The National Judicial Council has described the invasion of the residences and arrest of some serving and suspended judicial officers by the Department of Security Services (DSS) as a threat to the independence of the judiciary, adding that no judicial officer shall be invited by any institution in the country, including the DSS, without complying with the rule of law and due process
The council, in a statement last night, was reacting to the arrest and release on bail of seven judges at the weekend by the DSS for alleged corruption.
The affected judges are: Justices Okoro and Ngwuta of the Supreme Court; Justice Muhammad Ladan Tsamiya of the Court of Appeal; Justice Kabiru Auta of the Kano High Court; Justice Mu’azu Pindiga of the Gombe High Court; Justice Ibrahim Auta, Chief Judge of the Federal High Court of Nigeria; and Justice Adeniyi Ademola.
A DSS source informed ThisDay on Wednesday that they would be arraigned next week. However, the NJC held a two-day emergency meeting which ended on Wednesday evening, but deferred making any statement on the arrest of the judges till yesterday.
The council, in its statement, said the invasion portends great danger to Nigeria’s democracy and also considered the action as a clear attempt by the DSS to “humiliate, intimidate, denigrate and cow the judiciary”.
It expressed grave concern over the invasion and condemned the action in its entirety. Confirming ThisDay’s exclusive report on the correspondence between the NJC and DSS, the council stated as follows: “That it maintains its earlier decision that no judicial officer shall be invited by any institution, including the DSS, without complying with the rule of law and due process.
“That explains why when the DSS wrote to the council by letter Ref. No. LSC.960/4 dated 14th September 2016, to direct Hon. Justice Mu’azu Pindiga to appear before it, the Hon., the Chief Justice of Nigeria and Chairman of the National Judicial Council directed the Hon. Chief Judge of Gombe State to ask Hon. Justice Mu’azu Pindiga to report to DSS, which His Lordship did.
“That the National Judicial Council has never shielded, nor will it shield any judicial officer who has committed any misconduct.
“That the Department of State Services is an agency in the presidency and its functions as specified in the statute establishing it, is primarily concerned with the internal security of the country.
“That the action of the DSS is a denigration of the entire judiciary, as an institution.
“That by the act of the DSS, judicial officers are now being subjected to insecurity, as criminals might take advantage of the recent incidents to invade their residences under the guise of being security agents.