The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, (EFCC), has launched a probe into the alleged racketeering by Supreme Court Chief Registrar, Ahmed Gambo Saleh, said to have gobbled up over N10 billion in bribes from court contractors and other persons with criminal cases with the judiciary.
According to sources familiar with the matter who spoke with newsmen, said the probe was prompted by the tip-off from a whistle-blower who petitioned EFCC to look into the activities of Saleh, accused of feeding fat on the court’s funds and leaving vital projects to suffer neglect.
Saleh had been accused of conniving with the son of the immediate past Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Muhammad Tanko, Surajo Muhammad, to embezzle public funds.
Despite lacking in qualifications and competence to handle judicial matters, Muhammad (Jnr) managed affairs of the apex court and wielded his father’s position as a tool to carry out backroom deals. “Today (June 1), Surajo could be said to be a de-facto head of the apex court, as his father seems to have relinquished the administration of the court to him, even when he is not a staff”, the petition noted.
Citing instances of their brazen underhand dealings, the petition said the duo sold off the residence of a Supreme Court justice without the knowledge of Tanko, who was CJN at the time. However, the building was said to have been demolished before the situation could be remedied, rendering the Justice who should have been assigned the residence homeless.
Colluding with Muhammad, Saleh allegedly withheld the funds meant for purchasing exotic vehicles usually assigned to newly sworn-in Justices, said the petition. “Under Gambo and Surajo’s shenanigans, they, JSC were given only a Land Cruiser, albeit refurbished. A Hi-Lux vehicle was added after one year, and to date, the Mercedes Benz is still being awaited by the Justices”, the petition further disclosed.
Eight Justices sworn-in since November 2020 have yet to be properly accommodated and receive the Benz even though the projects were captured in the capital budget for the 2020 fiscal year.
Saleh, not a stranger to fraud allegations, was charged with diverting N2.2 billion in 2017, a matter later withdrawn by the Attorney General of the Federation, (AGF), citing a plea bargain. Amid the damning fraud charges hanging on Saleh’s head, he got appointed as the Secretary of the National Judicial Council, (NJC), a body responsible for the appointment, promotion and discipline of judicial officers.
Before the withdrawal, he was charged with diverting the Supreme Court’s N2.2 billion to his personal bank account at the United Bank for Africa Plc, account number: 2027642863. Although Saleh then confessed the money belonged to him as it was a collection of cash gifted to him by friends, further investigations revealed the money was “bribes collected from various court contractors who ended up executing shoddy jobs or outright abandonment,” the petition stressed, amongst others.
The petition also claimed that the Court Registrar, a public servant, was worth over N10 billion.
Saleh did not return a request for comment on the allegations. A spokesman for the NJC declined comments on the matter. Also, the EFCC spokesman did not immediately provide updates about the investigation.