Judges can collect personal gifts, SAN tells EFCC

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A Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mr. Paul Usoro, says there is nothing wrong in the acceptance of personal gifts by a judge.

According to him, Rule 3 of the Code of Conduct for Judicial Officers in its Paragraph F permits the acceptance of such gifts.

He argued that such personal gifts were lawful as long as they were offered by the judge’s personal friends and relatives “on such occasions as are recognised by custom.”

This argument, according to a partner in Usoro’s law firm, Munirudeen Liadi, was contained in a letter that the SAN wrote between October and November last year to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.

Usoro, according to Liadi, had written three letters to the EFCC while being questioned by the anti-graft agency as to why he sent a total of N700,000 to a serving judge of the National Industrial Court, Justice James Agbadu-Fishim.

Justice Agbadu-Fishim has been arraigned on 19 corruption charges before the Lagos State High Court in Ikeja.

The judge is currently facing trial before Justice Raliat Adebiyi.

The ECFCC accused him of unlawfully enriching himself by allegedly collecting gratification from no fewer than seven Senior Advocates of Nigeria, one other Lagos-based lawyer and one law firm between 2013 and 2015.

Among the SANs mentioned in the case was Usoro.

Others are Chief Felix Fagbohungbe, Chief Gani Adetola-Kazeem, Chief Adeniyi Akintola, Mr. Uche Obi, Dr. Muiz Banire and Dr. Joseph Nwobike.

In a recent statement, Usoro’s law firm slammed a former Chairman of the National Human Rights Commission, Prof. Chidi Odinkalu, for allegedly accusing its principal of corrupt practices.

Liadi, who signed the statement, described a recent publication by Odinkalu in which he allegedly attacked Usoro, as nothing but a hate campaign.

Usoro’s law firm insisted that the money sent by its principal to Justice Agbadum-Fishim was not a bribe, arguing that the last N200,000 ‘gift’ sent by Usoro to the judge was five months before Access Bank Plc engaged the law firm to handle a case marked, NICN/PH/150/2014, for it at the National Industrial Court.

According to Liadi, the various money sums were gifts which Usoro gave the judge at the request of the judge and based on their long-standing friendship, which, according to Liadi, started before Agbadu-Fishim became a judge.

The statement partly read, “Mr. Usoro pointedly, categorically and consistently disclaimed any suggestion that he bribed or wished ‘to induce Honorable Justice Agbadu-Fishim or any other judicial officer and stated in his letters to the EFCC that he ‘does not bribe or induce judges’ and ‘has never bribed or induced any judge’.

“As consistently highlighted by Mr. Usoro, ‘Rule 3 of Code of Conduct for Judicial Officers, in its Paragraph F, which was applicable at all times relevant to this issue, permits judicial officers to accept ‘personal gifts or benefits from relatives or personal friends to such extent and on such occasions as are recognised by custom’.”

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