Nigeria: Chief Judge Transmits Reinstatement Notice to Judge Accused of Bribery

27 January 2021

The Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, John Tsoho, has officially communicated a reinstatement notice to a judge, Mohammed Yunusa, who was accused of bribery and sundry infractions in 2016.

Mr Tsoho, via a letter dated January 11, 2021, communicated to Mr Yunusa the National Judicial Council's decision lifting the suspension slammed against him over four years ago.

In the letter titled, 'RE: Lifting of suspension from office,' and seen by PREMIUM TIMES on Wednesday, Mr Tsoho said the NJC reversed its sanction against the judge following a letter of plea written on his behalf by a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Yemi Akinseye-George.

The letter read, "I write to forward to you the letter from the Deputy Chairman National Judicial Council (NJC), Hon Justice Bode Rhodes-Vivour, CFR, Ref number NJC F.3/FHC493/111/366 dated December 23, 2020, conveying to you the decision of the National Judicial Council with regard to the letter of plea written on your behalf by Prof. Yemi Akinseye-George, SAN.

"The letter speaks for itself."

The NJC had in July 2016 recommended Mr Yunusa to President Muhammadu Buhari for compulsory retirement based on the various allegations levelled against him.

The council also placed him on an immediate suspension pending the approval of the recommendation for his compulsory retirement by the President.

The President never gave any attention to the recommendation and Mr Yunusa remained on suspension until the NJC reversed itself to give the judge a clean bill of health in December 2020.

Defence lawyer, John Odubela, also a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, on Monday, informed the court where Mr Yunusa was being prosecuted for bribery that the NJC had issued Mr Yunusa a letter of reinstatement.

He urged the court to act on the letter by discharging Mr Yunusa of the bribery charges instituted against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in 2016.

The trial judge, Serifat Solebo of the High Court of Lagos State in Ikeja, overruled EFCC's objection to Mr Odubela's prayer.

She relied on the NJC's clearance to discharge Mr Yunusa.

The EFCC had accused Mr Yunusa in the amended nine counts of taking bribe from a top lawyer, Rickey Tarfa, to the tune of N2,250,000.

Mr Tarfa, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, is also being separately prosecuted on similar charges.

The EFCC had called about 10 prosecution witnesses and tendered about 50 documents as exhibits in the case against Mr Yunusa.

The prosecuting counsel, Wahab Shittu, told PREMIUM TIMES on Tuesday that he had only two witnesses more to call to close the prosecution's case, and vowed to appeal the Monday's ruling.

Also on Tuesday, Mr Shittu amended the charges to remove Mr Yunusa's name from the charges and proceeded against the remaining defendant, Esther Agbor, who is a worker at Mr Tarfa's law firm.

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