The Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, has threatened that there will be consequences if the judges arrested by the Department of State Services, DSS, on Friday night were not released immediately and without conditions.
The President of the NBA, Abubakar Mahmoud, stated this while declaring a state of emergency in the judiciary at a press briefing in Lagos on Saturday evening.
Mahmoud was joined at the press briefing by four past
presidents of the association – Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), Dr. Olisa Agbakoba (SAN); Mr. J.B. Daudu (SAN) and Augustine Alegeh (SAN).
Also present were Prof. Kayinsola Ajayi (SAN), Mr. Yusuf Ali (SAN), Mr. Dele Adesina (SAN), among others.
It will be recalled that operatives of the DSS had stormed the homes of some judges in the country, including Supreme Court Justices, arresting them, leading to outcry from several quarters, including the PDP and Ekiti State Governor, Ayodele Fasoye.
The DSS, however, said it moved against the judges after a sting operation, adding that the judges were involved in corrupt practices and professional misconduct.
The DSS also said it recovered large amount of money in local and foreign currencies from the homes of the judges.
However, Mahmoud said two Supreme Court justices, Inyang Okoro and Sylvester Ngwuta were “abducted”, with their families, and that he had yet to have the full detail of other judges who could have been involved.
According to the NBA president, the NBA condemned what it termed the Gestapo-style operation of the DSS, while also announcing the constitution of an emergency or crisis management team, comprising past NBA presidents to engage with the government.
Inssiting that it was not the responsibility of the DSS to arrest judges and that the action was an unconstitutional means of intimidating the judiciary and undermining its independence, Mahmoud called on President Muhammadu Buhari to order the immediate release of the arrested judges, vowing that there would be consequences should the demand be ignored.
Mahmoud said:“I want to emphasise again that we are not under military rule and we cannot accept this unholy event and Gestapo-style operation.
“We, therefore, call on President Muhammadu Buhari to immediately caution all the state security agencies and to respect the rule of law and to respect due process.
“Any issues affecting the judicial officers, there are established procedures for handling them and we demand that this constitutional process must be obeyed.
“Given the unfolding nature of the event and the seriousness of the situation, the NBA hereby declares a state of emergency as it affects the affairs of the judiciary and I hereby constitute a crisis management team, comprising all past presidents of the association.
“I want to, on behalf of the association, make the very following clear and unequivocal demands: we demand the immediate and unconditional release of all the judges abducted from about 9pm yesterday (Friday).
“The release must be done immediately and without any conditions. Two, we demand that the Department of State Services should limit itself to its statutory and constitutional responsibilities.
“I’ll be meeting with the CJN later tonight or tomorrow. There will be consequences if these demands are not met.”
By Timothy Enietan-Matthews
RipplesNigeria …without borders, without fears
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