In his reaction, Femi Falana (SAN), said that the National Judicial Council (NJC) should be blamed for not stamping out corrupt judges in the system. He also criticised the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) for shielding corrupt judges despite having information about their activities.
The statement he issued on the judges arrest read :
“In particular, the Nigerian Bar Association which has information on all corrupt judges and lawyers in the country has continued to shield them to the embarrassment of incorruptible members of the bar and the bench.
“The few lawyers who have plucked up the courage to expose corrupt judges and lawyers have been stigmatised and treated like lepers by their colleagues. It is on record that when both the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Offences Commission and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission sent invitation letters to judges suspected of corruption, they had rushed to the Federal High Court to obtain interlocutory injunctions to prevent their arrest, investigation and prosecution.
“It is on account of negligence on the part of the legal profession that the DSS which screens candidates before they are recommended by the National Judicial Council for appointment as judges has now engaged in the arrest of judges for alleged corruption and abuse of office.
“As the detained judges are presumed innocent until the contrary is proved by the state, the office of the Attorney-General of the Federation should ensure that the suspects are arraigned in court without any further delay.
“However, it is a matter of grave concern that the legal profession has allowed the denigration of the hallowed temple of justice because of the misconduct of a few corrupt judges. For several years, judges who committed grave criminal offences were not prosecuted but merely retired by the authorities on the recommendation of the National Judicial Council.
“Although the National Judicial Council recently recommended the dismissal and prosecution of a judge for extorting the sum of N197 million from a litigant, the authorities had paid lip service to the menace of judicial corruption in the country.
“About two years ago, an anti graft agency found N2 billion in the account of a high court judge. As soon as the judge was invited for questioning, she reported and made a statement and was granted bail. But as she could not defend the lodgement in her bank account, she obtained an interlocutory injunction from one of the judges in the custody of the DSS.
“It is common knowledge that two Senior Advocates of Nigeria are standing trial in the Lagos high court for allegedly bribing a judge. Even though it takes two to tango, the judge has not been charged to court for allegedly receiving the bribe.”
Nobody is above the law—Obele
So much has been said by members of the legal profession and other Nigerians since the news of arrest of Supreme Court justices and other judges broke. Some commentators have been loud
repeating themselves on the issue and many have shouted themselves hoarse in their bid to be heard. Televison and radio stations are replete with commentaries on corruption in the judiciary. Since the arrests of the Judges last week, several debates for and against the action of the DSS have dominated the airwaves. Even ordinary Nigerians who felt they have been cheated in personal libel cases because their rich oppressors bought the judgment against them were speaking up for the first time.
Are these Judges above the law? The answer is not far fetched.
Former Onitsha Bar Chairman, Obele-Chuka in his reaction said that no one, including the President Muhammadu Buhari is above the law.
In a statement he issued in Onitsha, Mr. Obele –Chuka, said ,“Available information thus far shows that over 93 million naira, 400,000.00. Dollars and tens of thousands of other foreign currencies among others incriminating documents were retrieved from searches conducted in the judges abode.
“First, no one, including the judges, as well as President Buhari, is above the law. There is no judicial immunity for judges for criminal actions or conducts. This principle was established in the case of Ikomi versus State(1986 )3 NWRL Part (28)340, a case in which a judge was arrested, detained, arraigned and tried for the murder of his police Orderly.
No judge comes within the offices shielded from prosecution by Section 308 of the constitution of the land. Even public officers listed therein are not exempted from investigation.
Further still, it is a common principle for 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.”
DSS acted outside its core mandate — Melaye
Senator Dino Melaye has also condemned the operation by the DSS, saying that they went outside their core mandate.
“I have studied the Act setting up DSS, Nigerian Intelligence Agency and DIA and can conclude that the DSS operatives went outside their core mandate.
There is no doubt that many Judges are corrupt. It is also important to state the need to sanitise the judiciary.
Judges have no immunity and can be tried and should be tried but the use of DSS is absolutely wrong.
It’s a dangerous trend – Mike Ozekhome (SAN)
Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN) in his reaction said the attack is dangerous and against the very foundation of democracy, adding that the media is the next target of the DSS if their clampdown is allowed to continue.
DSS has no right to arrest Judges – Prof Omaka, SAN
But a Senior Advocate and Professor of Environmental law, Prof. Amari Omaka stressed the DSS has no powers to make such form of arrests under the law of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Prof Omaka who lectures in the Law Faculty of Ebonyi State University said even though he does not support any form of corruption by any individual at any level, the manner in which the war against corruption was being pursued particularly in recent times called for concern among Nigerians.
“The manner in which the Directorate of State Services has gone about these arrests leaves much to be desired because I know as a legal practitioner of my standing that there are ways of disciplining erring judges.
Probe of corrupt judicial officials overdue – Nigeria Unity Forum
Nigeria Unity Forum in its reaction commended the Department of State Services (DSS) for arresting some alleged corrupt judges and described the action as a step in the right direction. The group said that the probe into the activities of some corrupt judicial officials was over due.