Buhari appoints two Supreme Court Justices
SENATE yesterday joined many other groups to condemn what it called “the draconian manner” in which men of the Department of State Services, DSS, invaded the residences of some judges and arrested them last Saturday. It equally resolved to amend the laws that established some security outfits in the country, including the DSS. This is even as President Muhammadu Buhari sent the names of Justices Sidi Dauda Bage from Nasarawa State and Paul Adamu Galinje from Taraba State to the Senate for confirmation as justices of the Supreme Court. Adopting a motion raised via matter of urgent national importance raised by Senator Joshua Ledani (PDP, Gombe State), the Senate said it would continue to support the efforts to eliminate corruption from Nigeria because of the harm it is doing to the country. It also urged President Buhari to call all security agencies to order and direct the full observance of the rule of law in the discharge of their duties. The Senate is of the view that the DSS went beyond its bounds when it usurped the powers of the National Judicial Council, NJC, which had the statutory powers of handling matters of misconduct and indiscipline against judicial officers. The upper chamber noted that the act of breaking into the residences of judicial officers at night with chisel and hammer was one that had further worsened the image of Nigeria among the comity of nations. The Senate warned against such actions that could erode the confidence in the judiciary, pointing out that turning the law upside down to fight corruption was an act of corruption in itself. Ruling on the prayers of the motion, Senate President Bukola Saraki said: “Yes, we must eradicate corruption in all spheres of our society and this is a matter that we must continue with. I think the National Assembly has been playing its role to continue to support government in its fight against corruption. “We must ensure that this fight against corruption is within the rule of law; any act of anti corruption that goes against the rule of law does not help the corruption fight. “That is why this action as has been seen in this manner is condemned by the Senate and all agencies of government must ensure that they act within the rule of law,” he said. Senate minority leader, Senator Godswill Akpabio while making his contribution said the current anti- corruption war had painted former governors as corrupt people and warned that such toga should not be extended to the judiciary. Akpabio said: “We know that there is separation of powers. That is why in the judiciary we have NJC. This is a very touchy issue and so many people run the risk of making comments and having security agents surround their houses tomorrow. That is when many of them have gone out to urinate. “We must not speak from both sides. While supporting the fight against corruption, we must bear in mind the need to safeguard our democracy. Today, it is hard for a former governor in Nigeria to be respected outside Nigeria. They believe that every former governor is corrupt. “They have extended the toga to the judiciary and this means a lot. It means people will not take seriously any judgement from our courts. If this government fails, it means we have all failed. We have to advise the government on what it must do. I am very worried about the method. We must speak out. If we do not speak up and we think it is okay, one day the rain will fall on another roof.” Suleiman Hunkuyi from Kaduna State insisted that every agency of government created by law must operate within the ambit of the law. He argued: “This chamber and the National Assembly from which this status of the DSS originated must call on other agencies to remain within the mandate provided by law. The fight against corruption is for every patriotic Nigerian. The National Assembly cannot provide the law with one hand and look the other way. “Every agency should operate within the ambit of the law. This misnomer that has now emanated provides the National Assembly the opportunity to stress that corruption has assumed a new dimension. However, nobody will justify the procedure or method used in prosecuting corruption. “We must not forget the fact that the country is run under the principle of separation of powers. The judiciary needs to be independent in order to safeguard the sanctity of the country’s democracy.” Chairman, Senate Committee on Anti-Corruption and Financial Crimes, Senator Chukwuka Utazi from Enugu State, for his part said the invasion had painted Nigeria before the international community as a country that does not respect the rule of law. “This last weekend was the most difficult the country has had. My spirit is very hurt. I can feel the pulse of Nigeria over what has happened. I do not know how the international community will see us after this. It appears the DSS is following the body language of the president of this country rather than follow the rule of law. “To go in the wee hours of the morning and use force to break into a judge’s house is condemnable. The whole world is watching the Senate to see how we will react. This is pure dictatorship and it should not happen. Enough is enough! This is unguarded dictatorship. We should not treat this issue lightly. “We have always condemned corruption in this eighth Senate. The NJC has powers in doing what the DSS is doing right now. To take this approach the DSS is taking is condemnable.” Also contributing, Senator Bala Na’Allah from Kebbi State called for caution, urging his colleagues to investigate the alleged invasion before taking a final position on the issue. “The massive support of Nigerians to change government in 2015 was because of their belief that corruption will be fought. I am saying this to buttress the fact that the National Assembly is fully in support of government’s efforts to fight corruption. “There is a reason why the discipline of judges is domiciled with the NJC. If the framers of our constitution thought it wise to deal with the issue of judiciary misconduct, we should respect it. Something somewhere has gone wrong. I will reluctantly support the move that we should condemn it.” Presenting his motion earlier, Senator Lidani said: “The Senate notes with dismay and disapproval the recent criminal invasion, assault, intimidation, indiscriminate arrest and harassment of serving judicial officers by the operatives of Department of State Services in a widely reported national operation. “The Senate is also invited to note that the DSS in a press briefing held on Saturday claimed that the affected judicial officers were arrested based on allegations of corruptions and other forms of misconduct, matters which are under the constitutional responsibility of the National Judicial Council as set out in paragraph 1 part 1 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. “Be also aware that it is on record that the NJC under the leadership of his lordship, Hon. Mahmud Mohammed, CJN, GCON, has been credibly discharging its constitutional responsibility of exercising disciplinary control over judicial officers as a result of which a number of judicial officers found wanting in the discharge of their duties were recommended for various disciplinary measures, including dismissal.” Citing the National Security Agency Act, Lidani said that “the DSS has abandoned its primary responsibility of prevention, detection of crimes against internal security as stipulated under the national security agencies Act and now veer into arbitrary arrest of judges contrary to processes and procedures on discipline of judicial officers as applied under paragraph 1 part 1 third schedule to the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. “The general duties of the national security agencies, subsection 3, says that state security services shall be charged with the responsibility for (1) The prevention and detection within Nigeria of any crime against internal security of Nigeria. 2. The protection and preservation of non-military classified matters concerning the internal security of Nigeria,” Lidani observed. In his contribution to the motion, Senator Dino Melaye (APC, Kogi West), who seconded the motion, said “while I support the fight against corruption, it is a misnomer; it is absurd for the Department of State Services to operate outside their mandate. “The responsibility of the State Security Services is clearly defined in the National Security Agencies Act 2010, Cap 350, which states clearly that the state security services shall be charged with the responsibility for the prevention and detection within Nigeria of any crime against internal security of Nigeria. I emphasise: the ‘Internal Security of Nigeria. “The second responsibility as enshrined by the law setting up the DSS states that the protection and preservation of non-military classified matters concerning, again, the internal security of Nigeria,” Melaye noted.