Lawyer Sues Buhari, DSS, AGF, Others For N50bn Over Judges’ Arrest

A Lagos-based lawyer, Mr. Olukoya Ogungbeje, has filed a N50bn suit against President Muhammadu Buhari, the Department of State Services and its Director-General, Lawal Daura, along with others for allegedly violating the rights of judges whose houses were raided by the DSS operatives between October 8 and 9.

Others joined as defendants in the suit, with number FHC/ABJ/CS/809/16, are the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN); the Inspector-General of Police, Ibrahim Idris; and the National Judicial Council.

Ogungbeje filed the suit before the Federal High Court in Abuja on Friday, October 14.

He alleged that the arrest of the judges without recourse to the NJC was unlawful and amounted to humiliating them.

He said the DSS operations violated the rights of judges under sections 33, 34, 35, 36 and 41 of the 1999 Constitution.

The plaintiff sought 10 prayers, among which is an order awarding N50bn against the defendants as “general and exemplary damages.”

He also sought to be awarded N2m as the cost of the suit.

The lawyer also sought an order compelling the DSS to return to the judges the sums of money reportedly recovered from them.

He also sought a perpetual injunction restraining the defendants from arresting, inviting, intimidating or harassing the judges with respect to the case.

The DSS had, between Friday and Saturday, arrested Justices Sylvester Ngwuta and John Okoro of the Supreme Court; Justice Adeniyi Ademola of the Federal High Court, Abuja, and Justice Muazu Pindiga of the Federal High Court, Gombe Division.

Justice Nnamdi Dimgba’s residence was also searched but he was not arrested.

Others, who were arrested, had been placed on suspension by the NJC pending the time Buhari and the various state governors would approve its recommendation for the sacking of the affected judges.

They are a former Chief Judge of Enugu State, Justice I. A. Umezulike; the Presiding Justice of the Court of Appeal, Ilorin Division, Justice Mohammed Tsamiya; and the judge of the Kano State High Court, Justice Kabiru Auta.

The DSS said it recovered large sums of money in Nigerian and foreign currencies from three of the judges during the raids on the houses of the seven judiciary officers.

The seven of them had since been released on self recognition by the DSS.

But Ogungbeje’s suit is restricted to five of the arrested judges, who are still in active service – Justices Ngwuta, Okoro, Ademola, Pindiga and Dimgba.

The plaintiff contended in his suit that the raids on the residences of the judges and their arrest were unconstitutional.

He maintained that the arrest of the judges did not follow the law.

He stated in a 39-paragraph affidavit, which he deposed to in support of the suit,

“That the 6th respondent (NJC) is the only body empowered by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to discipline judges and judiciary officers in Nigeria.

“That the judiciary is an independent arm of government in Nigeria and separate from the executive and the legislature.

“That this illegal and unconstitutional action by the 1st (President Buhari), 2nd (DG of DSS), 3rd (DSS), 4th (AGF), and 5th (Inspector-General of Police) respondents have been roundly condemned by the Nigerian Bar Association.

“That the 2nd (DG of DSS), 3rd (DSS), and 5th (IGP) respondents carried out their action which brazenly infringed upon the rights of the affected five judges without lawful excuse or recourse to the 6th respondent.”

Punch

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NJC Finally Reacts To Judges’ Arrest, Says It Is Meant To Cow The Judiciary

After three days of waiting for its position on last weekend’s arrest of Judges across the country, the National Judicial Council has finally made its position known.

The disciplinary body for the bar and bench in a statement yesterday condemned the arrest of some judges by the Department of State Services (DSS).

It described the action as a threat to the independence of the Judiciary, which portends great danger to our democracy.

The judicial body also described the arrest of judges as a clear attempt by the DSS to humiliate, intimidate, denigrate and cow the Judiciary.

The NJC expressed its support the Federal Government’s commitment to the fight against corruption, but insisted that due process must be adhered to.

The NJC, in a statement late last night, said it had nominated the second most senior Justice of the Supreme Court as the successor to Chief Justice Mahmud Mohammed, who will retire on November 10.

“Council meticulously considered the entire unfolding events that led to the arrest of the Judicial Officers and the misinformation and disinformation making rounds in both Electronic and Print Media that the DSS acted thus because the National Judicial Council was shielding the Judicial Officers from investigation and prosecution for corrupt practices and professional misconduct.

“Council noted particularly, that from the available records, the DSS forwarded only two (2 no.) separate complaints containing allegations of Corrupt Practices against Hon. Justice Pindiga; and corrupt practices and professional misconduct against Hon. Justice Dimgba.

“The impression created and widely circulated before the public; that the DSS forwarded a number of petitions containing various allegations of corrupt practices and professional misconduct against some Judicial Officers to the Council, and they were not investigated, is not correct.  The Council urges the DSS to make public the particulars of such petitions to put the records straight.

“Given the above background facts, on behalf of the Judiciary, Council is constrained to inform the general public that all petitions and complaints forwarded against Judicial Officers bordering on corrupt practices and professional misconduct, have been attended to and investigated, where applicable, by Council since year 2000 to date, within the powers conferred on it by the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended.

“Therefore, any Judicial Officer that was reprimanded by Council or recommended for removal from office by compulsory retirement or dismissal to the President or Governor, was done in compliance with the Constitutional power, Rule of Law and Due Process.

“From year 2000, when the National Judicial Council held its inaugural Meeting to 2016, 1808 petitions and complaints against Judicial Officers, including Chief Justices of Nigeria, Justices of Supreme Court and Court of Appeal were received by the respective Honourable, the Chief Justices of Nigeria and Chairman of the National Judicial Council.  Eighty-two (82 No.) of the Judicial Officers were reprimanded (suspension, caution or warning), by Council, in the exercise of its exclusive Constitutional Disciplinary power over Judicial Officers. Thirty-eight (38 No.) of the Judicial Officers were recommended to the President or Governor where applicable, for compulsory retirement from office; while twelve (12 No.) were recommended to the President or Governor as the case may be, for dismissal from office.

“In conclusion, Council wishes to state as follows:-

  • That it maintains its earlier decision that no Judicial Officer shall be invited by any Institution including the DSS, without complying with the Rule of Law and Due Process. That explains why when the DSS wrote to the Council by letter Ref. No. LSC.960/4 dated 14th September, 2016, to direct Hon. Justice Mu’azu Pindiga to appear before it, The Hon. The Chief Justice of Nigeria and Chairman of the National Judicial Council directed the Hon. Chief Judge of Gombe State to ask Hon. Justice Mu’azu Pindiga to report to DSS, which His Lordship did.
  • That the National Judicial Council has never shielded nor will it shield any Judicial Officer who has committed any misconduct.
  • That the Department of State Services is an Agency in the Presidency and its functions as specified in the statute establishing it, is primarily concerned with the internal security of the Country.
  • That the action of the DSS is a denigration of the entire Judiciary, as an institution.
  • That by the act of the DSS, Judicial Officers are now being subjected to insecurity, as criminals might take advantage of the recent incidents to invade their residences under the guise of being security agents.
  • The Council vehemently denounces a situation whereby the Psyche of Judicial Officers in the Federation is subjected to a level where they would be afraid to discharge their Constitutional judicial functions, without fear or favour, intimidation, victimization or suppression.
  • The Council will not compromise the integrity and impartiality of the Judiciary.
  • The Council wishes to reassure the public that any person who has a genuine complaint against any Judicial Officer is at liberty to bring it up to the Council for consideration, after following due process vide its Judicial Discipline Regulations.
  • At the end of the Meeting, Council unanimously agreed to recommend Hon. Justice W. S. N. Onnoghen, CFR, as the most senior, suitable and competent Justice of the Supreme Court to President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR, for appointment as the next Chief Justice of Nigeria to succeed Hon. Justice Mahmud Mohammed GCON who retires from office on 10th November, 2016.
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Documents Reveal DSS Sought Permission Of NJC To Investigate, Arrest Corrupt Judges

 

By SaharaReporters

Documents obtained by SaharaReporters show that the Department of State Services (DSS) wrote to the National Judiciary Council (NJC) seeking permission to investigate and arrest judges suspected of corruption.

In its letters, the DSS cited “corrupt practice, falsehood, and un-declaration of assets” as the judges’ offenses.

The exchange of correspondence between the DSS and NJC shows that the body charged with disciplining errant judges resisted the DSS’s efforts to go after potentially corrupt judges. In its response to the DSS, the NJC argued that the security agency’s petitions did not comply with the NJC’s Judicial Discipline Regulations of 2014.

The documents can be read below:

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Arrest of the Untouchables, By Olusegun Adeniyi

Following allegations of corruption, there was a massive arrest of Judges in Indonesia in May this year. But it was not a big public issue, essentially because the country has a history of dealing with such cases. For instance, in July 2014, Indonesia’s anti-corruption court sentenced the former head of the country’s Constitutional Court, Akil Mochtar, to life imprisonment for bribery and money laundering. Mochtar was found guilty of accepting more than US $3.37 million in bribes to tamper with the results of no fewer than 10 local elections while serving as head judge; and with laundering more than US $15.2 million from 2002 until his arrest in October 2013.

Interestingly, in the same October 2013 that the Indonesian top Judge was ending his career in bribe-taking, police in Colombia swooped on two judges and nine judicial officers. While Judge Francisco Javier Borbón was accused of accepting a bribe of US$2,600 to change the sentence of a man convicted of embezzlement from home detention to parole, a second judge, Ricardo Rodriguez, was accused of negotiating freedom for criminals also in exchange for bribe. In the United States, Senior District Judge Jack T. Camp was in 2010 arrested for allegedly using cocaine, marijuana and other illegal drugs with an Atlanta stripper. In January 2013, nine traffic court judges in Philadelphia were also arrested on charges of conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud, perjury, making false statements to the FBI and aiding and abetting.

There is hardly any country in the world where Judges are not under serious scrutiny. In February last year, Bosnia’s State Investigative and Protection Agency arrested Azra Miletic, a judge of the Appeal Department of the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina, for allegedly taking a bribe. In September 2012, Giancarlo Giusti, an Italian anti-mafia judge bagged a four-year imprisonment for accepting luxury hotel stays and the services of Eastern European call girls – all paid for by the mafia. Described by the prosecutor as being “obsessed with sex”, Giusti was found guilty of receiving 70,000 Euros in cash and kind (including what was described as “notte di amore”—nights of passion in the arms of prostitutes) from the ‘Ndrangheta mafia of Calabria.

While many judges have been arrested, tried and convicted for corruption in Bulgaria, the 2010 coordinated action against a municipal judge, Slavcho Petkov, should teach our authorities some lessons about sting operations. A convicted thief had been told the price of his freedom by the corrupt judge but the convict could only make part payment with a pledge to settle the balance later. Following a tip off, the police were monitoring the negotiations and had supplied the bribe money in marked bills. The judge was picked up at 11pm on 20th October 2010 inside a parked vehicle, as he was handed the loot!

The cases in India were similar. In September last year, two lower court judges were arrested on charges of taking money to settle cases, having been caught on camera negotiating the bribe. Five months earlier in April, following another sting operation, the Anti-Corruption Bureau arrested a judicial officer at a railway station while accepting a bribe from an advocate seeking job as a public notary.

In an August 2012 verdict which upheld the compulsory retirement of a District and Sessions Judge, the Indian Supreme Court ruled that the standard of conduct expected of a judge is much higher than that of an ordinary person. The said judge was working with a lawmaker to expunge some adverse court records, a conduct described as “most reprehensible” by the Indian Supreme Court which stated: “His conduct has tarnished the image of the judiciary and he disentitled himself from continuation in judicial service on that count alone. A judge, like Caesar’s wife, must be above suspicion. The credibility of the judicial system is dependent upon the judges who man it. For a democracy to thrive, every judge must discharge his judicial functions with integrity, impartiality and intellectual honesty.”

What the foregoing says quite clearly is that while judges are accorded the utmost of respect in the discharge of their onerous responsibility, those among them who cross the boundaries of legality are also usually treated like common felons in most countries. And to the extent that the judicial arm of government has been marred by several allegations of corruption in our country, it is no surprise that many people would hail the current exercise that puts a spotlight on the conduct of judges.

For a long time in Nigeria, there has been this notion that once you wear the robe of a Judge, you are above reproach no matter how notorious you are. It is almost as if we have conferred on our Judges immunity to commit all manner of egregious infractions. Not anymore. That for me is the import of the “shock therapy” applied last week by the State Security Service (SSS). All those cash-and-carry Judges (and interestingly, Nigerians actually know many of them) who trade in spurious injunctions would by now know that the market is over and that there are consequences for their actions. That is good for the health of our society.

Before I continue, let me reiterate, as readers of this column will attest, that I am always protective of the judiciary. That is despite the fact that if you reside in Abuja, easily the global headquarters of rumour mongering, you cannot but hear disturbing tales about some of our judges. In our country today, many politicians not only have their personal lawyers, they also have their personal judges. Yet, my main point has always been that except the authorities can isolate, investigate and bring to justice these ignoble characters, we should not destroy the entire institution with allegations not backed by credible evidence. As bad as the situation may seem, many of our judges are actually honest people who are being sullied by the antics of a few bad eggs, some of whom may have handled high-profile political cases.

It is therefore for that reason I feel very worried about the manner in which the State Security Service (SSS) went about its assignment as well as what could become an undue politicization of the entire process, if care is not taken. Midnight arrests and the kind of brigandage reported in Port Harcourt were unnecessary. These judges could have been formally invited for interrogation and if they failed to report, they could have been quietly picked up in their courts. And it doesn’t help that some of the judges involved have had issues with the SSS that is fast assuming a notorious reputation for lawlessness in the discharge of its duties.

We must make it clear that at all times, and in all circumstances, agents of state should never behave like licensed thugs. I subscribe to the position of the much respected Professor Fidelis Oditah, QC, SAN, that “the manner of the arrests and attempted abduction represents the height of impunity and breakdown of law and order” and that the rule of law must prevail. In the examples I cited above, there was no recourse to the use of brute force; due process of the law was applied in dealing with the crooked judges and the same could have been done here.

Therefore, I will like to admonish the media to be careful in the kind of information they dish out, especially about people who may not be able to defend themselves in the public space. It would be very wrong to damage the reputation of these judges on the basis of hearsay from “anonymous” sources. They deserve to be given fair hearing and that can only happen if they are not pronounced guilty even before a court trial where evidence should be presented to prove the cases against them. But that is not to say that there is no value in what the SSS has done.

President Muhammadu Buhari came to office with a promise to fight corruption and this may very well be a defining moment for him, essentially because the fight against graft is impossible in an environment where judges are on the take. That is why the president has to be firm, fair and even-handed in the manner in which this matter is handled and the communication of the efforts must be strategic because propaganda, which seems to be the default mode of this administration, will be counter-productive. And the trial of the judges must be prompt in order to posit an antithesis to what is currently wrong with our system while sending a signal that when Nigerians go to court to seek equity, they will no longer be frustrated by the antics of some corrupt judges.

However, to the extent that many people can read between the lines about the fact that the SSS investigations arose from tribunal cases that did not go the way of the ruling party, efforts must also be made to ensure that the pro-APC crooked judges, and there are quite a few of them, are not spared. That is the only way the current arrest and trial of judges on allegations that border on abuse of office can signal a serious commitment to institutional reform by the Buhari presidency rather than another partisan agenda to deal with the opposition.

Meanwhile, I have read the misgivings of the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN); the interventions by the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) leadership and the first reaction by the National Judicial Commission (NJC). But, I am sorry to say, they are part of the problem because they failed to deal with the rot. Where notorious judges have been identified in the past, all the NJC ever did was to recommend them for retirement, no matter the level of the complicity of those judges in criminal matters. That is not the way a self-respecting institution that is meant to be at the epicenter of justice in our country should treat those among them who violate the law they expect others to uphold.

In a recent report titled “Go home and sin no more: Corrupt judges escaping from justice in Nigeria”, SERAP disclosed that no fewer than 64 judges were disciplined between 2009 and 2014 for corrupt practices. “During this period, the NJC concluded at least 105 cases of alleged corruption allegations/misconduct against judges”, said SERAP executive director, Mr. Adetokunbo Mumuni who argued that not handing over such Judges for prosecution “has left a destructive gap in judicial accountability in Nigeria, and resulted in other agencies of government with no mandate, expertise and experience in the field, getting involved in the efforts to combat judicial corruption.”

It is sad that it has to come to this but by using “esprit de corps” to shield crooked judges from being treated like the criminals that they are, the NJC, and to a large extent, many of our senior lawyers, have unwittingly helped to damage the institution. While I understand the point being made about the judiciary being a separate (and very important) arm of government that needs protection, I take solace in the words of a former Indian Chief Justice that “in the hierarchy of values, judicial integrity is above judicial independence.”

President Buhari’s Pathetic Book

Conceived in September 2015, with the foreword written by Lt. General Theophilus Yakubu Danjuma (rtd) in July this year, “Muhammadu Buhari: The Challenges of Leadership in Nigeria”, probably took about six months for John N. Paden to write. And, I am sorry to say, this is a rather unserious literary work. Aside the fact that you don’t write the biography of a man like President Muhammadu Buhari within so short a period, this effort is, to put it mildly, very poor.

However, to the extent that it was authorized not only by Mr. Mamman Daura, “a senior adviser of Buhari”, as the author described him, but also by the president himself, then we have to take the account seriously. Therefore, since it is almost like the president telling his own story, those who have problems with the narrative should know where to direct their anger. In fact, Paden made it clear that “this book is based largely on public sources, but has benefited enormously from the full cooperation of President Buhari himself”.

What that means in effect is that the president must have read the manuscript and approved of the entire account before its publication. That, for me, is where the problem lies because if he read the manuscript and approved of the content, President Buhari has done incalculable damage to himself. Since most people, including those who are up in arms against the author, have probably not read the book, let me help them by reproducing the portion that riles the All Progressives Congress (APC) national Leader, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu:

“The APC nominating convention was held in Lagos later in December, in a stadium that could hold the eight thousand local-level delegates. Buhari was overwhelmingly nominated—by nearly 90 percent of the delegates—in large part because delegates saw him as their best hope for change. Kwankwaso was a distant second, followed by Abubakar. The next decision for the convention was who to select as the party’s vice presidential nominee. With Buhari coming from the North West zone, the vice presidency had been ceded to the South West.

“Tinubu, former governor of Lagos State and the political ‘godfather’ of the South West zone, felt he should be the vice presidential candidate. His protege and the popular governor of Lagos State, Babatunde Fashola, was also a possible candidate. Both Tinubu and Fashola were Muslims, which complicated the national balance. A third candidate, Yemi Osinbajo, had been attorney general of Lagos State and was a senior professor and a Christian pastor. When these three names were forwarded to Buhari, he chose Osinbajo, despite enormous pressure from Tinubu….”

That is what Paden wrote which is now causing problem and I can also attest to the fact that it is a grossly inaccurate account because that was not what happened. But before I continue, let me point out a few other fallacies in the book that contains so many gaffes. The author says Buhari won the APC primaries by a margin of 90 percent. A simple Google would confirm the president actually won the December 2014 presidential primaries of the APC with 57 percent of the votes. Then Paden says: “President Jonathan had signed a pledge in 2011 to run for only one term”. I am sure if we ask the author to produce such a document he cannot; because it doesn’t exist.

However, what worries me is the fact that because the book is authorized by the president and has also been written by a renowned American scholar, it is most likely to be a reference point for researchers on Nigeria who will believe what is written therein. That is why it is a disservice to our country.

Perhaps the most egregious claim in the book is this statement: “Despite some last-minute interruptions by Jonathan supporters at INEC headquarters, plus rumours of a takeover by military and security forces to prevent violence, (INEC chairman, Prof. Attahiru) Jega announced the result that Buhari had won….Faced with these results, would Jonathan concede, or challenge the results in courts, where his influence was strong? Several former African heads of state, who had monitored the election for the African Union, held private meetings with Jonathan. They insisted, for the sake of democracy in Africa, that he accept the results. In addition, there was considerable international pressure on Jonathan, including by the Archbishop of Canterbury and western diplomats…”

This is a pure work of fiction that had no semblance to what happened and is most unfair to President Goodluck Jonathan. The concession and the telephone call to Buhari were done before INEC announced the result many hours later. While my book will deal with what happened between April 28 and May 31 (because it is an area on which I have spoken extensively to many of the principal actors), I don’t think President Buhari read what he is marketing because if he did, I doubt if he would also discredit himself in his own book.

In an interview published in the July edition of Azu Ishiekwene’s magazine, ‘The Interview’, President Buhari, in explaining why he was toppled by General Ibrahim Babangida in December 1993, said: “I learnt that Aliyu Gusau, who was in charge of intelligence, took import licence from the ministry of commerce which was in charge of supplies and gave it to Alhaji Mai Deribe. It was worth N100,000, a lot of money at that time. I confronted them and took the case to the Army council in a memo…I wanted Gusau punished.”

However, in Buhari’s book, this is how the author, who happens to be close to members of the Northern establishment, reframed the issue: “Later, General Aliyu Gusau, who had been director of military intelligence under (President Shehu) Shagari and had been brought back in that position by the Buhari team, would argue that Buhari’s coup had been funded by practices such as the sale of import licenses by senior military officers—although this was unknown to Buhari himself at the time.”

The implication of what Paden wrote is that the money Buhari was complaining about was actually used to stage the coup that brought him to power!

To be sure, only one chapter, the eighth one, titled “The challenges of electing a new president”, was devoted to the 2015 election and of the 16 pages, four are devoted to a rehash of a New York Times article. What that means is that the book is really not about Buhari’s ascension to power as president. But several questions beg for answers: Why would a president who has spent only about one and a half years in power be interested in writing the story of his stewardship? What exactly is the purpose of this book that was hastily put together and betrays an abysmal lack of rigour? And assuming he wants his story told, why would the president choose someone who lives thousands of miles away from the Nigerian reality?

The trouble with Parden’s book on Buhari is typical of what is generally wrong with the current administration: an embarrassing lack of attention to details and painstaking authenticity. In a way, the blithe that bedevils this book may be the same devil that smuggled paragraphs of Mrs. Michelle Obama’s speech into that of our president at the launch of ‘the change begins with me’.

In all, it is a matter of grave concern that a president haunted by serious issues of governance would inflict Paden’s lazy narrative on himself and our country.

Meanwhile, seven new offerings (from 2001 and 2002) have been uploaded on my web portal, olusegunadeniyi.com, for the reading pleasure of those who follow this page.

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Revealed: How NJC Aided The Arrest Of Seven Judges

As mixed reactions continues to trail the arrest of Judges by the Department of State Security Service (DSS), indications have emerged that the action of the Nigerian secret police was actually bolstered by the attitude of the National Judicial Commission (NJC).

Critics have opined that the DSS ought to have sought the consent and intervention of the NJC before arresting the judicial officers over crimes bordering on corruption and professional misconduct, a position that human rights lawyer, Effiong Inibehe disagrees with.

Inibehe said the NJC cannot and should not usurp the constitutional cum statutory functions of the law enforcement agencies to investigate crimes, arrest, detain or prosecute any person, including judicial officers, for alleged crimes.

But giving details into events that led to the arrest, a top Security said is quoted as saying that the arrest of the judges took a dramatic turn weekend because of the National Judicial Council (NJC) refusal to allow the DSS question the affected judges.

The weekend raid 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.”

He said the graft investigation against the judges “started some seven months ago, precisely in April 2016.”

Meanwhile, the DSS has released the seven Judge arrested during a nationwide sweep between Friday and Saturday.

They were reportedly released Sunday night on personal recognition.

“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.”

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BMSG Tackles NBA Over Search, Arrest Of Judges

Following the arrests of some justices of the Supreme Court and judges of the High Court by the Department of State Security, at the weekend, the Buhari Media Support Group strongly flays the Nigerian Bar Association for threatening to boycott the courts and issuing a deadline to the DSS for the release of the judges.

The BMSG notes in a statement signed by its coordinator, Malam Muhammad Labbo and secretary, Cassidy Madueke that the DSS followed due process and rule of law in carrying out the arrests, as they had valid and legally-issued search warrants before embarking on the assignment.

The BMSG states that the DSS followed the provisions of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015 to the letter in every move they made.

The group further notes that no judge in Nigeria is granted immunity by the 1999 Constitution as amended, and like in other democratic climes, the security agencies can arrest and prosecute judges who have fallen outside the favour of legally-accepted conduct.

The call by the NBA for a state of emergency and the ultimatum to the President Muhammadu Buhari to “call his security agencies to order” does not only tantamount to impeding the anti-graft war of the administration, but also amounts to shielding suspects from facing the law against the ethics and obligations of the legal profession.

As a responsible organisation, it is expected that the Nigerian Bar Association will be in the forefront in educating Nigerians on the legality and propriety of the DSS action, and lend their total support to the reformation and cleansing of the Nigerian judiciary as it will ultimately serve the general good.

According to the group, this is a fight against corruption and not against the judiciary as an institution.

The group reminds that among others, President Buhari was elected with the core mandate to rid Nigeria of corruption and we must lend our unalloyed support to enable him succeed.

The BMSG commends the DSS for diligently executing their constitutional responsibilities within the ambit of the law.

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Arrest Of Judges: Rivers Police Commissioner To Be Sanctioned For Aiding Wike

Commissioner of Police, Rivers State Command, Mr. Francis Odesanya, is under fire for his role in the aborted arrest of a judge of the Federal High Court, Port Harcourt, in the early hours of Saturday, The Punch learnt on Sunday.

The Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, was said to have rushed to No. 35, Forces Avenue, the GRA official residence of the judge and prevented operatives of the Department of State Services from arresting the judge..

A highly-placed source, who spoke to The Punch on condition of anonymity, on Sunday, said preliminary report had shown that Odesanya prevented the security agencies from carrying out a legitimate order.

Based on the report, he said the police authorities as well as the Police Service Commission would sanction the police boss.

He, however, did not disclose the kind of punishment to be meted out to him.

The source stated, “The Rivers Commissioner of Police will be dealt with appropriately. It has been established that the DSS officials who were at the judge’s residence had with them duly signed search and arrest warrants.

“By stopping the security agents from doing their work, what he did was to obstruct justice. He stopped those people from carrying out a legitimate order.

“He will be sanctioned accordingly.”

The Public Relations Officer, Rivers State Command, Mr. Nnamdi Omoni, had told journalists that policemen were only at the judge’s residence to ensure there was no breakdown of law and order.

It was also learnt on Sunday that no fewer than 15 judges across the country were under investigation by the DSS.

It was gathered that the DSS was investigating the judges based on various petitions, which accused them of corruption.

A top Federal Government official, who confided in our correspondent on Sunday, said the 15 judges included seven that were arrested on Friday and Saturday.

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.

It was gathered that besides the judges, the DSS had invited three court registry staff across the country as part of the investigations into the alleged corruption in the judiciary.

“Currently, we are investigation 15 judges, including the seven that were arrested. Three court registry staff have been invited and quizzed. We have facts and figures,” the source stated.

The government official faulted a claim that the DSS acted unilaterally without carrying along the National Judicial Council.

He stated that the Service sent letters to the NJC and the Ministry of Justice concerning the investigations of the judges.

According to him, while the ministry responded, the NJC did not respond, adding that the DSS did not dramatise the arrest of the judges as alleged.

The government official also explained that the fact that the judges were under the authority of the NJC did not exclude them from investigation and prosecution.

He stated, “They have no immunity. Even those (governors), who have immunity, can be investigated. There are many professional groups, including the Nigeria Union of Journalists; if you commit a crime, besides facing disciplinary actions from your union, you should be investigated and prosecuted according to the law of the country.”

The source further explained the constitutional mandate of the DSS, adding that the service had not intervened in what did not concern it by investigating the judges.

Giving an insight into the allegation against some of the judges, he alleged that some of them received bribes to compromise judgments.

He also cited the case of a judge who had a N1.5bn estate, alleging that granting of bails to defendants had been turned into an avenue for making money by some judicial officers.

It was learnt that the government was not happy with way the police handled the investigation into the alleged Senate forgery involving the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, and his deputy, Ike Ekweremadu.

Source: Punch

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Arrest Of Judges: Corruption, Not Judiciary Under Attack – Presidency

President Muhammadu Buhari has made his first official reaction to the arrest of seven senior judges between Friday night and Saturday morning.

Mr. Buhari said the raids on the judges’ residence by the State Security Service, SSS, was an assault on corruption and not on the judiciary.

Seven judges, including two of the Supreme Court, were arrested in the raids, condemned by lawyers and rights groups, and are expected to be charged to court from tomorrow.

The president in a statement by his media adviser, Garba Shehu, described the raids as ‘surgical’ saying due process was followed in the arrests.

“The Presidency has received assurances from the DSS that all due processes of the law, including the possession of search and arrest warrants, were obtained before the searches,” he said.

Read Mr. Shehu’s full statement below:

The Presidency assures that the President reserves his highest respect for the institution of the judiciary as the third arm of government.

To this end, the President will not do anything to undermine its independence.

President Buhari remains a committed democrat, in words and in his actions, and will not take any action in violation of the constitution.

The recent surgical operation against some judicial officers is specifically targeted at corruption and not at the judiciary as an institution.

In a robust democracy such as ours, there is bound to be a plurality of opinions on any given issue, but there is a convergence of views that the country has a corruption problem that needs to be corrected.

But reports by a section of the media are giving us cause for concern.

In undertaking the task of reporting, the media should be careful about the fault lines they open. It is wrong to present this incident as a confrontation between the executive and judicial arms of government.

The Presidency has received assurances from the DSS that all due processes of the law, including the possession of search and arrest warrants, were obtained before the searches.

To suggest that the government is acting outside the law in a dictatorial manner is to breach the interest of the state.

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NBA Declares State Of Emergency Over Judges’ Arrest

The Nigerian Bar Association on Saturday declared a state of emergency in the judiciary following the midnight arrest of some judges by the Department of State Services.

The declaration of the state of emergency was made on Saturday evening in Lagos by the NBA President, Abubakar Mahmoud (SAN).

Mahmoud addressed the press alongside four past presidents of the association – Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), Dr. Olisa Agbakoba (SAN); Mr. J.B. Daudu (SAN) and Augustine Alegeh (SAN).

Others in attendance at the declaration, which held at Eko Hotel, Victoria Island, were Prof. Kayinsola Ajayi (SAN), Mr. Yusuf Ali (SAN), Mr. Dele Adesina (SAN), among others.

Mahmoud said two Supreme Court justices, Inyang Okoro and Sylvester Ngwuta were “abducted”, with their families, adding that he had yet to have the full detail of other judges who could have been involved.

Mahmoud said the NBA condemned what it termed the Gestapo-style operation of the DSS.
He announced the constitution of an emergency or crisis management team, comprising past NBA presidents to engage with the government.

Mahmoud, who said it was not the responsibility of the DSS to arrest judges, described the DSS action as an unconstitutional means of intimidating the judiciary and undermining its independence.

The NBA President called on President Muhammadu Buhari to order the immediate release of the arrested judges, vowing that there would be consequences should the demand be ignored.

Mahmoud said, “I want to emphasise again that we are not under military rule and we cannot accept this unholy event and Gestapo-style operation.

“We, therefore, call on President Muhammadu Buhari to immediately caution all the state security agencies and to respect the rule of law and to respect due process.

“Any issues affecting the judicial officers, there are established procedures for handling them and we demand that this constitutional process must be obeyed.

“Given the unfolding nature of the event and the seriousness of the situation, the NBA hereby declares a state of emergency as it affects the affairs of the judiciary and I hereby constitute a crisis management team, comprising all past presidents of the association.

“I want to, on behalf of the association, make the very following clear and unequivocal demands: we demand the immediate and unconditional release of all the judges abducted from about 9pm yesterday (Friday).

“The release must be done immediately and without any conditions. Two, we demand that the Department of State Services should limit itself to its statutory and constitutional responsibilities.

“I’ll be meeting with the CJN later tonight or tomorrow. There will be consequences should these demands are not met.”

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Police, SSS Operatives Reportedly Manhandles Governor Wike As Arrest Of Judges Continues

Rivers state governor, Nyesom Wike was reportedly manhandled by operatives of the Nigerian Police and the State Security Service in Portharcourt for attempting to prevent them from arresting a judge.

The DSS had gone berserk with a clampdown on judges across the country.

Multiple sources said the clampdown began in Gombe State where the SSS arrested Muazu Pindigi who served on the elections tribunal in Rivers State.

The operation continued in Abuja on Friday night into early Saturday morning.

In Abuja, the SSS stormed the the home Nnamdi Dimgba and Adeniyi Ademola, both of the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court, in their official residences located inside Apo Legislative Quarters, Abuja.

Mr. Ademola was later arrested in the early hours of Saturday while Mr. Dimgba’s brother was assaulted by the operatives.

Both judges are neighbours on Samuel Ogbemudia street of the Apo quarters.

The official quarters of Walter Onoghen, who was recently recommended to President Buhari as the next Chief Justice of Nigeria, and Sylvester Ngwuta also of the Supreme Court were besieged by the SSS for several hours overnight.

In Rivers state, the officers reportedly stormed the home of the judge, whose identity Mr. Wike withheld, at 35, Forces Avenue, Port-Harcourt, the state capital.

A statement by Mr. Wike’s spokesman, Oraye Francis, said the operation was led by the Rivers State Commissioner of Police, Francis Odesanya, and the Director of SSS, Tosin Ajayi.

The operatives, “rough-handled Governor Wike, pushing him around and injuring his hand,” Mr. Francis said. “A few of the operatives cocked their rifles and threatened to shoot the Governor.”

No reason has been officially given by the SSS for Saturday’s raids and the agency currently has no spokesperson.

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Stella Oduah Loses Bid To Stop Arrest, Prosecution

A Federal High Court in Abuja on Wednesday declined the request of former Aviation Minister, Stella Oduah, to stop the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the police from investigating her tenure between 2011 and 2015 and prosecuting her.

Justice Adamu Kafarati held that the fundamental right enforcement suit by Mrs. Oduah lacked merit and bereft of any cause of action.

He upheld the objection raised by the respondents, to the effect that the court lacked the requisite jurisdiction to hear the case, which subject matter was outside the ambit of Chapter Four of the Constitution.

In the suit, the former aviation minister, urged the court to declare illegal the alleged plot by the respondents to arrest, investigate and prosecute her  in relation to her activities while in office, particularly the purchase of two armoured vehicles estimated at N255million.

The purchase of the bullet proof vehicles by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) while Oduah was in office attracted public criticism over allegation that the prices were inflated.

Oduah argued that the criminal allegations relating to her tenure as minister had been investigated by the EFCC and House of Representatives Committee on Aviation, which both absolved her of any wrongdoing.

She urged the court to declare that, having earlier been exonerated, any further investigation, arrest, harassment and prosecution of her person in relation to the same issue, amounted to the invasion of her fundamental right to personal liberty, freedom of movement and to be presumed innocent until proved guilty.

The 52-year-old, who currently represents Anambra North in the Senate, prayed for an order prohibiting the respondents from inviting, arresting, otherwise harassing or prosecuting her over the matter.

Respondents in the case were the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF), EFCC, the Inspector-General of Police (IGP) and the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC).

Justice Kafarati, in upholding the preliminary objection by the AGF and the IGP, agreed with them that Oduah could not come under the fundamental rights procedure to seek the reliefs she sought.

He said the subject matter of the case was not a fundamental rights issue.

The judge agreed that the former minister cannot seek to restrain statutory bodies from performing their statutory responsibilities through a fundamental rights enforcement application.

He held that the case was without merit and dismissed it.

Oduah had in August lost her son, Maxwell Etoromi, to brain hemorrhage at an Abuja hospital.

Sources claim the deceased was given the wrong medication after he had his tooth pulled, creating complications that ultimately led to his death.

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