The Legal Defence and Assistance Project (LEDAP) has condemned the plan by the Senate Committee on Judiciary to summon the judges who were recently arrested by the DSS.
LEDAP’s National Coordinator, Mr Chino Obiagwu, in a statement on Sunday, notes that the legislature has no oversight power over judicial officers under the constitutional principle of separation of powers in sections 4, 5 and 6 of the 1999 Constitution.
Mr Obiagwu explained that it is only the National Judicial Council (NJC) that has the power of control and discipline of judges and justices of superior courts in Nigeria.
“Any interference by the legislature or the executive into the conduct of judges in carrying out their judicial functions will amount to unlawful interference with the independence of the judiciary.
“The 1999 Constitution, unlike the legal framework of past military regimes, has consolidated the independence of the judiciary and established the NJC as the only body responsible for management of the judiciary,” he stated.
The statement further reads in part: “LEDAP is concerned that the recent raid and arrest of judges and justices by the DSS, and continued assault and raid on judges by other agencies of the executive, have the effect of opening up the judiciary to unlawful and unconstitutional interference and intimidation by other arms of government, the reason for which the Senate has the temerity to speak about inviting judicial officers for questioning.
“LEDAP will shortly approach the courts to seek orders restraining any such invitation or summon of the arrested judicial officers as it amounts to attempt to brow-beat and intimidate the judiciary.
“There are a lot of corruption issues and corrupt politicians in the legislature and executive which should preoccupy the Senators.
“The scandal arising from the padding of the budget, which has been going on for many years in the legislature with connivance of the executive, as well as bogus and secretive huge allowances and emoluments claimed by legislators are more damaging economic crimes against the Nigerian people that the Senate should address rather than intimidating few judges alleged to be corrupt.
“There are several court orders directing the National Assembly to disclose salaries and emoluments of its members, and details of constituency allowances claimed yearly by legislators. It has refused to obey these judgements of the courts.
“Nigerian legislators, adjudged as the most corrupt and most expensive in the world, has no legal or moral right to superintendent over alleged corruption in the judiciary.”
LEDAP called on the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) to resist attempts by the executive and legislature “to control and manage the judiciary” as such situation will on the long run denigrate the judiciary and legal profession and threaten the rule of law.