Rickey Tarfa bribery scandal: SERAP takes case to UN

Rickey Tarfa

The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, SERAP, has sent a petition to Monica Pinto, UN Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers requesting her to “use your good offices and position to urgently prevail on the National Judicial Council (NJC) to suspend the judge involved in the alleged receipt of N225,000 bribe.”

The group also asked Ms. Pinto to prevail on “the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) to ask the Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Committee (LPDC) to suspend the lawyer involved in the alleged payment of N225,000 bribe in Nigeria, pending the completion of any investigation and/or final determination of any trial on the matter.”

The petition dated February 19, 2016 was signed by SERAP executive director, Adetokunbo Mumuni.

The petition reads in part: “SERAP is concerned that despite these serious allegations of bribery and corruption, the National Judicial Council has failed and/or refused to suspend the judge involved pending any investigation and/or trial of the judge. Similarly, the Nigerian Bar Association has failed and/or refused to ask the Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Committee to suspend the senior lawyer involved pending the final determination of the case against him.”

“SERAP is concerned that the allegations of bribery and corruption such as the alleged payment and receipt of N225,000 threaten the very essence of the independence of the judiciary and the actors in the legal profession.”

“Such allegations also severely undermine the rule of law, the public’s confidence in the judiciary, raise the cost for judicial services because litigation is driven by corruption instead of by the legal process, discourage people from resorting to the formal justice system, and ultimately victimise the most disadvantaged sectors of the population who do not have the means to play by the informal rules set by a corrupt system.”

“The allegations also undermine fair competition and economic growth, as there is a clear correlation between the level of economic activity in a country and an effective judiciary combating corruption.”

“SERAP believes that the NJC and the NBA are in the best position to tackle judicial corruption and corruption within the legal profession, and to ensure the application of appropriate disciplinary measures in cases of bribery and corruption such as the alleged N225,000 bribehighlighted above.”

“Indeed, both the NJC and the NBA have clear responsibilities to counter and combat all manifestations of judicial corruption and corruption within the legal profession. Therefore, the continuing failure by the NJC to suspend the judge involved, and the NBA to ask the LPDC to suspend the lawyer involved will continue to allow judicial corruption to grow, undermine the efforts of all other institutions of governance, and can lead to impunity.”

“SERAP notes that article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights recognizes the principle of equality of all persons before courts and tribunals and the guarantee of a competent, independent and impartial tribunal established by law. However, the enjoyment of the right to a fair, effective and efficient administration of justice is impossible if the judiciary and the legal profession cannot act with integrity.”

SERAP therefore urged Ms. Pinto to prevail on both the NJC and the NBA to:

  1. Exercise their mandates to deal fairly with any suspicion or evidence of acts of corruption;
  2. Take measures to strengthen the integrity of the bench and the bar, and to prevent opportunities for corruption among members of the judiciary;
  3. Fully and effectively enforce the codes of conduct to promote and ensure correct, honourable and proper performance of judges and lawyers;
  4. Promptly and adequately investigate any allegations of corruption in the judiciary and the legal profession, and to ensure that any sanction or investigative process against judges and lawyers does not undermine the credibility of judiciary and the legal profession or offend the right to a fair trial;
  5. Place the independence of judges and lawyers at the centre of their policies aimed at preventing and combating corruption and strengthening the rule of law and human rights;
  6. Contribute to strengthening safeguards for the independence of the judicial system and safeguards against judicial corruption in order to ensure the accountability of judges and lawyers;
  7. Encourage judges and lawyers to discharge their functions with integrity and impartiality and preserve the dignity of their profession;
  8. Recognize that the requirement of independence and impartiality of the judicial and legal professions does not exist for the benefit of the members of the profession themselves, but rather for the users of the justice system, as part of their inalienable right to a fair trial

It would be recalled that Rickey Tarfa, a senior Nigerian lawyer, allegedly made phone contacts with Justice Mohammed Yunusa in a case before the judge. The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, alleged that Mr. Tarfa’s law firm, Rickey Tarfa & Co. paid N225,000 into Justice Yunusa’s bank account.


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  • zebra crossing

    @Serap,

    What is now so difficult for National Judicial Council (NJC)
    to do here? Why retain Judge Yunusa on the job, when he can be more easily
    suspended until his alleged bribe-taking case is fully resolved? Why does NJC
    need to bring down the roof; disgrace the judiciary, mock the law and tar
    justice on its face for the sake of Judge Yunusa whose discretion is dubious,
    as demonstrated, again, in this HONEYWELL CASE?

    • Inner Bar

      See, a good few of these morally wretched and so-called S.A.N wearers cannot speak a correct sentence in English.
      The remainder just scowl and howl in ignorance and delusively believe themselves to be in the sport of lawyering.
      Anyone with good sense will know that lawyers who refuse to apply for the crass S.A.N chieftaincy are the wise ones.
      A man of prudence does not degrade himself to apply to be conferred with a crass title en route a life of thefts.

      • sonoflaw

        @Inner Bar: Now the public can see the hidden truth.
        You get S.A.N by offering bribes and also by paying money into the bank accounts of court Judges.
        The S.A.N title is therefore a huge crime that President Buhari must resolve by banning henceforth.

      • O.A.U

        Thousands of Nigerian Law students in
        universities await the court decision on EFCC v. Ricky Tarfa to guide their
        own conduct as future lawyers. They are interested in one question and in one
        question only; i.e.

        • IS IT ethical for a lawyer to ask for a Judge’s bank
        account number; and, is it right for a Judge to agree to give the lawyer his bank
        account for the purpose of receiving money to be privately paid by the lawyer
        to the Judge; regardless of the purpose, during the pendency of a court case in
        which the lawyer is appearing before the same Judge in the court?

        • Prophet

          How did you arrive at this conclusion? Who told you that law students do not know bribery is wrong and against the law?

  • Bayo Ola

    SERAP, is Nigeria still a sovereign state? Why all these frivolous petitions to International agencies that do not have the interest of Africans at heart for goodness sake? This is becoming ridiculous to state the least. Why no one fault the arguement insisting on a need to punish dishonorable justice Yinusa, asking International Agenies to meddle in the internal affairs of a member state, when the issue is not about genocide, is bothering on ridiculous. SERAP is simply being lazy. What it needs to do is to begin a social re-engineering process that will create grassroot momentum that these corrupt elites, some among their members, cannot resist. Thankfully, we have a President that would likely take side with such momentum that might consume the rapaciously corrupt legislators and Nigeria judiciary. To imagine that brilliant lawyers that make up SERAP think the salvation of Nigeria will come from Western countries that never wanted Nigeria to rise, shows the level of how Africans, both elites and their masses, think. SERAP: your salvation lies within! Begin to create a grassroots momentum that will force change from beneath, or kindly stop embarrassing Nigeria with these per second per second petitions to the ICC or the UN. enough!

  • Omo Eleniyan

    @bayoola:disqus

    SERAP has good reasons to submit this matter to international forum although
    It does not really matter to me, really, and it shouldn’t ever bother Nigerians either
    whether 94, 101, 113 or 1,000 S.A.N lawyers announce their appearance in the
    courthouse to defend Ricky Tarfa for delivering cash into the bank account of
    Judge Yunusa which the Judge acknowledged by sms with thanks. I have always
    said that the choice of whom and what to stand for is not a matter regulated by
    law, but a personal decision of a lawyer regulated by a lawyer’s personal ethics.

    The so-called 93 S.A.N lawyers who appeared merely exhibited the rotten core
    of their inner soul in public. They are sold to money they can’t discern right from
    wrong. They should be listed in all newspapers as a reference of those morally
    unqualified to hold public office in a morally reborn Nigeria.

    As far as Ricky Tarfa is concerned the less said of him,
    the better for the chances of washing up the mud he’s thrown on the legal
    profession by his misconduct verging on crime. Howsoever it’s cut or diced
    Tarfa will more likely than not lose his law license to revocation for infamy
    and be expelled forever from the legal profession.

    His counterpart – Kunle Kalejaiye (S.A.N) –
    was himself expelled and banned from the law profession for life for
    a lesser offence of improper communication with a Judge on a live case in which
    he was privy, but without his having been found to have delivered money to that
    Judge in question. So, if green leaves burn, what should now happen
    to Ricky Tarfa, as dry leaf?

  • Amir

    SERAP is asking the Nigerian Bribery Association to suspend or discipline Rickey Tarfa? He will expose all of them including the President of the association.

  • Prophet

    SERAP needs to chill out! This is a fresh internal issue and the governing bodies concerned here in Nigeria have not had time to digest the matter.
    While we applaud SERAP’s concerns and their self imposed status as watchdogs, referring everything to entities outside our borders is not necessarily a good idea (especially when done this erratically).

    • God dey

      They don’t need time. I support SERAP on this one

  • Burning Spear

    NJC probe: How Salami, ACN chieftains exchanged calls •Contents of call logs uncovered

    CONTENTS of call logs admitted in evidence by the National Judicial Council (NJC) probe panel investigating alleged corruption in the handling of governorship appeals in Osun and Ekiti states have

    been finally uncovered.

    In the final address of the petitioners; former Governors Segun Oni of Ekiti, Olagunsoye Oyinlola of Osun and the Peoples Democratic Party (Osun State) to the Justice Umaru Abdullahi panel, the blow-by-blow account of how the alleged unethical calls were made between the President of the Court of Appeal, Isa Ayo Salami and chieftains of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) were detailed.

    According to the document obtained by the Nigerian Tribune; “On 11th, November, 2010, ACN chieftain and spokesman, Lai Mohammed called one Tunji Ijaya (08034010700), a well known associate of Justice Ayo Salami and an ACN sympathiser, at 8.36 a.m. from Kosofe, Lagos, less than one hour later, precisely at 9.30 a.m., Mohammed called Ijaya again. WHERE WAS SERAP IN THIS MATTER? WHAT ABOUT THE REFUZSAL OF BUHARI TO OBEY COURT ORDER-WITH REGARDS TO KANU

  • That it would take a drastic action by the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, SERAP, to send a petition to Monica Pinto, UN Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers concerning an alleged judicial impropriety in Nigeria should mark the height of embarrassment to our judiciary. We know that our judges have literally been swimming in corruption lately and have been brazenly colluding with criminals to scupper cases with endless adjournment, sometime on very frivolous grounds.

    But it is indeed disturbing to the core how the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) has kept uncharacteristically mute on the Rickey Tarfa bribery allegation and the role a bent Judge has played in this alleged payment of N225, 000 bribes.

    Nigerian judiciary is now on trial, big time. Nigerians are deeply alarmed that despite these serious allegations of bribery and corruption, the National Judicial Council like the NBA has failed to say a word, let alone move to suspend the judge involved in this scandal. Surprising all we were treated with recently was the macabre and farcical parade of over 90 “senior” lawyers accompanying Rickey Tarfa to court, perhaps to give credence to his habitual traits of perverting the course of justice. It is high our Honourable gentle of The Bench and Bar stood up to the ethics of the calling. We do not expect anything less.

  • thusspokez

    The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, SERAP, has sent a petition to Monica Pinto, UN Special Rapporteur

    Nigerians should be angry with this organisation; Buhari and the Senate should find a way to close down this traitor and disgraceful organisation that continues to undermine the sovereignty and independence of the Nigeria state.

    Unlike many other African countries, Nigeria was spared war and blood to get its independence from the British, but nevertheless, it achieved independence through sweat. Many countries that had spilled blood in its fight for independence would not take kindly to SERAP’s behaviour.

    SERAP frequent call on EU, UN, IMF, Work Bank, Western governments to interject in the local affairs of Nigeria amounts to betrayer of Nigeria. SERAP, it would seem. wants western recolonisation of Nigeria. It is a traitor organisation and should be seen as an enemy of the Nigerian state.

    There are organisations like SERAP in almost every country, but they operate and seek local solutions to local problems within their countries — not run to the West as SERAP often does.

    • Man_Enough

      The judiciary is on trial here. Wher else should they take their case to? Let us not hide under sovereignty and independence to propagate injustice.

      • thusspokez

        The judiciary is on trial here.

        Where did the US in the 1920s/30s/40s or Italy after WWII-1980s go when they had similar problems?

        They used the same law enforcement agencies and courts. The UK police is currently on public trial follow its failure to investigate historical child abuse cases: where did the British go to seek justice? They went to the same police and courts — not to the UN!

        It is also naive to think that the UN has jurisdiction over Nigeria (hence I keep calling Nigerians one of the most ignorant people on this planet).

        The UN per sehas no power but that given to it by its members. And any member nation can at any time withdraw its cooperation with the UN and there is nothing the UN can do except appeal to the country to change its minds. We see it in Syria, North Korea, Israel, etc.,

        It is so sad that many of you Nigerians with your belief that you are inferiority to westerners think that only they can solve your problems for you.

    • Mercy

      Nigerians should be angry with your friend Okonjo Iweala and not reputable NGOs like SERAP who are the husband of their mother.

  • Dazmillion

    The real masquerade defending corruption in this country is finally unveiled. The judiciary is finally on trial. Next up is the bankers