The Legal Defence and Assistance Project (LEDAP) has condemned the raid of residences of some judges in Nigeria, and the arrest of some of them by the Department of state Services (DSS).
It described the night raid as a flagrant assault on the rule of law and interference with the integrity and independence of judges, saying it amounts to crass intimidation of judges, which is the first line of attack of dictatorships.
Attack On The Judiciary
LEDAP called on all lawyers to rise in unison to condemn what it called an attack on the judiciary by the executive and in protest boycott the courts next week from Monday, October 10 to Friday, October 14.
It said the action would send a strong message to the President Buhari regime that the legal profession would not stand by and watch the desecration and denigration of the judiciary.
“It is to the detriment of the Bar and Bench in Nigeria for the security agencies to make spurious allegations and illegally try judges in the pages of newspapers.
“It raises wrong and unjustified public perception of the justice system, and impugns on public confidence in justice and governance,” a statement by the spokesman for LEDAP, Chino Obiagwu, read.
The group asked the Federal Government to investigate and punish security officials implicated in the unwholesome act.
“It was wrong to execute improperly issued and illegally executed search warrants at night on judges, and in any event, without prior recourse to the head of the judiciary.
“The constitutional principle of separation of powers is sacrosanct and once eroded, will drive Nigeria to a tyranny,” Chino Obiagwu added.
It is the second group that is threatening to scuttle judicial activities if the arrested judges were not released.
Earlier, the Nigerian Bar Association has called for the immediate and unconditional release of the judges.
The group said their arrest was unconstitutional, declaring a state of emergency in the judiciary.
It says the arrests are disturbing and unconstitutional, describing it a situation that had never been witnessed.
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”.
Investigated For Corruption
The DSS had on Friday night raided some judges’ homes, arresting some of them in the process.
In Rivers State, however, the Governor of the state, Nyesom Wike prevented the DSS from arresting a judge.
He said the DSS officials had come to pick the judge about 1:00a.m. local time.
The DSS says the judges are being investigated for corruption. It gave figures of amounts it had recovered from the judges in a statement on Saturday.
But the Governor of Ekiti State, Ayodele Fayose, condemned the arrest questioning if “the affected judges been reported to the National Judicial Council (NJC), the body saddled with the responsibilities of investigating and sanctioning erring judges? Were the affected judges ever invited by the DSS and they refused to honour the invitation”?
He described the arrests as a direct assault on the judiciary.
Governor Fayose, who addressed reporters in Ado-Ekiti on Saturday, said: “It should now be obvious to all Nigerians and the international community that democracy is under threat in Nigeria and Nigerians must rise to save democracy from being truncated.
“For all intent and purposes, there is no how the federal government can justify the gestapo and crude action of the DSS against our judiciary, the last hope of the common man and I believe they just want to hide under anti-corruption fight to blackmail and intimidate the judiciary”.