The Federal Government has lost the bid to secure the services of senior lawyers to prosecute judges alleged of corruption, an impeccable source has told Politics Nigeria.
The Federal Government is currently prosecuting three judges, the Chief Registrar and two other senior officials of the Supreme Court for alleged corruption.
The judges are Justice Sylvester Ngwuta of the Supreme Court, Justice Adeniyi Ademola of the Federal High Court, Abuja and Justice Rita Ofili-Ajumogobia of the Federal High, Lagos.
Justices Ngwuta and Ademola were part of the eight judges arrested by the Department of State Services (DSS) on October 8 and 9 for alleged corruption. Justice Ajumogobia was, however, drilled by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) before her prosecution commenced.
The source, who preferred anonymity because he is not authorised to talk on the issue, said that not less than 15 SANs have rejected Federal Government’s briefs for the prosecution of the judges.
The source further disclosed that part of the senior lawyers who rejected the proposed fiat to prosecute included prominent senior lawyers who are part of special prosecutors assembled by the Federal Government through its National Prosecution Coordinating Committee.
It was recalled that in preparation for high profile cases, the Federal Government, through the office of the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), had set up a National Prosecution Coordinating Committee, which was made of several SANs.
It is further recalled that the government had assembled about 80 special prosecutors, grouped into 20 teams, for the purpose of prosecuting high-profile cases that are instituted by the AGF and Minister of Justice’s office. Each team is having four SANs.
The source also stated that at least a quarter of the group members were offered the briefs of prosecuting the judges, but they declined. Speaking on the decline, some senior lawyers who spoke on the condition of anonymity said they rejected the brief based on how the Federal Government went about the whole issue.
They added that they are in support of the efforts by the Federal Government to cleanse the judiciary, but they are opposed to the approach. Also, some well-recognised prosecutors, who are familiar with handling corruption cases in the country, seem not to be willing to take up the brief.
Some of them have attributed their rejection of the brief to the fact that the government’s approach is targeted at caging the judiciary. They, however, said that they are willing to defend the judges in court.
However, in the absence of Nigerian-based senior lawyers, the Federal Government was left with an option of looking elsewhere and this resulted to government hiring two former international prosecutors, Segun Jegede and Charles Adeogun-Philips. The duo has accepted the offer, though the terms of contract are not known.
However, they have started the work of prosecution. While Jegede is leading the prosecution of Justice Ademola, Adeogun-Philips heads the prosecuting team with respect to Justice Ngwuta’s and the Supreme Court officials’ trials.