•Search begins for CJN’s successor Strong indications emerged at the weekend that security agencies probing alleged corruption in the nation’s judiciary have formally notified the leadership, through the National Judicial Council (NJC). Names of judges with “questionable” cash balance in their bank accounts were also said to have been made available to the judiciary leadership. A highly-placed judiciary source told our reporter that “administrative procedure of getting the affected judiciary personnel to explain their side of the story” might have been sanctioned. In plain language, the judges were to be queried regarding “material acquisition that is suspected to be above their legitimate earnings.” Despite being the highest paid civil servants in the country, many judges were thought to be living above their legitimate means, suspected to be proceeds of corruption. In checking on the judges, expensive homes were said to have been traced to them at Banana Island and Park-View Estates in Lagos and Asokoro and Maitama in Abuja. Recalls that N2 billion cash was found in the account of a serving judge recently, with the judge explaining it as proceeds of his engagement in a family business. The judge is still in service and a step away from leading a critical judicial platform. Another judge had allegedly built an expensive home in a state in the Southern part of the country, with all the furniture and cutlery reportedly imported from abroad. The judge currently sits on the bench of an appellate court. Findings of security agencies probing alleged widespread corruption in the nation’s judiciary were reportedly brought to the attention of the judiciary leadership for better synergy. Though the probing security agencies could invite the affected judges for questioning, our reporter learnt that the decision to make the probe very tidy led to the findings being brought to the attention of the judiciary leadership. It was gathered that after explaining how they came about the questionable cash balance and expensive property, the judiciary leadership might refer the affected judges and their responses to the probing security agencies or deal with the issues internally. A former Chief Justice of Nigeria was reportedly spear-heading the on-going efforts to clean-up the judiciary. The former CJN was said to be advising a particular administrative body which in turn was churning out steps to follow, for the security agencies. Panic was observed in the judiciary at the weekend as concerns about the on-going cleansing rose. A judicial officer told our reporter that while the move to sanitise the system was commendable, any form of ambush should be condemned because it could take away the confidence of judicial officers in the discharge of their duties. The judicial officer frowned on the decision of investigative bodies to be obtaining bank details of judicial officers without their knowledge in any way, especially when their financial activities had nothing to do with cases before them. Our reporter was informed by a security source on Saturday evening that regardless of any synergy, judges could be invited for questioning whenever such was deemed necessary. “Why not when it is time?” was the source’s response when asked if indicted judges would still have to face investigative bodies after the judicial administrative procedure. A judge of the High Court reportedly earns about N600,000 monthly with allowances of about N300,000, taking their take-home to a little less than N1 million. A source, however insisted that “no judge could build a house of N2 billion with such salary without engaging in illicit transactions.” Judiciary insiders were also said to be squealing over alleged illicit activities of senior members of the bench to security operatives. One of them said the whistle-blowing activities were geared towards getting it right for the nation, adding that “a lot of things would take shape in this country if we get our justice system right by flushing out corrupt judges.” Our reporter also reliably learnt that the succession-by-seniority arrangement for the position of the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) might end with the incumbent Justice Mahmud Mohammed. Currently, Justice Walter Onnoghen is the most senior justice of the apex court, expected to succeed Mahmud later this year, but the thinking in government circle appears to favour the injection of an entirely new blood into the system. Our reporter was told that two senior advocates of Nigeria had been contacted by those entrusted with the search, with both reportedly turning down the offer. A senior lawyer, is reportedly heavily favoured to land the job. Source: tribuneonlineng]]>

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