A civic group has asked the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Walter Onnoghen, to invoke Section 52 of the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences (ICPC) Act to investigate the allegations of bribery against Governor Abdullahi Ganduje of Kano State.
Mr Ganduje was accused of receiving millions of dollars in bribe from some contractors working on public projects in the state.
The Human and Environmental Development Agenda Resource Centre (HEDA) also requested an authorisation for an independent counsel to investigate the allegations.
HEDA, a non-governmental organisation, made the demands in a letter forwarded to Mr Onnoghen and sighted PREMIUM TIMES Saturday.
In the letter signed by HEDA’s Chairman, Olanrewaju Suraju, it said the request became necessary following the refusal of Mr Ganduje to appear before the committee set up by the state House of Assembly to probe allegations against him.
“Your Lordship, in this particular case, we wish to invite your office to activate this inherent power as vested on you by the ICPC Act to launch a thorough investigation into the lingering scandalous $5 Million dollar bribery allegations against the current Governor of Kano State…”, the letter read.
The provisions of Section 52 of the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act cited in the letter, states:
“52.-(1) When an allegation of corruption or anything purporting to contravene any provision of this Act is made against the President or the Vice-President of Nigeria or against any State Government or Deputy Governor, the Chief Justice of the Federation shall, if satisfied that sufficient cause has been shown upon an application on notice supported by an affidavit setting out the facts on which the allegation is based, authorize an independent counsel (who shall be a legal practitioner of not less than fifteen years standing) to investigate the allegation and make a report of his findings to the National Assembly in the case of the President or Vice-President and to the relevant State House of Assembly in the case of the State Government or the Deputy Governor.
“The Commission shall be enjoined to fully cooperate with such independent counsel and provide all facilities necessary for such independent counsel to carry out his functions.”
Mr Ganduje has been dogged by public scorn since video clips appearing to show him collecting bribe started appearing online in October. At least six of such videos have been published since the first clip was released on October 11.
A Nigerian newspaper, Daily Nigerian, said it has up to 15 of such videos of Mr Ganduje. The governor could be seen receiving wads of United States dollars from persons believed to be public works contractors.
The videos were recorded in 2017 in what Daily Nigerian described as a sting operation aimed at beaming the spotlight on the governor’s alleged penchant for contract racketeering.
The governor has dismissed the videos as “cloned” and filed a lawsuit against the publisher of the online newspaper, Jaafar Jaafar.
But PREMIUM TIMES’ graphics experts who examined some of the videos corroborated the position of Daily Nigerian, which earlier said its internal and independent graphics analysts authenticated the clips.
“Dr. Ganduje had denied the videos, saying they were photoshops. However, it is worth noting that Mr Jaafar had last month, honoured the invitation of the Kano State House of Assembly investigating the bribery scandal, where he tendered many other video clips showing the allegedly Governor collecting bribes from contractor at different times”, the group explained in the letter.
“Mr Jaafar also at the said investigative hearing reiterated the allegation, explaining how a contractor working for the Kano State government had agreed to attach cameras to his kaftan in order to capture the videos. He also stressed that the video clips were authentic and had not been doctored in any way.”
HEDA’s Resource Centre described as shocking subsequent videos that emerged showing the embattled governor “in black Kaftan, allegedly collecting bribe in wads of dollars from a contractor and though the previous video had no audio, the recent and trending one has the audio voice of the Governor requesting for bribe from a contractor.”
The Kano House of Assembly which initially initiated a probe into the allegations and invited Daily Nigerian suspended the process in last month in respect to a court ruling over a suit to stop the probe. Mr Ganduje had failed to appear before the probe panel but statement a representative.
“…The Kano State House of Assembly investigative committee set up to probe the allegations has summoned the Governor to appear before it, while also asking the Governor to come with his lawyers if he so wishes and also requested for a written, signed and dated statement of the Governor on or before the date of the hearing. The committee also said that copies of the video clips showing the Governor receiving bribes in dollars were also sent to him for ‘perusal.’
“It is, however, disheartening that up until the time of this letter, the Governor has neglected, failed and or refused to appear before the said committee and rather sent the State Commissioner of Information, Mohammed Garba to represent him at the hearing,” HEDA explained.
It was in the wake of the foregoing that the civic group said is demanding the activation of the ICPC Act which it described as “self-explanatory on the inherent power of the Chief Justice of Federation in matters such as that in reference.
“It is a very potent instrumentality for curtailing, if not completely eradicating, theft, kleptocracy, misappropriation and all other forms of corrupt practices prohibited by the various national and international legal instruments against corruption and illicit assets.
“In line with the current administration’s commitment to zero corrupt practices by public officials, we, therefore, call your office to invoke this power and authorise an independent counsel to investigate these allegations and the report of such investigation be submitted to Kano State House of Assembly timeous action to serve as deterrent to other corrupt officials.
Similar demands have been made of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) but the commission said it cannot immediately yield to such calls because “Mr Abdullahi enjoys constitutional immunity from criminal proceedings.”