Who will judge the judges? - FAITH ADAMA'S BLOG

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Sunday, 16 October 2016

Who will judge the judges?

The fear of possible arrest by the Department of State Services (DSS) has gripped erring senior judicial officers across the nation, including some serving justices of the Supreme Court.

Trouble started for judges last weekend when the DSS in a simultaneous “sting operation” nabbed Justices Sylvester Ngwuta and John Okoro(both serving justices of the Supreme Court),  the suspended presiding Justice of the Court of Appeal, Ilorin Division, Justice Mohammed Tsamiya, Justice Kabiru Auta of the Kano State High Court and Justice Adeniyi Ademola of the Federal High Court, Abuja.
 Others arrested were a former Chief Judge of Enugu State, Justice I. A. Umezulike and Muazu Pindiga of the Federal High Court, Gombe Division. 
Justices Bashir Sukola and Ladan Manir of the Kaduna State High Court were arrested on Wednesday and taken to Abuja.

The DSS said they had been monitoring the judges’ life styles. Large sums of money in local and foreign currencies were reportedly recovered from three of the arrested judges during the operations between Friday night and the early hours of Saturday.
The DSS operations have divided the populace. While some queried the procedure employed in effecting the arrests, others see nothing wrong with it. 

In protest, some lawyers threatened to boycott court sessions while others blamed the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) and the National Judicial Council (NJC) for the plight of the embattled judges. 
The lawyers questioned the DSS operation, claiming that everything was wrong with the procedure, the execution of the search warrant and the arrests. 
According to them, if you detain a judge in the same cell as other people, what would happen tomorrow when they appear in the same court before the judge who was their cell mate?

They said it was odd, impracticable and unconstitutional to arrest a sitting judge for a common crime. This is because in sending a judge to prison, you must first remove him from being a judge so that when he arrives in prison, he would not remain a judge.

According to them, “If you start criminal prosecution of a judge, the NJC cannot do anything until you finish the criminal trial, which can take four years. So, the best way for a judge to remain a judge for a long time is for you to start criminal trial rather than a disciplinary proceeding to remove him first.”          
 However, findings have shown that if the proper procedure is not followed, any irregularity will attach to the persons executing the warrant and not the evidence thereby obtained.

“It is clear that where a law enforcement agent in the course of carrying out his duty decides to execute a warrant in a manner inconsistent with laid down procedure or otherwise obtained evidence illegally, he will render himself liable in a civil action. 

“Where there is no compliance with any of the provisions relating to issuance of execution of a search warrant, such search is definitely unlawful or at best wrongful. But the question is what happens to a piece of evidence obtained from an otherwise wrongful or even out rightly illegal search?
“The law has been settled before now that in criminal proceedings, any evidence which is relevant is admissible irrespective of how it is obtained”, a lawyer said on condition of anonymity. 

 The entire episode, according to Chief Afe Babalola (SAN), is one that unfairly denigrates the entire judicial system as an institution. 
“It does a lot of disservice to the vast majority of judges and lawyers who carry out their duties and practice their profession in compliance with the best ethical standards.

“By conducting those simultaneous raids across several states in the dead of the night, the DSS has unwittingly created a wrong impression in the minds of millions of Nigerians that the judiciary is not only an unreliable but a criminal organization.
“While it is true that a drastic situation may require equally drastic measures to curtail it, it is also true that two wrongs do not make a right.

“If proven to be true, surely the judges concerned must offer some explanation as to how they came to be in possession of such vast amounts of money.
“However, I am equally shocked at the manner in which the raids were carried out in the middle of the night and the resultant negative publicity it has attracted to the judiciary and the legal profession as a whole.

“It is for these reasons, given my position in the legal profession to which I have belonged for about 53 years, that I offer my views on the sad events of Saturday the 8th of October 2016”, Afe Babalola said.

The Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption, Prof. Itse Sagay (SAN) on his part dismissed as laughable and puerile, the condemnations trailing the raid.
He said there was nothing wrong under the law with the DSS intervention.

But Lagos lawyer and human rights activist, Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN), insisted that the DSS had no business with corruption matters.

Ozekhome said, “Emphasize it to them (the Federal Government) that provisions of Sections 10, 11, 12, 13, 186, 187 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act  which some have incredibly argued presumably allow unarmed and non-resistant citizens’ homes to be broken into to be searched at any time of the day or night, including weekend and public holidays, constitute a violent violation of Sections 34, 35, 36 and 37 of the 1999 Constitution and are accordingly null and void by virtue of Sections 1 (1) and 1 (3) of the same constitution.
According to him, search warrants validly issued by a court of competent jurisdiction are only executed between 6am and 6pm.

Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN) has also submitted the names of more judges (who are suspected to be corrupt) to the Department of State Services for probe.

Several allegations had been leveled against the judges in petitions earlier sent to the National Judicial Council (NJC) by the chairman of Civil Society Network Against Corruption (CSNAC) and Human and Environmental Development Agenda Resource Centre (HEDARC) as well as other individuals and groups between 2014 and May 2016. 

Malami, warned that nobody, no matter highly placed, would be spared in the current administration’s fight against corruption.
He said as long as there was allegation of crime against anybody, he or she can be investigated, no matter how highly placed as no one is above the law.

According to him, nobody is exempted from being investigated, not even the president, vice president, governors and their deputies who are covered by the immunity clause under Section 308 of the 1999 Constitution.

“The bottom line is that we have a responsibility to fight corruption. Corruption is a crime and nobody, regardless of how highly placed, is exempted as far as issues that border on crimes and criminalities are concerned,” he said.

(Daily Trust)

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