Arrest of Judges not unconstitutional — Buhari’s aide

President Muhammadu Buhari

Special Assistant to the President on Prosecution, Mr Obono Obla, says there is nothing unconstitutional about the arrest of some judges by the Directorate of State Security (DSS).

Obla, who spoke with journalists in Ugep, Cross River, said that for the first time in the history of Nigeria, Supreme Court Justices were arrested for corruption.

“It is unprecedented in Africa for senior judges to be arrested for corruption and you say we are not fighting corruption.

“Judges are partly responsible and the corrupt lawyers are partly responsible because they block, they fight, and they stall judicial process.

“Also, the Nigerian big man does not want the rule of law to reign in this country.

“They think we should have two standards of justice but we insist that the rule of law must prevail for all,’’ the presidential aide said.

He urged the Nigerian “big man’’ to change his mentality and subject himself to the rule of law.

“When he is being asked to render account of his stewardship, he should do so. He should not bring lawyers to come and stall processes and progress.

“And some corrupt judges pander to these lawyers because money has passed under the table.

“We need fearless judges, knowledgeable judges, incorruptible judges and God-fearing judges.

“And we also need the cooperation of all the institutions involved in the administration of criminal justice to fight corruption in the system,’’ Obla said.

He said that the present administration’s anti-corruption war had ensured that public officials no longer had access to slush funds.

“So, the reality now is that because of the downfall in the price of oil and the anti-corruption fight, public officials no longer have access to slush funds,’’ he said.

According to the presidential aide, there is a linkage between fighting corruption and economic prosperity.

“If corruption is not addressed, there will be no economic growth. Investors will not come into the country, and there will be a lot of leakages in the economy,’’ he said.

Obla noted that the fight against corruption enabled the federal government to discover leakages in the wage bill of the armed forces.

“Corruption fight is not just about prosecution but about blocking the leakages through which monies are being siphoned out of the system,’’ he said.

The presidential aide also said his office has developed a Strategic Plan on Prosecution for 2016 to 2019.

These, he said, included the publication of a new National Guidelines on Prosecution, Code of Conduct for Prosecution, National Policy on Prosecution and Manual for Plea Bargaining.

“We are going to establish an Administration of Justice Monitoring Committee pursuant to Section 407 of the Administration of Justice Act 2015.

“All these are aimed at reducing congestion, ensuring that convictions are secured and that criminal cases are speedily dealt with.

“A bill is now before the National Assembly for a special criminal court that will address squarely the issue of delay in criminal trial.

“Before there was no will to prosecute, but we now have the will to prosecute,’’ he said.

He added his office had put in place a national prosecution coordinating committee to complement efforts of the Directorate of Public Prosecutions.