Step aside or we occupy your courts, NGOs tell arrested judges

The controversy surrounding the arrest of two justices of the Supreme Court and five other judges by operatives of the Department of State Services (DSS), over alleged corruption, still rages, as a group, “The Forum of Non- Governmental Organisations in Nigeria (FONGON), on Wednesday, again, staged a protest in Abuja, asking all the affected judges to step aside pending the outcome of their trials in court.

The group, which kick-started the protest from the office of the Head of Service, stopped over at the Ministry of Justice where the chairman, Wole Badmus, re-stated the earlier call by the group for the affected judges to step aside, in the interest of justice.

Badmus said the group was worried that the affected judges were still allowed to sit and preside over matters before them, even when they were being investigated for corruption by the DSS.

The group said the National Judicial Council (NJC) should meet and come out with a categorical statement on the issue, adding that the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) has made its stand on the issue known already, which was that the affected judges should step aside.

According to FONGON chairman, the one-week ultimatum the group gave the judges to do the needful had elapsed and the since the two justices of the Supreme Court, Justices Inyang Okoro and Sylvester Ngwuta, who were also affected had stepped aside, the remaining five judges should do same or the group will mobilise to besiege the courts of the affected judges by next week.

The judges affected by the DSS sting operations were 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.

FONGON, according to Badmus, supported President Muhammadu Buhari’s efforts to rid the judiciary of bad eggs, adding that unless something was urgently done, the few bad eggs in the judiciary were capable of spoiling the good ones.

“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,” he stated.