A detailed presidential legal review of the action taken last week by the Department of State Services leading to the arrest of two Supreme Court Justices and other judges from federal and state jurisdictions have indicated that the DSS acted in accordance with the extant laws and legal provisions in the land including that the agency has policing powers of its own.
The legal review, a report now under active consideration in the presidency, checked on every aspect of law involved in the raids-sting operation- and arrests including a review of the new Administration of Criminal Justice procedures, issue of search warrant, the role and place of the National Judicial Council among several others.
In its conclusion, the review report affirmed that “the actions of the DSS in the arrest and search of the premises of Judges and Justices can be placed firmly within the ambit of the law, sentimental and emotional considerations notwithstanding.”
This is coming on the heels of comments by a retired Supreme Court Justice Samson Uwaifo that “A corrupt judge is more harmful to the society than a man who runs amok with a dagger in a crowded street.
He said “If a judge is corrupt, he is no longer a judge, he is a thief and therefore he should be treated as such, according to the law and sent to jail,” adding that focus should be placed on how to eradicate corruption from the judiciary. “The substantive issue is corruption. Is it true that these people are actually corrupt and that huge sums of money were found in their place?
“If that is so, the question of the procedure that was taken would be a secondary thing, adding that if wrong, the DSS can be punished for what it did, while focus is kept on the outcome of the DSS action. The retired Supreme Court Justice also lampooned the National Judicial Commission for recommending that corrupt judges be retired rather than outright dismissal.
The presidential legal review added that it is “pertinent to note that Nigeria is not the first country to investigate and prosecute Judges that are suspected of commission of acts of crime.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in the United States of America (a body similar to DSS) has at various times, prominently in January 2013, May 2014, and November 2015 arrested a number of Judges for bribery, corruption and other similar offences; subjected the Judges to trial at the end of which the convicted Judges were imprisoned. Nearer to home, neighbours like Ghana and Kenya had also cleansed their respective judiciaries through investigation and prosecution of Judges suspected of commission of corruption.”
A presidency source involved in the review added that while a particular federal judge had alleged that he signed at gunpoint, what really happened was that the judge was not arrested until his lawyer came on the scene on his request and affirmed that the search warrants were in order.
Besides the source added that while some of the judges in their statements said the foreign currencies found on them were from their unspent estacode, a claim said to be untenable considering the sums of money involved, another judge was said to have explained the huge sums of money away as proceeds of his rice selling business.