By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA – The National Judicial Council, NJC, yesterday, distanced itself from media report that it recanted its earlier position on the issue of seven judges that were arrested by the Department of State Service, DSS, between October 7 and 8.
The Council said there was no truth in the report that it made a U-turn and resolved to probe the affected judges and forward recommendations on the investigation to appropriate authorities.
The said “false” report had indicated that the Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Justice Mahmud Mohammed, through a statement by his spokesman, said that as soon as investigations were completed, appropriate recommendations would be made to the President or Governors who would have the final say on the affected judicial officers.
According to the said report, the CJN equally stated that the judges would be charged for the offences disclosed from the facts against them and be prosecuted if necessary.
However, both the CJN and the NJC, last night, maintained that such statement did not emanate from them.
While media aide to the CJN, Mr. Ahuraka Isah stressed that the most recent statement from his boss was the one he disclosed that the DSS was yet to furnish him with a formal complaint against the Judges, the Acting Director of Information at the NJC, Mr. Soji Oye, equally refuted the report.
“Such statement is not from us. They know where they got it, but certainly not from the NJC”, Oye told Vanguard last night.
It will be recalled that the NJC had in a statement it issued on Friday, said it would not ask the affected judges to step down since no disciplinary action has been initiated against them.
It said: “NJC is constrained to inform the general public that its Constitutional mandate is to process and recommend to the Executive at the Federal and State levels, the appointment, and or the removal of Judicial Officers from office, including exercise of its disciplinary control of suspending and or warning Judicial Officers; after complying with due process and the Rule of Law.
“Since the creation of NJC vide the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as amended, it has exercised its powers and performed its functions within its Constitutional limitations.
“Thus, the current position of the Nigerian Bar Association vis-à-vis its recommendation that the affected Judicial Officers involved in the on-going investigation of Judicial Officers by the DSS, be requested to proceed on compulsory leave until the conclusion of all disciplinary proceedings against them, is unacceptable to the NJC; as it breaches the 2014 Revised Judicial Discipline Regulations formulated by NJC pursuant to Section 160 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as amended.
“It is to be reiterated also that by the provisions of Section 158 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as amended, NJC shall not be subject to the direction or control of any other authority or person while exercising its disciplinary power of control over Judicial Officers in the Federation.
“The Members of the public are hereby informed that the mechanism that will determine a Judicial Officer to be directed or requested to proceed on compulsory leave or be suspended from office, is a disciplinary power that NJC can only exercise after initiating disciplinary proceeding on the complaint or petition forwarded against the Judge, after he has been found culpable”.