In what could be the biggest shake-up in the nation’s judiciary since independence, an all-inclusive probe of nearly all judges manning superior courts of records in the country has reportedly commenced, Saturday Tribune has learnt. Already, all information relating to the judges’ bank accounts and transactions are said to have been obtained by security agencies handling the probe. The operation is reportedly tagged “total reform of the judiciary”.

The information obtained on the financial transactions of the judges, including justices of the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court, are reportedly being processed by the probing security agencies, with a certain agency coordinating and sharing information with others. A security source told Saturday Tribune that the outcome of the probe would be far bigger than what was called a tsunami in Ghana, where over 20 judges were sacked for alleged corruption last year.

Every suspicious transfer on their accounts is reportedly being penciled in for questioning while every “heavy” lodgement would have the depositor being queried regarding the purpose of such payment. With litigants suspected of using fronts to allegedly bribe judges, the investigating bodies are reportedly not on the look-out for known names as they are not expected to be overtly involved.

The probing agencies are reportedly more interested in cash lodgement and movements on the accounts of the judges, which is outside of their salaries and allowances. Those who participated in the trial of election petitions across the country are also said to be prime targets. Judicial interventions in election disputes have been tainted by claims of alleged bribe-for-judgement.

Senior judges who have also handled controversial cases, according to Saturday Tribune source, would attract special interest from the investigators. With many unknown judges also accused of serving as bribe conduits for senior judges, accounts of such unknown judges with “unbelievable” balance and “heavy” lodgement would also receive deep scrutiny from the investigating bodies.

A retired judge with strong bond with certain powers-that-be, has been fingered as the brains behind the “judicial reform”. The judge is believed to have advised in a certain way in order to catch “dirty” judges unaware and clean up the system once and for all.

Tremor ran through the judicial circle when pieces of evidence against a couple of justices were presented in court by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). The source pointed at a recent counter affidavit filed by the EFCC in its case with Ricky Tarfa (SAN) which he said, suggested that bank transactions by judicial officers over the years have come under scrutiny.

The EFCC, in the counter-affidavit, alleged that Tarfa paid another judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Hyeladzira Ajiya Nganjiwa, N5.3 million between June 27, 2012 and December 23, 2014.

The agency said it uncovered what it called a“network of collaboration and illicit transfer of funds” between Tarfa, Justice Nganjiwa and Justice Mohammed Yunusa, earlier accused of collecting N225,000 from Tarfa. The EFCC added that Justice Nganjiwa, after collecting the N5.3million, transferred N1.6 million to Justice Yunusa through his personal UBA Plc account 1005055617.

With the fresh realisation that nearly all the judges are being scrutinised, sensitive conversations among judges are no longer done by phone. The indictment of some senior lawyers in the matters involving the judges is said to be making everyone cautious, while they hold their breath to see the outcome of the current effort to sanitise the judiciary.

It was gathered that many senior lawyers with social relationship and friendship with judges are now at a loss as to how to relate with them financially without attracting embarrassing attention from probing agencies. While there is a suspicion that President Muhammadu Buhari is having a sustained tiff with the judiciary, a security source said incontrovertible cases that would be built against the judges would make the allegation of persecution totally irrelevant.

Meanwhile, Justice Muhammed Yunusa of the Federal High Court, Lagos has been transferred to Yobe State. Yobe is the home state of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Mahmud Mohammed. It was gathered on Friday night that the leadership of the judiciary would do nothing to save indicted judges.

The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) has put up a robust defence for its indicted members. Two alleged corruption cases have been brought against Justice Yunusa. A judge of the Federal Capital Territory of Yoruba origin may also be pulled in soon for alleged corruption. Justice Rita Ofili-Ajumogobia is also said not to be completely off prosecution despite the sanctions imposed on her by the National Judicial Council (NJC) for unethical conducts.

It was also learnt that a hitherto dormant provision in the Act setting up an investigative body which empowers it to obtain call logs without going to courts has been activated to monitor conversations between the Bench and members of the public, particularly lawyers.

Lawyers have been consistently fingered as the bribe conduits for judges. Efforts by government agencies to select 37 “clean” judges mainly for corruption trial have not been successful. Nearly all the 100 judges polled for the special assignment failed the integrity test conducted on them.

Published by DXCLUSIVE Findings

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