The Nigerian Judiciary has come under the scrutiny of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, with the agency turning its investigative spotlight on five judges from different courts in the country, the International Centre for Investigative Reporting is reporting this morning.
Reliable sources in the commission told ICIR the agency is thoroughly examining the financial dealings of at least five judges, particularly bank and business transactions.
The five judges are believed to have compromised in their judicial calling and in the process amassed riches which their salaries cannot justify.
The sources did not disclose details of the judges being investigated in order not to alert them and jeopardise the investigation but they disclosed that of the five who have come under “intense and close scrutiny.”
Two of them are chief judges of their respective courts.
According to the sources, investigations have gone far concerning the judges and a case file is being built against them for possible prosecution as soon as possible.
It was gathered that the EFCC began to take interest in the judiciary following a spate of complaints and petitions against several judicial officers, including magistrates, judges of state and federal high courts and even the Supreme Court of Nigeria.
The anti – graft agency started its investigations with over 20 cases but finally narrowed its probe down to the five judges who were found to have a case to answer.
According to one of the ICIR sources, several complaints had been lodged against many judicial officers from lawyers, judicial workers, whistle blowers in the judiciary as well as some serving judges who felt embarrassed about some of the corrupt activities of their colleagues.
Repeatedly, lawyers and other stakeholders in the judicial system, it was learnt, reported some particular judges to the commission who were said to operate what some term “cash and carry justice.”
For months now EFCC investigators have forensically scrutinized bank statements and accounts of several judicial workers and it was gathered that some of the wealth found in the accounts of some judges was “staggering.”
Apart from over bloated bank accounts, some of the judges are also said to own exotic vehicles and properties in the choicest parts of major cities and even outside the country.
The sources disclosed that the EFCC was initially reluctant to put members of the bench under scrutiny because the outcome could erode public confidence in the judiciary but that the agency was forced to commence full-scale investigation when an interim report revealed a cesspool of corruption in that arm of government..
For now, ICIR gathered, none of the judges involved had been invited for questioning as the commission wants to get all the information on their financial transactions and dealing before doing so.
Corruption in the Nigerian judiciary had lately reach worryingly alarming levels, particularly concerning election cases arising from the 2011 general elections. Perhaps, the most embarrassing case in point is the quarrel between the former Chief justice of Nigeria, CJN, Aloysius Katsina – Alu and suspended president of the Court of Appeal, Ayo Salami.
The latter was suspended by the National Judicial council after he refused to apologise to the former CJN whom he had publicly accused of trying to influence the outcome of the Sokoto governorship election petition that was then being heard by the appellate court.
There have equally been several accusations leveled against other serving judges by lawyers who allege that judges were increasingly being influenced by considerations outside the law in reaching judicial rulings.