president buhari
president buhari

NATIONAL Judicial Council NJC has drawn a battle line with the presidency and the Department of State Security (DSS) following the agency’s recent arrest of nine judges for alleged corruption insisting that no Judicial Officer is going on suspension or investigated. NJC challenged that if the security agency has any documentary evidence and proof, it should forward it to the Council before any action will be taken. Describing the recent arrest of judges as a mere intimidation and desperate measures to cow the judiciary, the council maintained that it will not t suspend six of the judges contrary to the expectation of the DSS except the remaining three who had earlier been recommended for suspension by it for misconduct. Already Justice Ademola Adeniyi and Justice Dimgba Nnamdi accused the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice Abubakar Malami, SAN, and the DSS of personal vendetta based on the previous judgement they gave against Malami as a private lawyer practising in Kano and judgement against DSS in favour of Dasuki and other rulings. The two Justices of the federal High court Abuja made their position known in a letter they both wrote to the CJN Justice Mahmud Mohammed in respect of their recent of arrest. The council, insisted that the DSS should provide evidence of its allegations of corruption against the judges before any official sanction can be taken against them a situation believed to be delaying their arraignment in court. The two Supreme Court Justices – Justices Sylvester Ngwuta and Inyang Okoro – who were among those arrested and granted administrative bail by the DSS have already gone back to their duty posts while the NJC has formally written a letter to President Muhammadu Buhari seeking the confirmation of Justice Walter Onnoghen as the next Chief Justice of Nigeria. Justice Mahmud Mohammed it was learnt, forwarded a separate letter to the President detailing the ordeal of arrested judges whilethe NJC at its meeting in Abuja last week insisted that the DSS must follow due process in its handling of the allegations against the judges. Those under investigation apart from Justices Ngwuta and Okoro are the suspended Presiding Justice of the Court of Appeal, Ilorin Division, Justice Mohammed Ladan Tsamiya; Justice Adeniyi Ademola (Federal High Court); suspended Chief Judge of Enugu State, Justice I. A. Umezulike; suspended Justice Kabiru Auta of Kano State High Court; Justice Muazu Pindiga (Gombe State High Court); Justice Bashir Sukola and Justice Ladan Manir, of the Kaduna State High Court. The NJC had earlier recommended Tsamiya, Umezulike, Auta for suspension ahead of their removal from office with Auta who was, in addition, recommended for prosecution. A highly placed source in NJC told Nigerian pilot during the weekend that: “The Council has decided not to suspend the six judges until due process is followed and there is evidence from the DSS on the allegations against them. “We will not shield any corrupt judge but the DSS should write formally to the NJC with necessary evidence and we will call an emergency meeting to consider the allegations against the judges. “You cannot build something on nothing. We have established rules and regulations for disciplinary action against judges. “As a matter of fact, when the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Mahmud Mohammed met with President Muhammdau Buhari last (penultimate) Saturday, the President was alleged to have asked him: ‘Do you think I can do a thing like that?’ He also asked the CJN to put his complaint into writing.” The source said the CJN has already written a letter to the President on the ordeal of the judges and the need for due process in line with the mandate of the NJC in the 1999 Constitution. The source confirmed that Justices Ngwuta and Okoro had resumed work at the apex court, adding: “If not for the DSS directive that they should be reporting daily, they would be having their normal sitting in court.” Meanwhile, the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami yesterday asked the two judges accusing him of being behind their travails in the hands of the Department of State Security Service, to go to
court to prove their claims against him. Malami, who spoke through his Media Adviser, Comrade Salihu Isah, said the claims were afterthought and wondered why the judges did not bring the allegations up until the raids on their homes by the DSS. Justices Adeniyi Ademola and Namdi Dimgba are accusing Malami of vendetta against them for entering verdicts the minister did not like and have asked the Chief Justice of Nigeria to grant them leave to sue Malami and DSS over raids on their homes. In another development, a legal practitioner, Mr. Olukoya Ogungbeje has dragged President Muhammadu Buhari to court, accusing him of violating rights of judges whose houses were raided by operatives of the Department of State Service, DSS. In a N50bn suit he entered before the Federal High Court in Abuja, the Lagos based lawyer, he cited the DSS and its Director- General, Mr. Lawal Daura, as defendants. Other defendants in the suit marked FHC/ ABJ/CS/809/16, were the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN, the Inspector-General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, and the National Judicial Council, NJC. The plaintiff contended that the arrest and detention of the judges without recourse to the NJC, was not only unconstitutional, but also aimed at ridiculing the judiciary arm of government. According to him, the action of the DSS was in gross violation of rights of the judges as enshrined in sections 33, 34, 35, 36, and 41 of the 1999 Constitution, as amended. Consequently, Ogungbeje who Instituted the action on behalf of five out of the seven judges whose homes were “invaded” between October 8 and 9, sought ten separate reliefs from the court, including award of N50billion as general and exemplary damages against the defendants, as well as another N2million as cost of the suit. Besides, the plaintiff prayed the court for an order compelling the DSS to return to the judges, money that were seized from their homes. As well as to make an order of perpetual injunction restraining the defendants from arresting, inviting, intimidating, or harassing any of the judges about the matter .

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