SERAP Demands Judges’ Release, Threatens To Sue Buhari

SERAP, Buhari, Judges releaseRights advocacy group, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, SERAP, has written President Muhammadu Buhari, demanding the immediate and unconditional release of Nigerian judges arrested in the midnight of Saturday by operatives of the Department of State Services (DSS).

The group, which also wrote the United Nations on the case, threatened to take legal action, both locally and internationally, against the President, should the arrested judges not be immediately freed.

The DSS has explained that the judges are being investigated for corruption and also gave figures of amounts it had recovered from them in a statement on Saturday, but SERAP maintains in its own statement that while it fully supported Buhari’s anti-corruption war, it viewed the clampdown on judges as a “blow on the independence of the judiciary and a dangerous precedent that should not be allowed to stand”.

The group fears that if the development is allowed to stand or continue, it would make judges susceptible to pressure from the executive and spell the final collapse of judiciary’s independence.

“We are seriously concerned about the wave of arrests, intimidation and harassment of judges across the country by the DSS. While we fully support the government’s efforts to eradicate judicial corruption, we cannot accept anti-corruption strategies and methods which patently offend the rule of law and undermine the authority, integrity, sanctity and independence of the judiciary.

“SERAP believes that strategies and methods to sanction suspected corrupt judges must never have an inhibiting or chilling effect on the authority, sanctity, integrity and independence of the judiciary.

“The uncertainty of the processes and grounds on which suspected corrupt judges can be sanctioned would affect the capacity of all judges to act independently, and the public confidence in the judiciary.

“Judges, like other constitutional functionaries, must face the law if they depart from or deceive the law, such as when they are suspected of engaging in corruption. But what the DSS has done is a blow to the independence of judiciary, and a dangerous precedent that should not be allowed to stand.

“The value of the principle of judicial independence is that it protects judges from arbitrary sanctions by the government. The way this country dispenses justice and treats its judges will show the moral and legal character to which it can pretend,” SERAP said.

The group added: “Judicial accountability must respect the fundamental principles of the independence of the judiciary and the separation of powers, and its proceedings must be in line with constitutional and international standards of due process and fair trial.

“Indeed, international standards require that the bodies responsible for sanctioning corrupt judges should be independent from the government, and that any legal sanction against suspected corrupt judges must be determined in accordance with well-established procedures that guarantee the rights of judges to a fair and transparent trial, and to an independent review.”

“Grave Consequences”

The Nigerian Bar Association has also 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.

The Governor of Ekiti State, Ayodele Fayose, also condemned the arrest. He asked if the affected judges had 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.”

DSS Gestapo Invasion Of Judges’ Residences, Threat To Democracy – Fayose

Fayose's aide, EFCC, Abiodun AgbeleEkiti State Governor, Mr Ayodele Fayose, has condemned the invasion of residences of five judges, including those of two Justices of the Supreme Court and their reported arrest by the Department of State Service (DSS), describing it 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.

“If not, have 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”?

Supreme Court Justices, Walter Onnoghen, who Mr Fayose said was in line to succeed the outgoing Chief Justice of Nigeria and Sylvester Ngwuta, were among those whose houses were invaded.

DSS, Appropriation Committee
DSS were prevented from arrested a judge in Rivers State by Governor Nyesom Wike

The DSS said the judges were being investigated for corruption related offences and gave a summary of monies recovered from the judges.

But the Ekiti State Governor expresses worries over Justice Onnoghen’s involvement in the invasion.

Governor Fayose, known for his criticisms of the current government, said: “I am particularly worried over the involvement of Justice Walter Onnoghen in the invasion, and I hope this is not a plot to prevent his appointment as the next CJN just because he is from the South-South region.

“Nigerians should be reminded that I raised similar alarm when this regime of impunity started with the invasion of the Akwa-Ibom State government house and later the Ekiti State House of Assembly.

“I did say then that democracy in Nigeria was becoming unsafe in the hands of this APC government and that those keeping silent because of politics might also end up in the belly of the roaring lion that is threatening to consume our democracy,” the Governor stressed.

He pointed out that those who ought to have joined in condemning the DSS impunity at that time kept silent for fear of the unknown.

“Now we have gotten to the height of it and Nigeria faces full-blown military dictatorship! This is sad!

“It is more worrisome that two of the judges involved, Justice Adeniyi Ademola and Justice Nnamdi Dimgba ruled against the DSS and condemned.

“Its impunity on the cases of former National Security Adviser (NSA), Col Sambo Dasuki (rtd) and retired Air Commodore, Umar Mohammed and one wonders if upholding the rule of law by refusing to help the DSS to sustain its reign of impunity has now become a criminal offence for which judges must be harassed, intimidated and arrested.

“The question to ask is that, will the DSS be a judge in its own case? Even if there are evidence(s) of corruption against the judges as they will want Nigerians to believe, the law is clear as to what to do. The NJC must be informed and the council will in turn investigate the allegation and take appropriate actions. It is after this that the affected judges can be invited for questioning and possibly prosecuted.

“It should be noted that few days ago, the NJC sacked three judges for breaching the Codes of Conduct for Judicial Officers and went further to recommend that one of them, Justice Kabiru M. Auta be handed over to the Inspector General of Police for prosecution for alleged corruption.

“If NJC could do this less than one week ago, has the same NJC been informed of any allegation of corruption against the judges whose residences were invaded?

“I therefore call on all Nigerians and the international community to rise in defence of democracy and the rule of law in our country because as it is, no one will be spared by this rampaging dictatorship.

“Particularly, the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) and other stakeholders in the judiciary must not allow this to go unchallenged.

Supreme Court, Kogi Governorship
Nigerian Bar Association says the arrest of Supreme Court judges is unconstitutional

“Obviously, the DSS has become a threat to democracy in Nigeria, having abandoned its core mandate of providing intelligence for the protection of the internal security of Nigeria as provided in the Security Agencies Act Cap. N74 LFN, 2004.

“It has therefore become necessary that President Buhari put a stop to the actions and activities of these overzealous security agencies that can endanger democracy.

The Nigeria Bar Association has also condemned the arrests, describing it unconstitutional.

They are also demanding immediate release of the arrested judges, warning of grave consequences.

Lawyer Says Dasuki Did Not Implicate Anyone

Lawyer Says Dasuki Did Not Implicate AnyoneLawyer to the embattled former National Security Adviser (NSA), Ahmed Raji, says his client did not implicate anyone by his statements.

Colonel Sambo Dasuki (rtd)’s lawyer made the declaration on Thursday while speaking during an interview with Channels Television in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital.

Having said the statement was not a deposition, Raji confirmed that some of the reports in the media were true statements made by his client to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

‘Bogus And Untrue’

Although, the legal practitioner has some comments to make on the letters from the Central Bank of Nigeria to the EFCC, regarding release of funds, he was quick to reject some of the figures that were published, saying they were ‘bogus and untrue’.

He maintained that the release of funds were made as admitted by his client, adding that the true nature and reasons for the statements would be made known when his trial commences.

Various media reports had on Monday alleged that the statements made by Colonel Dasuki laid credence to the charges brought against him by the EFCC.

Following his removal by President Muhammadu Buhari, Colonel Dasuki was charged for unlawful possession of weapons and money laundering, by the Department Of State Services.

He was also accused by the EFCC of stealing, criminal breach of trust and illegal transfer of funds belonging to the Federal Government.

Dasuki’s Trial Is Partial Indictment On National Assembly – Saraki

Dasuki's Trial Is Partial Indictment On National Assembly - SarakiSenate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, says the trial of former National Security Adviser (NSA), Colonel Sambo Dasuki (rtd), over alleged mismanagement of billions of Naira meant for arms procurement is a partial indictment on the National Assembly.

Dr. Saraki made the statement after the Upper Chamber debated a motion on Tuesday at the National Assembly in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital.

He said the Senate had not properly performed its oversight functions on Government Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs).

“Distinguished colleagues, I want us in this 8th Senate to ensure that our committees carry out proper oversight and we the leadership are going to ensure that we too find a way of making sure that the committees do their work of oversight because truly, that is the bottom line to this,” the Senate President said while reacting to Dasuki’s trial.

Senator Saraki said the inability of the Senate committees to effectively oversee government MDAs had ensured that gross mismanagement of revenue and incompetence in MDA’S have been left unchecked for too long.

“We must play our role in the area of oversight because if we do not play it, this is what we get at the end of the day,” the former Kwara State Governor said, as he tasked his colleagues on efficiency.

DSS Arrests Dasuki Again

dasukiThe operatives of Department of State Service (DSS) on Monday morning arrested the immediate past National Security Adviser, Colonel Sambo Dasuki (Rtd) in Abuja.

A Federal High Court sitting in Abuja had fixed December 3 for the hearing of the motion filed by the Federal Government seeking to revoke the bail granted to the former National Security Adviser, Colonel Sambo Dasuki.

At the resumed hearing of the suit, lawyer to the federal government, Mr Mohammed Diri, told the court that a notice of appeal has been lodged at the Court of Appeal challenging the judgment of the court granting bail to the former National Security Adviser.

The former NSA was charged to court with illegal possession of arms following a siege to his Abuja home and subsequent arrest in July. The charge against him was later expanded to include money laundering.

But a Federal High Court in Abuja granted Mr Dasuki permission to travel abroad for medical attention pending the commencement of his trial on the November 26 and 27.

Ruling on the application filed by Mr Dasuki, Justice Adeniyi Ademola granted the former National Security Adviser a period of three weeks within which to take care of his health abroad.

However, few days after this ruling, the home of Colonel Sambo Dasuki in the nation’s capital, Abuja was surrounded by men of the DSS and the siege was described as an attempt to ensure that he did not leave the country, as the former NSA accused the Federal Government of abuse of power.

The DSS debunked the claim that its operatives invaded the home of the former National Security Adviser in defiance of a court order granting him permission to travel abroad for medical treatment.

The DSS in a statement, explained that the action by its officers is caused by the refusal of Mr. Dasuki to honour an invitation by a committee investigating his alleged involvement in the 2 billion dollars arms procurement process by the past administration.

The statement added that his refusal to appear before the committee compelled the DSS to adopt a legal means to ensure his attendance.

“Sambo was initially arrested and charged to court for unlawful possession of firearms and money laundering, for which reason his international passport was seized and on the order of the court, returned to the registrar for custody.

“What has however brought the seeming standoff between Sambo and the Service, despite the court-ordered release of his international passport on 4th November, 2015, is his refusal to appear before a Committee undertaking the investigation of an entirely different case.” the DSS said.

The former National Security Adviser (NSA) Colonel Sambo Dasuki, denied ever receiving any invitation letter to appear before a committee set up by the current administration to investigate procurement processes relating to any arms transaction by the last administration, under which he served.

 

Dasuki’s Bail Revocation Suit: Court Fixes Dec. 3 For Hearing

DasukiA Federal High Court sitting in Abuja has fixed December 3 for the hearing of the motion filed by the Federal Government seeking to revoke the bail granted to the former National Security Adviser, Colonel Sambo Dasuki.

At the resumed hearing of the suit, lawyer to the federal government, Mr Mohammed Diri, told the court that a notice of appeal has been lodged at the Court of Appeal challenging the judgment of the court granting bail to the former National Security Adviser.

Ruling on another application seeking to ensure the presence of Colonel Dasuki in court, Justice Adeniyi Ademola said that it is not compulsory for a defendant to be present in court when interlocutory applications are being heard. He added that, in line with Section 266b of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, accused persons are mandated to be in court during trial for criminal cases.

Colonel Sambo Dasuki, who pleaded not guilty to a one-count charge of alleged illegal possession of firearms, preferred against him by the federal government had earlier been granted bail by a Federal High Court to enable him seek medical attention abroad.

Justice Minister’s Absence Stalls Dasuki’s Suit Hearing Again

Justice Minister Absent In Court Over Dasuki's BailThe Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr Abubakar Malami, has failed to appear before a court over the right enforcement suit filed by the former National Security Adviser (NSA), Colonel Sambo Dasuki (Rtd).

Mr Malami again refused to show up at a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital, to explain why the order of the court granting Mr Dasuki permission to travel for medical treatment was being flouted.

At the resumed hearing of the suit on Monday, the Federal Government opposed the application for the enforcement of fundamental human rights filed by Dasuki on the ground that he needed to be present in court to seek any relief.

The prosecutor, Mr Mohammed Diri, informed the court that he had filed an application seeking to revoke the bail granted the former NSA.

Relying on section 266 of the administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015, lawyer to Colonel Dasuki, Mr Joseph Daudu, disagreed with the prosecutor.

Mr Daudu said that his client was not on trial and as such, it was not mandatory for him to be physically present in court.

Justice Adeniyi Ademola subsequently adjourned the suit till November 26 for ruling, just as the trial was expected to commence on the same day.

On November 3, the Federal High Court granted Colonel Dasuki permission to travel for medial treatment, by the court’s ruling has not been fully upheld, as some officials of the Department for State Service (DSS) are said to have maintained a siege to the house of the former NSA.

Colonel Dasuki is facing charges for alleged money laundering and unlawful possession of firearms. He has denied the allegations, saying he acted in the interest of the nation.

The Federal Government had filed an amended charge against the former National Security Adviser, after his arraignment on a one-count charge of unlawful possession of firearms without licence.

The prosecution expanded the charges to include money laundering and also applied to the court for a secret trial Mr Dasuki as well as protection for all its witnesses in the suit.