Friday, 14 October 2016

Corruption: Security to quiz several lined up judges

Scurity agencies are set to quiz 30 more judges on alleged corruption charges.
The judges, Daily Sun gathered, would be picked up across the country.

A security source told Daily Sun, yesterday, that “there is no letdown on the crackdown on alleged corrupt elements in the Judiciary. We have, at least, 30 more judges on our radar. They will be picked up anytime from now because we have concluded background checks on all of them and we have since discovered that they have some questions to answer.

“Since we picked up some of their colleagues last weekend, petitions have been rolling in against some of them. There is an avalanche of petitions against those that have been picked up and even against those that are pencilled down to be picked up anytime from now.”

In a nationwide crackdown, last weekend, operatives of the Department of State Services (DSS) arrested some judges who allegedly took bribe to subvert justice in their rulings on the 2015 general elections.

The arrests started in Kano and Gombe states, last Friday. Some senior judges in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, were arrested, alongside two Supreme Court Justices, Sylvester Ngwuta and John Okoro. Justice Adeniyi Ademola and his colleague, Justice Nnamdi Dimgba were affected.

Also arrested  was Justice Muazu Pindiga, of the Federal High Court, Gombe State. Justice Pindiga served on the Election Petition Tribunal in Rivers State.

Attempts to arrest Justice Liman in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, was thwarted by Governor Nyesom Wike.

Regardless, the DSS said large sums of money, in various denominations of local and foreign currencies, were recovered from the homes of the judges, including banking documents.
It was alleged that N1 billion cash was recovered in the house of Justice Ademola in both local and foreign denominations in addition to banking documents and real estate documents, during the exercise.

Justice Dimgba, a newly appointed judge of the Federal High Court, from Abia State, has been having a running battle with the DSS over the trial of retired Air Commodore, Mohammed Umar.
Umar was arraigned before his court over allegations of fraud, illegal possession of firearms and abuse of trust.

Although he was granted bail with N100 million bond, he is still being held by the DSS.
Irked by the conduct of the DSS, Justice Dimgba had, in his ruling, ordered the DSS to release Umar or risk being committed by his court.

He further threatened to stop entertaining any case by the DSS unless they complied with orders of his court.
In a swift reaction, the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) declared a state of emergency in the Judiciary and ordered the DSS to release the judges.
They were released same night and ordered to report to the DSS everyday, pending their arraignment next week.

The NBA also slammed the security agency on the manner of arrests.
At a press briefing in Lagos, NBA President, Abubakar Mahmoud, in company of  four past presidents of the association – Chief Wole Olanipekun, Dr. Olisa Agbakoba; Mr. J.B. Daudu and Augustine Alegeh, described the action of the DSS as unconstitutional and added that it was not the duty of the DSS to arrest judges.

On Monday, the National Judicial Council (NJC) summoned an emergency meeting to deliberate on the arrests as well as discuss the appointment of Justice Walter Onnoghen as the next Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) following the impending retirement of the incumbent, Justice Mahmud Mohammed.

Same day, at a valedictory session held in honour of retiring Justice of the Supreme Court, Justice Suleiman Galadima, the CJN described the action of the DSS as saddening, regrettable, distressing and unfortunate.

“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 security agencies to respect the rule of law and due process. (For) any issues affecting judicial officers, there are established procedures for handling them and we demand that this constitutional process must be obeyed,” the CJN said at the session.

But, Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC), Prof. Itse Sagay and Information and Culture Minister, Alhaji Lai Mohammed insisted judges have no immunity from arrest.

Sagay added that “cash now dictates justice in the country” and that the country’s Constitution does not confer such privilege on judges.

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