Why government must stop midnight arrest of judges, by Falana, Odinkalu
Human rights lawyer, Femi Falana (SAN) yesterday warned that criminal elements might capitalize on the midnight raids on residences of alleged corrupt judges to kidnap, maim and kill judges to the embarrassment of the federal government, even as he asked the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) to quickly save the judiciary by sanctioning corrupt members in their midst.
Falana warned that unless government restrained operatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) from further midnight raids, masked criminals could start invading judge’s residences to abduct them in the guise of investigations and maim them to cause Nigerians to hate the government as was the case in 1990.
This is as a human rights activist, Prof Chidi Odinkalu stated that the Nigerian Bar Association would not reclaim credibility by abandoning the fight against corruption to the police, EFCC, ICPC and politicians alone, but would need to purge itself to enable it play effective role in it. He also canvassed the imprisonment of corrupt judges to steam corruption.
Speaking during the 2016 week of the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA), Enugu chapter, on the theme “corruption in the Judiciary”; Falana who described the recent arrest and ongoing prosecution of some judges on allegations of corruption as unfortunate said: “Now my warning is this; if the government does not stop the SSS from carrying out midnight raids in the home of judges, the danger is this; criminal elements will wear masks and invade the home of judges at night, kidnap them and kill some of them to the embarrassment of the government. I do hope that President Buhari will restrain the SSS from further kidnapping judges in the night, but if they don’t stop, I am also asking judges never to open their doors at night because this was our own resolution in 1990”
He continued: “The danger of invading the homes of criminal suspects at night, no matter what the gravity of the offence may be is that you never can say the legality of such action. Under successive Military dictatorship, the SSS subjected me to several raids. They raided my home regularly. On April 8, 1990, outside the raid of my house at about 4.15am, I was arrested and taken away and after driving around Lagos, I was dumped in the bush along Epe road. At about the same time, another team went to the home of Beko Ransome Kuti, kidnapped him and took him to Badagry road and dumped him in the bush. We returned and addressed a press conference where we made people believe it was done by the Babangida government, not knowing that it was done by those planning to execute the Orkar coup in 1990. The whole idea was to get the human rights community to hate the Babangida regime in preparation for the coup. Our abduction took place on the April 8 and the Orka Coup took place on April 22”
He stated however that the judiciary was to be blamed for the development in the system, stressing that their alleged silence, while few individuals known to have indulged in corruption thrived was responsible.
“My submission is that the ongoing embarrassment of our judges which is unfortunate, I am saying that we are to blame for it. As lawyers, in our bar meetings, in our bar dinners and even in courts, we point accusing fingers on corrupt judges and lawyers. The NBA knows all corrupt judges but we simply refuse to move against them. It is because of our failure to address the insatiability of a few judges and lawyers that everybody is now lumped together and we are now talking about judicial corruption as if all our judges are corrupt. I have said it elsewhere and I want to repeat that majority of our judges are working under difficult circumstances but they have refused to be corrupt, the same thing with lawyers. Therefore, since our judges cannot speak, NBA can speak. Whenever people are talking that Nigerian judges are corrupt, it is like talking about the Ministers and politicians in power who are corrupt. Our duty is to isolate corrupt judges, look for them and maim them, that is our duty as lawyer”, he said.
In what looked like an endorsement to the ongoing prosecution, he stated that the judiciary had been reduced to a level where the highest bidder would get justice no matter how bad his case might be, adding that some judges had by their conducts openly shown that the profession was ‘for the super rich”.