At least three senior Nigerian lawyers have reported to the Economic and Financial Crimes’ office to answer questions over alleged transfer of huge sums of money into the bank accounts of some judges.
Paul Usoro, Gani Adetola-Kaseem, and Felix Fagbohungbe, all Senior Advocates of Nigeria, were at the EFCC’s Lagos office at about 9:15 a.m. on Thursday, a source disclosed to the media.
“We have discovered that corruption in the judiciary is widespread,” said the source who did not want to be named because he was not authorised to speak on the matter.
“Those we invited were found to have transferred money into the judges’ bank accounts. We want them to come and explain the reason for the transfers. More are still coming, about 20 to 30 of them.
“Some Senior Advocates of Nigeria who have assisted the Commission in handling some of our cases in the past are also involved. Some of these lawyers had assisted us with useful legal opinions on several matters. So, we are in a dilemma.”
The source said the leadership of EFCC may have invited the senior lawyers following accusations that the Commission was planning to cover-up the activities of these senior lawyers to preserve their existing relationship.
The lawyers’ invitation followed last week’s visit to the Commission by some judges including Uwani Abba-Aji, James Agbadu-Fishim, Mohammed Yunusa, Nganjiwa Hyledzira, and Musa Kurya.
The invitations are part of an ongoing investigation into alleged corruption in the Nigerian judiciary.
Seven top judges were earlier arrested by the State Security Service, SSS.
The EFCC source said another senior lawyer, Niyi Akintola, was also summoned by the anti-graft body but he was unable to report because he had travelled to Abuja to defend a judge before the National Judicial Council following a petition by a litigant.
Last week, Rita Ofili-Ajumogobia, a judge recently sanctioned by the NJC, who was also invited by the EFCC, failed to honour her invitation.
Mrs. Ofili-Ajumogobia, who was barred from further elevation on the bench till her retirement, had yet to respond to the EFCC’s invitation as of Thursday.
“If any judge refuses to honour our summons, the EFCC will have no choice than to employ legal process to make him or her respect the law of the land,” the EFCC source said.
“We have accorded all the judges who came to the EFCC a lot of respect in line with international best practices.”