Lawyers, who spoke with Sunday Sun on the issue, agree that the allegations levelled against the Minister of Transport, Rotimi Amaechi, should be thoroughly investigated. But they are sharply divided on calls that both Amaechi and the judges should step down from their positions pending the outcome of investigations and trials.
Onyekachi Ubani, legal practitioner: If allegations have been made fingering Rotimi Amaechi or any other person, in the light and in the spirit of the fight against corruption, it is important that the allegation be painstakingly investigated. A lot of people had faulted some of the contents of the letters written by some of the affected Justices. For instance, one the judgments in question was said to have been delivered in January but Amaechi was alleged to have seen one of the justices asking him to ensure that the judgment is favourable to APC gubernatorial candidate in February. So, these are issues.
If those things have been written and dates have been given it is something worthy of investigation. The investigation is very important for a government that is fighting corruption to either clear or indict those who allegedly attempted to corrupt the judicial system.
Having said that, to save the judicial institution, those who have actually been indicted and who are already being prepared to be arraigned in court should step aside. Nobody is asking them to resign, but they should step aside to clear their names. The institution of judiciary must not be denigrated further or be inflicted with collateral damage. It will not be proper to have a sitting judge who is under oath of office to be arraigned in court for criminal trial while he is still serving as a judge of the Federal Republic. We have seen some people write letters to the CJN admitting that they met with some politicians.
If Nigeria is a country where public officers respect the institution and not themselves, you don’t need anyone to advise you to step aside.
Amaechi’s name has been mentioned two or three times over this matter. What he should also do is to step aside and have his name cleared before he comes back. His stepping aside will give room for a thorough investigation into the matter. We must build a system that is working; let’s elevate our standard, which had been so lowered as a nation.
We must, however, be very careful in that we must not tolerate a situation where people will just come up with allegations against a judge or public official tomorrow and we will just say the person should step aside because there has been a precedent. We must build a mechanism where any person that brings any false allegation against a judge would go in for it.