The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) is extending the war against corruption in the judicial arm to the bar.
It has invited eight Senior Advocates of Nigeria( SANs) for interrogation over alleged payments into judges’ accounts.
This is coming three weeks after the Department of State Security (DSS) raided the homes of several judges, including two justices of the Supreme Court, and arrested them for alleged corruption.
But the EFCC,after intercepting test messages, have now extended the scope of the investigation to the bar, summoning eight senior lawyers suspected of corrupting judges.
Four of the SANs have already been questioned by the anti-graft commission.
All the SANs have denied the EFCC allegation.
They said in their written statements to the commission that at no time did they remit money into the account of any judge for the purpose of perverting justice.
EFCC sources said it had uncovered “curious payments” into judges’ accounts by the SANs after screening the call logs and text messages of a SAN.
It was gathered that one of the payments was made into the account of a judge of the National Industrial Court (NIC) who was invited by the EFCC for questioning.
A well-placed EFCC source said: “We have summoned eight judges for interrogation over suspicious payments into judges’ accounts.
“Four of the SANs have made what I may term useful statements on oath at our office in Lagos. We have granted them bail but investigation is still ongoing.
“It is too early to presume them guilty or not until we have concluded the ongoing probe.
“When we analyzed the call logs and text messages of one of the SANs, we retrieved evidence of remittance and text messages acknowledging some payments between him and a judge of the National Industrial Court( NIC).
“The affected judge was invited for interrogation during the week. We are still forging ahead with our investigation.”
Asked to release the list of the four remaining judges, the source added: “We will let the public know after they have appeared before our team.”
As it stands, security agencies are currently probing six judges and 10 SANs.
Some of the judges had earlier reported to the commission.
Two of the five judges are alleged to have received over N2.75million bribe from two senior lawyers, Rickey Tarfa (SAN) and Joseph Nwobike (SAN).
The EFCC had on March 9, 2016 arraigned Tarfa and Nwobike before Lagos High Court on allegations of bribery and offering gratification to a public official.
“Nwobike and Tarfa are facing criminal prosecution for allegedly offering gratification to Federal High Court judges to refrain them from exercising the duties of their office.
“Subsequent investigation revealed that the two Judges allegedly received sums of money from the two senior lawyers severally.”
The allegations against the two SANs are as follows:
That you Rickey Tarfa SAN on the 29th day of January 2014 in Lagos within the jurisdiction of this honourable court intentionally gave the sum of N1, 500,000 to Hon. Justice Nganjiwa Hyeladzira Ajiya of the Federal High Court directly from your Zenith Bank Account No. 1002926967 in order that the said judge refrains from acting in the exercise of his official duties.
That you Rickey Tarfa SAN on or about the 15th day of December, 2015 in Lagos within the jurisdiction of this honourable court intentionally gave the sum of N500, 000 to Hon. Mohammed Nasir Yunusa of the Federal High Court indirectly through Awa Ajia Nigeria Limited’s account No. 0000971941 domiciled in Access Bank Plc belonging to Hon. Justice Nganjiwa Hyeladzira Ajiya in order that Hon. Mohammed Nasir Yunusa refrains from acting in the exercise of his official duties.”
That you Dr. Joseph Nwobike (SAN) on the 28th day of March 2015 in Lagos within the jurisdiction of this honourable court intentionally gave the sum of N750,000 to Honourable Justice Mohammed Nasir Yunusa of the Federal High Court directly through your United Bank for Africa Account No. 1002664061 in order that the said judge refrains from acting in the exercise of his official duties and thereby committed an offence contrary to section 64 (1) of the Criminal Law of Lagos State No. 11 of 2011.