JUSTICE Nwali Sylvester Ngwuta has finally opened up on the circumstances he claimed led to his arrest by the Department of State Service (DSS) on October 7, 2016.
In a petition to the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Mahmud Mohammed and the National Judicial Council (NJC), dated October 18, 2016, he accused Minister of Transport, Rotimi Amaechi, of lobbying him to void the election of Governor Ayo Fayose of Ekiti State.
The former Rivers State governor was also fingered in the alleged lobby to void the election of his successor-in-office, Governor Nyesom Wike.
Amaechi, the judge alleged, sought the assistance of the Supreme Court to void the two elections.
In a detailed letter, backed by a four-paragraph affidavit deposed to by Ngwuta, he disclosed that the CJN also confirmed to him that Amaechi came seeking his assistance over Rivers’ election, requesting that he should help influence other justices of the apex court.
Another arrested judge of the apex court, Justice John Inyang Okoro, had accused Amaechi of attempting to bribe him over Rivers’ election.
While narrating the entire saga between him and Amaechi, the petitioner noted that he had reacted angrily when the name of President Muhammadu Buhari was mentioned, in a telephone conversation between him and an unnamed DSS top-shot, facilitated by the former Rivers governor.
“My present plight started sometime between 2013 and 2014. I represented the then Chief Justice of Nigeria in an event organised in the International Conference Centre. Rotimi Amaechi came in late and sat next to me at the high table. He introduced himself to me and we exchanged contacts. A few weeks after, Fayose’s case was determined in the Court of Appeal.
“Amaechi called me by 6.45 a.m. He said he had come to see me but was told I had left for my office. When he said he would return in the evening, I demanded to know what he wanted but he would not tell me. He did not come that evening but came the following morning when I was already prepared to go to work. He begged me to ensure that Fayose’s election was set aside and another election ordered for his friend Fayemi to contest. I told him I would not help him and that even if I am on the panel, I have only my one vote.
“After the Rivers State governorship election was determined by the Court of Appeal, he called to tell me his ears were full and he would like to tell me what he heard. I told him I was out of Abuja at the time. On my return, he came in the evening and even before he sat down he barked ‘you have seen Wike’.
“I asked him whether that was a question or a statement. Then he made a call and asked me to speak with someone. The man he called said he was a DSS man. We exchanged greetings and I handed the phone to him. Next, he said ‘Oga is not happy’. I asked him who is the unhappy ‘Oga’ and he answered ‘Buhari’. I retorted ‘go and talk to his wife’. He got very angry and left, remarking ‘we shall see’ several times.
“Your Lordship may recall one morning when I pleaded not be on the panel for Rivers appeal. Your Lordship said I was already on the panel and asked me to explain why I made the request to be excluded. When I explained what transpired the previous night, Your Lordship told me Amaechi had also attempted to influence other justices. My Lord, on the day we heard the appeal with your Lordship presiding, we were allowed lunch break at 4.20 p.m. The moment I got into my chambers he, Amaechi, called. When he told who was calling, I said to him, ‘Your Excellency, you want to issue more threats?’ He replied ‘Have you been threatened before?’ I replied ‘I know a threat when I hear one even if veiled. In any case I will not talk to you’ and I switched off my phone.
“The people who failed in their attempt to destroy me in Ebonyi in 2000 and in Enugu in Andy Uba’s case in the Court of Appeal, Enugu in 2009 are now supplying Amaechi with information to fight me for my negative response to his demands, especially my answer to his statement that ‘Oga was not happy’. This infuriated him and as he stormed out he said he would deal with the situation.
“In addition to the above, I have been subjected to visits to the DSS offices. I was made to stay idle for the whole day, without food or even water. On October 17, 2016 I went to the DSS office to collect my passports as directed. I was to be there by 10.00 a.m. but I arrived by 9.30 a.m. and I was assured that I would return to my office in no time. I was kept there till 3.45 p.m. before I was questioned on the passports till 5.00 p.m.
“After that, one of them took the passports to his boss. He returned an hour later, handed me my passports and told me he had finished with me but that only the man in whose office I was could let me go. I was only allowed to go about 10 p.m. with a warning to report at 10.00 a.m. on October 18, 2016. From 9.30 a.m. to 10.00 p.m., I was not given water or food.
“I am on my way to the DSS office and who knows if and when I will be allowed to leave the place. My Lord, the facts stated here in can be verified. Attached is an affidavit deposed by me in the Supreme Court Registry to this effect,” his letter read.
Reacting to the development, the media office of the Minister of Transport said the claim by Justice Ngwuta is a fiction, aimed at dragging Amaechi’s name into the DSS arrest and investigation of judges in Nigeria.
Amaechi also added that there was a plot to destroy his hard earned image and deceitfully portray him as the person behind the arrest of the judges.
“The Justice Ngwuta’s allegation as it concerns Amaechi is nothing but pure fiction, a dubious diversionary tale concocted to muddle the very serious issues of his arrest and investigation by the DSS.
“For emphasis, we want to state categorically that Amaechi did not and has never tried to lobby, induce or make Justice Ngwuta to influence the outcome of any matter before the Supreme Court or any other court. Justice Ngwuta’s narrative as it concerns Amaechi is simply not true, an unadulterated fallacy design to deceive and distract from the real issues of DSS investigation of acts of corruption against him.
“It’s indeed very sad and most unfortunate that Justice Ngwuta had decided to drag the name of the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) into his fabricated allegations.
“Again, we make bold to state that Amaechi did not and has never lobbied, approached or attempted to make the CJN or any other justice of the apex court to influence the Supreme Court judgment on the Rivers and Ekiti governorship elections petition appeals or any other matter before the apex court or any other court.
“Within a space of 48 hours, we have observed a carefully planned and coordinated political attempt to drag Amaechi into the DSS arrest and investigation of judges in Nigeria. The aim of the plot is two-fold: to smear and politically destroy the image and reputation of Amaechi and deceitfully portray him as the person behind the arrest of judges. This is indeed most ridiculous and callous.
“We are aware of a well timed, heavily funded plot to “take out” Amaechi politically, and it appears that Justice Ngwuta and Justice Inyang Okoro (of the Supreme Court, who had also made similar made-up allegations against Amaechi), have wittingly or unwittingly been conscripted into this devious politics of ‘destroy Amaechi by all means.’
“Amaechi is not and cannot be behind the arrest and investigation of Justice Ngwuta. He should kindly leave Amaechi alone and face the issues he has with the DSS.
“Amaechi is talking with his lawyers and will explore lawful channels to seek redress for this gross defamation against his character and person,” the statement read.