Bloggers and Vloggers, Content Creators Association (BVACCA) has debunked corruption allegations leveled against the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Chief Judge, Justice Husseini Baba-Yusuf.
The National President, BVACCA, Comrade Ikechukwu Chukwunyere, stated this in a statement issued to newsmen on Saturday in Abuja.
Comrade Chukwunyere pointed out that there was no in-depth investigation before some online media houses reported what they received as allegations from some unknown persons, he described as mischievous and unscrupulous elements.
He said: “When the report of “FCT Judges accuse Chief Judge of stealing multibillion-naira allowances, leaving them vulnerable to bribe traffickers” broke out by some unknown bloggers, as the umbrella body, we immediately set up a 5-Man Committee to ascertain the veracity of the story.
“The Committee’s report came back in the negative, saying that Chief Judge Husseini Baba-Yusuf was innocent of all the allegations.
“We have deemed it fit to debunk claims against the Chief Judge Husseini Baba-Yusuf, over alleged corruption and personnel grievances that posses far-reaching implications for the administration of justice in the nation’s seat of power which are not true as they make Nigerians to believe a lie.
“Ordinarily BAVCCA would not have responded to this allegations considering the fact that the allegations are not only false and baseless but the said allegations were levelled by faceless criminals who only embarked on this mission for political purposes and cheap blackmail.
“We have carefully gone through the articles and discovered that no name was mentioned as the source of their information, no Judge was also mentioned as their source and no evidence was even adduced to substantiate the said allegations.
“The correct position with respect to issues raised in the malicious publication are as set out below:
A. ON THE ALLEGATION THAT THE COURT IS RUN LIKE THE PRIVATE ESTATE OF THE CHIEF JUDGE:
The Office of the Honourable Chief Judge in relation to other Judges of the Court is that of first among equals. His Lordship, Honourable Justice Husseini Baba Yusuf is very much aware of this, and therefore has always maintained a very cordial relationship borne out of mutual respect for his brother Judges. In the discharge of his duties, he has always been fair to his brother Judges. He has always ensured that they are given their dues, entitlements, rights, and privileges as at when due, devoid of any segregation in whatever shape or form. His brother Judges have, both in the open and in private meetings, have consistently expressed their satisfaction with the way the Chief Judge relates with them, carrying them along in his efforts at improving justice delivery in the FCT.
No Judge has been accorded any iota of preferential or better privilege than the other. They have all at various times attended trainings, seminars, and conferences due to them within the Court’s financial strength.
However, when the occasion so demands, some Judges of this Court are nominated, not by the Chief Judge, but by either the National Judicial Council (NJC), or National Judicial Institute (NJI) or some foreign organisations for some conferences or trainings, within or outside the country. On such occasions, the only option is for the Hon. Chief Judge to facilitate such travels. On such occasions, it will be preposterous to accuse the Chief Judge of favouritism in any way, having not nominated them in the first place.
B ON THE ALLEGATION THAT THE COURTROOMS ARE WITHOUT SUPPORT STAFF OR EQUIPMENT
“In this age of information explosion, ignorance is a choice! On this note, the author of the mischievous publication comfortably opted to travel on the highway of ignorance by his failure and deliberate refusal to confirm the veracity or otherwise of the story of lack of personnel and equipment in the court. If he had done so, he would have realized that the average staff strength of courts, including the Magistrate Courts, is not less than ten (10) persons per court, excluding drivers and cleaners. In some courts, there are over twenty (20) personnel. So, the lack of court personnel or paralegal staff has never been a challenge of this court.
“Also, every Judge of this Court has officially been given a laptop, installed with law pavilion software and duly supported with periodic updates, the relevant laws, rules and regulations of all levels of courts in Nigeria, as well as that of other jurisdictions in the country.
C. ON THE ALLEGATION THAT THE HON. CHIEF JUDGE “STOLE” FOUR HUNDRED AND NINETY-FIVE MILLION NAIRA (N495, 000, 000:00) FROM THE MARRAKESH TRIP ALONE:
“One of the spurious allegations in the malicious publication was that the sum of FIFTEEN THOUSAND DOLLARS ($15, 000:00) was allocated to each of the 58 Judges for the trip to Marrakesh in Morocco, but that the Chief Judge released only the sum of THREE THOUSAND, FIVE HUNDRED DOLLARS ($3, 500:00) to them, “pocketing” the rest, and therefore “stole” the sum of N495, 000, 000:00 therefrom.
“There are pertinent questions that any reasonable person ought to ask in this regard: how much is a Judge of a High Court in Nigeria entitled to as Estacode for foreign travel? Is it possible for the sum alleged in the publication as Estacode to pass through the National Judicial Council (NJC), Budget Office, or the National Assembly without being queried and stopped?
“The simple truth is that no such sum was allocated or approved for the Judges’ trip to Morocco, and no such amount was released to or stolen by anyone. In fact, the total sum allocated to the entire High Court of the FCT for both foreign and local trips for all Judges, the Chief Registrar, Directors, Magistrates, as well as the entire staff of the Court for the whole budget year, 2023, is far less than THREE HUNDRED AND FIFTY MILLION NAIRA (N350, 000, 000:00). Therefore, even in the unlikely event that no Judge, Chief Registrar, Director, Magistrate or court staff ever went for any training for the year, and all the money was given to the Chief Judge, it will not amount to the sum of Four Hundred and Ninety Five Million Naira (N495,000,000:00) for which he has been accused of “stealing”.
“If this is so, how possible is it for the Hon. Chief Judge to have stolen what never existed in the first place, if not for reasons best known to mischief makers bent on tarnishing His Lordship’s image for no just cause? The undisputable fact is that no single Kobo was “stolen” as false alleged by the mischievous publication. The Hon. Chief Judge never tampered with the Judges’ Estacode or any money whatsoever. The Chief Judge was paid his Estacode for the Morocco trip just like other Judges.
“Therefore, from our independent investigations and findings, we observed with keen interest that the stories and reports put out there are all tissues of lies and baseless.
“That the allegation against Honourable Justice Baba-Yusuf milking Judges’ meagre allowances, leaving their courtrooms without support personnel, equipment and luring them to bribe, is untrue as he remains committed to prioritizing the welfare of Judges in Abuja.
“That It is unfortunate, some of these publications were hurriedly put together and some news media ran with them without doing due diligence through investigation to verify and balance their reportage.
The BVACCA president, however, maintained that the allegations against Chief Justice Husseini Baba-Yusuf have never been verified and authenticated anywhere and anytime; rather they are deliberately cooked up by some unscrupulous elements who do not mean well for our judiciary.
“Therefore, BAVCCA as the umbrella body of all Bloggers, Vloggers and Content Creators frown at the fact that members of our body should be used as tools in the hands of cheap blackmailers who thrive in peddling unsubstantiated information in the media. Bloggers who allow themselves as agents of these false news shall be penalized”, he said.
He called on Nigerians to discard this cheap blackmail from persons who are out to defame the Chief Judge of FCT, who has positively transformed the judiciary and repositioned it for high productivity.
“That Honourable Justice Husseini Baba-Yusuf is a go-getter, who has transformed the image and the integrity of the Judiciary, therefore, he has attracted local and international recognitions and awards.
“Itis on record that nobody has written any petition against Chief Justice Husseini Baba-Yusuf to the National Judicial Council since 1998 when he was appointed as a Judge in Federal Capital Territory High Court. Hence, he is committed to making adjudication of Justice pure and unadulterated.
“He has been able, through his proactive and pragmatic steps to improve the sanity and independence of the judiciary.
“Members of the Bench, Bar and Judiciary staffs have showered encomium on his sterling performance since he took over the helm of affairs of the Judiciary in the FCT.
“A disciplinary committee has been set up to investigate erring members and appropriate punishment.
” BAVCCA assures Nigerians that we will continue to uphold the true tenets of Journalism, we also assure them of our impartiality in the delivery of duties to the Nigerian public”, he said.