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Dollars-for-Judgement scandal rocks Election Petition Tribunal

Allegations of dollar-for-judgement has rocked the Justice W. A. Akanbi-led National and State House of Assembly Elections Petition Tribunal sitting in Uyo as Justice Sheriff Hafizu on Thursday night walked out on his colleagues whom he has accused of collecting huge bribes from the Akwa Ibom State Government to pervert justice.

This is coming as Justice Hafizu has put finishing touches to a report to the National Judicial Council (NJC) on what he called the shameful and unethical conduct of Justice W. A. Akanbi and Justice Ebetu for compromising the integrity of the judiciary after receiving huge bribes.

The report by Justice Hafizu to the NJC, we gathered, details several approaches that were made to him by agents of the Akwa Ibom State Government to receive bribes and give favourable judgement to all PDP candidates whose matters were pending at the tribunal.

The report also details how his colleagues, Justice Akanbi and Justice Ebetu persuaded him to participate in the bribery bazaars and how he stood his grounds that justice should not be compromised and hawked on the street of Uyo like Gala. Unknown to Justice Akanbi and Justice Ebetu, the approaches they made were all recorded.

We also learnt that officials of the Department of State Services who have also been on the trail of the corrupt Judges also have a dossier on their “shameful conduct” in Akwa Ibom State. A senior official of the DSS confirmed last night that the reports on the Judges have been submitted to the headquarters.

On Thursday, September 12, 2019 the disagreement among the Judges had threatened to tear the Panel apart. Trouble started on Thursday when the Tribunal was about to reconvene to adjudicate on other election petition matters including delivering judgement in the pending Ikot Ekpene/Essien Udim/Obot Akara federal constituency matter.

A sign that all was not well among the judges was when a registry staff announced to lawyers and supporters who had thronged the court room that the matter earlier slated for 9.00am had been shifted to 12.00 noon. By 12.00 noon, the same staff announced a further change of time to 3.30 pm.

Again, by 3.30 pm the registry staff emerged to announce to the bewildered members of the Bar and supporters that the cases had been further shifted to 6.30 pm which attracted jeers from the members of the public. The matter was further moved to 10 pm by which time people had started leaving the court premises.

We gathered that Justice Hafizu had threatened to resign from the Panel and told his colleagues that he would not be part of a Panel that does not deliver justice but instead hawk it for purchase to pervert the course of justice.

This is said to have created a deadlock as Justice Akanbi and Justice Ebetu were said to have prevailed on their colleague not to do anything that would bring to disrepute the image of the judiciary.

According to a registry source, up to about 11. 30 pm last night Justice Hafizu and his colleagues were engaged in serious confrontation in the court Chambers. Justice Hafizu who frowned at his colleagues conduct is said to have told them he would not sit with them to pervert the course of Justice and he eventually walked out on them a few minutes to midnight when he drove out of the court premises.

The climax of the scandalous conduct of the compromised Judges in Akwa Ibom State was when a two-man Panel of Justice Akanbi and Justice Ebetu sat last night to deliver judgement on the Ikot Ekpene/Essien Udim/Obot Akara federal constituency matter.

As expected Justice Akanbi entered judgement in favour of the PDP candidate, Hon Nsikak Ekong. But legal analysts have opined that the last may not have been heard about the Justice Akanbi-led Panel in Akwa Ibom State as the NJC is said to be studying the situation and awaiting the report of Justice Hafizu on why he walked out on his colleagues.

According to sources, with the expose of Justice Hafizu, heads are bound to roll over the bribery scandal that had stalled the Justice Akanbi-led Panel.

It would be recalled that a lawyer and human rights activist, Barrister Leo Ekpenyong had raised an alarm penultimate week in a widely published article: “Judgement for sale” and alleged that two members of the National Assembly Elections Petition Tribunal in Akwa Ibom State had been compromised and predicted that there would be a split in the judgement of Akwa Ibom North West Senatorial District matter.

According to Barrister Leo Ekpenyong, “Akanbi who many thought was a righteous judge has received a whopping $1.5m (US dollars) from Governor Udom and has recruited Justice Ebetu, another member of the tribunal from Bayelsa to join in the judgment for sale scam. Akanbi J., has ordered a brand new Toyota Highlander SUV from proceeds of this bribe money.

“Akanbi has clearly jettisoned justice in preference for Governor Udom’s sordid money and greek gift, since according to him he has just two years before retirement. He further told our informant that even if he were to spend 10 more years on the bench, his emoluments would not be compared to Governor Udom’s bribe money to pervert the course of justice,” Barrister Leo Ekpenyong had alleged.

Akwa Ibom State Attorney General,, Barrister Uwemedimo Nwoko, denied that Governor Udom Emmanuel had bribed Justice Akanbi and Justice Ebetu and threatened to sue Barrister Leo Ekpenyong. However, legal analysts were surprised that true to the revelation of the human rights activist, the Judges were split in their judgement.

Barrister Ekpenyong had, however, fired back and threatened to report the judges with evidence to the National Judicial Council for necessary disciplinary action if confirmed to have been bribed.

The last certainly has not been heard on the Justice Akanbi-led Panel. But Akwa Ibom State may just witness a repeat of what played out in 2003 where two Election Petition tribunal Judges were dismissed by the NJC for having received huge bribes from the Government of Akwa Ibom State. The two Judges later died shamefully.