On the path of due process, more reactions trail arrest of judges
•Action will reinforce confidence in democracy, says Mikko
• Modus operandi employed by DSS wrong, Ajulo
•Wada cautions against castigating entire judiciary
Has President Muhammadu Buhari finally made up his mind to clean up the judicial arm of the government in his own way or according to the law? What has actually kept him waiting in taking a critical look at the rot in the judicial arm up till recently when he gave the Department of State Services (DSS) the order to effect arrest of some judges of the Supreme, Appeal and High Courts based on allegations of corruption and other acts of professional misconducts?
These are questions most Nigerians have been ruminating since last week when some officials of the DSS stormed the residence of some judges to effect their arrest.
It would be recalled that President Buhari, in February, while meeting with some Nigerians in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia said that as far his administration’s ongoing anti-corruption fight was concerned “the nation’s judiciary remained his major headache.”
The President had in a statement signed by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, stated that the fight against corruption in Nigeria could only be effectively tackled with the strong support of the judiciary.
The recent arrest of some judges has however continued to attract several comments by notable Nigerians who shared divers opinion on the modus operandi the government ought to have applied to avoid jeopadising the nation’s fledging democracy.
Former National Secretary of the Labour Party (LP), Mr. Kayode Ajulo, who expressed support for the arrest and prosecution of errant judges, said the modus operandi employed by the DSS was wrong and unacceptable.
He noted that the duties and function of the service as provided by the law must be looked into, saying: “DSS are not conventional policemen nor Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) fighters neither are they the anti-corruption agency.”
Ajulo noted that the “alarming commando-style of breaking the door of a serving judge to effect an arrest is completely out of order. It is inglorious, repugnant, and it lacks common sense.”
In the same vein, former governor of Kogi State, Idris Wada, who insisted that money played a major role in deciding the outcome the 2015 Governorship Election Petition, which eventually dashed his fate for second term, welcomed the development.
But he cautioned that it was not enough to use as a yardstick to label the entire judiciary in the country “which still parades some of the best brains and characters,” as corrupt.
In another view, Mr. Bernard Mikko, a chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Rivers State said like the chicken and egg, the question of which comes first is often controversial. Is democracy the rule, and corruption the exception or is Nigerian sovereignty the rule and democracy the exception?
According to him, “These are curious questions agitating the mind of political analysts and social commentators on the unfolding scenario of the arrest of serving judicial officers and court judges across Nigeria” by the DSS.
The former governor of Kogi said that the episode reminded Nigerians of his earlier call on President Muhammadu Buhari to initiate a probe into the conduct of affairs in the judiciary.
To Ajulo there is the need to rid Nigeria of bad elements “not only in the three arms of government but in every part of the country on the condition that legal procedure should be strictly adhered to.
But the legal practitioner disagreed with the move to prosecute the affected personalities through the media, saying: “such should be abated and any evidence against errant judges should be presented to the appropriate quarters for proper determination.”
Said he, “I have canvassed several times the need to overhaul our judiciary; I recall my twin letters to President, Muhammadu Buhari and the Honorable Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami (SAN) on same.
“I believe there are procedures to be followed for any disciplinary measure against serving judges. Such procedure should be adhered so as not to set a bad precedent not these alleged extant despotic operations by the DSS.”
Mikko posited that no one should be above the law or investigation in a vibrant democracy.He stressed that corruption is not only the major cause of poverty in Nigeria, but also responsible for “our stunted development, monumental poverty, collapse public infrastructure, decease, weak political institutions falling education standard low productivity level and rise of sub-national groups for recognition, attention and identity by all means, including violence and arms struggle.”
According to him, “If corruption is our major fault line for the struggle of sub national identities and ideologies, can a state of emergency be declared on corruption? In an ideal democracy, no one is above the law. Not even in Nigeria.
“Only last year, several judicial officers and judges were investigated, arrested tried and convicted for corruption in Ghana, and those who are familiar with our regional politics, there is contagion political effects within the ECOWAS sub-region.
The PDP stalwart also said in the United States of America, no one, including an incumbent President is above investigation and recourse to the rule law.
“President Richard Nixon was caught up in the Watergate Scandal, President Bill Clinton was investigated by the secret service, while a serving District court judge Justice Jack Tarpley Camp was arrested in 2010 by the FBI for patronizing a stripper and paying for sex. If we want to survive and develop as a modern day democratic nation, we have to reinforce public confidence in our judiciary otherwise there will be no nation left to practice and defend democracy.”