EFCC to Probe Supreme Court Over Alleged N2.2bn Fraud
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) is set to examine the financial records of the Supreme Court of Nigeria from 2009 to June 27, 2022, covering the administrations of six past Chief Justices of Nigeria.
The chief justices who were at the helm of affairs for the period were Justice Aloysius Katsina-Alu (2010-2011); Justice Dahiru Musdapher (2011-2012); Justice Aloma Muhktar (2012-2014); Justice Mahmud Mohammed (2014-2016); Justice Walter Onnoghen (2017-2019) and Justice Ibrahim Muhammad (2019-2022).
The wide task was informed by a petition dated May 30, 2022, authored by one Aliyu Mohammed purportedly on behalf of the concerned staff of the Supreme Court of Nigeria and addressed to the Chairman of the EFCC, Abdulrasheed Bawa.
According to the Vanguard Law and Human Rights, sighted a copy of the petition and reports that the original petition was indeed submitted and received on June 1, 2022.
In the petition, the anti-graft agency was invited to unravel the jigsaw puzzle relating to the true ownership of a bank account domiciled at the United Bank for Africa with Account Number 2027642863 from which a cumulative sum of N2.2 billion allegedly belonging to the Supreme Court of Nigeria, was purportedly diverted into.
The probe is also to establish the source of monies that entered the said account during the period.
Besides, men of the EFCC are also expected to investigate the veracity of the allegation that the incumbent Executive Secretary of the National Judicial Council, NJC, Mr. Gambo Saleh, purportedly colluded with one Surajo, who is a staff of NJC and son of the immediate past Chief Justice Nigeria, Justice Tanko Muhammad, to sell a property occupied by a Justice of the Supreme Court without the knowledge of the immediate past Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Tanko.
The move by the EFCC to investigate the petition appears to coincide with the on-going efforts by the Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters to visit the Supreme Court of Nigeria, SCN on a fact-finding mission regarding an unprecedented memo written by 14 justices of the Supreme Court which detailed allegations of maladministration against the immediate past Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Ibrahim Tanko.
The committee has promised to announce a date for the assignment soon even as it promised to carry the media along in its assignment.
It is now history that the said memo led to the resignation of Justice Tanko from office on June 27, 2022.
The Petition by Aliyu Mohammed against Justice Tanko-led S’Court and Ahmed Gambo
In the petition, Aliyu Mohammed called on the EFCC to carry out a forensic audit on the activities of both the Supreme Court of Nigeria, SCN and the National Judicial Council, NJC under the watch of Justice Tanko Muhammad.
The petition reads in part: “Presently, there is disquiet in the court. Fingered as arrowhead in the on-going destabilisation and fraudulent activities are Mr. Surajo Muhammad who is the son of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Muhammad and Secretary of the NJC, Ahmed Gambo Saleh.
“A few fraudulent activities in recent times are carefully highlighted hereunder. A thorough investigation is paramount.
“It will interest you to know that a residence of a Justice of the Supreme Court located at the Villa, Abuja was sold by Gambo and Surajo recently. It was sold to a federal agency. This was unknown to the CJN. The CJN expressed disaffection over the shady transaction when the shady deals got to him. The underhand dealings between Gambo, Surajo and the agency so pissed the CJN that he ordered the reversal of the transaction. Before any remedy, the house in question had been demolished; today, the JSC who ought to have been assigned the said residence is homeless.
“Some justices were sworn in on November 6, 2020. As tradition demands, they were supposed to be given three assorted brand new cars each: A Mercedes Benz, Land Cruiser and one utility vehicle. Under Gambo and Surajo’s shenanigans, they (the JSC) were given only a Land Cruiser, albeit refurbished. A Hilux was added after one year and till date, the Mercedes Benz is still being awaited by the Justices.
“This is notwithstanding the fact that these projects were captured in the Capital Budget as the projects were for 2020 fiscal year.
“Today, Surajo could be said to be a defacto Head of the SCN as his father seems to have relinquished the administration of the court to him even when he is not a staff. The Chief Registrar who is supposed to be in charge of administration has been relegated and pushed to the back seat as fraudulent activities fester.
“Let us be mindful of the fact that the abracadabra with which Gambo, who was elevated to the position of Chief Registrar of the Supreme Court in 2014, was appointed the Secretary of the NJC in 2017 when his case file oozes of corruption allegations remains a mystery. His elevation tallied with the time he was supposed to be answering pertinent questions of fraud. Indeed, his elevation is still a mystery to many of us in the anti-corruption community.
“The cases of economic and financial crimes which still hang on Gambo’s head like the sword of damocles are legion. Gambo was alleged to have diverted the sum of cumulatively N2.2 billion belonging to the Supreme Court of Nigeria. He allegedly diverted the sum into his personal bank account domiciled at the United Bank for Africa PLC Account Number 2027642863.
“Following diligent preliminary investigation, same Gambo was alleged to have confessed that the money in question was his as the bulk constitute gift from friends. But further investigation revealed that he, indeed, outside of outright pilfering from the vault of the apex court, collected bribes from various contractors who ended up either executing shoddy jobs or outright abandonment of such contract which would have been paid 100 per cent.
“Further investigation revealed that he obtained N19 million gratification from Ababia Ventures Limited, a private contractor who provides services to the Supreme Court of Nigeria.
“Other of his fraudulent activities as investigation would further reveal include:
*Obtaining N21 million gratification from MBA Computers Limited, a private contractor who provides services to the Supreme Court of Nigeria.
*Obtaining N2.4 million gratification from Welcon Nigeria Limited, a private contractor to the Supreme Court of Nigeria.
*Obtaining N6 million gratification from Welcon Nigeria Limited, a private contractor to the Supreme Court of Nigeria.
*Receiving N10m gratification from Willysdave Limited, a private contractor to the Supreme Court of Nigeria.
*Obtaining N16 million gratification from Dean Musa Nigeria Limited, a private contractor who provided services to the Supreme Court of Nigeria.
“Even when investigation was successfully concluded, it remains a serious concern that the candidature of such a high profile suspect would be pushed for elevation as Secretary of the highest body of the judiciary, the NJC. Does that mean crime in which ever form, especially economic and financial crimes, are now being rewarded? This is a question begging for an answer.
“It is high time both the EFCC and the NJC took a second look at the activities of the SCN and NJC under Gambo’s watch.
“ There are enough reasons why this petition should not be swept under the carpet. He is believed to be worth over N10b. As a public officer, how did he come about this questionable wealth? He needs to offer some explanations to the anti-graft agency.
“I hope he is not one of the untouchables. His antecedents are enough suggestion on why this petition should not be ignored. A stich in time saves nine.
Additionally, a critical study of the petition would reveal that it raised seven (7) major issues including alleged sale of a property occupied by a Justice of the Supreme Court in Aso Villa by the duo of NJC Executive Secretary, Gambo Saleh and Surajo; the son of Justice Tanko Muhammad; short-changing Supreme Court justices appointed in 2020.
in terms of the official vehicles they are entitled to; that Surajo hijacked the administration of the Supreme Court from his father and the Chief Registrar of the court; that Gambo Saleh became the Executive Secretary of NJC in 2017 under hazy circumstances.
That Gambo Saleh allegedly diverted the sum of N2.2 billion belonging to the Supreme Court into his personal bank account with Account Number 2027642863; that the Federal Government withdrew a N2.2b fraud charge against Gambo after he entered into a plea bargain; that Gambo Saleh purportedly collected N74.4 million gratification from five contractors of the Supreme Court; and that Gambo Saleh is worth N10 billion.
However, it was said that some of the allegations in the petition were not clear as sufficient information were not provided by the author.