FG Appeals Case Against Justice Ademola, Others

Adeniyi Ademola, Court, Joe Agi, Olabowale AdemolaThe Federal Government has filed an appeal against the decision of Justice Jude Okeke of the FCT High Court, upholding the no case submission in the corruption case against Justice Adeniyi Ademola; his wife, Olabowale, and Mr Joe Agi.

It was also gathered that the government, through the Ministry of Justice, has also filed a fresh case against Justice Ademola and his wife, this time in the Code of Conduct Tribunal, for allegedly living above their means and failure to declare their assets.

Justice Okeke had on Wednesday struck out the 18-count charge preferred against the three defendants, ruling that the prosecution failed to prove any of the allegations against them.

According to the judge, some of the charges do not meet constitutional standards and, in his words, no court can base its judgement on speculation.

The Presidency is however, said to have considered Justice Okeke’s judgement as a strange outcome which is capable of undermining the war against corruption.

The Department of State Services had accused Justice Ademola of receiving 30 million Naira from a senior lawyer, through a Guarantee Trust Bank account allegedly operated by his wife, a former Head of Service in Lagos State.

Reps Open Investigation Into DSS Arrest Of Judges

House of Representatives in Nigeria kick against removal of JegaThe Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) on Wednesday appeared before a House of Representative committee to brief it on the raid and arrest of some judges by operatives of the Department of State Services.

Responding to questions on the issue, the Chairman of the CCB said the State Security Service (SSS) had the power to arrest, investigate and prosecute corruption cases in Nigeria.

He told the ad-hoc committee of the House of Representatives investigating the arrest of the judges that the operatives were right in arresting the judges on allegation of misconduct and corruption.

The Attorney General of Rivers States, Emmanuel Aguma, who was also at the briefing, however, insisted that the actions of the SSS contravenes the laws of Nigeria

Officials of the State Security Service, had on Saturday, October 8, 2016 raided the homes of some judge and subsequently arrested some of them. After their arrests the security agency said they were fingered for misconduct and corrupt practices.

Only a few of those invited were at the event. the only judge present made a very brief speech while addressing the committee led by Honourable Garba Muhammad.

The hearing, however, got heated when it was the turn of the Chairman of the Code of Conduct Bureau, Mr Sam Saba.

After nerves were calmed, the committee told the gathering that it had received written statements from some of the judges involved in the matter and that it is expecting that the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation will appear before the committee in the course of its sitting.

One of the judges is already facing trial over allegations of corruption.

He has denied the claims, pleading not guilty in court.

Judges Arrest: FG Files Charges Against Justice Ademola

Justice Adeniyi Ademola chargedThe Nigerian government has filed a 15-count criminal charge against Justice Adeniyi Ademola of the Federal High Court and his wife Mrs Olabowale Ademola.

Justice Ademola was one of the serving judges who was arrested on October 8 by operatives of the Department of State Services (DSS).

The criminal charge which was filed at the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, alleges that the duo committed the offences between February 2014 and June 2016, contrary to Section Eight of the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission Act and section 115 of the Penal Code Law.

The Federal Government in the charge alleges that the judge and his wife received 30 million Naira from one Mr Joe Agi and Associates between March 11 and 26, 2015 and another 40 million Naira between February 20 and 21, 2014.

According to the prosecution, Justice Ademola on May 6, 2013 also received $520,000 and six million Naira from one Johnson and Johnson Solicitors.

Justice Ademola was alleged to have accepted 55.650 million Naira from Mrs G.T. J. Ademola and Company between January 5 and June 23, 2016.

The prosecution further alleged that Justice Ademola on February 20, 2014 accepted 34 million Naira from one Omotayo Babafemi Aliyu and 4.771 million Naira from one Lawan Sulaiman between February 21 and November 7, 2014.

After the raid and arrest of some judges the DSS said they were involved in corrupt practices.

Corrupt Judges: Blame FG, Governors, CJN Tells SERAP

CJN, Recession, Nigeria, Mahmud Mohammed, judiciaryThe Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Mahmud Mohammed, has said that the “the failure on the part of the Executive Arm of Government to act upon recommendations by the National Judicial Council (NJC) cannot be blamed upon the NJC”.

Justice Mohammed made the statement in a letter dated 26 October 2016 and sent to Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP).

The letter by a spokesman for the CJN, H. S. Sa’eed was in response to SERAP’s request to Justice Mohammed that he should, as the Chairman of the NJC to “take over from the Department of State Service (DSS) the cases of all the seven judges released by the DSS and refer the cases of those judges to anticorruption agencies for conclusion of investigation and prompt prosecution”.

But the CJN in reaction told SERAP that, “certainly, you will agree with me that where there are clear constitutional provisions relating to the power of any individual, institution or Arm of Government, then it cannot deviate nor exceed such powers as this will be unlawful”.

The letter by the CJN read: “While restating the willingness of the NJC to act upon any petition as well as commitment of the Nigerian judiciary to the fight against corruption, his Lordship opines that any significant involvement in the fight against corruption will be upon a similar commitment of the Prosecutorial Agencies to actively prosecute their cases expeditiously when information about same is received.

“It is necessary to restate that the NJC is a creation of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria (as amended) being established under Section 153 with its mandate clearly set out in Para 21, Part One of the Third Schedule to the Constitution. This provision clearly stipulates at Para 21(b) and (d) that the Council may only ‘recommend’ to the President and the Governors, the removal from office of Judicial Officers and to exercise disciplinary control over such Judicial Officers, which in effect is the extent of its power to discipline. Hence, the Council cannot, suo moto dismiss any Judicial Officer.

“The NJC can also neither ‘hand over corrupt judges to law enforcement agencies for prosecution nor recover proceeds of corruption, as you have suggested. It can merely recommend to act upon its findings, as it has always done.

“However, in exercise of its constitutional mandate, the NJC has enacted the Judicial Discipline Regulations, 2014 in order to ensure that petitions are received, investigated and addressed as appropriate. As SERAP’s own Report attests, 64 Judicial Officers have been disciplined within five years even preceding the institution of the new guidelines. Any failure on the part of the Executive Arm of Government to act upon such recommendations cannot therefore be blamed upon the NJC.

“With due consideration to the contents of your letter, I am directed to acknowledge and address the concerns which SERAP have raised, which may reflect the wider opinion held by some Nigerians. While his Lordship doubtless appreciate SERAP’s concern for the incidence of corruption in the judiciary, it is indeed erroneous to conclude that the NJC has ‘felt satisfied with applying only civil sanctions and have not deemed it fit to hand over corrupt judges to law enforcement agencies for prosecution nor recover proceeds of corruption’, as insinuated in your letter under reference.

“To be sure, every citizen of Nigeria inclusive of Judicial Officers, are entitled to the protection of the law and a key provision of the Constitution is the presumption of innocence, as enshrined in Section 36(5) of the Constitution (as amended). I must also remind us that the Seven Judges like all other persons are entitled to a fair hearing as stipulated in Section 36 of the Constitution. As such, it would be presumptive and indeed preemptive to sanction the said judges without exhausting the proper procedure for their removal.”

“As a valuable member of the society, the Hon. CJN is certainly delighted with SERAP’s dedication to justice, fairness and justness. His Lordship also wishes to emphasize that it is indeed our collective responsibility to tackle any perceived challenges facing the Nigerian judiciary.”

“Indeed, with the support of well-meaning and eminent Nigerians such as members of SERAP, giant strides will be made towards reaching the goal of a transparent, fair and equitable system of justice. The Hon. CJN wishes you the best in your future endeavor as SERAP strives to support and entrench good governance in Nigeria”.

SERAP’s Executive Director, Adetokunbo Mumuni, had in a letter written to the NJC on October 11 expressed serious concern that “the NJC has for many years failed to appropriately deal with several cases of corrupt judges by failing to refer those cases to the EFCC and ICPC for prosecution. Many of these suspected corrupt judges are still alive and their cases should be promptly referred to the anti-corruption agencies. The NJC under your leadership should seize the opportunity of the just released 7 judges to comprehensively address corruption in the judiciary”.

SERAP said that it believed that “the NJC is in the best position to tackle corruption within the judiciary, and to ensure the application of appropriate disciplinary and legal measures in the cases of the released seven judges and other judges suspected of engaging in corruption”.

Lawyers Seek Investigation Into Allegations Of Rights Abuse In The Judiciary

Judges, NJC, NBA, investigationA group of lawyers are still kicking against the arrest of judges by the operatives of the Department of State Service (DSS) and the continued detention of Nigerians who have been granted bail by various courts.

The lawyers under the auspices of Lawyers in Defence of Democracy staged a protest on Monday in Abuja.

In a protest letter, the lawyers called on the National Judicial Council and the Chief Justice of Nigeria to direct all judges in the country not to hear any applications from the DSS and other agencies, except bail applications until there is obedience to all pending orders against them.

They alleged that there was continuous abuse of Nigeria and disregard for the rule of law and asked the National Human Rights Commission to investigate their claims.

Channels Television’s correspondent, Amaka Okafor, reports that the lawyers carrying placards were joined by musical groups.

The spokesman for the group, Kenga Ugochiyere, decried what he called disrespect for the judiciary by agencies of government, pointing out that it is not good for the country’s democracy.

“To ensure the independence of the judiciary the national judiciary must take a stance,” he stressed.

At the office of the National Human Rights Commission the group raised issues of abuse of court orders, citing persons that have remained in detention in spite of getting bail from the court.

After they tabled the issues, the Executive Secretary National Human Rights Commission, Professor Bem Angwe, assured them that the commission would look at their request and act accordingly.

This protest comes days after another group threw its weight behind the department of state services for the raid of judges‘ homes across the country.

LEDAP Sues DSS, AGF Over Arrest Of Judges

judgesThe Legal Defence and Assistance Project says it has filed a suit against the Department of State Services and the Attorney General of the Federation over the arrest and arraignment of some judges.

LEDAP is asking the Federal High Court, Abuja to declare as unlawful the raid and arrest of judges by the State Security Services, and to grant an order to stop the planned charge and arraignment in court of some of the arrested judges over allegations of corruption.

The group claims in the suit that the judges cannot be charged and arraigned in court without the authorization of the National Judicial Council.

In a motion on notice for interlocutory injunction filed at the Federal High Court Abuja ion Tuesday, LEDAP is asking the court for “an order restraining the DSS and AGF from filing any charge in court or arraigning before any court or arresting and/or detaining, inviting for questioning or searching the office or residence of any of the judicial officers or any other judicial officer in Nigeria unless with the authorization and referral of the National Judicial Council…”

In the originating summons filed along with the motion for injunction, the non-governmental organization asked the court to declare that the statutory functions of the DSS is the prevention and detection of crime against the internal security of Nigeria.

The organization argues that the DSS is not authorized to effect the arrest of the judges under the law setting it up – the National Security Agencies Act.

It added that the arrest and arraignment of the judges by DSS is “ultra vires and unlawful.”

In a press release signed by the National Coordinator and Lead Counsel of LEDAP, Chino Obiagwu, the organization also wants the court to order the DSS to “forthwith cease, terminate, and withdraw any charge, information, arrest or invitation of any of the judicial officers.”

The court is yet to fix a date to hear the suit.

LEDAP Condemns Senate’s Decision To Summon Judges

LEDAP, Senate, JudgesThe 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.

Senior Nigerian Lawyers Back NBA’s Leave Suggestion For Arrested Judges

Abubakar-Mahmoud-NBA-President on arrested judges
President of the Nigerian Bar Association, Abubakar Mahmoud, had condemned the arrest of the judges

The body of Senior Advocates of Nigeria has endorsed the recent call by the President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Abubakar Mahmoud, for the arrested judges to proceed on a leave of absence pending when they are cleared of all the allegations made against them.

The body met in Lagos on Saturday to review and endorse all actions taken by the NBA’s president so far on the incident.

Mr Mahmoud had said that the request was in order to protect the sanctity and integrity of judicial processes that may involve the judges concerned and to safeguard the public image of the institution.

He said that the recommendation was without prejudice to the innocence or otherwise of the judges involved in the ongoing investigations.

The National Judicial Council (NJC) had said on Saturday that it had opened investigation on complaints against the arrested judges, but that it had not received any complaint from the Department of State Services that arrested them.

“They should be required to recuse themselves from further judicial functions or required to proceed on compulsory leave until their innocence is fully and completely established or until the conclusion of all judicial or disciplinary proceedings,” Mr Mahmoud had insisted.

Channels Television’s judiciary correspondent, Shola Soyele, reports that even though the meeting of the body of senior advocates was not open to journalists, those in attendance included the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, former presidents of the Nigerian Bar Association and other senior advocates.

Also in attendance was President Mahmoud’s main challenger in the July 2016 NBA presidential elections, Joe-Kyari Gadzama.

It is the first time the candidate is meeting with Abubakar Mahmoud after he assumed office as the 28th president of the NBA, giving an indication that despite the differences, the senior advocates are united in their stance on the efforts to fight corruption in the judiciary.

The body also reaffirmed its support for the NBA in its efforts to fight corruption in the bar and on the bench.

The NBA recently set up a task force to urgently review the current developments in the country and come up with clear specific recommendations on how best to clean up the nation’s judiciary and rebuild confidence of Nigerians in our law courts.

The report of the task force is to be submitted in the next two weeks.

On Friday, however, the NJC disagreed with the NBA on the alleged corruption case against some judges.

The NJC dismissed the call by the NBA for the judges under investigation to proceed on compulsory leave until their innocence is fully and completely established or until the conclusion of all judicial or disciplinary proceedings.

It said that it would be unlawful for it to yield to the call by the NBA, as “that position breaches the 2014 revised judicial discipline regulations formulated by NJC pursuant to section 160 of the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as amended”.

Several judges were few weeks ago arrested by security operatives of the Department of State Services and the Nigeria Police Force on allegations of corruption and misconduct.

They were released on recognition few days after their arrest.