DSS releases arrested judges

•Arrest sad, regrettable —CJN •NJC to take position today •NBA rejects Presidency’s explanations

SEVEN judges of superior courts of record detained by the Department of State Security Service (DSS) for alleged graft have been granted administrative bail.

They were released on bail on Sunday, with a directive to appear on Monday at the DSS headquarters.

All of them complied with the order on Monday.

They were equally allowed to go home on Monday and were told to come back today by 2.00 p.m, while they would also make appearance at the DSS office every day.

According to the Nigerian Tribune source, “the affected judges were released on bail on self-recognition, based on the fact that given their standing in the society, they cannot run away. They were instructed that they should come back today by 2.00 p.m.”

The source, however, affirmed that investigation into their cases would continue and whoever is found guilty would be  charged  to court.

All efforts made to the Service for reaction on the development failed, but a top official of the agency confirmed their release to the Nigerian Tribune in confidence.

Meanwhile, the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Mahmud Mohammed, on Monday, called for calm over last Friday’s arrest of two justices of the Supreme Court and other judges of the Federal High Court by the DSS.

The CJN, who broke his silence on this issue on Monday, while speaking at the valedictory court session held in honour of a retired Supreme Court justice, Justice Suleiman Galadima, said the action of the DSS was “indeed, very saddening and deeply regrettable.

“However, I must ask all Nigerians to remain calm and prayerful, as an emergency meeting of the National Judicial Council (NJC) will take place tomorrow [today] to comprehensively look into the matter.

“I must express my sincere appreciation to the executive of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) and, indeed, all members of the legal profession, for their prompt action and continued support.”

Although it was traditional for the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and the Minister of Justice to deliver an address on such valedictory court session, the incumbent AGF, Abubakar Malami, was conspicuously absent at Monday’s event and he did not send a representative.

In his speech at the event, the NBA president, Abubakar Mahmoud, insisted that President Muhammadu Buhari should call the security agencies responsible for the arrest of the justices of the apex court and the judges of the lower court to order.

According to the NBA boss, “we viewed these actions as illegal, unconstitutional and a threat to the independence of the judiciary and must be aimed at intimidating the judiciary and the legal profession.

“This military style operations are totally unacceptable in a democratic society. They are unacceptable against private citizens, but even more sore against serving justices of superior courts.”

Mahmoud said the NBA rejected the explanations and justification given by the Presidency that these so-called surgical operations were targeted at corruption and not the judiciary.

“We find absurd that the presidency will accept assurances from the DSS that it followed due process of the law. We maintain our position that these operations are illegal and unconstitutional. I want to reiterate that the position of the NBA is not aimed at protecting any judge. We are not also shielding any judges from investigation from charges of corruption,” Mahmoud stated.

He also addressed the divisions among lawyers over the arrests and raids of the judges’ houses saying “we are clear that raiding houses of justices of the Supreme Court in the middle of the night by masked armed men is not the way to go. We do not accept it. This portends real danger to the Nigerian democracy. It is contrary to all civilised norms and accepted standards.”  He called on the DSS to restrict itself to its constitutional and statutory duties.

According to him, DSS core mandate was to guarantee internal national security, pointing out that “it is not its duty to conduct police investigation or arraign and prosecute cases of corruption. It is not its responsibility to conduct sting operations on judges for corruption or professional misconduct in the middle of the night.”

The NBA boss called on the CJN to immediately take necessary and urgent steps to set in motion the process of cleansing the system, noting that urgent steps must be taken to restore confidence of the Nigerian people in the nation’s judiciary.

He called on lawyers to remain resolute and speak with one voice, adding that, “this is not the time to be divided.”

Justice Suleiman Galadima, who bowed out of the nation’s judiciary, having attained the official retirement age of 70, in his valedictory speech, called on members of the Bench to be honest in the discharge of their duties.

He said: “except you are honest, it will be impossible to discharge your duties well, because part of it involves the use of personal discretion. In doing this, you must honestly and dispassionately weigh both sides of the pendulum before arriving at your decision.”

He lamented the way and manner the efforts of judges were always sacrificed on the altar of frivolous petitions and ceaseless allegations of bribery and corruption, which, he said, did not stand the test of time.

“The harder you work to uplift the standard of justice, the harder detractors work to pull down the temple of justice. It is an irony too hard to countenance,” he said.