As judges arrested by the Department of State Services (DSS) penultimate week are arraigned over alleged corruption and false assets declaration charges, an elder statesman, Chief Ayo Adebanjo and Jiti Ogunye as well as the Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO) have said graft pervades the judiciary and the Presidency.
Speaking on StandPoint, a political programme on Television Continental (TVC), in Lagos yesterday, Adebanjo traced the problem of the judiciary to the military era when judges were given luxury vehicles even as he said the DSS acted within its mandate in arresting the judges on alleged corruption charges.
Adebanjo also reiterated that cash-for-justice had long been the mainstay in the judiciary, while Ogunye said the National Judicial Council (NJC) does not have the power to prosecute corrupt judges.
Said Adebanjo: “From day one, I have said there are so many good judges in Nigeria and there are so many good lawyers in Nigeria. It is only a small clique that are corrupt and are corrupting the entire system.
“I never imagined this would happen in my life! As soon as they started having judges appointed into election petition tribunals, I saw the worst thing to have happened to Nigeria.
“On interlocutory injunctions, judges will take money from right, left and centre and at the end of the day, they will give it to the highest bidder.
“Now, I am convinced beyond reasonable doubt and nobody has challenged me, quite a number of our judges today are behaving like one-chance armed robbers because when they are appointed into these election tribunals, they collect as much as they can…
“Lawyers do not denigrate the judiciary, we want the best for it, but we are not having the best times at all. Remember, the military laid down a terrible onslaught against the judiciary.
“The process of appointments into the high bench has been fraught with a lot of terrible policy measures. It has always been a reward for loyalty and sympathy; either to a military administrator or the man at the centre. This judges never knew how to stand for the people or support the government of the day.
On his part, Ogunye said since the NJC is not a law enforcement authority, the DSS stepped in, having acted on several petitions against some of the arrested judges.
Some people that are saying the DSS’ actions are justified have been harassed by the same DSS in the past! They had no reason to say that what they did was justified. The DSS had harassed Falana in the past and this had nothing to do with ‘they said something yesterday…! You cannot trivialise it like that!
“I talk about the law…as at today, in this country and challenge anybody to say anything to the contrary, the NJC’s principal responsibility is about the appointment of judges and the administrative regulation of their conduct. Whether what they did or didn’t do amounts to misconduct simplicity or gross misconduct and so, did they award the punishment ranging from warning, suspension to recommendation for removal from the bench which the executive would accept and here, I reference section 292 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), first part of the Third Schedule, paragraph 20-22, sections 153, 158 and 160 of the same Constitution. That is their responsibility.
“Because of the intelligence required and because of the secretive nature of that operation, carried out by a secret service; because we are talking here about the third arm of government, people forget that the Judiciary is not just the Judiciary. The judiciary is also an arm of government. It is also an arm of government…”
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