Barring any last minute change, the Department of State Security Service (DSS) has concluded plans to arrest eight more judges in the coming days, in its bid to rid the judiciary of corruption.
According to a source at the DSS, who made this revelation yesterday, the Service currently has seven judges in its custody, who were arrested in a series of string operations in the early hours of Saturday.
The source said 15 judges are currently under investigation by the DSS, which has got incriminating documents on them.
The DSS source also disclosed that the seven judges arrested will be charged to court any moment, even as the Service plans to release them today when investigation and interrogation are concluded.
Speaking on the bribe allegations against the judges, the DSS said it had enough evidence to prosecute the case in the court of law and prove that the judges were actually involved in some corrupt practices.
The seven judge currently being interrogated by the DSS over corruption allegation include; Justices Inyang Okoro and Sylvester Ngwuta of the Supreme Court; Adeniyi Ademola of the Federal High Court, Abuja; Kabir Auta of the Kano High Court; Muazu Pindiga of the Gombe High Court, Mohammed Tsamiya of the Court of Appeal in Ilorin, and the Chief Judge of Enugu State, I. A. Umezulike.
As at last night, the arrested judges were still at the DSS custody.
It was gathered that the families of the affected judges have been allowed access to them, even as the judicial officers are making useful statements in the course of interrogation.
One of the new set of justices targeted for arrest is a Supreme Court Justice.
Gun-wielding DSS and police operatives had on Friday night and in the early hours of Saturday swooped on the residences of senior judges, breaking doors and threatening to harm their family members and aides.
The Judges affected in the raids carried out in Abuja, Port Harcourt and Gombe States were of the Supreme Court and Federal High Court.
At least two of the Justices were said to have recently ruled against the DSS and condemned its disregard of the laws of the land during its operations.
The arrested Judges are Justice Sylvester Ngwuta (Supreme Court); Justice John Okoro (Supreme Court) and Justice Adeniyi Ademola of the Federal High Court in Abuja.
DSS Arrest Of Judges: Judiciary Under Attack — PDP
The opposition, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), yesterday, declared that Nigeria is sliding into fascism, describing the raid and arrest of some senior judges by the Department of State Services (DSS) in the early hours of last Saturday as an attack on the judiciary.
While describing the invasion of the Judges’ private residences as a gestapo style operation the PDP added that the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration has shown no desire to respect the pillars of our democracy, but preferring an autocracy without checks and balance.
According to a statement by the spokesman of PDP, Prince Dayo Adeyeye, since the constitution has established the National Judicial Council (NJC) and empowered it to regulate and discipline judges across the Country, “the proper path to follow to discipline erring judges will be to forward a petition containing any wrong doing to the NJC along with any evidence in support thereof.”
The statement further read in part: “This invasion is the latest in a series of actions taken by the President Muhammadu Buhari administration which reveal its disregard for the rule of law and its abject disdain for the Principle of Separation of Powers.
“This inexorable slide into fascism began with the invasion of the Akwa Ibom State Government House by the self-styled DSS, the continued detention of several people despite Courts ordering their release, the invasion of the Ekiti State House of Assembly and detention of Hon. Akanni Afolabi and the invasion of the Zamfara State House of Assembly.
“This slide into fascism has included a sustained attack on the leadership of the National Assembly as President Buhari has sought to break its independence and make it a rubber stamp to suit his will.
“It is worthy to note that NEVER in the history of our Country has any President attacked the Judiciary in such a manner. Even the late dictator – General Sani Abacha, whose regime is remembered by many as the second worst regime in Nigerian history, did not carry out such Gestapo style attacks on the members of the Judiciary.
“By bringing this attack to the Judiciary, President Buhari has shown that he has no desire to respect the pillars of our democracy. He has shown his desire to kill off our democracy and convert it to an autocracy without checks and balances.
“The government has no regard for the rule of law. They do not care about Court Orders. This Government has disregarded the Orders of the ECOWAS Court and every other court in the land and continue to detain Dasuki illegally. They continue to detain hundreds of Nigerians without bringing them to trial and against valid Court Orders.
“For the avoidance of doubt, the Constitution in Section 153(1)(i) and Part 1 of the Third Schedule thereto establishes the National Judicial Council (NJC) and empowers same to regulate and discipline judges across the Country. The proper path to follow to discipline erring judges will be to forward a petition containing any wrong doing to the NJC along with any evidence in support thereof.
“The path not to follow is this Gestapo style invasion in the middle of the night that involves the use of sledgehammers to breakdown gates and front doors for DSS to gain access to the homes.
“Nigerians can no longer afford to stand aside and watch the Buhari Administration destroy the foundations of our democracy that we have built for several years. Nigerians have a duty to speak out against this sort of tyranny.”
Narrating what transpired the party added “Sometime in the early hours of October 8th, 2016, men of the Directorate of State Security (DSS) carried out Gestapo like invasion on the homes of a number of Justices of the Supreme Court of Nigeria and the Federal High Court.
“The affected Justices of the Supreme Court were, Sylvanus Ngwuta and Inyang Okoro. The affected Judges of the Federal High Court were Muazu Pindiga, Adeniyi Ademola, Abdullahi Liman and Nnamdi Dimgba.
“At this time, Justices Ngwuta and Okoro of the Supreme Court and Justices Adeniyi and Pindiga have been abducted and detained. Justice Dimgba only escaped abduction because he was not at home at the time. Justice Abdullahi’s abduction was prevented by the timely intervention of Governor Nyesom Wike, who insisted on the observance of the rule of law and the application of due process.
“Governor Nyesome Wike was assaulted by the men of the DSS during his intervention causing him to sustain injuries on his arm. At a point, an officer pointed a fully cocked gun at him and threatened to shoot him.
“The invasion was carried out between 0100hrs and 0500hrs in the early morning using hundreds of fully armed men of the DSS. During the invasion, the Justices were manhandled and members of their families as well as their household staff beaten up.”
Corruption, Not Judiciary Under Attack- Presidency
The Presidency has said the recent clampdown on some members of the judiciary should not be misinterpreted as an affront on the judiciary.
The senior special assistant media to the President, Garba Shehu assures that the President reserves his highest respect for the institution of the judiciary as the third arm of government.
To this end, Shehu noted that the President will not do anything to undermine its independence.
According to him, President Buhari remains a committed democrat, in words and actions, and will not take any action in violation of the constitution.
He said “The recent surgical operation against some judicial officers is specifically targeted at corruption and not at the judiciary as an institution.
“In a robust democracy such as ours, there is bound to be a plurality of opinions on any given issue, but there is a convergence of views that the country has a corruption problem that needs to be corrected.
The Presidential spokesman, decried that reports by a section of the media are giving them a cause for concern.
In undertaking the task of reporting, Shehu said, the media should be careful about the fault lines they open noting it is wrong to present this incident as a confrontation between the executive and judicial arms of government.
“The Presidency has received assurances from the DSS that all due processes of the law, including the possession of search and arrest warrants were obtained before the searches.
“To suggest that the government is acting outside the law in a dictatorial manner, is to breach the interest of the state,” Shehu stated.
Judges arrest: SERAP Demands Unconditional Release
A Civil society organisation, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) yesterday prevailed on President Muhammadu Buhari to order the immediate and unconditional release of Nigerian judges arrested early hours of Saturday by operatives of the Department of State Services.
SERAP, which also threatened to take legal action, both locally and internationally, if its demands are not met, also demands a thorough, transparent and impartial investigation to be conducted into the attacks and perpetrators punished.
The organisation made these demands in a open letter it wrote to the President which was also copied to Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, and Ms Monica Pinto, UN Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers.
In the letter, signed by SERAP’s Executive Director, Adetokunbo Mumuni, the organisation stated that the development is a blow on the independence of the judiciary and a dangerous precedent that should not be allowed to stand. It also insisted that while it fully supported Buhari’s anti-corruption war, it viewed the clamp down on judges as chilling and that if allowed to stand, it would make judges susceptible to pressure from the executive as well as spell the final collapse of judiciary’s independence.