Justice Okoro: This is cheap blackmail by Amaechi

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One of the two Justices of the Supreme Court arrested last week by Department of State Services (DSS) operatives yesterday denied any wrongdoing and linked his travails to his refusal to assist the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the post-2015 governorship election dispute in Akwa Ibom State.

Justice Okoro alleged that Transport Minister Rotimi Amaechi and the APC candidate in the election, Mr. Umana Okon Umana, came to him separately, begging for his support in winning the case at the Supreme Court.

Amaechi’s Media Office last night said: “This accusation from Justice Okoro against Amaechi is a figment of his imagination, concocted to obfuscate and politicize the real issues for his arrest and DSS investigation of allegations of corruption against him.

“The claims by Justice Okoro against Amaechi are blatant lies, bereft of any iota of truth or even logic. Amaechi did not, and has never approached Justice Okoro in respect of the cases Okoro mentioned or any other case. This is a cheap attempt, albeit,  political move to drag the name of Amaechi into something he knows nothing about. Justice Okoro should face his issues and leave Amaechi out of it.  He will be hearing from our lawyers.”

Umana also denied ever visiting the Judge. In a statement last night from his office, Umana said:

“Justice Okoro’s claim is an afterthought and diversionary. For a man of his standing and knowledge of the law, he should have known the legal implications of such a visit if it took place at all.

“He should have reported to the appropriate authorities immediately. This he didn’t do.

“I did not visit the Judge. His story is a fiction. He should address himself to the facts of the case which is between him and the state and leave Umana out of it.”

Justice Okoro alleged that Amaechi claimed that he was working on President Muhammadu Buhari’s instruction.

The Judge said he reported the matter to the CJN on February 1, 2016. The Rivers’ case was decided on January 27, 2016. The Akwa Ibom case was decided on February 3, 2016. APC was not part of the Abia State case.

Justice Okoro, in his October 17 letter, addressed to the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) and Chairman of the National Judicial Council (NJC), Justice Mahmud Mohammed, a copy of which The Nation sighted yesterday, gave details of his experience in the hands of the security personnel and what they took away from his residence.

Part of the letter reads:

“On Friday, the 7th day of October, 2016, at about 9.00 pm, I received a phone call from an unfamiliar caller. He introduced himself as an official from the Presidency. He told me he had a letter for me from Mr. President.

“I immediately left my study room and went to open the door. Upon the door being opened, l saw so many heavily armed men with an inscription ‘DSS’ on their uniform.

“One of them, who was in mufti, told me they were to search my house. I requested that I be allowed to inform the Chief Justice of Nigeria, but they rebuffed, rather they seized my phone from me.

“My Lord, the operatives of the Department of State Security searched all the rooms in the house meticulously. They also searched the boy’s quarters and my official vehicles parked outside.

“At the end of the search, which lasted till about 1.30am of 8th October, 2016, they took away the following items:

One (1) iPad

Three phones (only one active)

USD 38,800 (Thirty eight thousand, eight hundred dollars)

N3.5m (three million, five hundred thousand naira) only

Cheque books (Four in number)

“The above items were documented on the back page of the search warrant they produced and we signed. Also, the DSS operatives informed me that their Director-General wanted to see me that night.

“I requested to visit their office upon the break of the day, but they refused. In view of the presence of the heavily armed men, who accompanied them and who were pointing their gun at me from all angles, I had no choice than to follow them to their office that night.