Olusola Fabiyi, Abuja
The Minister of Transportation, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi, has accused Justice Inyang Okoro of the Supreme Court of behaving like a child.
He said the judge should not trivialise serious allegation levelled against him.
The minister added that those faced with serious allegations should treat the issue with the seriousness it deserved.
Amaechi, who is also a former governor of Rivers State, stated this in a statement he personally signed in Abuja on Wednesday.
He was reacting to a statement credited to Justice Okoro in which he accused the minister of begging him (the judge) to help influence the outcome of the governorship election cases involving Rivers, Akwa Ibom and Abia states.
Justice Okoro had alleged in a letter to the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Mahmud Mohammed, that Amaechi and the All Progressives Congress governorship candidate for Akwa Ibom State, Mr. Umana Umana, visited him and pleaded with him to help them influence the outcome of the governorship election cases involving the three states that were then pending before the Supreme Court.
The judge also alleged that the former governor told him President Muhammadu Buhari and the APC were interested in the cases.
He alleged that his refusal to grant the request was responsible for his arrest by the Department of State Services a few days ago.
Justice Okoro was among the judges arrested by the DSS for alleged corruption.
Amaechi, who wondered whether such a letter emanated from the judge, said he never had such discussion with either the judge or any other judge.
He stated, “My attention has been drawn to a letter purportedly written by Honourable Justice Inyang Okoro, Justice of the Supreme Court, one of the judges recently arrested by the DSS as part of its investigation into the allegations of massive corruption involving some officers of the judiciary.
“Given the level of mischief in the social media, I would ordinarily have ignored the letter because the allegations contained in the said letter are wild, baseless and unrelated to the issues in contention between the Justice of the Supreme Court and the Department of State Services. To that extent, I had grave reservation that this letter emanated from his lordship.
“However, for the avoidance of doubt, let me say clearly that I have never discussed any matter pending before the Supreme Court of Nigeria with my lord, Honourable Justice Inyang Okoro, in his house or anywhere else.
“I make bold to also state that the only time I have ever spoken with the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Mahmud Mohammed, was at the inauguration of the Abuja-Kaduna Railway project on the 26th of July, 2016 at Idu in Abuja.”
He said the letter by Justice Okoro was a poor attempt to politicise what he described as a serious national tragedy and shame.
He said, “I believe that the issue of corruption at the highest level of our judiciary should be addressed objectively. It is to say the least demeaning and childish of a Justice of the Supreme Court to imply that the security operatives of our nation will arrest a Justice of our Supreme Court for no reason other than the instructions of a minister.
“Those faced with serious allegations should treat the issue with the seriousness it deserves and stop trying to court public sympathy and trivialise what is clearly a national tragedy.”
Amaechi added that he had directed his lawyers “to contact Justice Okoro and take whatever legal steps necessary to clear my (Amaechi) name of this baseless allegation.”
The minister called on the judge to be “objective in dealing with the issue at hand and not whip up unnecessary sentiments against innocent public officers.”
He said he would remain focused on his assignment at the Federal Ministry of Transportation, adding that he had no control over the Department of State Services.
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