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“I Was Arrested Because I Refused Bribe From Amaechi, Umana” – Justice Okoro
Justice John Inyang Okoro has opened up on his recent arrest by operatives of the Department of State Services (DSS).
Justice Okoro was one of the justices of the Supreme Court and five judges of the Federal High Court whose homes were invaded by the DSS between October 8 and 9, 2016, over alleged corruption.
Contrary to the claims by the DSS, Justice Okoro, who has been granted bail and released, said he was humiliated by the Federal Government for his courageous stance against overtures made to him by the Minister of Transport and former governor of Rivers State, Rotimi Amaechi, to influence the decisions of the apex court in the appeals involving the governorship elections in Rivers, Akwa Ibom and Abia States in the 2015 general elections.
Justice Okoro made these assertions in a letter he wrote to the Chief Justice of Nigeria and Chairman of the National Judicial Council (NJC), Justice Mahmud Mohammed, on October 17, 2016.
Justice Okoro affirms that Hon. Amaechi and the All Progressives Congress (APC) governorship candidate in the election, Mr. Umana Okon Umana, had, at different times, visited him at his official residence in Abuja where they asked him to influence the outcome of the election appeals in their favour.
Justice Okoro said: “I told you my Lord, that Mr. Rotimi Amaechi said that the President of Nigeria and the All Progressives Congress (APC) mandated him to inform me that they must win their election appeals in respect of Rivers State, Akwa Ibom State and Abia State at all cost.
“For Akwa Ibom, he alleged that he sponsored Umana, the APC candidate for that election and that if he lost Akwa Ibom appeal, he would have lost a fortune.
“He (Amaechi) further told me that Mr. Umana would be paying me millions of naira monthly if I cooperated with them. My response as I told you on that date, was that it does not lie within my power to grant his request and that I would do all within my power not to be in the panel for Akwa Ibom State. My Lord graciously left me out of the panel for Akwa Ibom State.
“My Lord, recall that I also reported that Mr. Umana visited my residence before Amaechi’s visit. He also made the same request of assistance to win his appeal at the Supreme Court.
“Mr. Umana talked about ‘seeing’ the Justices who would hear the appeal”.
In the letter titled: “Invasion of My Official Residence by Operatives of the Department of State Services,” Justice Okoro urged the CJN and the NJC to discountenance all the allegations levelled against him by the security outfit. He described the allegations of corruption as “lies and media campaign orchestrated by those who felt I purposely refused to help them win their election appeals at the Supreme Court.”
He listed the items carted away by the DSS operatives to include one iPad, three phones (only one active), $38,800, N3.5 million and four cheque books.
Explaining the source of the monies, Justice Okoro said that “they asked me to make a statement concerning the money found in my house. I told them that having received the sum of $24,000, £10,000 a year for the past three years of my sojourn in this court as annual medical/vacation allowances, and having not spent more than £5,000 on each of three trips I have made abroad, I was entitled to have more than the amount recovered from me.
“Put differently, My Lord, the money was the balance of estacode received from this court for the past three years. This is quite outside the estacode I have received for International Conferences I have so far attended since joining the Bench of this court.”
He reiterated his loyalty to his oath of office and the need to be just and fair in handling matters before him.