A presidential legal review report has justified last week’s arrest and search of the premises of two Supreme Court justices and other judges from federal and state jurisdictions by the Department of State Services (DSS), describing it as firmly placed within the ambit of the law.
Source told Nigerian Tribune that the report, being considered by the Presidency, indicated that the DSS acted in accordance with the extant laws and legal provisions in the land.
On arguments against the mode of arrest of the judges, the presidential legal review argued that it was “pertinent to note that Nigeria is not the first country to investigate and prosecute judges who are suspected of commission of acts of crime.
“The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in the United States of America (a body similar to DSS) has, at various times, prominently in January 2013, May 2014, and November 2015, arrested a number of judges for bribery, corruption and other similar offences and subjected the judges to trial, at the end of which the convicted judges were imprisoned.”
“Nearer to home, neighbours like Ghana and Kenya had also cleansed their respective judiciaries through investigation and prosecution of judges suspected of commission of corruption.”
On when and how search and arrest warrants could be executed, the report revealed that the DSS abided by Section 148 of ACJA, which states that: “A search warrant may be issued and executed at any time on any day, including a Sunday and public holiday.”
Furthermore, the review noted that: “By Section 111 of the Criminal Procedure Law, a search warrant may be issued and executed on any day, including a Sunday or public holiday. It shall however be executed between the hours of five (5) o’clock in the forenoon and eight (8) o’clock at night but the court may, in its discretion, authorise by the warrant the execution of the warrant at any hour.
“Where the court authorises the execution of a search warrant at any hour other than between the hours of 5 o’clock in the forenoon and 8 o’clock at night, such authorisation may be contained in the warrant at the time of issue or may be endorsed thereon by any magistrate at any time thereafter prior to its execution.”
Quoting section 36 (1) (c) ACJA, on who could issue a warrant of arrest, the report argued that “a warrant of arrest is issued by a judge or a magistrate. A warrant of arrest may be issued on any day, including a Sunday or public holiday.”
On whether arrest could be effected in the absence of an arrest warrant, the report maintained that “a warrant of arrest may be executed notwithstanding that it is not in the possession at the time of the person executing the warrant but the warrant shall, on the demand of the suspect, be shown to him as soon as practicable after his arrest.”
By section 18 (1) (d) and (j) ACJA, a police officer may, without an order of court and without warrant, arrest a suspect in whose possession anything is found which may reasonably be suspected to be stolen property or who may reasonably be suspected of having committed an offence with reference to the thing; or for whose arrest a warrant has been issued or whom he is directed to arrest by a judge, magistrate, justice of the peace or superior police officer.”
The report quashed notions that judges were immune from arrest or prosecution, noting that Section 308 conferred such immunity from civil and criminal proceedings (within the set limits) on the president, vice president, governors and deputy governors.
Speaking on why it did not allow the National Judiciary Council (NJC) to exercise the power to discipline the judges, the report, combining sections 153(1) (i), 158, 160 and 292 and paragraph 21, part I, Third Schedule of the Constitution, argued that the “NJC is not a court; it is not a law enforcement agency.”
Meanwhile, the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, has told the two judges of the Federal High Court, who had accused him of being responsible for their arrest by the DSS to go to court to prove their claims against him.
Media adviser to the AGF, Salihu Isah, was quoted as saying that the claims by the judges were afterthought, wondering why the judges did not bring the allegations up until the raids on their houses.
Justices Adeniyi Ademola and Namdi Dimgba, both judges of the Federal High Court, accused the AGF of vendetta against them for entering verdicts the minister did not like and had asked the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Mahmud Mohammed, to grant them leave to sue Malami and DSS over raids on their homes.
Justice Ademola, in a letter he wrote to the CJN four days after the raid, accused Malami for his arrest.
He said the immediate reason for his arrest was his decision to grant bail to former National Security Adviser (NSA), Colonel Sambo Mohammed Dasuki (retd), and the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu, who were held on separate charges of corruption and treason.
The DSS accused Ademola and the other arrested judges of corruption, but the judge denied the allegation, saying that he was targeted because he ruled against the DSS in some controversial cases.
He said the DSS connived with the AGF to use his decisions on the bench against him, while he denied the allegations, including charges that he was in possession of unlicensed firearms.