NJC To Hold Emergency Sitting Over Arrested Judges

njc to meet of arrest of judges by DSSThe 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.

Clamp-Down-on-Judges-in-Rivers-State--Police
Officials of the Nigeria Police Force at the resident of the judge

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.

Recovered Money

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
5. RUPEES—-1,010
6. UAE—380
7. GAMBIA DALLALIS—430
8. ARGENTINE NOTES—-4
9. GHANA CEDIS—-20

1. ADENIYI F.A. ADEMOLA
NAIRA——–N54 million
DOLLARS——$171, 779.00
POUNDS—-£80.00
RUPEES—- 1,010.00
EURO—-€4,400.00

2. NWALI SYLVESTER NGWUTA
NAIRA——–N35, 208,000
DOLLARS——$319,475
POUNDS—-£25,890
EURO—-€280
UAE—-380
GAMBIA DALAIS—-420
ARGENTINE NOTES—4
GHANA CEDIS—-20

3. JOHN INYANG OKORO
NAIRA——–N4, 350,000
DOLLARS——$38, 833
POUNDS—-£25,890
EURO—-€1,000.00

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.

Abdullahi-Garba
Spokesman for the Department of State Service, Abdullahi Garba

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.

NJC Meets Thursday To Appoint New Chief Justice of Nigeria

Chief JusticeThe National Judicial Council is scheduled to meet on Thursday to deliberate on the appointment of a new Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN.

The current CJN, Justice Aloma Mukhtar, who is the first female and the 13th indigenous CJN, will retire on Nov 20 upon attaining the mandatory retirement age of 70.

Barring any last minute change, Mukhtar is likely to be succeeded by Justice Mahmud Mohammed, who is currently the next most senior Justice of the Supreme Court.

In fulfillment of constitutional provisions on the appointment of the CJN, the Federal Judicial Service Commission, FJSC had met on October 23 and submitted a list of the next three most senior Justices of the Supreme Court to the NJC.

The NJC is expected to meet on Thursday to recommend one of those on the list to President Goodluck Jonathan.

Top on the FJSC’s recommended list is Justice Mohammed, who is currently the Deputy Chairman of the NJC. The CJN is the Chairman of both the NJC and the FJSC.

Others on the list are said to be two other Justices of the Supreme Court in order of seniority, Justices Walter Onnoghen and Tanko Muhammad.

Usually, the most senior among those recommended by the FJSC, and who is next to the outgoing CJN is appointed the new Chief Justice by the President.

The President’s choice often requires approval by the Senate in line with section 231(1) of the Constitution.

A source at the FJSC, who is familiar with the processes of appointing the nation’s CJN, confirmed the development to Channels Television correspondent on Sunday.

“By sending additional two names to accompany the next most senior Justice of the Supreme Court is just to fulfil all righteousness. It is almost certain that the NJC at its meeting on Thursday will recommend Justice Mohammed to the President and the President will then appoint him as the next CJN,” the source said.

Paragraph 21(a) and (a) (i) of the Third Schedule of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, which guides the appointment of the CJN, Justices/judges and heads of various federal courts, says,

“The National Judicial Council shall have power to:

“Recommend to the President from among the list of persons submitted to it by – the Federal Judicial Service Commission, persons for appointment to the offices of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, the Justices of the Supreme Court, the President and Justices of the Court of Appeal and the Chief Judge and judges of the Federal High Court.”

NJC orders swearing in of Justice Jombo-Ofo

The National Judicial Council (NJC) has ordered that Justice Ifeoma Jombo-Ofo be sworn-in as the Justice of the Court of Appeal, ending the controversy over her state of origin and marriage.

The NJC in a press statement released on Wednesday, and signed by the council’s Deputy Director of Information, Mr. Soji Oye, stated that the council “unanimously decided that Justice Ifeoma Jombo-Ofo, be sworn-in.”

A petition had allowed the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Aloma Mukthar, to suspend the swearing in of Justice Jombo-Ofo with other 11 newly appointed Justices for the Court of Appeal because the petition claimed she was getting the appointment for a state which was not her state of origin but that of her spouse.

The petition alleged that Justice Jombo-Ofo was falsely representing Abia State, having hailed from Anambra but married to a citizen of Abia State.

But in announcing its decision, the NJC observed that the binding principles and formulae for the distribution of all Cadres of Posts (S.I.23 of 1997) provides in Part II, Section 2 as follows ʺA married woman shall continue to lay claim to her State of origin for the purpose of implementation of the Federal Character formulae at the National level.”

The NJC further noted that the Federal Judicial Service Commission and the NJC, being federal executive bodies established in pursuance of Section 153 (1I) of the 1999 Constitution are bound and obliged to observe and obey the provisions of the constitutional law of the federal republic of Nigeria, including the Federal Character Commission Act.

It therefore directed that “the legislative, executive bodies and government agencies involved in her appointment to obey the stipulations of the law and the provisions in the Nigerian constitution relating to such matters.”

The council commended the CJN for “exercising sufficient caution, diligence and maturity in the matter, especially in the light of the documents, materials and other information available to her, and for taking the decision to put on hold the swearing-in of Justice Jombo-Ofo as a Justice of the Court of Appeal.”

The CJN had on the 5th November, written President Goodluck Jonathan to inform him that the matter of the non-swearing in of Justice Jombo-ofo, would be tabled before the NJC.