Danladi Umar, the chairman of the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT), has come under intense scrutiny over a bribery allegation that will not go away, fuelling speculation that he is now facing an uncertain future.
Ibrahim Lamorde was removed as the chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on Monday by President Muhammadu Buhari after months of speculation following a series of allegations of corruption against him.
Although Lamorde denied all the allegations – and none has been proved yet – Buhari was said to have lost faith in him all along despite the heightened level of activities at the commission under the new government.
The CCT chairman too has been full of activities, but an allegation that he demanded a N10 million bribe to discontinue the trial of a former customs officer has now led to a court action.
Mike Ozekhome, a senior advocate of Nigeria, filed a suit at the federal high court in Abuja on behalf of Registered Trustees of the Mission for Peace and Development Initiative, an NGO, seeking the removal of Umar as chairman of the tribunal.
In the court papers, the group tendered documents alleging that Umar demanded a N10 million bribe from a retired comptroller of customs, Rasheed Taiwo, in order to terminate further hearing in his case.
The group alleged that Umar already received a N1.8 million advance payment through his personal assistant, named in court papers as Gambo Abdullahi.
Some of the documents tendered in court are a photocopy of a cheque for N1.8 million allegedly paid to Abdullahi, a copy of the statement he made to the EFCC and a copy of the statement Umar made to the agency.
In the statement, Umar admitted having a private meeting with Taiwo in his office.
The group also attached a copy of a letter sent to former President Goodluck Jonathan by two other members of the tribunal, Robert Odu and Agwaza Atedze, calling for an investigation into the allegation.
The plaintiffs want the court to order the removal of Umar because he has a criminal case “hanging on his neck”.
The previous justice minister, Mohammed Bello Adoke, had asked the EFCC to prosecute the CCT boss over the allegation but also said that he could only be removed by two-thirds of the national assembly according to the law setting up the tribunal.
EFCC, under Lamorde, said “available circumstantial evidence” suggested that Umar might have demanded and collected the bribe, but there was no proof.
Instead, he recommended the PA for trial because he contradicted himself in trying to “cover up” what the deposit in his account was meant for.
Umar could not be prosecuted for lack of sufficient evidence, the EFCC said.
Umar admitted having a private meeting with Taiwo – which is considered unethical – but he denied demanding or receiving any bribes.
The presidency is watching the development “with keen interest”, TheCable understands.
Umar was made chairman of the tribunal in 2011 when he was 40, considered a landmark appointment at the time.