‘I HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH BENCHERS’ BUILDING PROJECT,’ SAYS NJC SCRIBE
The Secretary of the National Judicial Council (NJC), Mr. Ahmed Gambo Saleh has told CITY LAWYER that he has no connection whatsoever with the building of the recently commissioned national headquarters of the Body of Benchers (BoB).
CITY LAWYER had reported that a three-man panel was set up by the Body of Benchers to probe the allegation by former Court of Appeal President and Member of the BoB Building Committee, Hon. Justice Umaru Abdullahi concerning payment of N800 million to Boygues (now BGL Nigeria Limited) without following due process.
In a telephone conversation with CITY LAWYER, Saleh stated that he was not under any probe, adding that “I have absolutely nothing to do with the (Body of Benchers) project.”
Saleh stated that the NJC only made disbursement to the Body of Benchers in line with its approved budget by the National Assembly, adding that while the project was initially billed to cost N13 billion, it was pruned down through due diligence.
He noted that every court and judicial body prepares and defends its budget at the National Assembly, adding that “the project had its own personnel. I do not disburse money on projects. I am not a part of the project. I did not administer the project. I only disburse funds to courts and judicial bodies based on budgets approved by the National Assembly.”
In a veiled confirmation of the probe, Saleh told CITY LAWYER that a report on the investigation had been submitted to the Body of Benchers in plenary, adding that he was not indicted by the report.
He said that his travails were being orchestrated by a “sponsor.” He warned CITY LAWYER to either retract the report and apologise “or I will report you to LPDC or EFCC.” The apparently angry NJC scribe also said that he would not hesitate to explore a legal action in the matter.
Though the Secretary of Body of Benchers, Mr. Daniel Manasseh Tela said that he would get back to CITY LAWYER “with the facts” of the matter, a source who was at the BoB meeting told CITY LAWYER that the probe report generated serious controversy during deliberation in plenary, “especially as it related to conflict of interest regarding a member of the probe panel.”
CITY LAWYER gathered that the report determined that there was no case of culpability against any official, and was eventually adopted by the general meeting.
CITY LAWYER had reported that the Body of Benchers had on February 24, 2022 set up an investigative committee headed by Senator Mike Ajegbo SAN to investigate the disbursement of the N800 million. Other members of the probe panel are former Chief Judge of FCT High Court and current Chairman of the Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Committee (LPDC), Justice Ishaq Bello and Mr. Adeniji Kazeem SAN.
Saleh joined the Supreme Court in 2008 as a Special Assistant to the Chief Justice of Nigeria. Between 2010 and 2014, he was the Deputy Chief Registrar (Litigation Department). He was elevated to the position of Chief Registrar in 2014, until July 1, 2017 when he was appointed Secretary of the National Judicial Council.
He was recently accused of involvement in a N10 billion “bribe and federal racketeering” allegedly being investigated by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). The report was promptly dismissed by NJC spokesman, Mr. Soji Oye who stated that the allegation was aimed to “smear the good image of Ahmed Gambo Saleh at all cost.”
According to Oye, “It is imperative for the members of the public to be aware that before his emergence as the secretary of the NJC, some forces who tried to scuttle his appointment as the secretary of the council have re-emerged with antics aimed at tarnishing his image and bringing his good name to disrepute.”
He said that “It is on record that these forces, in a bid to stop his emergence as the NJC Secretary after the interview to consider his appointment, came up with false allegations in the media alleging that he had diverted N2.2 billion from the Supreme Court from 2009 to 2016 on the day the council meeting was to hold.”
The NJC also dismissed the charges filed against Saleh by the Federal Government in November 2016, saying the case was withdrawn by the Attorney-General of the Federation because “the charges could not be substantiated”. It added that “It should be noted that there has never been a time when Mr. Saleh admitted committing any crime before anybody or law court.”
The NJC stated that “The sponsors of these malicious allegations believe they own the Judiciary and nobody can become anything within the Judiciary without their approval.
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