In a bid to douse the outrage that greeted its midnight arrest of two Supreme Court Justices and three other judges, the Department of State Security (DSS) yesterday said the sting operations yielded a mind-boggling N93, 558,000.00, $530,087, £25,970, €5,680, from three of those in its custody.
Those under arrest are Justices Sylvester Ngwuta and Inyang Okoro both of the Supreme Court , the suspended Presiding Justice of the Court of Appeal, Ilorin Division, Justice Mohammed Ladan Tsamiya , Justice Kabiru Auta of Kano State High Court and Justice Adeniyi Ademola of the Federal High Court, Abuja.
Justice Tsamiya had earlier been recommended by the National Judicial Commission (NJC) for retirement for meeting a litigant thrice and demanding N200million bribe.
The commission also recommended the sack of Justice Auta for receiving N125million from a litigant through an account approved by him and recommended that he be handed over to the police for prosecution.
Briefing reporters at the DSS headquarters in Abuja yesterday, spokesman for the organisation, Mr. Abdullahi Garba said attempt to recover another $2million cash from an unnamed judge was thwarted by the governor of the state.
Garba alleged that the governor mobilized thugs and operatives of an unspecified ‘sister agency’ against DSS operatives and craftily relocated the $2 million.
He said: “The Department of State Services (DSS) in the past few days, has embarked on series of special sting operations involving some Judges of the Supreme, Appeal and High Courts.
“These operations were based on allegations of corruption and other acts of professional misconduct by a few of the suspected Judges.
“The service action is in line with its core mandate, as we have been monitoring the expensive and luxurious lifestyle of some of the Judges as well as complaints from the concerned public over judgment obtained fraudulently and on the basis amounts of money paid.
“The judges involved were invited, upon which due diligence was exhibited and their premises searched. The searches have uncovered huge raw cash of various denominations, local and foreign currencies, with real estate worth several millions of Naira and documents affirming unholy acts by these Judges.
“Meanwhile, some of them have made useful statements while a few have declined even with the glaring evidences that were found against them in terms of material cash, documents and property recovered pointing to their compromise.
“In one of the States where the Service operations were conducted, credible intelligence revealed that the Judge had Two Million United States Dollars ($2,000,000 USD) stashed in his house.
“When he was approached for due search to be conducted he, in concert with the State Governor, mobilized thugs against the Service team.
“The team restrained itself in the face of unbridled provocative activities by those brought in by the Governor; unfortunately, the Judge and Governor also engaged the tacit support of a sister security agency.
“The Service surveillance team noticed that upon frustrating the operation, the Judge with the active support of the Governor craftily moved the money to an unknown location which the Service is currently making effort to unravel.
“Meanwhile, large amount including foreign/local currencies have been recovered and summaries of these include:
NAIRA – N93, 558,000.00
DOLLARS – $530,087
POUNDS – £25,970
EURO – €5,680
“Other foreign currencies were also recovered; the above were recovered from just three of the judges.
“These in addition to other banking documents, including real estate documents have been recovered.”
According to the DSS, the new initiative to cleanse the judiciary of corrupt elements will be sustained while those found culpable will be prosecuted.
The DSS spokesman dismissed speculations that the operation was aimed at stopping Justice Walter Nkanu Onnoghen of the Supreme Court from succeeding Chief Justice Mahmud Mohammed who is due to retire next month.
He said the operation did not affect Onnoghen at all and he is not under any investigation whatsoever.
“The Service would want to clearly state that it has never invited Justice Walter Nkanu Onnoghen for investigation; neither is he being investigated by this Service,” Garba said.
“In addition, the Service would like to put it on record, that it has tremendous respect for the Judiciary and would not do anything to undermine it or its activities.
“The Service will also join hands with this noble institution in its fight to rid it of few corrupt Judges whose actions is undermining not only the Judiciary but the common bond of our national life.
“This current operation will be sustained and followed till sanity and sanctity is restored to the esteemed third arm of government and public confidence is regained.
“Members of the public are also encouraged to avail the Service of any information which could assist in this drive to rid our nation of corrupt practices and tendencies,” Garba said.
The DSS spokesman declined to take questions from reporters after reading his prepared text.
He said the operation is a continuing exercise and that reporters would be invited later for further briefing.
However, further investigation by The Nation showed that the service had actually traced N1.5billion to one of the arrested Supreme Court justices.
The DSS had also submitted a confessional tape and a security brief on Justice Pindiga’s alleged involvement in a N500m deal to the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Mahmud Mohammed.
The NJC was said to have cleared him of any wrongdoing.
A highly placed source said the sting operation was informed by alleged low response of the Judiciary to reported cases against some of the judges.
The source said: “We have all the records intact. In the residence of one of the Supreme Court justices, Justice Sylvester Ngwuta, about N35, 208,000 raw cash $319,475 and other hard currencies were found during the operation.
“The second, Justice Inyang Okoro had N4,350,000 cash and about $38,833.
“We have been able to trace about N1.5billion mansion to one of the arrested judges of the apex court.
“All the affected judges will be arraigned in court on Monday (tomorrow) with evidence against them.”
Responding to a question, the source added: “In the case of Justice Pindiga, we have been conducting investigation on him in respect of alleged N500million inducement and two houses in Abuja.
“When confronted, he admitted and the confessional tape was forwarded to the CJN for consideration by the NJC.
“But interestingly, the NJC gave him a clean bill of health. No government will sit idly and allow such a judge to remain on the bench.
“We adopted due diligence in investigating these judges. Nigerians will hear more when their trial begins.”
Found at the residence of Justice Ademola, according to sources were: N54million,$171, 779.00,£80.00, 1,010.00 Indian Rupees and €4,400.00.
At the residence of Justice Ngwuta the following currencies were allegedly found: N35,208,000,$319,475,£25,890,€280,UAE 380,GAMBIA DALASI 420,ARGENTINE PESO 4, and GHANA CEDIS 20,while the followings were allegedly found in Justice Okoro’s:N4, 350,000,$38, 833,£25,890 and €1,000.00.
Justice Ngwuta was later released late last night.
SUMMARY OF MONEY RECOVERED FROM SOME JUSTICES
ADENIYI F.A. ADEMOLA
NWALI SYLVESTER NGWUTA
JOHN INYANG OKORO
SUMMARY OF RECOVERED MONEY
NAIRA—N93, 558, 000.00