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Sunday, 6 November 2016

Bribery allegation: Judges kick against NJC decision

Ade Adesomoju

Two of the judges who were recently arrested and later released by the Department of State Services on corruption allegations have expressed dissatisfaction over the decision of the National Judicial Council asking them to stop sitting until the conclusion of the cases against them.

Three out of the seven indicted judges had been suspended by the NJC and recommended for sacking by either President Muhammadu Buhari or their state governors over various acts of misconduct before the raid on their houses by DSS operatives took place on October 7 and 8.

Two out of the four others who are still in service have expressed dissatisfaction over the decision taken by the NJC on Thursday.

One of them who spoke with SUNDAY PUNCH in Abuja, on the condition of anonymity because judges are under judicial oath not to speak to the press, noted that the decision of the NJC was unnecessary since almost all the affected judges had voluntarily withdrawn from sitting.

The judge said, “Up till now, there is no official communication from the NJC.

“Before now, all the affected judges had voluntarily stopped sitting. So, what is the need for the statement released by the NJC? It’s quite unnecessary.

“But we will still be waiting to see what happens next.”

A close ally of another judge also expressed the dissatisfaction of the judicial officer to our correspondent.

The friend to the judge said, “He (the judge) did not expect it. It was not as if the DSS showed any evidence backing its allegations against the judges to the NJC.
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“Bear in mind that virtually all the serving judges among those affected have disqualified themselves from further sitting, you then ask the question, what is the basis for the decision NJC took?

“We hope that there will be official communication from the NJC that will better clarify the issue.”

NJC sources however explained that the affected judges, who are still in service, were not on suspension.

The source said, “Contrary to what was widely reported, the judges are not on suspension. If they are on suspension, they will not be taking salaries and they will not be allowed to go to their various offices. Don’t forget that the NJC is responsible for paying the salaries of all judges.

“But in this instance, they will still be collecting their salaries and they will still be going to their offices. The only thing is that they will not sit or preside over cases.”

The NJC had on Thursday barred judges who are under investigation for various corruption allegations from sitting until the cases against them are concluded.

The NJC’s latest decision appeared to be a compromise reached after weeks of resisting calls from various quarters, including the Nigerian Bar Association, to suspend the affected judges or compel them to withdraw from further sittings until they were able to clear their names.

The NJC said in a statement signed by its Acting Director, Information, Mr. Soji Oye, on Thursday, that it took the decision at its 79th meeting.

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