Lagos lawyer, Mr Femi Falana, SAN, has insisted that judges arrested by the Department of State Services, DSS, should be suspended.
Falana, in a statement on Monday, also said it was wrong for the National Judicial Council, NJC, to say it had no power to suspend judges without first receiving petitions against them.
Falana said in the statement that: “If the NJC had treated this national crisis with the urgency required, it should have investigated the matter based on the avalanche of materials placed before it.
“Interestingly, the NJC had handled a similar complaint of judicial corruption about a decade ago.
“That was in 2006 when it was alleged that the members of the Akwa Ibom State governorship election petitions tribunal had received bribes to pervert justice.
“Without prejudice to the innocence of the judges the NJC suspended them and requested the Director-General of the DSS to conduct a discreet investigation into the allegation.
“Upon the receipt of the report of the investigation it was found that each of the members of the tribunal had received a bribe of N10million while a judge of the Federal High Court had acted as a conduit in the scandal.
“At that stage, the judges were confronted with the allegations. As their defence was found unsatisfactory, the NJC recommended their removal from the bench.
“Furthermore, the NJC referred the matter to the Independent and Corrupt Practices and Other Offences Commission. One of the indicted judges collapsed and died when the ICPC operatives wanted to arrest him in his house in Makurdi, Benue State!”
The human rights lawyer also faulted the Nigeria Bar Association, NBA, for not taking its time to investigate the allegations against the judges after initially condemning the act.
Continuing, the statement said: “In view of the foregoing, the NJC ought to commence an investigation into the serious allegation of judicial corruption leveled against the embattled judges without any further delay.
“Having regard to the embarrassing disclosures in the letters addressed to the Chief Justice by the judges, the NJC should follow the advice of the Nigerian Bar Association by placing them on suspension pending the conclusion of a full scale investigation in line with section 2.2.3 of the National Judicial Policy of the National Judicial Council which stipulates that the Council shall have the ‘powers of interim suspension.’”
“However, both the NJC and the NBA should demand a public apology for Justice Nnamdi Dimgba as the DSS has not been able to link him with any corrupt practice or misconduct whatsoever.
“Two weeks ago, the Nigerian Bar Association had cause to condemn the nocturnal raid on the official quarters of seven judges including two members of the Supreme Court.
“But upon a further review of the circumstances surrounding the arrest and the large sums of money recovered from the homes of some of the judges the Nigerian Bar Association was compelled to request them to excuse themselves until they have been absolved of the allegations of judicial corruption leveled against them. Curiously, without allowing the judges affected to react to the advice of the NBA the National Judicial Council has said that the judges would not step aside until an investigation has been conducted into the allegation of judicial corruption leveled against them by the Federal Government.”
By Timothy Enietan-Matthews…
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