okoro should address himself to the facts of the case, which is between him and the State, and leave Umana out of it.”
Contrary to Justice Okoro’s claim, Mr. Otongaran said, Mr. Umana had no appeal before the Supreme Court from any court judgment on the 2015 governorship election in Akwa Ibom State, having won his case at the tribunal and Court of Appeal.
“Mr. Umana was therefore confident of victory at the Supreme Court, because of the concurrent judgments of the lower courts. But, the Supreme Court judgment had ignored the concurrent judgments at both the tribunal and the Court of Appeal.
“It also totally disregarded the reports of the international observers, including those of the United States government and the European Union that the elections in Akwa Ibom and Rivers states were marred by widespread violence and irregularities.
“Mr. Umana had issued a statement expressing disappointment at the verdict, and has since moved on and left everything in the hands of God. Justice Okoro should therefore leave Mr. Umana alone,” Mr. Otongaran said.