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2015 election petition: NJC sets up panel to probe Judge over alleged bribery from Melaye

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The National Judicial Council (NJC) has set up a three-man panel to investigate the conduct of Justice Akon Ikpeme of the Cross River State High Court, over allegation that she collected bribe and ruled in favour of Senator Dino Melaye.

The panel which was inaugurated on Saturday is investigating Justice Ikpeme on sundry allegations that borders on bribery and ruling subjectively in the 2015 election’s petition case to confirm Dino Melaye as dully elected Senator from the Kogi West Senatorial District.

According to a report monitored by Insidestory, the panel also took evidence from the former Chairman of the Senate Committee on Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Senator Smart Adeyemi and the Chairman of the Civil Society Network Against Corruption, Olanrewaju Suraju to indict the Judge of wrong doing.

But the panel, headed by the President of the National Industrial Court (NIC), Justice Babatunde Adeniran Adejumo, gave a two-week deadline to Adeyemi to produce call logs of purported telephone conversations between the judge and Senator Melaye.

There were indications that the panel may invite the publisher of an online publication, SaharaReporters or any of its representatives, to testify on the tape it aired on its channel alleging conversation between the judge and Melaye.

According to the findings, the NJC raised the panel following petitions to it by both the Civil Society Network Against Corruption and Adeyemi.

Investigation revealed that for about four hours at the NJC Conference Room, the panel heard from the petitioners and the judge who maintained her innocence at the session.

She, however, denied any telephone conversation on alleged dollar bribe between her and Melaye.

The statement from a reliable source reads: “There were two issues which were tabled before the panel on the purported conversation between Melaye and the judge.

“The issues bordered on the judge’s alleged demand for bribe in dollars from Melaye and assistance from Melaye to use his influence to assist her ‘daughter’ secure a job at the Cross River State Ministry of Health by prevailing on Governor (Sen) Ben Ayade.

“While the judge claimed that the voice allegedly identified as hers might have been technologically cloned, Adeyemi asked the panel to ask the relevant service provider to make the call logs of the judge and Melaye available as appropriate.

“But upon enquiries from the defence lawyers (two Senior Advocates of Nigeria) and the panel, Adeyemi promised to produce the call logs within two weeks.

“The panel may also invite Saharareporters and other television stations which aired the alleged conversation between the judge and Melaye.

“The fate of the judge will be known in two weeks’ time based on the evidence tabled before the panel.”

The Civil Society Network Against Corruption’s petition before the NJC reads in part: “An online based newspaper, Sahara Reporters reported and published a supposed voice conversation on the 30th day of May, 2017 of how Senator Dino Melaye representing the Kogi West Senatorial District compromised Justice Akon Ikpeme, the tribunal judge who handled his election petition case in 2015.

“The said report claimed that the alleged corrupt communication between the duo was captured on tape which has gone viral on social media.

“In the said recordings, which capture the telephone conversation between Justice (Mrs) Akon and Mr. Melaye, at two different times, the judge is overheard asking Mr. Melaye to give her a bribe in US dollars.

“She also sought Mr. Melaye’s assistance for a person he repeatedly referred to as her ‘daughter’ secure a job at the Cross River State Ministry of Health, with the Senator reassuringly bragging that he had already spoken to the State Governor, Prof. Ben Ayade.

“It is worth noting that sometime in 2016, Justice Ikpeme dismissed a petition by Smart Adeyemi, Mr. Melaye’s opponent at the 2015 Kogi West Senatorial District election. In accordance with the plot of reaffirming the alleged electoral infractions associated with the emergence of Mr. Melaye, the election tribunal, in spite of the fact that only Senator Melaye retained his seat as a Senator in the state, the other two senators elected under same circumstances as Mr. Melaye were nullified by the tribunal.

“In view of the gravity of the allegations viz- a- viz the recent allegations of bribery against the said Senator Melaye, as evident in the voice contained in the leaked audio recordings, we urge you to urgently commence high-powered investigation by a team of forensic experts and investigators into these allegations to assuage the growing diffidence of the citizens in the fight against corruption.”

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