Outrage as suspended Kano ‘black market’ judge returns back to courtroom

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Outrage has greeted the recall of a Magistrate who was suspended in March last year over multiple allegations of corruption and official misconduct, Daily Trust reports.

The Presidential Advisory Committee against Corruption (PACAC) as well as residents of Kano, especially litigants and lawyers, have expressed shock following the recall and promotion of a Magistrate Aminu Ibrahim Fagge who was the presiding judge at Court 34, Rijiyar Zaki, Kano.

The judge was suspended and made to face probe over a plethora of allegations bordering on high-handedness and “black market judgments”.

Daily Trust had exclusively reported how he allegedly connived with the police at Rijiyar Zaki Division to “unjustifiably” send several accused persons brought before his court to jail either as awaiting trial or convicts without recourse to procedures.

Multiple sources at the court where he held sway until January 2020, when he was transferred to the library of the Kano State High Court, had said that it took between five to 15 minutes for Magistrate Fagge to deliver judgment whenever an accused person was brought before him.

At the Goron Dutse Correctional Facility where our reporter went undercover, some convicts had lamented that their lawyers found it difficult filing appeals because they were denied access to records of proceedings.

Correctional officials and inmates had also narrated how hundreds were “unjustifiably convicted” and sent to jail by Magistrate Fagge.

Insider sources had informed Daily Trust that between 2018 and 2019, no fewer than 70 persons were sent to the correctional facility from the court where he presided.

The accused magistrate had denied the allegations, describing them as untrue, but the Kano State Police Command failed to respond to the alleged connivance.

Following his suspension separate investigations were conducted by the Kano State Public Complaints and Anti-Corruption Commission and the State Judicial Service Commission (JSC).

Daily Trust gathered that after about twenty months, the JSC came up with a report which gave the magistrate a clean bill of health for lack of proof on alleged corruption and ordered his reinstatement but was silent on the other allegations that were leveled against him.

However, an insider confided in Daily Trust that the panel of the State anti-corruption body under its previous leadership had indicted the judge even though its report was yet to be released.

How Fagge was recalled

Relying on the JSC report, Fagge was promoted to the position of a Chief Magistrate and posted to Kura Local Government Area, a development which left many in bewilderment and shock.

Daily Trust gathered that while his probe lasted, the magistrate embarked on intense lobbying to both panels in order to be let off the hook.

He was also said to have sent ‘influential delegations’ to both panels to lobby for his exoneration and reinstatement.

However, while he was able to have his way through the JSC panel, headed by Barrister Umar Danlasan, he met a brick wall at that of the state anti-graft commission under the headship of its immediate chairman, Barrister Muhyi Magaji, which insisted he should appear before it to defend the allegations.

It was also learnt that during his probe Fagge had appeared before the JSC panel but failed to honour the invitation by the state anti-graft commission to defend ‘damning allegations’ against him.

A member of the probe panel conducted by the immediate past leadership of the anti-graft body, who spoke with Daily Trust on the condition of anonymity, said their panel established a prima facie case against Magistrate Fagge and insisted on his personal appearance but he failed to do so on the grounds that he was not in good health.

He said they resisted several pressures, including from Fagge’s lobbyists, to enable him to come clean.

“We were indeed approached by his (Fagge’s) lobby teams, including that of his immediate community but we insisted he must appear and clear his name but he failed to do so, saying that he was sick,” said the source.

Daily Trust gathered that as a result of his non-appearance, the panel under the leadership of the immediate past chairman, Barrister Muhyi Magsaji could not write its final report before handing it over to the current leadership.

The new chairman of the Kano State anti-Corruption and Public Complaints Commission, Mahmoud Balarabe, failed to give an update on the panel’s findings over Magistrate Fagge.

When contacted, Balarabe promised to “consult with his team” and get back to Daily Trust but he failed to do so despite several reminders.

Shock waves

The PACAC has expressed shock and disappointment over the recall and promotion of Magistrate Fagge.

The committee was among those that had petitioned the Kano State anti-graft commission urging it to investigate alleged wrongdoing against the magistrate.

In its petition dated December 28, 2019, signed by the Executive Secretary Prof. Sadiq Isah Radda and titled: “Alleged Retail Corruption at Court No. 34, Rijiyar Zaki, Kano, by the Presiding Judge, Magistrate Aminu Ibrahim Fagge”, the committee had sought the commission to investigate the alleged misconduct of the judge.

However, Prof. Radda has expressed disappointment at the verdict of the Kano State JSC panel that exonerated Fagge, saying they were shocked that someone with such an image who was petitioned severally could be recalled and even promoted.

Prof. Radda, who spoke with Daily Trust on the development said: “What about the numerous other allegations that were leveled against the magistrate such as sending hundreds to jail without following due process of law? What about allegations that he was not keeping a record of proceedings?”

Insisting that justice must be seen to be done to victims of Magistrate Fagge’s alleged ‘highhandedness’, Prof. Radda said PACAC was ready to take up the matter with the Attorney General and the Independent Corrupt Practices and related offences Commission (ICPC).

Many residents of Kano, including petitioners, lawyers, and those who were allegedly jailed ‘unjustifiably’ by Magistrate Fagge have also expressed shock over his recall and promotion.

A petitioner who had filed a complaint against Fagge and the police over “Conspiracy, intimidation, harassment, and maltreatment” said he had appeared before the JSC panel twice over his petition but thereafter was left in the dark only to hear that “Fagge was left off the hook, reinstated and even promoted.”

The petitioner, who sought for anonymity said he had written severally to the JSC probe panel requesting a copy of the report that exonerated Magistrate Fagge but he was not availed.

Some lawyers who had attended court sessions presided over by Magistrate Fagge also expressed shock over his reinstatement and promotion.

A lawyer who would not want his name in print said: “If he (Fagge) was exonerated over allegation of financial induced judgments what about other allegations? Even when the judge was suspended a number of people came forward with complaints against him; did the JSC panel conduct a public hearing? What about the allegation that he was not keeping record of proceedings for the purposes of appeals against his phantom judgments?”

Another lawyer said there were also complaints on how the absence of record of proceedings at Court 34, where Magistrate Fagge had held sway affected legal practitioners and their relationship with clients.

‘Why we reinstated him’

Contacted, the Kano State Judiciary said it reinstated Magistrate Fagge based on the report of the JSC panel which exonerated him of wrongdoing.

The Public Relations Officer (PRO) of the State Judiciary, Baba Jibo Ibrahim, said: “There was a complaint against the magistrate based on corruption and the JSC set up a committee to investigate. After that they submitted a report to us which exonerated him and based on this he was recalled.”

Asked if the report cleared him of all the allegations, the PRO responded in the affirmative but could not avail our reporter a copy of the report saying: “As PRO, I was only given the portion that exonerated the judge from alleged corruption to address the press.”

Attempts to reach out to the Chairman of the JSC probe panel that exonerated the judge, Barr Danlasan, were unsuccessful.

Similarly, when contacted by our reporter, Magistrate Fagge declined comments on his recall and reinstatement.

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