The Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Justice Mahmud Mohammed, Saturay, said he was yet to get a formal complaint from the Department of State Service, DSS, regarding the seven superior court judges it arrested between October 7 and 8. Among the judges whose homes were raided by operatives of the DSS included two Justices of the Supreme Court, Sylvester Ngwuta and Iyang Okoro.
Other judges affected by the said “sting operation”, included Adeniyi Ademola of the Federal High Court Abuja, Kabir Auta of the Kano High Court, Muazu Pindiga of Gombe High Court, Mohammed Tsamiya of the Court of Appeal in Ilorin, and the Chief Judge of Enugu State, I. A. Umezulike. Although about 21 judges are currently under the radar of the DSS, so far, only 15 of them have been hauled in for interrogation. The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, is equally investigating some judges involved in alleged dubious transactions. Meanwhile, the CJN, in a statement he issued on Saturday, maintained that the misunderstanding was between the NJC which was established by the Constitution, and the DSS which he said belongs to the presidency.
The statement which was signed by Senior Special Assistant to the CJN, H. S. Sa’eed, read: “Under the powers provided by the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria(as amended) and as the Head of the Third Arm of Government, the Honourable, the Chief Justice of Nigeria and Chairman National Judicial Council, Honourable Justice Mahmud Mohammed, GCON is calling on all Nigerians to continue to have faith and full confidence in the Nigerian Judiciary. “The Honourable Chief Justice of Nigeria (Hon. CJN) is indeed deeply concerned by the rising antagonism over the recent arrest of our Judicial Officers and other issues pertaining thereto. “Furthermore, it must be reiterated that the current misunderstanding is only between the National Judicial Council (NJC), which was established by the Constitution and the Directorate of the State Security (DSS), in the Presidency. “Hence, we must emphasise that the Judiciary continues to maintain cordial relations with the other arms of government, that is, the Executive and the National Assembly. “The Hon. CJN reiterates that the Nigerian Judiciary, as an Arm of the Government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, is not a party in this matter, nor is the Nigerian Judiciary on trial.
“On the call by President of the Nigerian Bar, A. B. Mahmoud, SAN, to suspend Judicial Officers whose residences were invaded and who were subsequently arrested and detained by the DSS, we believe that the call was unnecessary and hasty as the said Judicial Officers are still being investigated by the DSS. “Furthermore, the DSS is yet to forward any complaint or any official communication regarding the seven Judicial Officers to the National Judicial Council. “Indeed, some of the affected Judicial Officers have already been investigated by the NJC, which found some culpable and recommended their removal from office by dismissal or retirement to the President and respective Governors as provided under the Constitution. “While some are still being investigated by the NJC, in respect of others, no complaint against them has been received by the NJC whose powers to suspend must be exercised in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution establishing it.
“The National Judicial Council is currently investigating the various complaints made against a number of Judicial Officers. As soon as such investigations are completed, appropriate recommendations will be made to the President or Governors, as the case may be, who will have the final say on the fate of the affected Judicial Officers who could then be charged for the offences disclosed from the facts against them and be prosecuted if necessary. “The Hon. Chief Justice of Nigeria also wishes to state in clear terms that the ‘sting’ operations carried out by the DSS on 07 and 08 October 2016 was certainly an assault on the independence of the Nigerian Judiciary.
“Nonetheless, the Judiciary fully supports the anti-corruption drive of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, President Muhammdu Buhari, GCFR. “The Nigerian Judiciary has never and will never shield any Judicial Officer who is found to be guilty of corruption, however, the Hon. CJN believes that due process and the rule of law must be followed. “As a testament to our commitment to uphold the Constitution, the Nigerian Judiciary continues to function and our Courts remain open to all who seek remedy. “With the support and good will of all Nigerians, the Nigerian Judiciary will continue to serve with all its heart and might”.