Palpable fear has gripped some prominent members of the President Muhammadu Buhari’s cabinet, following rumours that the presidency might off-load them because of the weighty allegations leveled against some of them by two Supreme Court judges.
The apprehension came just as prominent Nigerians, including Constitutional lawyer, Ebun Adegboruwa; factional leader of Ohaneze Ndigbo, Chief Goddy Uwazuruike, and a former Secretary to the Benue State Government, Prof. Saint Gbilekaa, called on President Buhari to remove the Minister of Transport, Chief Rotimi Amaechi, and his Science and Technology Counterpart, Dr. Ogbonaya Onu, to enable them defend the weighty allegations leveled against them.
The fear was reinforced when it was observed last week that the Chief of Staff to the President, Abba Kyari, who was allegedly named in a N500million bribe over the fine imposed on the mobile telecommunication company, MTN, had been out of office for over two weeks. Presidency sources said a number of the ministers are jittery over the allegations and that one cannot rule out the possibility of a cabinet shakeup soon to remove some ministers who are said to have heavy baggage. A key government spokesman, who chose not to be named, said he could not confirm that, but that Kyari was on annual leave and would resume duties tomorrow.
Since the arrest of over seven judges by the Department of State Security (DSS), over allegations of corruption in the past three weeks, some of the judges have complained of victimization, witch-hunt and that evidence were planted in their apartment.
While Justice Sylvester Ngwuta of the Supreme Court alleged that Hon. Rotimi Amaechi begged him to pervert justice by canceling the governorship election in Ekiti State and order fresh election to favour his friend, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, Justice Inyang Okoro alleged that Amaechi also attempted to bribe him to influence the elections in Rivers, Abia and Akwa Ibom states. Similarly, Justice Ngwuta alleged that Dr. Onu invited him to his house and demanded that he influenced the outcome of the Governorship Election Appeal for Ebonyi State in favour of the Labour Party candidate in the state who had reportedly agreed to decamp to the All Progressives Congress
Whereas both Amaechi and Onu have denied the allegations, with the former describing it as “pure fiction, a dubious diversionary tale concocted to muddle the very serious issues of his (Ngwuta’s) arrest and investigations by the DSS,” President Buhari has been advised to, as a matter of urgency, drop those ministers and submit them from investigation. Constitutional lawyer, Ebun Adegboruwa, in an interview with Sunday Telegraph, said the current development was a fallout of the belief that even while in the opposition, the APC manipulated the judiciary to secure victory in many states, especially in the South.
“Governors Rauf Aregbesola, Adams Oshiomhole and Kayode Fayemi were imposed on Osun, Edo and Ekiti states respectively by the courts, and not through the ballots,” he said.
He noted that the manipulation by the APC, which was a beautiful bride of the judiciary over the years, have now boomeranged because the party could no longer have its way, adding that it only shows the APC as “an agglomeration of propagandists and political opportunists who took Nigerians for granted and took advantage of PDP’s poor performance to hoodwink Nigerians to vote for them” “I believe that the judges could not have cooked up the allegations against Amaechi and Onu, especially since the former is gradually becoming the Mr. Fix it of this administration. My submission, therefore, is that if the indicted judges are to step aside, the indicted ministers should also step aside,” he said.
He stated that the current development was akin to the manner the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, and his Deputy, Ike Ekweremadu, were intimidated and charged to court for alleged forgery until they stood their grounds and the Federal Government beat a retreat by withdrawing the charges against them.
While he said corrupt judges have no business in the temple of justice, Adegboruwa added that the constitutionally approved organ, “the NJC, should be allowed to remove them, not the APC, not the DSS and definitely not Amaechi.” Uwazuruike in an interview with Sunday Telegraph, said the allegations against the ministers are weighty and the said ministers “should step aside for thorough investigation,” in order not to make a mockery of the anti-corruption war and the ‘Change Begins with Me’ programme.
“If you look at the Justice Ngwuta’s allegation, he was very pointed, telling the Chief Justice of the Federation: ‘My Lord, may I recall one morning when I pleaded not to be on the Panel of Rivers Governorship Appeal? My Lord, you said I was already on the panel and asked me why I made that request to be excluded.
When I explained what transpired the previous night, Your Lordship said Amaechi had also attempted to influence other justices,’ that means that the CJN was aware of the issue right from the beginning.
“Amaechi and the Chief of Staff to the President, who has been named in one or two cases of corruption, should be asked to step aside and thorough investigations carried out on this matter,” Uwazuruike said. He added, “This battle is against the independence of the judiciary. Since 1999, there had been attempts to deal with the judiciary.
The then President Olusegun Obasanjo tried it and you remember that there was a time the Supreme Court was burgled. That is the point I am making.” Gbilekaa said the President needs to show greater seriousness with the war on corruption by ensuring that prominent members of the APC accused of corruption are probed.
“He should also probe other non-PDP members. People have mentioned Rotimi Amaechi, his Minister of Transportation; Babatunde Fashola, the Minister of Works and Housing and several other names.
Of course, people who say the Buhari’s anti-corruption war is lopsided are quite right; we are not blind; we have eyes and we are seeing. So, as Nigerians, we know what is happening, it is one sided. Corruption should not be a party alphabet,” he said.