Some senior lawyers accused of engaging in telephone conversations with the President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Ayo Isa Salami, during hearings in the governorship appeal cases in Ekiti and Osun states have threatened to drag the petitioners and the newspapers that published the petitions to court.
Some national dailies, including Nigerian Compass, Nigerian Tribune and ThisDay yesterday published the petitions sent to the presidency and the National Judicial Council, NJC, by former governors Olusegun Oni and Olagunsoye Oyinlola of Ekiti and Osun states respectively, accusing Justice Salami of engaging in telephone conversations with chieftains of the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, and their lawyers while the appeal cases were being heard.
The senior lawyers whose telephone numbers were published in the newspapers not only denied the allegations but threatened to sue the petitioners and the newspapers to court for wrong allegations.
Reacting to the publications, one of the senior lawyers whose telephone number was published, Chief Niyi Akintola, SAN, said the publication came as a surprise to him and vowed to take legal action against the newspapers.
Akintola described himself as a responsible lawyer who will not do anything to pervert justice, adding that it was crass ignorance to read meanings into conversation between a lawyer and a judge. â€œI have never spoken with any judge on a matter pending in court,â€ he stated categorically.
The Senior Advocate of Nigeria said the only time he met Justice Salami was last year August in Kaduna at a seminar chaired by the judge.
Akintola disclosed that he only also spoke with Justice Salami during his recent tango with the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Aloysius Katsina-Alu and expressed disappointment with former Governor Segun Oni for involving him or any lawyer in the petition.
â€œI have handled many cases. I was the lead counsel to the Abia State matter and I handled many other cases. Human memory is very short I am highly disappointed in Oni, if not other people. I was not even a counsel in the Osun matter. The records of the court speak well of the writer of the petition. They would be joking to think they can use mind-slinging to get their cases reviewed,â€ Akintola stated.
He confirmed that he and others mentioned in the reports will look at the matter and take legal action. It wonâ€™t be funny because we will make example of all of them, the writers and the newspapers. All of us will take legal action against them.
â€œWe have no apology for standing for Salami. They canâ€™t intimidate or scare us,â€ he added.
Mr. Ricky Tarfa, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, whose name and telephone numbers were also mentioned in the reports denied his involvement in the cases and described the reports as baseless. â€œI donâ€™t know anything about the case,â€ he stated.
In his own reaction, Yusuf Alli, SAN, whose telephone number, 08033340330, was also published as having interacted with Justice Salami when the appeals were being heard, vowed to take legal action against the newspapers that published the petition.
He said people canâ€™t just sit down somewhere to write rubbish against another person.
â€œPeople know me and they know my antecedents. They can vouch for me. I was lead counsel for PDPâ€™s former governors, Oyinlola of Osun State and Olusegun Oni of Ekiti State. I wonâ€™t do what they said against my clients. I donâ€™t do underhand dealings with anybody,â€ he said defiantly.
A close associate of Justice Salami, Mr. Tunji Ijaya, who the report identified as the linkman between the Appeal Court President and ACN chieftains also denied the allegations and blamed stalwarts of the Peopleâ€™s Democratic Party, PDP, for trying to frame him up.
Another senior lawyer mentioned in the scandal, Emeka Ngige also denied the allegations, describing it as baseless.
Ayo Fagbemi, SAN, whose telephone number was also published denied the allegation and threatened to sue the newspapers.
In its reaction to the publications, spokesman of the Action Congress of Nigeria, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, described the allegations as an attempt to throw the country into avoidable crisis â€œover their desperation on the Ekiti and Osun governorship election petitions.