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Senior advocates back Mahmoud, say arrested judges must quit


NBA President Abubakar Mahmoud

NBA President Abubakar Mahmoud

• Call For Suspension, Unnecessary, Hasty — CJN

The Body of Senior Advocates of Nigeria has backed call by the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) President, Abubakar Mahmoud, saying arrested judges had to proceed on leave of absence, pending when they would be given a clean bill of health.

The Body met in Lagos, yesterday, to endorse every action taken by Mahmoud on the matter.

At the meeting were the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice. Also in attendance was Joe-Kyari Gadzama (SAN), who met Mahmoud for the first time, since the latter assumed office as NBA President.

The Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) and Chairman, National Judicial Council, Mahmud Mohammed, however, described cries for the arrested judges to stand down as unnecessary and hasty.

In a statement issued, yesterday, through the Senior Special Assistant to the Chief Justice, H. S. Sa’eed, Mohammed said: “On the call by President of the Nigerian Bar, A. B. Mahmoud, to suspend judicial officers whose residences were invaded and who were subsequently arrested and detained by the DSS, we believe the call was unnecessary and hasty, as the said officers are still being investigated by the DSS.

“The Chief Justice of Nigeria also wishes to state in clear terms that the ‘sting’ operations carried out by the DSS on October 7 and 8, was certainly an assault on the independence of the Nigerian judiciary. Nonetheless, the judiciary fully supports the anti-corruption drive of President Buhari.

“The judiciary has never and will never shield any officer who is found to be guilty of corruption. However, the CJN believes that due process and the rule of law must be followed.”

According to a statement by AbdulMurray AbdulRasheed, Director General of Abubakar Mahmoud’s NBA Presidential Campaign, the Body reiterated support for the Association in its efforts to fight corruption in the judiciary.

One of the lawyers at the meeting told The Guardian the consensus was that any of the judges charged to court had to stand down.

The senior advocate said the Body supported the position of the NBA President, adding that it would still be the responsibility of the National Judicial Council (NJC) to suspend the judges whenever they were charged to court. He said it would be improper to have the judges preside over matters while they were facing prosecution.

But the Legal Defence and Assistance Project (LEDAP) condemned statement credited to the NBA President.

The group said the NBA’s call, supported by the Body of Senior Advocates, negates the constitutional rights of the judicial officers to presumption of innocence, and overlooks the true purpose of the attack by the executive on the judges.

According to its national coordinator, Chino Obiagwu, “LEDAP is convinced that the State Security Services acted beyond its powers in searching the premises of the judicial officers and in arresting them, because its enabling statute limits its duties to the detection and prevention of crimes against the internal security of Nigeria.

“It is wrong for the NBA to rely on such illegal and provocative raid and arrest of the judges, and demand that they are suspended pending investigations on the allegations against them. Such suspension of the judges will give cloth of legality to an illegality. The State Security Service has no powers under the National Security Agencies Act or any other law to undertake investigation and prosecution of corruption and economic crimes.

“There is no way the judicial officers who were unduly and unjustifiably molested, embarrassed and intimidated by the SSS are expected to stand down or be suspended because of the illegal raid on them. Rather, LEDAP expects the NBA to be vigorously calling for the arrest and prosecution of the officials of the State Security Services who authorised, or participated in the unlawful attack on the judges.”

LEDAP said the NBA, as the umbrella association of lawyers, including the judicial officers, and the voice of the legal profession, had the legal and moral duties to protect the integrity of judicial officials and the independence of the judiciary.

“To make a u-turn from its initial stand, in which it strongly condemned the search and arrest of the judicial officials, and now call for their suspension or reclusion is an unfortunate compromise on due process and independence of the judiciary.

“Judicial officers, by the nature of their calling, are voiceless. Thus, only the NBA can stand and speak for them. If the NBA turns its back on judicial officials at this time that the executive wants to browbeat and denigrate the judiciary and the legal profession, it portends great danger to the rule of law and democracy in Nigeria,” the group said, adding that the right to presumption of innocence was a cardinal principle in justice delivery, and if the judicial officials were forced to stand down, they would have been accused and adjudged guilty, even by a body that is not authorised by law to do so.

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  • Ola

    Good one from the SAN’s body and kudos to the President of NBA. This saga presents a perfect opportunity to get rid of the billionaire corrupt judges from our Judiciary. A corrupt judge is worse than a criminal with knife and gun roaming the street.

    And enough of all this shout of rule of law! On several occasions we’ve asked for the specific law that was disregarded or trampled upon but no one (not even the NJC) has been able to point it out. Supporters of corruption and corrupt judges are only grappling at emotions and sentiments on this case.

    • Basil Ogbanufe

      The DSS going at night to effect an “arrest” was wrong. Then releasing the suspects in the morning on self recognition is a contradiction of the midnight operation.

      • Ola

        Any suspected criminal, be he a judge or lawyer, can be arrested at any time of the day or night. There is no limitation to when a suspect may be arrested according to ACJA which was signed into law by GEJ.

        Releasing them on bail on self recognition has NOTHING to do with your argument. Once they were arrested and indicting exhibits recovered from the operation, and their statement obtained, it’s in order to release them while further investigation continues.

        • Basil Ogbanufe

          DSS going at night to abduct those judges and justices was proof it was hiding something. In fact what is the guarantee that it didn’t plant those currencies there?

  • Eziokwubundu

    According to its national coordinator, Chino Obiagwu, “LEDAP is convinced that the State Security Services acted beyond its powers in searching the premises of the judicial officers and in arresting them, because its enabling statute limits its duties to the detection and prevention of crimes against the internal security of Nigeria.

    The crimes of the affected judges goes beyond economic and financial. The perversion of justice that was going on in the judiciary could culminate in serious social strife and threaten our internal security. It is rather unfortunate that LEDAP is not able to see the entire scenario that was playing out in the judiciary. Once the populace loses confidence in the ability of the judiciary to dispense justice, it is an invitation to chaos n anarchy. I wholeheartedly suport the action of DSS. It is like nipping this potential danger in the bud.

    • Mazi JO

      My brother, money drives both Economic and Financial matters. These Justices should have exercised care in their exalted wisdom. I am not saying that they are guilty yet but the thought of that appearance of impropriety in their reputations is reason to step down. The processes of their selections were built on ultimate public Trust.

    • Basil Ogbanufe

      The DSS was totally wrong in raiding the houses of the justices and judges, and then abducting them.
      It is very wrong to make conclusions based on allegations.

  • Prince Jude Onuchima

    Why are people missing the Import of the tragedy that occurred in the judiciary recently. It’s not about the DSS going off its bounds to arrest judges or the NBA or SANS doubling backwards in disarray. The damage is the desecration of the hallowed chambers of the judiciary. People seem to forget that there has always been punishment, disciplinary action, or prosecutioncarried out by the NJCwithout undue publicity

  • Prince Jude Onuchima

    In all these embarrasment, desecration and humiliation if the judiciary, rather than sanitise, clean up the so called corruption,

  • Olayiwola Akomolafe

    Nigerians have a way of using big grammar and bold face to dabaru anything that has to do with corrupt practices of the officials. Why can’t we,for once stand with one voice to fight this menace called corruption? No matter how fervently we pray God will not come down to do what we are supposed to do for us as a human. That’s why no black nation is progressing. It’s a shame that the NJC is shielding these corrupt judges. There is nothing wrong in them

    • Basil Ogbanufe

      And why should the NJC shield any corrupt judge?

  • Prince Jude Onuchima

    People should realise that rather than clean or sanitise the judiciary, what has happened to the judiciary through the arrest of senior judges without concluding any sort of investigation or verification rather all that has been done is a lot of public prosecution of the hallowed chambers of the third realm, the integrity of the judiciary is gradually being destroyer. Anarchy is gradually being entrenched. This is possible because Nigerians are being indoctrinated that the Judge can nit be trusted. The one who looses a case will naturally assume the judge has received some kind of bribe ti make his judgement. And probably takes the law into his hands. That is why what is going on should be condemned. Even if some of these judges has been found wanting after thorough investigation, they should have been quietly arrested and prosecuted outside the public eyes. It is the scoop of the journalist to find this out and even at that it won’t be anational discuss. To save thus endangered judiciary should be every civilised Nigerian duty or we are doomed.

    • Basil Ogbanufe

      I agree with you.

  • folabi

    Corruption is a threat to the internal security of Nigeria!

    • Basil Ogbanufe

      Nigeria itself is corruption. How can PMB claim to be fighting corruption with federal character? Federal character is the real corruption.