Last Friday, the Department of State Service, DSS, armed with the necessary warrants stormed the homes of some judicial officers including two Supreme Court justices in search of evidence for alleged corruption against them. At the end of the search which was conducted in the night, DSS reported that huge sums of money in both local and foreign currencies were recovered from the judges who were immediately arrested and detained.
They have since been granted administrative bail as they are expected to be arraigned in court soon. This is the first time judicial officers will be arrested for corruption in Nigeria.
Saturday Vanguard went to town to sample the opinions of Nigerians across the country on this development and majority of the respondents commended the President for taking a bold step to sanitize the judicial arm of government. Some however frowned at the manner the judges were arrested by security operatives.
Chuka Obele-Chuka, human rights lawyer, Anambra
I am of the view that the unprecedented action of the DSS is one that requires restraint and cautious response from lawyers. No one, including the judges, is above the law. There is no judicial immunity for judges for criminal actions or conducts. It is a common principle of our laws and, in fact, a solemn declaration of our Constitution that the law is no respecter of persons and of equality before the law.
Caution is the key word so as not to be caught in a quandary if more damning evidences are unearthed against the judges. It is against this background that every Nigerian, including lawyers, should view the massive simultaneous raids of the judges’ abodes. Critical questions are: Was there a basis, or in legal parlance, prima facie case against the judges for the raid?
Can the judges explain away the tonnes of cash recovered from their homes? Can their total earnings justify their ownership of the property traced to them? Can some of them justify why they have not spent their salaries for months? I however demand that the security agencies should ensure that collateral damage is avoided by all means. No innocent judge should be made to suffer any form of embarrassment in the course of effort to weed the crooks on the bench.”
Kelvin Ebire, Journalist, Rivers
DSS acted outside its constitutional roles. Based on arguments by renown lawyers, the DSS went outside its jurisdiction. The duties of DSS personnel do not include apprehension of judges. They have institutions that discipline judges constitutionally.
There are laws that clearly spell out how judges are dealt with. In Rivers state there was nothing to show that the judge was invited by the DSS or the Police. The law also says that even if you have a search warrant you can only act between the hours of 6am and 6pm. So for them to have come to the judge’s house around 1 am is not normal, it is illegal.
Barrister Wori Wori, Rivers
There is nothing wrong in keeping money at home. You heard that the CJN condemned the action of the DSS. I agree with the CJN completely. I won’t say that if a judge is corrupt he should not be investigated but there are laid down procedures. To show that the action was wrong I heard that the judges were granted bail on self recognition. The import is that a judge by his position can’t run away from justice.
If you knew this why go in the wee hours to arrest them. The action has put the job of the judges on line because it raised questions on integrity. We were not there, we only heard that money was recovered from them which we did not see. But don’t they have a right to keep money in their houses if they don’t want to keep it in the banks? I keep money in my house, does it suggest that it was stolen. What should be important is how they got the money.
Joe Ambakederimo, activist, Bayelsa
“There is nothing wrong with the arrest of some judges to face prosecution if they run against the law of the land. The manner of arrest should not be an issue here. If we need to tie people on the stakes and shoot them so be it. The DSS agents have woken up to their responsibilities and every right thinking Nigerian should support the government to bring this corruption menace to the minimum. “
Alagoa Morris, Niger Delta activist, Bayelsa
“The DSS, EFCC and Police; I am confused as to which agency ought to be really involved on this matter. The DSS goes after alleged militants and I am surprised that the same DSS is now at the centre of effecting the arrest of judges alleged to be corrupt in the dead of the night in a commando style.
“While we should ensure that there is no sacred cow in the anti-graft war, it is pertinent to stress the need to adhere to the democratic norms of due process; especially the rule of law. No matter the good intentions behind the actions of the DSS, unless rule of law is respected; it falls short of what is acceptable.”
Hon Ebikekeme Ere, former member, House of Representatives, Bayelsa
“Ordinarily, the National Judicial Council (NJC) is expected to deal with issues of ethics and malpractices in the court rooms while the DSS is expected to deal with issue of criminality. That means they are right to have arrested the alleged corrupt judges. In this case, the DSS has done the right thing by arresting the alleged corrupt judges.
We should stop associating President Muhammadu Buhari with everything done by the security agencies. The DSS is just a reflection of a new Nigeria being put in place by President Buhari. The DSS is functioning in line with its duties. They are empowered by law to make arrest when it has to do with national security.
“When some judges are seen to have violated the laws of the land and engage in criminal activities such as corruption and misconduct, it bothers on national security. Such judges should be arrested and tried. My advice is that such arrest and arraignment should be done in line with due processes.”
Mr. Sunday Ekirigwe, Teacher, Niger
The step taken by the executive on the matter is in the right direction, as some judges now bend their judgement in favour of the highest bidder and they should be checkmated. Government should go ahead with the clamp down. Something therefore needs to be done to to correct the anomalies in the judiciary.
Malam Danazumi Ahmed Garba, self employed, Niger
President Muhammadu Buhari had spoken on several occasions before and since he came to power on his zero tolerance for corruption, what is going on should not be new to Nigerians. Some high ranking professional bodies like the Army, Police have internal mechanisms where some of their erring officers are tried and disciplined and if the judiciary cannot deal with their erring members, outsiders like the Executive Arm would do it as it has been done.
Barrister Muhammad Adamu Gausu, Jigawa.
When President Muhammadu Buhari assumed office he had complained about the problem in the judiciary. Judicial officers do not have immunity and the action of the DSS will enable the government remove the bad eggs in the profession. It will serve as deterrent to others who may want to be tempted to be corrupt.
Barrister Sanusi Lawan, Jigawa
The arrest of some judges involved in alleged corruption by the DSS is ultra vires and in contradiction of the security agencies’ enabling laws. No one is saying there are no corrupt judges on the bench. What we are advocating is that there are civilized ways of arresting and prosecuting an erring judge. There is element of bias since all of the judges have in one way or other given dissatisfying decisions to the DSS or the government before. I personally support this crackdown but it should be done in a civilized way.
Usman Ismaeel, Committee for the Defence of Human Rights (CDHR) Osun.
The DSS committed no crime because the security outfit acted within the Act that established it. The hues and cries are understandable because of the status of the judges who are assumed to be revered and disciplined. The judiciary appears to be frustrating the anti-corruption war of President Muhammadu Buhari and a drastic step must be taken to sanitize the judiciary. Perversion of justice, as we are witnessing in Nigerian judiciary is more a criminal offence than murder and armed
robbery. If armed robbery suspects can be treated with utmost disdain, any form of operation that exposes corrupt judges is acceptable. Going by this, DSS has acted rightly in the face of the material fact and the processes. The fact that law empowers the security to effect search and arrest warrant at any time and place makes their action legitimate. The fight against corruption must be fought with all
sincerity and vigour having established that it has impeded the growth and development of the country.
Mr Adebiyi Gbenle, legal practitioner, Osun
Nobody is above the law because the administration of criminal justice allows the police or DSS to arrest anybody for crime anytime. The DSS was therefore within the law. This revelation has confirmed the position of President Buhari that the judiciary is a major problem in his quest to fight corruption in the country.
Rev Adebayo Ajisafe , Ondo
Nobody is in support of corruption but the way and manner the judges were harassed in the wee hours was undeserved and should be condemned. Since the NJC is there, the allegation ought to have been reported to the NJC which will investigate. Their arrest was barbaric, undemocratic and condemnable.
Ade Akanbi, Ondo
The arrest of the judges is a right step in a wrong direction. If they are truly guilty the step taken was undemocratic, we have NJC saddled with the responsibility of appointing, promoting and to discipline them. The DSS ought to have passed the allegation to NJC. What they have done to the judges was wrong. If judges could be treated that way, what would then be the fate of an ordinary Nigerian .
Alhaji Usman Abuda, Edo
The accused judges have betrayed the trust of the people. Judges are not a set of special Nigerians, but they are just behaving like a cabal. For such amount of money to be found in their possession, were they engaging in money contribution?.
This aspect of our law which says an accused is innocent until he is proved guilty should be amended. Are these judges or they are money collectors? They really need to sit up and those yet to be apprehended should confess. To question the mode of operation of the DSS is uncalled for. Let us build the country together by behaving realistically and it is sad that we Nigerians are the ones condemning the effort of the government to sanitize the system, it is really sad.
Mr. Abraham Ojo, lawyer Oyo
It is true nobody is above the law and no sane person would support corruption. However, the way and manner the arrest was carried out was not good. These people are highly placed in society. They are not above the law. And they are presumed innocent until a court of competent jurisdiction says otherwise? What people are complaining about is the way the arrest was carried out.
Mr. Babatunde Abimbola, Oyo
There was nothing wrong in the way the judges were arrested. The arrest was quite in order. It is now showing that President Muhammadu Buhari is ready to fight corruption. You can imagine what the judges were doing with such huge amount of money in their residences.
They are wicked considering the hardship that masses are going through in this time of economic recession. We pray that God would continue to strengthen our President. We are so happy the way the matter is unfolding. But, we want him to ensure they are prosecuted. We are only worried because these judges, if they are arraigned, would still appear before fellow judges. May God help us.
Chief Mike Ahamba, SAN, Imo
My view is that nobody is above the law. But storming the home of judges in the night “may not be the best in the circumstance. What is it that the DSS did in the night that could not have been achieved in the day? I must also add that due process ought to be respected otherwise, we would be surreptitiously inviting anarchy.
Wole Sokunbi, journalist, Ogun
I want to put my weight behind the arrest of the judges but the manner of the arrest was uncivilised and shameful. Breaking into the judges’ homes in the night is too bad. We should join hands with the Federal Government in the fight against corruption.
Mrs. Folake Ade-Adeniji, journalist, Ogun
The incident indicates that nobody is above the law. The allegation against the judges is shameful. The way we see judges had been that they could not engage in such act. They should be made to face the wrath of the law. I support the way they were arrested, there is nothing wrong about it”.
Oyeyemi Oladele, graduate, Ogun
The arrest of the judges was in order. However, they should have been given a soft landing because of their personally. The judges are known to be people of high moral standard and the last hope for the oppressed, but, the recent incident calls for concerns by all of us. Where do we go to when judges are also corrupt”.
Alhaji Umar Ahmad Dankano, Human Rights Activist, Adamawa
The move to extend the anti-corruption campaign of the present administration to the Bench is a welcome development. The DSS should be commended for taking the bull by the horn as nobody should be above the laws of the land. This should be a signal to the Lower Courts that the search light of the anti-corruption is also on them. For the war against corruption to succeed, there should be no sacred cow as corruption cuts across all the facets of the society.
Mallam Haruna Yusuf, Public Affairs analyst, Adamawa
The recent clamp down of Senior Members of the Bench was long over due. One of the most corrupt organs of government in Nigeria is the judiciary and the Bench is the arrow head of the Judiciary. There should be a serious surgical operation in the judiciary if the present nascent democracy is to last longer.
The DSS should not to rest on their oars in bringing corrupt judges and other Public Officers to book for a better Nigeria and for future generations yet unborn.
Abubakar Usman, retired Permanent Secretary, Adamawa
I support the DSS for their bold steps in exposing top judicial officers. The Bench has remained untouchable over the years and corruption has continued to rear its ugly head in that arm of government. More and more arrests should be made in the judiciary to cleanse the mess there.