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Group protests in Abuja, calls on arrested justices to step down

The controversy generated by the arrest of seven judges by the Department of State Security Services (DSS) over allegation is not yet over as a group, “The Forum of Non-Governmental Organisations in Nigeria” (FONGON), on Wednesday staged a protest in Abuja asking all the affected judges to step aside pending the outcome of their trials in court.

An attempt by the group to enter into the premises of the Supreme Court was blocked by security operatives at the gate of the presidential villa, where the chairman of the forum, Wole Badmus, addressed journalists.

The group later made a detour and stopped over at the entrance of the National Assembly, where its leader threatened to mobilise 50 other groups to besiege the courts of the affected judicial officers, if they failed to step down.

The judges affected by the DSS sting operations are Justice Sylvester Ngwuta and Inyang Okoro, both of the Supreme Court, the suspended Presiding Justice of the Court of Appeal, Ilorin Division, Justice Mohammed Ladan Tsamiya, who was picked up in Sokoto; Justice Adeniyi Ademola (Federal High Court); the Chief Judge of Enugu State, Justice I. A. Umezulike; Justice Kabiru Auta of Kano State High Court and Justice Muazu Pindiga (Gombe State High Court).

The protesters carried placards with various inscriptions like,  “Stop corruption before it stops you, Don’t get it twisted, Judiciary is not on trial, only corrupt officials are, justices are to interpret the law, they are not empowered to interpret hard currencies. When a judge stuffs illicit cash in his shoes, water don pass water. In the struggle to salvage the judiciary, every onlooker is either a coward or a traitor”, among others.

Among other demands, FONGON also urged on the Federal Government to call Governors Nyesom Wike of Rivers State and his Ekiti State counterpart, Ayo Fayose to order for allegedly using their immunity to obstruct the course of justice.

Throwing its weight behind the efforts by President Mohammdu Buhari to rid the judiciary of bad eggs, the group noted that unless something is urgently done, the few bad eggs in the judiciary are capable of spoiling the good ones and added, “that is why we have decided to add our voice to the raging controversy over the arrest of some Judges and Justices over alleged corruption.”

The group, however, expressed worry over the seeming silence of the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), the Trade union Congress (TUC) and other mass-based labour unions over the matter.

“This is definitely one of the few moments when silence is not golden. We are of the view that people oriented organisations should be front runners in this noble cause. Judicial fraud is the height of heist against humanity. We hereby call on them to join the struggle if they cannot lead.”

The two justices of the apex court affected have written to the National Judicial Council (NJC) and its chairman, the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Mahmud Mohammed stating why the DSS is after them.

Justices Ademola and Dimgba have also written similar letter to the NJC, which is the body responsible for sanctioning erring judges and judicial officers after due process of the law.