A bribery allegation leveled against the Chairman of the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT), Justice Danladi Umar, by former Controller, Apapa Area Command of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), retired Comptroller Rasheed Owolabi Taiwo has reportedly forced two other members of the tribunal to refuse sitting with the embattled Chairman.
The two other judges of the CCT, Robert Odu and Agwaza Atedze had in a joint letter to former President Goodluck Jonathan, copied to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), drew the attention of the government to the N10 million bribery allegation made against Umar, saying that the issue had brought serious embarrassment to them and the tribunal.
“May we with respect, draw His Excellency’s attention to the allegation of N10 million bribe made against Justice Danladi Yakubu Umar, current chairman of Code of Conduct Tribunal, Abuja, which is being investigated by the EFCC”, they reportedly said. “This allegation has been widely reported in the media, besides embarrassing comments from legal practitioners who have been calling to express their disappointment over the shocking development, although investigation is yet to be concluded.
“We, the two members of the CCT and the entire staff are embarrassed and saddened by this allegation because a tribunal set up to check corruption should not be accused of being corrupt. This would not be in keeping with the transformation agenda of the administration.
“We are mindful of the fact that the Federal Government has zero tolerance policy for corruption, and this is the reason for the establishment of the CCT as one of the agencies to fight corruption in all its ramifications.
“It is our prayer therefore that this allegation will be looked into so that the tribunal can start sitting in the interest of litigants and their counsel,” the two members said in the letter dated April 4, 2014.
Reports said while the Presidency has been embarrassed by the gamut of evidence adduced by key government officials against Umar, it was however handicapped by the fact that the said man is handling the trial of persons suspected to be corrupt.
It was learnt that the Presidency was however carefully studying the bribery case against Umar so as to take a definite and prompt action that would not tarnish the image of the CCT and the present administration.
Former Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Mohammed Adoke, reportedly advised former President Jonathan to remove Umar from office based on the scandal or to initiate a new probe of the bribery scandal.
Adoke was also said to have authorised the EFCC on June 25, 2014, to prosecute Umar and his personal assistant based on the findings by the commission.
In the investigation carried out by the EFCC under its recently removed Chairman, Ibrahim Lamorde, Umar was alleged to have demanded and collected the sum of N1.8 million from Rasheed Taiwo, who was arraigned at the CCT over alleged false declaration of assets.
To pave the way for the prosecution, EFCC crack investigators swopped on Zenith Bank, through which Taiwo allegedly paid the first tranche of N1.8 out of the N10 million to Umar through his PA, Gambo Abdullahi, and retrieved the cheque number and details of the transactions.
The Zenith Bank cheque for the amount of N1.8 million was issued by Taiwo on December 12, 2012 from Awolowo Road, Ikoyi, Lagos, branch and received the same day by Gambo Abdullahi in his Usuma Branch, Maitama Abuja.
Based on the findings, the former EFCC chairman, in a memo dated June 24, 2014, and addressed to the Attorney General of the Federation, Adoke, said that it was obvious from their findings that the CCT chairman might have collected the said amount of money from Taiwo.
Lamorde’s memo to the former Minister read: “We write to bring to the attention of the Honourable Attorney General to the case which was reported by one Mr. Rasheed Taiwo (DCG Rtd) of 6 A Milverton Road, Lagos, against the chairman of CCT, Justice Danladi Umar and his Personal Assistant, Gambo Abdullahi in December 2012.
“Available circumstantial evidence suggests that the Tribunal Chairman might have indeed demanded and collected money from the complainant through his PA. Efforts made to recover the telephone handset used by Justice Umar have proved abortive, as he claimed that he lost the handset in 2012.
“This has made it impossible to subject it to independent scientific analysis with a view to corroborating the allegation. Justice Umar also admitted that he met privately with the complainant in his chamber of the CCT. This has since been considered most unethical and highly suspicious conduct on his part.
“There is a preponderance of overwhelming evidence to however prosecute Gambo Abdullahi, who could offer no coherent excuse for receiving N1.8 million into his salary account from Taiwo, who is an accused person standing trial at the CCT.
“The full money has been recovered from him in May 2014 and aptly registered as exhibit. The fact that he made two contradictory statements on the reason he was paid the money, is clearly an attempt to cover the reason the money was paid to him.”
Umar’s PA is currently being prosecuted by the EFCC while the Code of Conduct Tribuna Chairman’s fate is still unknown.
Rasheed Owolabi Taiwo ,who also served as Controller, Federal Operations Unit (FOU) Zone A, Lagos was retired compulsorily in December 2009 shortly after Dikko Abdullahi was appointed Customs Comptroller-General.
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