By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA – The Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami, SAN, Tuesday, justified the arrest and detention of judges by operatives of the Department of State Service, DSS, saying “no one is or should be above the law”.
Malami, who had on Monday, shunned a valedictory court session the Supreme Court held in honour of one of its retired Justices, Suleiman Galadima, broke his silence on the matter after he inaugurated an Expert Review Committee on implementation of the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC).
Asked about his view on the raid and subsequent arrest of seven superior court Judges, including two Justices of the Supreme Court, Malami said: “Was there an allegation of crime? Was there relevant provision of criminal procedure responsible for investigation?
“Is there an allegation of corruption? If there is, no body, no matter how highly placed will be spared.
“The right to investigate has not been taken away from the constitution. The allegation boarders on criminality and no one is or should be above the law.
“Neither the judiciary or the executive will be exempted from investigation”, the AGF stated.
It will be recalled that operatives of the DSS had within the weekend, clamped down on seven judges accused of complicity in acts of corruption.
Aside Justices Inyang Okoro and Sylvester Ngwuta, both of the Supreme Court, other judges arrested and detained by the DSS were Adeniyi Ademola of the Federal High Court Abuja, Kabir Auta of the Kano High Court, Muazu Pindiga of Gombe High Court, Mohammed Tsamiya of the Court of Appeal in Ilorin, and the Chief Judge of Enugu State, I. A. Umezulike.
They seven judges were subsequently granted administrative bail, preparatory to their formal arraignment in court.
However, the National Judicial Council, NJC, which is headed by the Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Justice Mahmud Mohammed, is currently holding an emergency meeting at its headquarters in Abuja.
Meanwhile, the AGF, in a keynote address he presented at the inauguration of the Committee, said the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari would put adequate facilities in place to ensure that recovered loots are profitably managed.
He said: “No doubt, the extant review focusing on Chapter II and V of UNCAC relating to preventive measures against corruption in public and private sectors and assets recovery, is both necessary and timely at this time of the annals of country when endemic can systemic corruption has created a great disconnect between our nation’s wealth and the quality of life of ordinary citizens.
“As we are all aware, Nigeria is a state-party to UNCAC which is the first global legally binding international anti-corruption instrument.
“Fortunately, the objectives of UNCAC is in absolute synergy and harmony with one of the cardinal objectives of the current administration of President Muhammadu Buhari, which is to fight corruption in all its ramified manifestations including adopting effective preventive measured against corruption, recovery of stolen assets and putting in place systems and processes to profitably manage the stolen but recovered assets.
“It is thus necessary that members if this Committee understands the important task of nation-building which is about to be committed into their hands.
“Your contributions will no doubt translate into massive political goodwill and will snowball into successes in place setting as it relates to the fight against corruption.
“Let me emphasise that the guiding principles of the review is non-adversarial, non-punitive and not aimed at ranking state parties”.
Members of the Committee were drawn from the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission, Bureau of Public Service Reforms, Bureau of Public Procurement, Code of Conduct Bureau, Corporate Affairs Commission, Federal Ministry of Finance, National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, National Human Rights Commission, Nigeria Financial Intelligence Unit, among other agencies.