Adeniyi Ademola, Justice of the Federal High Court, Abuja, tendered a letter of voluntarily retirement on Thursday, but given that his actual retirement date is March 2018, it ill not be out of place to suggest that this decision is the culmination of a series of unsavoury events that began in the wee hours of October 8, 2016.
It was the night that a team of masked operatives of the Department of State Services (DSS) raided the residences of several senior judges, across various states of the federation, on suspicion of corruption.
According to the DSS, the raid was ordered after months of investigations, during which it was credibly established that the affected judges were involved in questionable financial dealings.
The judges whose houses were raided were: Adeniyi Ademola and Nnamdi Dimgba, both of the Federal High Court, Abuja, Sylvester Ngwuta and John Okoro of the Supreme Court, Kabiru Auta of Kano State and A. I Umezulike, then Chief Judge of Enugu State, Muazu Pindiga of Gombe State and Mohammed Liman of the Federal High Court in Port-Harcourt, Rivers State.
However, the operation in Rivers State was thwarted by Nyesom Wike, Governor of the state, who, on getting wind of the operation, rushed to Liman’s residence and prevented DSS personnel from arresting him.
But the DSS personnel were able to gain entrance into Justice Ademola’s residence, and claimed to have recovered huge sums of money in local and foreign currencies.
According to the DSS, at least $400, 000 and N39 million in cash, in addition to documents of landed properties were recovered from Ademola’s residence.
However, in an open letter Ademola wrote to Mahmud Mohammed, the Chief Justice of Nigeria, he described the DSS operation at his home thus: “I saw about 45 masked officers of the State Security Services, all heavily armed pointing their guns at me.
“They flashed a document purported to be a search warrant and ordered me to sign a document claiming that they had already conducted a search downstairs.
“They also added that I was totally under their control today as I have always made orders against them.
“They threatened me if I did not sign it they would not leave me alone and whatever they did to me at that point would be recorded that I will not be alive to tell the story of what transpired between me and them that night.
“For fear and interest of my life, and unknown persons with masks on their faces, I collected the written items and signed the document.”
Ademola also claimed that his ordeal was being orchestrated by Abubakar Malami, Attorney-General of the Federation, whom he said had vowed to “bring me down”.
“What is more intriguing in this whole episode is that I see it as a vendetta/revenge from the Hon. Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami (SAN),” Ademola stated.
“Whilst I was in Kano between 2004 and 2008 as a Federal High Court judge, he was involved in a professional misconduct necessitating his arrest and detention by my order.
“However, with the intervention of Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, Kano Branch, the allegation of misconduct was later withdrawn by me.
“Consequently, the National Judicial Council,NJC, referred Abubakar Malami to the NBA Disciplinary Committee for disciplinary action.
“It was as a result of this he was denied the rank of SAN by the Legal Practitioners Privileges Committee for a period of four years until when he produced a fake letter of apology, purportedly addressed to me.
“It was then he was conferred with the rank. Since the above incident, Abubakar Malami (SAN) has threatened to revenge and swore to do anything to bring me down.”
Nevertheless, Ademola’s case, as well as that of the other arrested Judges, was transferred to the EFCC, who later filed corruption charges against him.
Ademola was arraigned before Justice Jude Okeke of the FCT High Court, in December 2016, alongside his wife Olabowale, and Joe Agi (SAN), on an 11-count charge bordering on conspiracy to receive bribe and receiving bribe.
Another set of charges was also filed against Ademola at the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT), where he was accused of engaging in private business as a public officer and making false assets declaration.
According to the charges, Ademola was said to have engaged in the purchase and sale of foreign exchange currencies while being a judge of the Federal High Court, thereby committing an offence contrary to Section 6 of the CCB and Tribunal Act.
Following the development, Ademola was suspended by National Judicial Council (NJC) pending the determination of the cases.
However, Ademola was cleared of all the corruption charges in April 2017, after the presiding judge upheld a no-case submission he filed in relation to the charges against him.
Justice Okeke held that the evidences and witnesses produced by the EFCC were not enough to establish a prima facie against Ademola to warrant him to enter a defence.
He was subsequently recalled by the NJC and was due to retire in March 2018, before his voluntary retirement on Thursday.