NJC Probes 15 Judges

National Judicial Council has begun to probe 15 judges for alleged misconduct and also two judges under the investigation are chief judges. Fifteen committees – one for each of the cases – have been constituted to handle the petitions.

Soji Oye the NJC’s Information Director, who confirmed the probe in a statement, did not name the judges.

Oye said the NJC constituted the committees at its 83rd meeting last week in Abuja after considering the reports of the two Preliminary Complaints Assessment Committees (PCAC) it set up to examine 46 petitions written against judges of federal and state courts.

The NJC also agreed to recommend Lagos lawyer Adesina Ogunlana to the Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Committee (LPDC.) for allegedly using “uncouth” language in a petition he wrote against a former Chief Judge of Lagos State, Justice Olufunmilayo Atilade.

Oye said the NJC treated as withdrawn, the petitions against Ondo State’s Acting Chief Judge, Justice O. O. Akeredolu and Justice J. T. Tsoho of the Federal High Court.

NJC, he said, issued two letters of advice to Hon. Mr. Justice M. A. Dada of the Lagos State High Court and Hon. Mr. Justice Chukwudi Charles Okaa of the Anambra State High Court for violation of extant laws in the course of their judicial duties

The statement added: “It (NJC) dismissed a total number of 31 petitions, 29 of which it found unmeritorious, and the remaining two written against Hon. Mr. Justice J. T. Tsoho of the Federal High Court and Hon. Mr. Justice O. O. Akeredolu, Acting Chief Judge of Ondo State, was withdrawn at the instance of the petitioners.

“Al-Sagr National Insurance Company that wrote against Hon. Mr. Justice Tsoho withdrew its petition since the Hon. Judge had delivered the ruling in this case.

“Chief Raheem A. Badmus who wrote against Hon. Justice Akeredolu also voluntarily withdrew his petition for personal reasons.

“Council treated the two petitions as withdrawn since it did not find anything in them sufficiently serious for further consideration as stipulated in Regulation 9 (1) of the Judicial Discipline Regulations.

“Council considered and found worthy of further investigation, the petition written by Azi A. Phillip on behalf of All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN), Plateau State Chapter, accusing Hon. Justice P. D. Damulak, the immediate past Chief Judge of Plateau State of bias, for failure to make his judgment in suit No. PLD/J/236/16 delivered on 4th November 2016 available to him till the time he wrote the petition.

“Council, however, decided not to constitute an investigative committee to look into the matter, because of the Hon. Chief Judge had already retired from service and therefore no longer in the employment of the National Judicial Council.

“It also considered and dismissed petitions written against two other judicial officers for lack of merit. They are Hon. Justice Mr. L. T. C. Eruba – High Court of Justice, Abia State; and Hon. Grand Kadi Abdullahi Waiya – Sharia’h Court of Appeal, Kano State.

“It also decided to issue two letters of advice to Hon. Mr. Justice M. A. Dada of the Lagos State High Court of Justice and Hon. Mr. Justice Chukwudi Charles Okaa of the Anambra State High Court for violation of extant laws in the course of their judicial duties based on the petition written against their Lordships by Dayo Adamolekun, Esq. & Ridwanulah Olanite, Esq. and Reverend F. U. Ekavhiare & Associates respectively.

“ Council agreed to report Adesina Ogunlana, Esq., to the Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Committee (L.P.D.C.) for misconduct, for the use of uncouth language in a petition written to the National Judicial Council against Hon. Justice O. O. Atilade, the immediate past Chief Judge of Lagos State.

“Council welcomed as good development, a letter from Zamfara State Government approving the recommendation of the National Judicial Council for the compulsory removal of Hon. Mr. Justice Musa Ibrahim Anka from office for allegedly receiving a bribe of Two Hundred Thousand Naira (N200, 000) from one Zubairu Abdumalik in order to deliver judgment in his favor.

“The recommendation was made to the Zamfara State Government by Council in 2011.”

 

NJC Appoints Justice Ayo Salami To Head Monitoring C’ttee On Corruption Cases

The National Judicial Council has appointed a retired president of the Court of Appeal, Ayo Salami, to head a committee to monitor corruption cases in Nigerian court.

Mr. Salami was controversially removed from the judiciary by the Goodluck Jonathan administration.

In a statement by its spokesperson, Soji Oye, the NJC said Mr. Salami will head a 15-member committee for the task.

“The Committee’s primary functions include; Regular monitoring and evaluation of proceedings at designated courts for financial and economic crimes nationwide; Advising the Chief Justice of Nigeria on how to eliminate delay in the trial of alleged corruption cases; Giving feedback to the Council on progress of cases in the designated courts, conduct background checks on judges selected for the designated courts; and Evaluating the performance of the designated courts,” Mr. Oye said.

The committee named: The Corruption and Financial Crime Cases Trial Monitoring Committee (COTRIMCO) is also expected to drive the NJC’s” new policy on anti-corruption war.”

The committee, which has 15 members, will operate from the council’s secretariat in Abuja.

Among other functions, the committee will conduct regular monitoring and evaluation of proceedings at designated courts for financial and economic crimes nationwide.

Other members of the committee are the Chief Judge of Borno State, Justice Kashim Zannah; the Chief Judge of Imo State, Justice P.O. Nnadi; the Chief Judge of Delta State, Justice Marsahal Umukoro; the Chief Judge of Oyo State, Justice M. L. Abimbola; President of the Nigerian Bar Association, Abubakar Mahmoud (SAN); former NBA President, Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN); and another former NBA president, Mr. Olisa Agbakoba (SAN).

Others are Mr. Joseph Daudu (SAN) and Mr. Augustine Alegeh (SAN) – both former NBA presidents; a member of the NJC, Dr. Garba Tetengi (SAN); NJC Secretary, Gambo Saleh; and a representative of Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), Mrs. R.I Inga.

The Ministry of Justice and Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN) will also have a representative each on the committee.

The committee will also advise Justice Onnoghen on how to eliminate delays in the trial of corruption cases.

In addition, it will give feedback to the NJC on the progress of cases in the designated courts, conduct background checks on judges selected for the designated courts, and evaluate the performance of the designated courts.
Oye said the committee would drive the council’s new policy on the anti-corruption war.

Justice Onnoghen, had in his speech last week at the Special Session of the Supreme Court of Nigeria to mark the commencement of the 2017/2018 Legal Year, noted the concerns expressed by members of the public on the snail-like pace in which corruption cases were being heard or determined by the courts.

Consequently, he directed all heads of courts to compile and forward to the council comprehensive lists of all corruption and financial crimes cases being handled by their various courts.

He also directed them to designate in their various jurisdictions, one or more courts as special courts solely for the purpose of hearing and speedily determining corruption and financial crimes cases.

The Supreme Court of Nigeria and the Court of Appeal were equally directed to fix special dates each week for hearing and determining appeals from such cases.

President Muhammadu Buhari had in the past accused the judiciary of not helping in the fight against corruption.

“The Committee is expected to drive the Council’s new policy on anti-corruption war.”

NJC Flays NBS Report, Says Judiciary Corruption Rating Speculative

The National Judicial Council, NJC has described the report of survey conducted by National Bureau of Statistics, NBS as speculative which does not have any empirical facts in it.Like the police, the National Judicial Council, NJC has refused to accept the result of a survey that shows that the judiciary is the second most corrupt institution in Nigeria.

The survey released last week was conducted by the National Bureau of Statistics, NBS, with the support of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crimes, UNODC places Nigerian Judiciary (judges and lawyers) next to Nigeria Police as a most corrupt institution in the country.

In a statement by the NJC, led by the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Walter Onnoghen, and made available to newsmen by its director of information, Soji Oye said even though there are bad eggs in the system but the said report is objectively defective.

The statement read; “The attention of the Nigerian Judiciary has been drawn to the Report of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crimes (UNODC) in conjunction with the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) titled “Corruption in Nigeria; Bribery: public experience and response – 2017”, alleging that the Judiciary is the second highest receiver of bribes in the Country.

“The Judiciary finds the conclusion of the organisations not only subjective but speculative.

“There is no denial of the fact that there are few bad eggs in the Judiciary, like in every other arm of Government; at the same time, there are many honest and hardworking Judicial Officers and Magistrates making the Judiciary and the country proud.

“The question that should agitate the minds of the people is the criteria used by the UNODC and the NBS to measure the level of bribe taking in the Judiciary to grade it as the second largest receiver of bribe. For instance, what is the percentage of Judges caught receiving bribe out of a total number of One Thousand and Fifty-Nine Judges in both the Federal and State Judiciaries?

“What is the percentage of Magistrates caught taking bribe from an estimated total number of Four Thousand (4,000) in the country? the NJC queried.

The NJC further said the number of judges prosecuted for bribery related offenses should have also been stated in the processes that resulted to the compilation of the report.

“How many Judges or Magistrates have been arrested and/or prosecuted and convicted of corruption till date to deduce such conclusions?

“One then wonders the criteria used by the organisations to arrive at the conclusion,” the statement said.

The NJC added that the judiciary is the only arm of government that investigates and disciplines it’s officials, adding that the council has made several recommendations for dismissal of judges found culpable following investigations into allegations ‘s of crime.

“It should be noted that the Judiciary is the only arm of Government that has been investigating its Judicial Officers and dealt appropriately with those found guilty by dismissal or removal from office, subject to approval for such recommendation from the President or the Governor of a State as the case may be, and publish such in electronic and print media for the consumption of the public.

“Members of the general public are also aware that the NJC has been recommending Judges found guilty of corrupt practices to the appropriate security agencies for prosecution.

It is unfortunate that this orchestrated allegation is coming at a time the current Chief Justice of Nigeria and Chairman of the National Judicial Council, Hon. Justice W.S.N. Onnoghen, GCON, is making frantic efforts to stamp out corruption, restructure the Judiciary and also give the Nigerian Legal System a new lease of life for the Rule of Law to take its firm roots in the Country.

“The Judiciary calls on the general public to disregard the aforestated allegation as it is untrue, baseless, unfounded and a figment of the Agencies’ imagination.

“The National Judicial Council as usual calls on members of the public to forward written petitions against any Judicial Officer found soliciting or receiving bribes or otherwise engaging in conducts unbecoming of a Judicial Officer to the National Judicial Council for appropriate action.”

Earlier, the Nigerian Police had also refused to accept the report.

Contrary to the claim of the NJC, however, the report was the outcome of a survey of Nigerians conducted across the country.

The survey asked respondents if they had ever given or been asked to give bribes, if they had ever taken or been offered bribes, which public officials made such requests and so on.

The result showed that an overwhelming percentage of Nigerians (94.7 per cent) will accept a bribe when offered or pay a bribe when demanded.

The survey revealed that that the frequency of bribery was more among police officers (46.4 percent). Incident of bribery in the judiciary comes at a close second after the police with prosecutors and judges flagged as being among the most corrupt. Prevalence of bribery among prosecutors was put at 33.6 per cent, and judges/magistrates at 31.5 per cent.

Justice Ademola Asks NJC To Allow Him To Resume Sitting

A judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Adeniyi Ademola who was recently discharged of corruption charges has written to the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) and Chairman of the National Judicial Council (NJC), Justice Walter Onnoghen, asking that he be allowed to return to work.

It was gathered that the letter to the CJN, titled,  ‘Re: Request for the Suspension of indicted Judicial Officers,’ was routed through the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Ibrahim Auta recently.

A source said the CJN was yet to take a decision on the letter, but may be waiting for a meeting of the NJC where it will be tabled for the council’s consideration. Justice Ademola was one of seven judges whose residences were raided and subsequently arrested by operatives of the Department of State Services (DSS) last October for alleged corruption.

The judges, save for Justice Inyang Okoro of the Supreme Court, were then arraigned by the federal government on various corruption charges.

However, before their arraignment, the NJC, bowing to public pressure, had asked Justice Ademola and two other judges to stop presiding over cases until they had been cleared of the corruption allegations.

But on April 5th, Justice Jude Okeke of the Abuja High Court discharged Ademola, his wife, Olabowale and Joe Agi (SAN) who were charged with receiving gratification, diversion of huge sums of money, and illegal possession of firearms.

After the prosecution led its evidence, the accused persons raised a no case submission which was upheld by the trial judge. The judge had said that the case was built on high-level suspicion and speculation, adding that it was not his job as a judge to speculate.

Following his discharge, Justice Ademola, He wrote to the CJN to allow him to resume sitting.

It is uncertain if the NJC’s delay in taking a decision on Justice Ademola’s letter has arisen from government’s move to appeal his acquittal by the court.

Don’t Link Buhari To Judges’ Arrest – Presidency

The Presidency at the weekend advised journalists and other Nigerians to stop linking President Muhammadu Buhari to the legal travails of some recently arrested Judges in the country.

According to a statement by the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Malam Garba Shehu, President Buhari would be the last person to authorize anybody to induce a Judge to pervert the course of justice.

He pointed out that the President had never used his personal familiarity with some court Judges to seek favours from them in 2003, 2007 and 2011 when he was challenging the fairness of the presidential election results, through the lowest to the highest courts in the land.

The Senior Special Assistant also explained that, as a politician, Buhari had never once ever suggested to his lawyers to approach any Judge for assistance to win his cases.

According to him, the President is living by this principle and has never deviated from it.

On the fate of the Judges facing corruption allegations, he said the President doesn’t tell Courts how to do their jobs and that anybody accused of corruption is protected by law to defend their innocence.

The purpose of the law, he said, is to punish the guilty and acquit the innocent, noting that the law projects the rights everyone.

Malam Garba Shehu said the President doesn’t have any powers to force any court to convict anybody who is innocent, arguing that in a democratic society, that cannot happen without resistance by the people.

Ribadu Calls On NJC To Support DSS, EFCC

THE pioneer Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, yesterday asked the National Judicial Council (NJC) to cooperate with the Department of State Service (DSS) and the anti-graft agency in the ongoing war against corrupt judges.

He said even if the judiciary did not agree with the method of the “sting operation” against the judges, it should “appreciate that what is being done is needed”.

Ribadu, who made his position known in his opening remarks at Radio Nigeria Annual Lecture in Abuja, said it was time for an all-out war against corruption without sparing any sacred cow.

He said: “Though there is consensus about the need to stop corruption, it is usually in fighting it that disagreements usually arise.

“With fighting corruption often comes ripples and discomfort as we have seen recently with the probes in the judiciary. It is normal. But we have to withstand the pressure and move on. We have passed the same road before.

“As at the time we started taking up some state governments, some of the governors felt we were overreaching ourselves. They ganged up to stop us but we persevered. Some of them even went to court, but today that has been accepted as normal.

“It was similar with the case of the National Assembly, when we went after the then Senate President. Another example is our taking up of the Inspector-General of Police. Here was I and my colleagues, middle level and junior police officers taking on the IGP. It was unimaginable! The day that arrest was made, it was like the sky would fall. But it came to pass.

“It is similar situation we are having today. However, even if we disagree with the method, we have to appreciate the fact what is being done is needed. The judiciary should understand this and cooperate fully. We have to have this all-out war against corruption without sparing any sacred cow.

“If there is one area we need national consensus now, it is in supporting this effort to tackle corruption. As most of you know, I belong to the law profession, I therefore share the concern of some of my colleagues.

“However, we should all resolve to support the government and those doing the work to get us through this phase.”

Ribadu said corruption is like termite which can destroy the nation’s economic structure.

He added: “The task today, therefore, is to find the nexus between the war against corruption and economic prosperity. Let me emphasise that fighting corruption is at the centre of whatever economic progress we desire as a nation.

“Corruption is like termite that is capable of destroying our economic structure, no matter how well-built. Almost everything wrong with our politics and economy can be traced to the menace of corruption. This is why we have to fight it.”

A Corrupt Judge Commits Crime Against Humanity – Sagay

Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC) Chairman Itse Sagay (SAN) yesterday came hard on those condemning the arrest of two Supreme Court justices and other judges by the Department of State Services (DSS), saying such critics ignore the implications of judicial corruption.

According to him, it is as if a corrupt judge is committing a crime against humanity because he holds the power of life and death and is expected by the society to be above board.

Prof. Sagay said where a society loses confidence in the judiciary, it would resort to self-help.

He spoke in Abuja at a news conference by PACAC to review its activities since it was established last August by President Muhammadu Buhari.

There have been some criticisms of the arrests. Some said the rights of the judges were trampled, others said it was an attack on the judiciary.

Sagay thinks many Nigerians do not appreciate the sincerity of the Federal Government’s anti-corruption battle, saying it was as if many preferred the old order, which he said would have made Nigeria worse than Zimbabwe

He said: “I think that those who have criticised the DSS and the manner the search was conducted or even criticised the whole idea of a search being conducted seem not to have looked at the implications of judicial corruption.

“At the end of the day when there is corruption anywhere, who do you take the matter to? It is to the judge. The judge is the ultimate and, in fact, the buck stops at his court. So, if that judge is complicit in the corruption then that is the end of the fight against corruption. That is the awful implication!

“So, any judge who is corrupt is committing a crime – in fact, one can even say it’s a crime against humanity because it just destroys our confidence in a system which should sustain the state in law and order. It encourages people to resort to self-help because there is no hope in taking a matter to court.”

Sagay said the judiciary became so corrupt that it endorsed violent elections in which thousands died.

“Today, just to give an example, we have some sitting governors who we all knew that they did not win an election. Because they killed their way into office, people are still dying in those states, for them to sustain themselves in that office.

“Yet some courts at the highest level gave approval to the process that brought those people to what I would call their bloody seats on which they are sitting. These are some of the things we are talking about. If the judiciary is corrupt, the only body, the only arm of government that has the power of life and death over Nigerians, if they are corrupt, then it is frightening,” he said.

Sagay believes many commentators ignored the monies allegedly found on the judges, saying: “The other thing that surprises me is that a lot of people have made commentaries criticising what has been happening and have ignored the outcome of these searches completely.

“Isn’t it enough that billions of naira was found in private residences? Don’t you associate these billions of Naira with the fact that your roads are in a state of disrepair, that your hospitals are under-equipped or ill-equipped, and that schools are dilapidated and that it affects your daily life? What of those in the public service today who cannot get salaries paid because all these monies came from the public purse?

“The point I am making is that we seem to want to eat an omelet without breaking eggs; that is what Nigerians want. There are Nigerians who say, ‘Ooh, we are suffering a lot of hardship since the Buhari government came and that we are better off under corruption’.

“Isn’t that the most terrible thing for anybody to mouth, without considering what would have happened if Buhari had not come? If that had been the case, I don’t think that there would have been a country today; I think that Zimbabwe would have been better because this is a government that is operating on little or no budget because by the time they came in, what was existing had been squandered completely and shared among those now being defended with cries of ‘human rights’.

“What I am saying is that it is very discouraging because if you are struggling for the masses of this country, for the welfare of Nigerians, for improvement of the standard of living and then you are not encouraged, the tendency is for you to give up. For people to prefer corruption to the integrity that we are seeing in government today is very shocking. And I can tell you that if I were in government, I would have been extremely discouraged.

“We cannot have it both ways. We need the judiciary but we need an upright judiciary; without that, one arm of government would collapse; democracy would collapse. Let us think of the implication of what is going on. If we don’t put the judiciary right and we don’t have a judiciary in which we have confidence, a judiciary with integrity and honour, a judiciary with moral authority, then we have no government and we have no democracy.”

Sagay said it would have been unthinkable for the DSS to raid the homes of judges even under military rule when courts gave several verdicts against the government, all because of the high level of integrity the judges had.

“You people remember the era of Justices Eso, Oputa, Aniagolu, Nnamani, Idigbe, Mohammed Bello and Obaseki? Which DSS would have dared to even question any of those people? Nobody! No agency of government would have dared it. They gave a lot of their judgments against the military government. I can cite over 20 judgments which they gave against military government.

“They gave a judgment against Buhari’s military government, saying he had no power to retire some people; the Manager of the Fire Service in Lagos, Garba. It was held that his retirement (by the military regime) was illegal.

“I can cite so many. There was also Ojukwu’s case and everybody knows that. It (Supreme Court) held that the powers that be, the military government, could not engage in self-help by preventing Ojukwu from living in his father’s house. Ojukwu got judgment and instead of appealing, they went and threw him out.

“Then, the Supreme Court held that for throwing him out and preventing him from accessing his father’s house, rather than appealing that judgment, they (military) are deprived of the right to come to this court.

“That moral authority has crashed and, therefore, having crashed, like a tree that has fallen, ants, lizards and all sorts of things can climb over it. You bring yourself down and then, whatever happens after that is your own fault.

“The ordinary man like you and I could be guilty of corruption but a judge should never be guilty of corruption. Once a judge does that, he brings himself to our level and so cannot complain if he is treated the same way that you and I are treated. That is what has happened. Let us be objective and be fair to this country with our commentary and not be narrow-minded,” Sagay said.

PACAC Executive Secretary Prof Bolaji Owasanoye said the arrested judges should be suspended while their trial lasts and until they clear their names.

He noted that a member of the committee had to step down when serious allegations were made against him.

Owasanoye said: “The National Judicial Council (NJC) did not suggest in their response that they’re suspending the judges. But what should be the proper thing? The proper thing, of course, is for the judges to be suspended. The reason is because all over the world, if a judge is going to be appearing before a court on criminal charges, you ask yourself, is it appropriate for the judge to continue to sit in another respect?”

“I’m talking about best practices here. After all when other people are being tried, we argue that they should step down. We’re not talking of an administrative issue here; we’re talking about a crime. I think that the proper thing to do is actually for the judges to be given that charge to defend themselves.

“In other climes, when a policy that somebody initiates does not even work well, they resign. David Cameron resigned simply because Britain voted to leave the European Union (Brexit). He didn’t do anything wrong. Clearly, the honourable thing is for the NJC to give those judges an opportunity to go and defend themselves and then if they’re cleared they can take back their jobs, strengthened.

“Again, there are situations in which NJC has been investigating the judges behind the scene and technically has not allowed them to preside over cases, even though those allegations may not be criminal in nature. So is this not even much more sensitive and a more compelling reason to suspend them?”

A PACAC member, Prof Femi Odekunle, said those faulting the judges’ arrest missed the point.

“There are those who are making arguments that amount to shenanigans, to shield people. Corruption in the judiciary is not the same as corruption in the marketplace; the judiciary is the soul of our nation. Therefore, anything that could be done with it should be done.”

SSS Releases Detained Judges

The State Security Service has released all the judges arrested during a nationwide sweep between Friday and Saturday.

Sources in the agency said all the seven judges were released on self-recognition.

“They were all released on bail yesterday(Sunday) on self recognition,” one of our sources said.

“They reported this morning (Monday) and they have all gone back home. They will be coming back tomorrow. And everything went very procedurally well and civil.

“They were released on bail on self recognition based on the fact that given their standing in the society, they cannot run away. They were instructed that they should come back today by 10am.

“They did report for investigation this morning and they have gone back home. And the investigation continues and preparation to charge them to court continued.”

The source added, “Also, action was sequel to lack of cooperation by National Judicial Council. Such as refusal by the NJC to allow the affected persons to be questioned by the DSS. Investigation started some seven months ago, precisely in April 2016.”

The crackdown has continued to generate mixed reactions across the country.

DSS Raid: CJN Describes Arrests As Sad And Regrettable

The Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Mahmud Mohammed, has broken his silence on the raid on the houses and arrests of two Justices of the Supreme Court and other judges by the Department of State Services, describing the operations as regrettable.

Justice Mohammed spoke on Monday at the valedictory court session held in honour of a retiring Justice of the Supreme Court, Justice Suleiman Galadima.

He said at the event which was held at the ceremonial courtroom of the Supreme Court in Abuja that the National Judicial Court would meet on Tuesday to take a position on the incident.

Mohammed commended the Nigerian Bar Association for the step that it had so far taken on the matter.

He said, “My lords, invited guests, ladies and gentlemen, not to detract from this occasion, it is indeed very saddening and deeply regrettable, the distressing and unfortunate incident which occurred on Friday, October 7 and Saturday, October 8, 2016.

“However, I must ask all Nigerians to remain calm and prayerful, as emergency meeting of the National Judicial Council, which will take place tomorrow (Tuesday), will comprehensively look into the matter.

“Furthermore, I must express my sincere appreciation to the executive of the Nigerian Bar Association ably led by the President, Abubakar Mahmoud (SAN), and indeed all members of the legal profession for their prompt action and continued support.”

The DSS had, in what it called a sting operation, arrested Sylvester Ngwuta and Inyang Okoro, both of the Supreme Court; the suspended Presiding Justice of the Court of Appeal, Ilorin Division, Justice Mohammed Tsamiya; Justice Kabiru Auta of the Kano State High Court and Justice Adeniyi Ademola of the Federal High Court, Abuja.

Other arrested were a former Chief Judge of Enugu State, Justice I. A. Umezulike, and Muazu Pindiga of the Federal High Court, Gombe Division.

Falana Slams NBA, Describes Demand For Judges’ Unconditional Release As Embarrassing

Human rights lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN), on Sunday criticised the Nigerian Bar Association for demanding the unconditional release of the judges arrested by the Department of State Services between Friday and Saturday.

He described the demand by the leadership of the NBA as an embarrassment to the “incorruptible members of the bar”.

The operatives of the DSS had raided the official quarters of judges at Abuja, Gombe, Kano and Port Harcourt and ended up arresting at least four judicial officers.

The arrested judicial officers comprised two Justices of the Supreme Court – Justices Sylvester Ngwuta and John Okoro – as well as Justice Adeniyi Ademola of the Federal High Court and another judge of the Gombe State High Court, Justice Mu’azu Pindiga.

In a statement issued at the end of the raid, the DSS alleged that the suspects had engaged in judicial misconduct and corrupt practices, adding that a huge amount of money was recovered from three of the judges.

In response to the raid, the NBA had declared a state of emergency and demanded the immediate and unconditional release of the judges.

Falana, however, criticised the move, saying, “In particular, the Nigerian Bar Association which has information on all corrupt judges and lawyers in the country has continued to shield them to the embarrassment of incorruptible members of the bar and the bench.

“The few lawyers who have plucked up the courage to expose corrupt judges and lawyers have been stigmatised and treated like lepers by their colleagues.

“It is on record that when both the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Offences Commission and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission sent invitation letters to judges suspected of corruption they had rushed to the Federal High Court to obtain interlocutory injunctions to prevent their arrest, investigation and prosecution.”

He said members of the legal profession had themselves to blame for the harassment of judges by security forces as they had failed to take advantage of the relevant statutory disciplinary bodies to purge the bar and the bench of corrupt elements.

“It is on account of negligence on the part of the legal profession that the SSS which screens candidates before they are recommended by the National Judicial Council for appointment as judges has now engaged in the arrest of judges for alleged corruption and abuse of office,” he said.

Falana, however, said because the detained judges “are presumed innocent until the contrary is proved by the State, they should be admitted to bail in self recognisance.”

He urged the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami, to ensure that the judges were immediately arraigned without delay.

He lamented the state of the legal profession, saying, “It is a matter of grave concern that the legal profession has allowed the denigration of the hallowed temple of justice because of the misconduct of a few corrupt judges.

“For several years, judges who committed grave criminal offences were not prosecuted but merely retired by the authorities on the recommendation of the National Judicial Council.

“Although the National Judicial Council recently recommended the dismissal and prosecution of a judge for extorting the sum of N197m from a litigant the authorities had paid lip service to the menace of judicial corruption in the country.”

Eight More Judges To Be Arrested In SSS Clampdown

At least eight more senior judges in Nigeria are being investigated for corruption and may be arrested anytime from now.

The eight are part of 15 judges that are being investigated by the State Security Service for alleged corrupt practices.

Already, seven judges were arrested between Friday night and Saturday morning in raids that have been condemned by lawyers and Nigerian rights groups.

The seven judges arrested and currently in detention at the SSS office are Justice Inyang Okoro and Sylvester Ngwuta of the Supreme Court; Adeniyi Ademola of the Federal High Court, Abuja; Kabir Auta of the Kano High Court; Muazu Pindiga of the Gombe High Court, Mohammed Tsamiya of the Court of Appeal in Ilorin, and the Chief Judge of Enugu State, I. A. Umezulike.

Messrs Umezulike, Auta, and Tsamiya had earlier been recommended for sack by the National Judicial Council for alleged corrupt activities.

The seven arrested judges were still at the SSS office on Sunday evening, it was learnt.

A source at the headquarters of the security service also confirmed that the judges were allowed to see their families and have made relevant statements to the security agency.

PREMIUM TIMES is however reporting that although the identity of the eight others being investigated is not yet clear, at least one of them is a member of the Supreme Court, a source said.

Apart from the judges, at least three members of the registry staff of relevant courts have also been invited for questioning by the SSS and have made “relevant statements,” the source said.

On Saturday, the security service gave reasons why it arrested the judges.

In a statement, the SSS said it also recovered various sums of money from those arrested including over N93 million in cash as well as over $530,000 in cash.

The mode of arrest of the seven judges has led to intense criticism from Nigerians including by the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA), and foremost rights group, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), which asked President Muhammadu Buhari to immediately order the release of the judges.

“The judges may be released even this evening or tomorrow,” once they finish with their statements which we are allowing them write at their own pace,” our source said.

An emergency meeting called by the NJC on the arrests is expected to hold on Monday in what may pit the Judiciary against the executive arm of government.