The National Judicial Council (NJC) in Nigeria has scheduled an emergency sitting for Tuesday, October 11, to discuss the raids on the house of some judges and the arrest of some of them by security operatives.
Officials of the Department of State Services (DSS) and the Nigeria Police Force had on Friday arrested some judges over alleged misconduct and corrupt practices.
A meeting of the NJC was originally scheduled to consider the candidate most suitable for appointment as the next Chief Justice of Nigeria.
A list of candidates had earlier been forwarded to it by the Federal Judicial Service Commission.
Announcing the emergency sitting, the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Mahmud Muhammed, urged Nigerians to be calm.
He says the incidence is saddening, distressing and deeply regrettable.
“The council will do justice to the case when they meet,” he assured legal practitioners who are of the opinion that the judge’s arrests were abuse of the law.
Justice Muhammed was speaking at the valedictory session of a justice of the Supreme Court Justice, Sulieman Galadima, who is retiring from the services of the Nigerian Judiciary.
The President of the Nigerian Bar Association, Mr Abubakar Mahmoud, insisted that the government did not act in line with the laws.
He says the government exhibited lack of respect for separation of powers.
While some judges’ arrests were successful, an attempt to arrest a judge in Rivers State was foiled by the State Governor, Mr Nyesom Wike.
After the arrest failed, the DSS released a statement where it explained the reason behind the arrests.
In the statement, a spokesman for the DSS, Abdullahi Garba, said that the service had in the past few days, embarked on raids of residents of some Judges of the Supreme, Appeal and High Courts.
Mr Garba said the operations were based on allegations of corruptions and other acts of professional misconduct by a few of the suspected Judges.
Searches Uncovered Huge Raw Cash
According to him, “the Service action is in line with its core mandate, as we have been monitoring the expensive and luxurious lifestyle of some of the Judges as well as complaints from the concerned public over judgment obtained fraudulently and on the basis of amounts of money paid.
“The judges involved were invited, upon which due diligence was exhibited and their premises searched.
“The searches have uncovered huge raw cash of various denominations, local and foreign currencies, with real estate worth several millions of Naira and documents affirming unholy acts by these Judges”.
The DSS spokesman further explained that some of the judges had made useful statements while a few declined even with the glaring evidences that were found against them in terms of material cash, documents and property recovered pointing to their compromise.
“In one of the States where the Service operations were conducted, credible intelligence revealed that the Judge had Two Million United States Dollars ($2,000,000 USD) stashed in his house.
“When he was approached for due search to be conducted, he in concert with the State Governor, mobilised thugs against the Service team.
“The team restrained itself in the face of unbridled provocative activities by those brought in by the Governor.
“Unfortunately, the Judge and Governor also engaged the tacit support of a sister security agency.
“The Service surveillance team noticed that upon frustrating the operation, the Judge with the active support of the Governor craftily moved the money to an unknown location which the Service is currently making effort to unravel,” the statement read, remaining silent about who the governor was.
The DSS also stated that large amount of money, including foreign and local currencies had been recovered.
It gave a breakdown of the recovered funds.
SUMMARY OF RECOVERED MONEY
1. NAIRA – N93,558,000.00
2. DOLLARS – $530,087
3. POUNDS – £25,970
4. EURO – €5,680
7. GAMBIA DALLALIS—430
8. ARGENTINE NOTES—-4
9. GHANA CEDIS—-20
1. ADENIYI F.A. ADEMOLA
2. NWALI SYLVESTER NGWUTA
3. JOHN INYANG OKORO
The security outfit also said that other foreign currencies, banking and real estate documents were recovered.
This money stated above, it said, were recovered from just three judges.
Mr Garba said that preparations were ongoing to file charges against them in line with the laws of the nation.
He further pointed out that that the Service had never invited Justice Walter Nkanu Onnoghen for investigation, neither was he being investigated.
“The Service would like to put it on record, that it has tremendous respect for the Judiciary and would not do anything to undermine it or its activities.
“The Service will also join hands with this noble institution in its fight to rid it of few corrupt Judges whose actions is undermining not only the Judiciary but the common bond of our national life,” he said.
The DSS further gave the assurance that the “operation will be sustained and followed till sanity and sanctity are restored to the esteemed third arm of government and public confidence is regained”.
It urged Nigerians to avail it of any information which could assist in the drive to rid Nigeria of corrupt practices and tendencies.
Earlier reports say that arrests may have started in Gombe State where the security operatives apprehended Justice Muazu Pindiga, who was the first chairman of the Rivers State election petition tribunal.
In Abuja, the DSS went to the homes of Justice Nnamdi Dimgba and Justice Adeniyi Ademola, both of the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court, in their official residences located inside Apo Legislative Quarters, Abuja.
The operatives are said to have arrested Justice Ademola, it is not clear if Justice Dimgba was arrested as well.
Elsewhere, the operatives were reported to have visited the homes of two Supreme Court Judges, Justice Walter Onoghen and Justice Sylvester Ngwuta.
In Rivers State however, the planned arrest of a judge was foiled by the governor.
A statement issued by the Special Assistant to the Governor on Electronic Media, Simeon Nwakaudu, said the security operatives were angered by the governor’s arrival at the scene shortly after the process began.
The statement adds that the security operatives blocked the entrance of the residence of the judge at about 1:00am on Saturday, claiming that they were acting on orders from above.
The Rivers State Police Commissioner, Francis Odesanya, however, said that the two security agencies were at the scene because they received privileged information.
Mr Odesanya added that he was at the scene as a peacemaker.