The Civil Society Network Against Corruption (CSNAC) has urged President Muhammadu Buhari not to forward the name of Uwani Abba-Aji to the Senate for confirmation as a judge of the Supreme Court.
The National Judicial Council (NJC) had on October 5 announced its recommendation of Mr Abba-Aji for the appointment, alongside new chief judges for Abia, Benue, Ogun, Oyo and Kwara states.
But CSNAC, which is a coalition of over 150 anti-corruption organisations and individuals, in a statement on Thursday faulted the recommendation and warned it would take legal action should Mr Buhari ignore its appeal and forward the name to the Senate for confirmation.
The group said it was objecting to the nomination because Mr Abba-Aji is one of the judges under investigation by security agencies.
In the statement signed by its chairman, Olanrewaju Suraju, CSNAC expressed shock “by ongoing attempt to smuggle Mr Abba-Aji into the sacred and most revered Supreme Court without proper investigation of the bribery and corruption allegation against her by the National Judicial Council or her clearance by the law enforcement agency of all allegations against her, bordering on corruption”.
According to the group, confirming Mr Abba-Ajji as a Supreme Court judge will be in “high distaste.”
The group therefore urged Mr Buhari to withhold the submission of the name for confirmation until investigations of alleged bribery and corruption and misuse of public trust against him are effectively carried out.
“Following the 87th meeting of the National Judicial Council held on the 3rd and 4thOctober, 2018 and the subsequent media publication of the press statement issued by the National Judicial Council with respect to its recommendation of Hon. Justice Uwani Musa Abba-Aji, (JCA) as Justice of the Supreme Court, we hereby write as a Civil Society Organization to express our reservation and opposition to the said appointment and recommendation on the basis that the said Justice of the Court of Appeal is one of the judges under investigation by security agencies.
“A publication of the Sahara reporters, an online newspaper dated the 16th October, 2016 featured a detailed report titled ‘Names of Nigerian Judges Under Investigation Revealed’ wherein it revealed that a list of top Nigerian Judges under investigation by security agencies as contained in a confidential memo forwarded to your good office was obtained by the media outfit. The said list was said to have contained names of judges accused of accepting bribes as well as other acts of corruption.
“According to the aforementioned publication, Justice Abba-Aji was implicated in the Rickey Tarfa bribe scandal for reportedly receiving N8,000,000.00 (Eight Million Naira only) from Mr. Tarfa and on that account was then dropped from the list of judges recommended for elevation to the Supreme Court.
“In a special report of the Saharareporters dated 25th April, 2016, at the height of the Rickey Tarfa bribery scandal allegations against the said Justice Abba-Aji, our organization, the Civil Society Network Against Corruption (CSNAC) specifically lent our voice to the call for the National Judicial Council’s suspension of judges that are being investigated for corruption from adjudicating on matters in the country pending their clearance by the law enforcement investigating them. Justice Abba-Aji was conspicuously listed in our petition on this matter. We had then observed that it was an indictment on the judiciary to allow judges who have been entangled in a web of corrupt practices allegation to still be allowed to preside over cases in court.
“It is on this note that we humbly urge your excellency to withhold submission of Justice Abba-Aji to the National Assembly for confirmation as Supreme Court Justice until all investigations of bribery and corruption and misuse of public trust is effectively carried out and evidence of her clearance produced by relevant security agencies as regards the allegations.
“In a situation where our request is ignored and her name forwarded to the Senate for confirmation, we shall not hesitate to deploy all legitimate means to challenge the nomination,” CSNAC said