By Saqeeb Saeed
When Mr. Dennis Aghanya and his organization, the so-called Anti-Corruption Research-Based Data Initiative (ARDI), which he is the Executive Secretary, hit the news headlines early this year, it generated a lot of controversy because the person at in the center of his petition to the Code of Conduct Bureau, was his lordship, Hon. Justice Walter Onnoghen, the Chief Justice of Nigeria.
Events subsequently following the petition, though partially dispensed with now, got up to the Court of Appeal and may still go beyond to the Supreme Court. While His Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari, has since acted on the pronouncements of the tribunal, the National Judicial Council (NJC) has also made its position known since it completed its interrogation of the matter.
We have chosen to give this brief background since ARDI, the source through which the travails of the CJN began, seems to have now ascribe to itself an air of importance to the extent that it seeks to give constituted authorities, like the NJC, directives on how to conduct itself and even also gives itself the position of apportioning performance mark too claiming that the ‘’NJC had failed to address the substance of the allegations against Ajanah (Hon. Justice Nasiru Ajanah, CON, the Chief Judge of Kogi State) who was indicted for gross misconduct by Kogi State House of Assembly.” A statement purportedly made by Aghanya through a press conference held on Tuesday in Abuja, according to www.barristerng.com, a social media platform.
Even as we have resolved not to dignify every comment on the unfortunate and avoidable Kogi government-induced-faceoff between the executive and judiciary arms of Kogi state with response, we have as well isolated those comments bothering on the integrity of his lordship, the Chief Judge as an individual and Kogi State Judiciary as an institution for appropriate reaction.
This accounts for this response to the self-acclaimed judiciary-cleansing ARDI, which is most notably only media-existent. The article titled: “Onnoghen’s petitioner, Dennis Aghanya wants NJC to remove Kogi CJ for ‘gross misconduct’’ is not only laughable and self-serving, it reeks of undignified self-importance taken too far. It equally leads to the question on the other hand: who is paying the piper and dictating the disjointed tune emanating from Aghanya and his ARDI’s flappable flute?
The value of the answer to this definitely lies in the demystification of the saintly notoriety Aghanya and ARDI seem to want to attach to themselves while peddling unverified and unsubstantiated allegations even at the expense of their own personal dignity and institutional decorum if at all they had any. Were Aghanya and his ARDI to be laid on a well-established principle and not puerile and condemnable possible economically motivated shadow-chasing ventures, they may have seen the futility of their ill-conceived assassination of the character of his lordship, Hon. Justice Nasiru Ajanah, CON.
Going into the substance of the matter, though we would rather have preferred not to dabble into it because it is still pending in the court, we cannot however shy away from the porosity of the so-called press conference and its reportage. It is either the two are collectively mischievous in concept and machination or one is being led by the other in self-destructive direction. The story, aside been speculative and reliant on third party information, which is claimed to be the Kogi State House of Assembly, is entirely contradictive in what only portrays Aghanya as a confused broken record struggling to satisfy an interest other than sanitizing the Nigerian society as claimed. It seems a well-designed character cleaning would have to first start from him any time the process is emplaced.
The evidence of this assertion is replete in the fact that unlike the Justice Onnoghen’s case which he referred to, much as facts are painstakingly searched for in this instance, what is found is the repeated references made to the phrase, “gross misconduct” in describing the Hon. Chief Judge. It is surprising that an organization that was able to produce such details of bank account numbers and timing of transactions in the case involving the CJN is so dry and hollow in its presentation in this case.
Secondly, the repetition of the concoction put together by the Kogi State House of Assembly tagged “gross misconduct” is nothing new to us. But what will be new to Aghanya and his ARDI is the fact that we had earlier warned the framers and users of such phrase of the possible consequence(s) of such misuse, especially when it has been wrongly deployed against a character whose track record is that of personal and professional high integrity, humility, uprightness and sincerity. Gladly, these are rear qualities that could not be derived from the occupants of the stinking quarters where these unfounded allegations oozed from.
There is a clear distinction between Justice Onnoghen’s incident and an agitation for the rule of law and compliance with the constitution by the executive arm of Kogi state so that kogi state judiciary workers would not be served the agony of being owed 11 months salaries as it currently stands. If charges of “gross misconduct” are trumped up on this basis and a self-styled anti-corruption organization thinks the best to do is to ask for the removal of the same person that is tormented from office while relying on the same oppressive tool coined by them, then we must begin to ask whether ARDI is fermenting corruption or fighting corruption. Please note that we owe no obligations to those who chose to increase the size and number of our traducers in the future.
As Aghanya and his ARDI have shown that they lack the knowledge of the true situation in Kogi State, even though it ought to be a research-based entity, and since the reportage of his petition has not indicated so, we advise that they carry out a proper and comprehensive research on how the finances of Kogi state is being managed so that they may draw the right conclusions before rushing to the media to satisfy any interest best known to them. Without that, they will only continue to drive themselves into more murky waters by relying too heavily on third hand information provided by unscrupulous elements who may no longer be there by the time Aghanya and his ARDI are facing the music.
On our part, and based on the usual mannerism of his lordship, the Hon. Chief Judge of Kogi State, just as we are awaiting the formal position of the NJC and that of the court of competent jurisdiction handling the case, we will not be prejudicial with our reaction. We are expecting the NJC, unlike the Kogi State House of Assembly’s skewed process, in its tradition of giving fair hearing to the petitioned, to draw the Hon. Chief Judge’s attention to ARDI’s petition, if it exists, before taking a final stand on this grievous character assassination embarked upon by Aghanya and his cohorts. Were they not motivated by mischief, a mere perusal of the constitution would clearly show that, just as revealed in Justice Onnoghen’s case, which centered on his personal finances and transactions, Hon. Justice Nasiru Ajanah, the Chief Judge of Kogi State, is not an accounting officer and cannot be linked with the finances of Kogi State judiciary to the extent of committing any “gross misconduct” as a result of that.
– Saqeeb Saeed,
Snr. Information Officer, the Judiciary of Kogi State.