The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) and the National Judicial Council (NJC) have recently engaged in share deception and intimidation of Nigerians, where they have limited or no powers at all as both organs claimed. For the avoidance of doubt, no one is above the law. It doesn’t matter, judges or none must be subjected to the whims and caprice of the laws of the land, no matter how highly placed.
The NBA and the NJC lack moral and statutory grounds and/or justification to issue such an intimidating and threatening statements against the Nigerian state, just to protect the interests of a few, in the name of safeguarding the independence and sanctity of the judiciary as an arm of government. Instead the duo should be seen to be just and fair in their dealings with Nigerians, irrespective of professional background or party affiliations, for the society look up to both the Bench and the Bar for guidance, protection, hope and direction.
Having given a preamble to the matter/issue at hand, I would like to outline the limit of the powers of both the NBA & NJC as follows:
A- The law says, no individual/ person including Judicial officers enjoy immunity against search, arrest, investigation and/or prosecution, so long as there is an allegation of a crime against him/her, except the President/Vice President, Governor/Deputy Governor
B- Both the NBA and the NJC have no powers to stop a search, arrest, investigation and prosecution of any Judicial officer, on whose head lie an allegation of a crime.
C- The NJC is primarily responsible for the appointment, discipline/punishment of Judicial officers who are found in breach of judicial ethics and privileges and where it involves a crime, the Nigerian State reserves the right to prosecute the erring officer.
D- All Agencies of government with powers of prosecution like the EFCC, ICPC, DSS, the Police, CCT and the specific Courts are strictly guided by the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA 2015) as the procedural laws.
E- The ACJA 2015 has provided no time limit /frame about when, where or how a person can be arrested, which means a person can be arrested any day, anytime, anywhere.
F- A prosecution agent/law officer has the power to break into and out of any house to effect an arrest of a suspect who refused to let the arresting officer into his/her house. Section 12 (2) &13 ACJA.
G- A private person may arrest a suspect and hand him/her over to the prosecuting authority. Section 23 ACJA.
H- A warrant of arrest may be executed on any day, including Sundays and public holidays. Section 43(1) ACJA.
I- An arrest may be effected notwithstanding that the person making or effecting the arrest isn’t in possession of an arrest warrant, but can show the Warrant as soon as it is practicable. Section 44 ACJA.
J- A search warrant can be executed by anyone to whom it is directed. Section 147 ACJA.
K- A search warrant may be issued and executed at anytime of the day, including Sundays and Public holidays. Section 148 ACJA.
And by our laws, an evidence of a criminal offence obtained through other means can be admitted in evidence where relevant.
I will conclude thus:
Where was the NBA when the likes of Hon Justice Ayo Salami were forced out of office simply because they refused to be a party to fraud, abuse of office, corruption and dance to the tune of the then powers that be?
Where was the NBA when judges were giving conflicting judgements on similar issues?
Is it a deliberate attempt to shield the alleged corrupt judges from arrest, investigation and/or prosecution because the leadership is equally a party to corruption and corrupt practices as demonstrated by some of them just recently?
Have the arrested judges been charged or pronounced guilty of any crime by any body?
Is the leadership of the NBA afraid of what may befall it afterwards or against the fight on corruption, corrupt practices and individuals embarked upon by the present administration under President Muhammadu Buhari, just because he refused to patronise corrupt lawyers and judges, who hitherto enjoyed the full patronage of his predecessors? No wonder it is said “ Corruption fights back”
Both the NBA and the NJC ought to have waited patiently for the outcome of the DSS investigation and/or prosecution before issuing any statement or taking any action/position. This is to my mind the right approach to the matter at hand to avoid being laughed at, criticised or even degraded by the Nigerian public and safeguard what remains of the judiciary’s battered image as seen and believed by the Nigerian people and not to engage in an unnecessary and unjustifiable threats and intimidation against the Nigerian State and it’s people—after all none is above the law.
For their information, majority of our lawyers and the people will eternally stand by the truth and we are watching the trends of events as they unfold. We will not hesitate to raise our pen in defence of what is right, proper and true, any day, anytime and anywhere.
— Barr Mustapha is principal partner of Reputation Law Chambers and national coordinator, Arise Nigeria