The National Judicial Council (NJC), has queried a judge of the Federal High Court, Lagos, Mohammed Yunusa, over allegations he colluded with a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Ricky Tarfa, to ‘pervert the cause of justice’.
A November 19, 2015 letter by the chairman of the NJC and Chief Justice of Nigeria, Mahmud Mohammed, to Justice Yunusa was sequel to a complaint by a Beninese business woman, Rachidatou Abdou, against, Messrs. Yunusa and Tarfa accusing them of “bias and unprofessional conduct on the bar and bench”.
Mrs. Abdou had alleged that she went into a business venture with a fellow Beninese, Gnahoue Nazaire, sometime in 2005 by establishing an artificial hair making industry in Lagos, which they named “Rana Prestige Industries Limited”.
She said at inception, the company had the two business partners as sole directors and shareholders.
She also alleged that an instruction was given to a lawyer tasked with registering the firm (Ferdinand Egede) to ensure that fifty per cent share capital was allocated to each of the two directors. She however, said “my co-director colluded with the lawyer and changed it to 60-40 by forging my signature on the incorporation forms and papers”.
Mrs. Abdou also claimed that her business partner diverted the company funds in connivance with his younger brother, Senou Modeste, an employee of the firm. She said all the “anomalies” were perpetuated when she travelled to France for almost six years.
“Upon my return from France, when I noticed these anomalies, I instructed my lawyer to write a petition to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, to investigate and prosecute (if need be) Mr. Gnahoue Sounou Nazaire over allegations of forgery, stealing and fraudulent conversion of company funds,”she said.
She also said no sooner had the EFCC commenced their investigation on the petition, than Mr. Nazaire’s lawyer, Ricky Tarfa filed an action for enforcement of fundamental human rights and pushing for an injunction to restrain the EFCC from investigating her petition.
She said three different suits were instituted by Mr. Tarfa on behalf Mr. Nazaire on May, 15, 2015 and that all the suits were assigned to Justice Yunusa for determination.
How Judge, Tarfa colluded to pervert justice
Mrs. Abdou also informed the NJC that she had evidence of how Justice Yunusa and Mr. Tarfa “had been in constant communication some days preceding the filing of the three suits discussing how justice in the suits will be circumvented by the duo”.
She claimed that on June 29, 2015, Mr. Tarfa made an oral application for injunction to restrain the EFCC from inviting the applicants in continuation of investigation of her petition.
She said the application was “gladly” granted by the court despite being vehemently opposed by her counsel.
“The granting of this application was a result of the discussion between Mr. Ricky Tarfa and Hon. Justice Yunusa some days before the application was made,” she said.
The business woman also said the court in its sitting on July 16, 2015 took arguments on all the three suits and adjourned to August, 18, 20 and 24, 2015 for judgment respectively.
“On the 18th of August 2015, judgment was delivered in suit No. FHC/L/CS/714/2015 and Hon. Justice Yunusa did not disappoint his cohorts as he declared that I was the cause of the arrest of the applicant and that I should pay the sum of N6,000,000.00 ( Six Million Naira) as damages to the applicant who did not say that I wrote a petition against him in his original application. More so, the EFCC in their counter affidavit maintained that I did not write a petition against the applicant,” she said.
She also told the NJC that Messrs. Yunusa and Tarfa were in regular telephone conversation shortly before the suits were instituted and while they were pending in court.
“Specifically, they spoke and exchanged SMS on several occasions. In fact, some of the calls were originated by the trial judge,” she said.
Mrs. Abdou also stated in her petition that before Justice Yunusa delivered his judgment, Mr. Nazaire was “boasting in Cotonou that he had bribed Justice Yunusa through his lawyer, Mr. Tarfa”.
She also said the telephone conversation (a copy of the call log of the alleged conversation was attached to her petition) between the judge and the senior lawyer had confirmed the allegation that the “judgments were indeed sold by justice Yunusa”.
Upon the receipt of the petition, Chief Justice Mahmud, in a letter with Ref. No. NJC/F.3/FHC.49/1/324, addressed to Justice Yunusa, asked the judge to respond to the allegations raised against him by Mrs. Abdou.
“I forward herewith a petition dated 11th November, 2015 against you by one Abdou Rachidatou. The Petition speaks for itself.
“I shall be glad to have your comments within 14 days from the date of your receipt of this letter,” the CJN said.
It is unclear whether Justice Yunusa has responded to the query issued him by Justice Mahmud. It is also not also clear whether relevant legal bodies had open any disciplinary procedure against Mr. Tarfa.
More troubles for Tarfa
Meanwhile, the EFCC arrested Mr. Tarfa on Friday and is set to arraign him on a two- count charge bordering on obstruction of justice and attempting to pervert the cause of justice.
He was arrested by operatives of the commission in Lagos, where he allegedly hid two suspects – Nazaire and Modeste; both Beninese – in his Mercedes Benz Sports Utility car, thereby shielding them from being arrested and willfully obstructing the cause of justice.
The suspects were alleged to have fraudulently converted some sophisticated manufacturing equipment belonging to Rana Prestige Nigeria Limited for their own use.
Besides, they were being investigated for alleged tax evasion running into millions of naira.
An operative of the Commission who was officially detailed to affect their arrest was reportedly prevented from carrying out his duty by Mr. Tarfa.
The senior lawyer would also be arraigned for illegally and unethically communicating with Justice Yunusa in a suit involving the EFCC and the two companies.