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A controversial Nigerian senator, Dino Melaye, has denied offering bribe to a judge, Akon Ikpeme, who handled the petition brought against the lawmaker’s election in 2015.
An online media, Sahara Reporters, had published an audio which appeared to contain exchanges between the lawmaker and the judge as they discussed the bribe money.
In the leaked clip, a male voice believed to be Mr. Melaye’s, could be heard assuring a female speaker, alleged to be the judge, of his readiness to pay some money, which the female speaker emphasised should be “in USD (United States dollars)”.
“(It’s a) blatant falsehood,” Mr. Melaye told PREMIUM TIMES on Wednesday in response to the allegation.
A part of the conversation in the leaked audio went thus:
Voice 1 (Supposedly the Judge): I wanted to tell you that whatever you want to do, make it in USD.
Voice 2 (Believed to be Mr. Melaye): Of course, of course, of course, of course, of course, no problem madam, no problem.
Earlier in the recording, the female voice informed the lawmaker that she had returned to her state, Cross River.
Mr. Melaye assured he would reach her after returning from a London trip with the Senate President, Bukola Saraki.
Apart from money, the conversation also revealed that the female voice relied on the senator to peddle his influence to get her daughter a job placement in Cross River State civil service.
The lawmaker boasted that he had already spoken with the governor, Ben Ayade, and a permanent secretary in the state ministry of health for the job.
However, while denying the voice heard in the audio was his, Mr. Melaye said the petition brought by Smart Adeyemi, a former senator, against his election was ultimately dismissed at the Court of Appeal in Abuja, after a similar verdict by the Kogi State National Assembly Elections Petition Tribunal headed by Mrs. Ikpeme.
“My case (with Mr. Adeyemi) ended in the Court of Appeal,” Mr. Melaye said. “Let them think of another lie. They are obsessed with me and jealous of my progress. (Omoyele) Sowore will go to jail.”
Mr. Sowore is the publisher of Sahara Reporters, which recently brought accusations of academic fraud against Mr. Melaye, before the current leaked audio scandal.
In that academic fraud scandal, while Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, confirmed the Kogi Senator bagged a Third Class Bachelor of Arts degree in Geography from that school, it turned out his claims of separate degrees from the London School of Economics and Political Science and the Harvard University were false after all.
The judge at the centre of the bribery scandal with Mr. Melaye, Mrs. Ikpeme, had in June 2015 dismissed Mr. Adeyemi’s petition against Mr. Melaye’s senatorial election as being “incurably defective.”
But the Court of Appeal in Abuja, in July 2015, set aside that ruling and ordered a re-trial.
The appeal court then held that the tribunal was wrong in striking out Mr. Adeyemi’s petition on technicalities, instead of substantial justice, and therefore, ruled that the case be resent to the tribunal for “trial on merit”.
Again, the Ikpeme-led tribunal upheld Mr. Melaye’s election in October 2015 for lacking in merit.
In December 2015, the appeal court upheld the tribunal’s second verdict, thereby ending Mr. Adeyemi’s hope of returning to the Senate.