Judges’ Lifestyle Not Proof Of Corruption – Muyiwa Sobo

Legal practitioner Muyiwa Sobo says one’s lifestyle, regardless of how extravagant it is, is not proof of corruption.

He said this while responding to suggestions that the judiciary may not be cooperating with the Federal Government’s anti-graft war.

Recalling the instance of the raid on judges in October 2016, Mr Sobo who was against the action of the Department of State Services, explained that when a raid is conducted outside the provisions of the law, the cases cannot be prosecuted successfully.

He said, “When you conducted those raids outside of what is normal within the law, you cannot expect to win those cases. I think it was one of the government officials who came and said, ‘We have been watching these people and we are going after them because of their lifestyle’. Lifestyle is not proof. That is why I said those cases will not go far, those judges will be acquitted.

He said this while speaking on Channels TV’s Sunrise Daily, days after six of the eight judges, whose homes were raided, were recalled by the National Judicial Council (NJC) after being suspended from carrying out their judicial duties.

“The judiciary has a job to do, to adjudicate, rule on cases – there is no co-operation that is required in that. If the government or the prosecutor brings in an iron-clad case, you have credible witnesses, you have evidence that can be admissible in front of the court, what the court would do is look at those things and issue a judgement.

“You don’t go into court and expect the court to rule on your behalf because you expect the judge to cooperate,” the lawyer added.

Furthermore, he stressed that there is a difference between the judiciary cooperating and the judiciary being corrupt.

“If you think the judiciary is corrupt then do something about the corruption but don’t base your cases on the fact that the judiciary is corrupt. It’s not all judges that are corrupt, by the way, and when you talk about judicial corruption, you have to hold people accountable, you have to show examples.

“Do due diligence in presenting your case, prosecute your case.

“I was reading in the newspapers this morning where the representative of the EFCC was saying our job is to investigate and charge people to court. No, you don’t have to stop there, you have to prosecute and you have to prosecute vigorously, presenting all the evidence – And in doing so, you have to think of the rights of the accused as well.”

Read Also: Justice Ademola Resumes Sitting

Arrested Judges Should Prove Their Innocence – Issa Aremu

Issa Aremu, Judges' ArrestA former Deputy President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Issa Aremu, has thrown his weight behind the recent arrests of some judges by the Department of State Services (DSS).

He described the arrests as a sign of crisis of confidence on the image of the judicial officers.

In a chat with Channels Television in Kaduna on Thursday, Mr Aremu faulted those condemning the invasion and arrest of the judges.

He challenged those criticizing the DSS action, to also look at the merit of the corruption allegations leveled against the senior judicial officers, rather than focusing more on the method by which they were arrested.

According to him, by the actions of some corrupt judicial officers across the country over the years are largely responsible for the nation’s socio-economic and political challenges.

The Labour leader also called on the affected judges to step aside for trial as it is being done in other countries of the world.

He stressed that they have a moral burden to establish their innocence before members of the general public.

He also advocated the strengthening of disciplinary mechanism to enhance transparency in judicial service.

Lawyer Accuses DSS Of Instigating The Public Against Judges

lawyer, DSS, Judges
Kenneth Odidika

As the debate continues over the legality or vice versa of the recent raid on judges, legal practitioner, Kenneth Odidika, feels that the DSS’ had attempted to instigate the public against the judiciary, an action he described as “totally wrong”.

He gave this opinion on Monday, while speaking on Channels Television’s Breakfast program, Sunrise Daily.

Speaking on if Nigeria is on the right path to ridding the judiciary of corruption, Mr Odidika said although “most of us are against corruption, the way we fight it is very critical”.

He hinted that in any given situation such as the case of the DSS, intentions might be right, but actions speak louder.

Going back in time, he said corruption became evasive in Nigeria after the time of Gen. Murtala Mohammed, when there became uncertainty regarding the tenure of civil servants.

“Despite all the wonderful intentions of Murtala Mohammed, he did a major damage that has still not been corrected until now, and the same thing is about happening to the judiciary”.

On the legality of the DSS raid, he says “it could be legal but is it expedient to go and break down doors at 1:00 am when they could easily have arrested them? he questioned.

“You don’t have to tell them you are coming, just go there in the morning and do all that is necessary”.

While referring to the actions as “all noise”, according to him, he wonders whether people really want to fight corruption or they just want to “sabotage the President’s intention to fight corruption.

“Are we just interested in making noise and losing the case, or in actually bringing people to book?

Consequently, “when the evidence is tainted, it will be resolved in favour of the accused”.

He however admitted that “the system is totally messed up, the corruption is there, incompetent judges are there as well as those who lack knowledge.

On the other hand, “there are excellent judges”, he says, which sums up his disapproval of the DSS actions on the Judiciary as a whole.

Lawyer Gives Instances Of Corruption In Nigeria’s Judiciary

tunji-abayomiA Nigerian lawyer, Mr Tunji Abayomi, on Monday gave instances of corruption in Nigeria’s judiciary, which he said had become a culture in the third arm of government.

Giving instances he said were connected to cases he had handled, Mr Abayomi said a while ago, a case that he had secured execution for was brought back to court and a judge stayed execution after he had allegedly collected money.

“I was handling a case in one of the courts of the federation and we won the case.

“Another judge handled the case and we won. We now applied for execution, judge B directed execution, the court bailiff executed according to the directive of the judge, but the judgement debtor broke the chain.

“The judgement debtor now went to court to apply for stay of execution and the judge, who could not look up on the day of hearing, read an order staying the judgment the court had executed.

“It is so bizarre and strange,” he says.

Manifestly Corrupt

He alleged that the registrar of the court had told the son of his client that the judge who stayed execution collected 300,000 Naira to stay execution.

Nigeria-Naira
Mr Tunji Abayomi alleged that a judge collected money to stay execution that had been effected by the court bailiff

“This is a judgement that was validly given, executed and by the order of court, the judgment debtor broke all the chain and took money to the judge and the judge is aware that the judgement of the court is disregarded.

“Naturally you begin to wonder, what is going on?” he questioned.

He mentioned the issue of influence, as another corrupt inducing tendency, citing another case he had handled for which a judge involved was given a car gift by the defendant.

“The level of corruption in the judiciary is a culture.

“The Nigerian judiciary is manifestly corrupt. I have been speaking about it and I am sure I have said it in this particular station,” he stated.

“Sexual Corruption”

Mr Abayomi further said that some registrars of lower courts build houses for judges in the Supreme Court, as gratification.

The lawyer also described another level of corruption in the judiciary as “sexual corruption”, explaining that there are judges in the states who employ mostly women in the magistrate courts.

“They keep forcibly having affairs with them, harassing them, including married women.

“A married woman came to me and told me that this is what happened to me and that she had to tell the husband and said that the husband had no job and that if she does not agree, the judge will sack her,” he told Channels Television while giving his opinion on the arrest of some judges by security operatives.

On the arrest of the judges, the lawyer pointed out that for the Department of State Services (DSS) to arrest judges, “we must simply accept that it must be based on some credible evidence”.

He suggested that the judges should voluntarily resign.

“The nature of a judge is such a fundamental aspect to the development of justice in the state such that if there is even an allegation at all… if there is substantial issues, I will say the judge should voluntary resign.

“A lawyer is expected to stay away from impropriety and an appearance of impropriety,” he stressed, quoting from the judges’ code of conduct.

“There are lots of politicians in Nigeria who put judges on pay roll, but it is in the code of their ethics that they should stay away from appearance of impropriety.

“Why is it that we have not heard a statement from one of the judges, insisting that he should be taken to court?” he questioned.

Judges, NJC, NBA, investigation
The National Judicial Council said it has launched investigation into complaints against judges

He insisted that the nature of their job required that they could be pre-judged to ensure that corruption does not exist in the judiciary.

“The law does not focus on the giver, with regard to judges, it focuses on the receiver.”

Suggesting solutions to the ‘culture of corruption’ in the judiciary, the lawyer emphasised the need for a guard for the judiciary, a function that the National Judicial Council (NJC) is saddled with.

He stressed that the NJC should be empowered and be conscious of its responsibility.

The NJC had said that it has started investigations into the complaints against seven judges arrested by the DSS on October 7 and 8, even though it has not received a formal complaint from the DSS against the judges.

But Mr Abayomi insisted that the NJC do not need to wait for a petition from the DSS before it would perform its functions.

Monitor Your Subordinates To Check Corruption, ICPC Tells Govt. Officials

ICPC, CorruptionThe Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC), has advised heads of Ministries, Departments and Agencies of the Nigerian government as well as the private sector, to be wary of fraudulent acts by their subordinates.

Addressing participants at a forum in Abuja on Monday, organised by ICPC’s training arm, the anti-corruption academy, the Chairman Mr Ekpo Nta, stated the need for heads of agencies to prevent the perpetuation of corruption through effective supervision of their subordinates.

He, however, admitted that the fight against corruption was not isolated to Nigeria alone while advocating the need for a paradigm shift in the fight against corruption.

The provost of the anti-corruption academy also advised participants to initiate workable integrity management systems, that would check the perpetuation of corruption.

Meanwhile, the anti-corruption war has continued to get the support of some Nigerians.

At a different forum on corruption issues, a coalition of civil society groups, under the umbrella of National Support Groups for Good Governance, expressed support for the fight against corruption in the judiciary.

Some judges were on October 8 arrested by security agencies operatives on allegations of misconduct and corruption.

Although the Department of State Services, which spearheaded the arrest, is yet to arraign any of the judges arrested, the fight against corruption continues to be a top priority of the administration of President Muhammdu Buhari.

Mr Buhari had during the campaign for the election that brought him in, stressed the need for Nigerians to kill corruption, saying; “if Nigeria do not kill corruption, corruption will kill Nigeria”.

Judges’ Arrest: Former British Cop Berates Execution Of ‘Sting Operation’

vince-onyekwelu-judges-arrestThe arrest of some court judges by a combined team of Police and DSS officials in the early hours of Saturday, October 8 has continued to generate reactions.

While various judicial stakeholders have criticised the government for the arrest, a former British police officer, Vince Onyekwelu, has picked holes in the level of expertise displayed by the DSS during its execution of the operation.

The security analyst told Channels Television’s Sunrise Daily how the arrest should have been carried out, since it was believed to be a sting operation.

“We have to understand (that) one of the major concepts of a sting operation is deceit.

“When you talk about deceit, sting operations are planned to have this element of propaganda, element of treachery, element of ‘make believe’ (and) element of trying to deceive a potential criminal,” he explained.

Outer Shell

Speaking on Thursday’s edition of the programme, Onyekwelu expressed disappointment that Governor Nyesom Wike was able to interrupt the arrest of one of the judges at his residence in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital.

He stressed the importance of the strategy that ought to be used and questioned if the security operatives were capable and competent to carry out such operation.

“For example, there is what we call ‘the outer shell’.

“You have to block the entrance (and) position men at critical areas.

“It makes me to ask questions how come the Governor had access to go through this outer shell (and) come to the epicentre that he was able to influence what was going on there.

“You’re supposed to have an outer shell that is well-trained to contain and to stop any kind of politically exposed person that have got so much power.

“He (Wike) can tell you his concerns (while) you record them in your notebook and promise to get back to him in the next 24 hours, but not to give him access to influence what is going on,” he stated.

Although the DSS later justified its action by giving reasons for the arrest, the operation attracted criticisms from several notable Nigerians and professional bodies, including the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) which asked the executive to release of the detained court justices.

femi-falana-speaks
Human rights activist, Mr Femi Falana

Human rights activist, Mr Femi Falana, however, blamed legal practitioners for the harassment of judges.

The agency subsequently released all the judges on self-recognition one day after their arrest but they are to report at the agency’s office when requested to, as the investigation and preparation to charge them to court continue.

The judges are accused of misconduct, corruption and had been under investigation by the DSS.

Judges Arrest: I Have No Objection To DSS’ Action – Abu Hamisu

Dr. Abu Hamisu, As reactions continue to trail the arrest of some judges over the weekend, a lecturer at the University of Abuja, Dr. Abu Hamisu, says he has no objection with the involvement of the Department of State Services (DSS) in the arrest.

The lecturer at the Political Science Department is of the opinion that if the government feels the DSS could play a crucial role in its anti-corruption campaign, there is nothing wrong with it.

“We’ve been advocating for collaboration and synergy building in such a way that all the security agencies can tap into the professionalism of one another depending on the case they want to prosecute.

“If (the) EFCC, ICPC and the government of the day feel that the DSS can be really decisive in the fight against corruption in this country, I have nothing against that,” the political scientist said.

Speaking on Tuesday on Sunrise Daily, Dr. Hamisu believes corruption is the cause of Nigeria’s underdeveloped stage, reiterating his stance on the DSS’ involvement.

“The most important thing is to ensure that corruption is really dealt with because the basis of our underdevelopment as a nation up to this very moment is corruption.

“For me, it’s something that has to do with those that are leading us and if they feel that they can give us result and DSS can play a role in this, I have no objection,” he insisted.

The academic warned that the future of the Nigerian child was at risk and called on stakeholders to tackle its menace headlong to ensure a brighter future.

“All we want is to ensure that we have a better future for our children.

“The future that we did not enjoy, the future that corruption denied us because some people were saddled with responsibilities that they abused and perverted,” he lamented.

Face-off With Wike

Dr. Hamisu’s remarks followed a face-off between the Governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike and some DSS officials who were on an assignment to arrest a Federal High Court judge in Port Harcourt.

Nyesom-Wike-Governor-of-Rivers-State
Governor Nyesom Wike prevented the arrest of a judge in Rivers State

On getting wind of the planned arrest, Governor Wike went to the residence of the judge with the aim of averting the arrest.

He stated that it would not be appropriate to arrest a judge at an odd hour when he has not been declared as a criminal, but invited to have a chat which they said was the motive of the arrest.

The arrest caught the attention of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) which asked the executive to release of the judge and some order court justices.

While a human rights activist, Mr Femi Falana, blames legal practitioners for harassment of judges, the DSS gave reasons for the arrest.

The DSS subsequently released all the judges on self-recognition.

However, they are to report at the agency’s office when requested to, as the investigation and preparation to charge them to court continue.

The judges are accused of misconduct corruption and had been under investigation by the DSS.

NBA Demands Immediate Release Of Arrested Judges

Abubakar-Mahmoud-NBA-PresidentThe Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) has declared a state of emergency in the judiciary over the midnight arrest of some judges by the Department of State Services (DSS).

The association is also asking the DSS to immediately release the judges without conditions.

It says the arrests are disturbing and unconstitutional, describing it a situation that had never been witnessed.

The DSS had earlier said that the judges were arrested for alleged corruption cases, with a summary of monies recovered from the judges.

The President of the NBA, Mr Abubakar Mahmoud, at a briefing in Lagos, warned the Federal Government of “grave consequences” should the demands not be met.

Mr Mahmoud said two Supreme Court justices, Inyang Okoro and Sylvester Ngwuta, were “abducted” with their families.

Not Under Military Rule

He said: “I want to, on behalf of the Bar Association, make the very following clear and unequivocal demands.

“We demand the immediate, unconditional release of all the judges abducted from about 9:00pm yesterday (Friday).

“The release must be done immediately and without any conditions.

“We demand that the Department of State Services (DSS) should limit itself to its statutory and constitutional responsibilities.

“It is not the responsibility of the DSS to perform duties meant for police officers and other agencies of the state.

“I want to emphasise again that we are not under military rule and we cannot accept this ‘unholy events’ and this ‘gestapo style of operations’.

“We therefore call on President Muhammadu Buhari to immediately call all the state security agencies to order and to respect the rule of law and due process.

“Any issue affecting the judicial officers, there are established processes and to edited for handling them and we demand that these constitutional processes must be obeyed”.

“Given the unfolding nature of the events and the seriousness of the situation, the NBA hereby declares a state of emergency as it affects the affairs of the judiciary”.

Attempt To Intimidate

Mr Mahmoud further stressed that the NBA considered the arrests as unconstitutional, as it was a very blatant attempt to intimidate the judiciary, undermined the independence of the judiciary and the legal profession.

“It is unacceptable to the legal profession and I will meet with the Chief Justice of the Nigeria tonight or tomorrow,” he stated.

The association also set up a Crisis Management Team comprising the association’s past presidents and general secretaries to investigate the situation.

At the briefing were former NBA presidents Mr Wole Olanipekun, Olisa Agbakoba, Joseph Daudu, Augustine Alegeh, bar leaders, Yusuf Ali, Kemi Pinheiro, Koyinsola Ajayi, former NBA General Secretary, Dele Adesina and current NBA second Vice President, Onyekachi Ubani among others.