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The Position Of The National Judicial Council On The Recent Invasion Of The Residences And Arrest Of Judicial Officers By The Department Of State Services (DSS)

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At its last Emergency Meeting which was held on  October 11th 2016,

Council decided among other matters, as follows:
That the National Judicial Council is a creation, by virtue of Section 153

of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as amended,

with its powers specified in Paragraph 21 of Part One of the Third

Schedule whereof.
That by virtue of Section 160 of the 1999 Constitution, Council fashioned

out:
Judicial Discipline Regulations;
ii)      Revised NJC Guidelines and Procedural Rules for the   Appointment

of Judicial Officers of all Superior Courts of Record;

iii)      Code of Conduct for Judicial Officers of the Federal Republic of

Nigeria; and
iv)    National Judicial Policy
to inter-alia, regulate its own procedure while exercising its

Constitutional Powers.
3.      That Section 158 (1) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal

Republic of Nigeria, as amended, has unequivocally provided for the

independence of the National Judicial Council vis-à-vis directing or

controlling it by any authority or person while exercising its powers.

4.      Reiterated its absolute confidence in President Muhammadu Buhari

Administration and its unwavering determination to uphold the Principles

of Democracy, Separation of Powers and the Rule of Law enshrined in the

1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as amended and the

United Nations Charter, which Nigeria is a Member.
5.      That it shall continue to support the President Buhari

Administration in its fight against corruption in all its ramifications in

the Federation; and in cleansing the Judiciary of corrupt Judicial

Officers.
6.      However, expresses its grave concern on the recent invasion of the

Residences and arrest of some serving and suspended Judicial Officers by

the Department of State Services (“DSS”); and condemned the action in its

entirety.
7.      Viewed the action as a threat to the Independence of the

Judiciary, which portends great danger to our democracy; and also

considered the action as a clear attempt by the DSS to humiliate,

intimidate, denigrate and cow the Judiciary.
BACKGROUND FACTS
8.1    RE: HON. JUSTICE SYLVESTER NGWUTA
The Public is aware that Hon. Justice Sylvester Ngwuta, a Justice

of the Supreme Court of Nigeria, was arrested after his House was invaded

by heavily armed and masked operatives of the Department of States

Security on Friday 7th October,2016. The operatives did not leave his

house until 12.00 noon of the followingday, when he was whisked away to

the (“DSS”) office.
8.2    RE: HON. JUSTICE INYANG OKORO
The Residence of Hon. Justice Inyang Okoro, a Justice of Supreme Court of

Nigeria, was raided in the same manner and was arrested by the same

operatives of the DSS.
Contrary to the claim by the DSS and as published in the

electronic and print media, Council has never received any petition

against the aforesaid Judicial Officers: Hon. Justices Ngwuta and Okoro of

the Supreme Court of Nigeria, by the DSS.
8.3    RE: HON. JUSTICE MUHAMMED LADAN TSAMIYA OF THE COURT OF APPEAL

At its Meeting which was held on 29thSeptember, 2016, Council had found

His Lordship culpable of professional misconduct contrary to Code of

Conduct for Judicial Officers of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the

provisions of Section 292 of 1999 Constitution of Federal Republic of

Nigeria. Accordingly, he was recommended to Mr President for compulsory

retirement from office following the petition written by one MrNnamdi Iro

Oji for demanding the sum of N200,000,000.00 (Two Hundred Million Naira)

bribe.  It is to be stressed that from the evidence before the Council,

Hon. Justice Ladan Tsamiya did not receive N200m bribe.  The Petitioner

adduced evidence to support his allegation that Hon.

Justice Tsamiya only demanded forthe money.
In the exercise of its power, Council had suspended Justice Tsamiya from

office, pending when the President will act on the recommendation. And Mr.

President has approved the recommendation of the Council and compulsorily

retired His Lordship from office yesterday, the 12th day of October, 2016.

8.4.   RE: HON. JUSTICE I. A. UMEZULIKE, OFR
Hon. Justice I. A. Umezulike, OFR, Chief Judge, Enugu State, was

recommended for compulsory retirement from office to Enugu State Governor

for gross misconduct, pursuant to the petition written against him by Mr.

Peter Eze.
In the meantime, National Judicial Council has suspended His

Lordship from office pending when the Governor of Enugu State will act on

its recommendation.
8.5.   RE: HON. JUSTICE A. F. A. ADEMOLA, OF THE FEDERAL HIGH COURT

Hon. Justice A. F. A. Ademola of the Federal High Court, Abuja

Division has been petitioned by Hon. Jenkins Duviegiane Gwebe on

allegations bordering on corrupt practices.
Currently, a Committee of the Council is investigating the

allegations.
There is no other petition against Hon. Justice Ademola from DSS

pending at the National Judicial Council.
8.6.   RE: HON. JUSTICE KABIRU AUTA, KANO STATE HIGH COURT

Hon. Justice Kabiru Auta was investigated by Council based on

allegations of corrupt practices levelledagainst him in a petition

forwarded to Council by one Alhaji Kabiru Yakassai. His Lordship was

recommended to the Governor of Kano State for removal from office by

dismissal.  Council wrote separately to the AIG Kano Zone 1, for Police to

prosecute Hon. Justice Auta.
Council has suspended His Lordship from office pending when the Governor

will act on its recommendation.
8.7    RE: HON. JUSTICE MUAZU PINDIGA OF HIGH COURT, GOMBE STATE

The DSS petitioned the Hon. Chief Justice of Nigeria and Chairman of the

National Judicial Council alleging corrupt practices against Hon. Justice

Pindiga, inter-alia:-
“i)     That the Hon. Judge in a bid to illegally enrich himself,

perfected plans through third party proxies/conduits, with a view to

influencing the outcome of the Election Tribunal in the governorship polls

in favour of the incumbent Governor Nyesom Wike.
ii)    That further ongoing discreet investigation, Justice Pindiga is

observed to have illegally enriched himself through corrupt means. Part of

the illegitimate proceeds suspected to have accrued to Pindiga includes

the underlisted:
a)      Two (2) completed blocks of six (6) units 2 bedroom flats in

Federal Low CostEstate in Gombe metropolis;
b)      Four (4) units of bungalow in another part of the Estate;

c)      An uncompleted property at GRA in Gombe Metropolis;

d)      a Mercedes Benz C300 car in the name of MUBAJJAL;

e)      A Toyota Venza-Model SUV.
iii)   From all indications, it is apparent that Pindiga, who is a very

Senior Justice in Gombe State, is highly corrupt. His continuous stay as a

Justice in any capacity would likely embarrass the current administration

and pervert the cause of justice. In view of the foregoing, it is strongly

advised that immediate necessary administrative and judicial measures be

taken on him, including appropriate sanctions and trial to set a precedent

to others of his like”.
The complaint containing the allegations of corrupt practices against the

Hon. Judgewere conveyed in a letter Ref No. DGSS71/3161 and dated

26th February,2016, written by the DSS to the Hon. Chief Justice of

Nigeria and Chairman of the National Judicial Council.  The petition was

not supported by a verifying affidavit deposed to by the DSS, as required

by the National Judicial Council Discipline Regulations 2014. The Petition

should have been disregarded for non-compliance with the National Judicial

Council Regulations, but by letter Ref. No. NJC/S.15/ HC.GM/5/1/128 dated

19th April,2016, the DSS was notified and requested to comply and to

depose to a verifying affidavit in support of the allegations of corrupt

practices levelled against the Hon. Judge.
By letter Ref No. LSD.232/4/68 dated 6thMay, 2016, to the Council, the DSS

deposed to a verifying affidavit in respect of the allegations against

Justice Pindiga.
On the directive of the Council, Hon. Justice Mu'azu Pindiga responded to

the allegations against him by DSS.  Thereafter, a Committee comprising

Members of the Council investigated the allegations of corrupt practices.

Both Parties – The DSS and Hon. Justice Mu'azu Pindiga, together with

their witnesses and counsel appeared before the Panel set up by Council in

compliance with the National Judicial Discipline Regulations and Section

36 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended,

on the Right to Fair Hearing.
The DSS was represented by a Director, S. U. Gambo, Esq. who is also a

Legal Practitioner in the Department and Hon Justice Pindiga was

represented by Joe Agi, SAN.
At the end of the investigation, the DSS could not substantiate any of the

allegations of corrupt practices either by documentary or oral evidence

against the Hon. Justice Pindiga.
Consequently, at its Meeting of 15th July,2016, Council decided to

exonerate Hon. Justice Pindiga of the allegations of corrupt

practices levelled against him by DSS.
The Council's decision was conveyed to Hon. Justice Pindiga in a letter

Ref. No. NJC/ HC.GM/5/1/132 of 9th August, 2016 and copied the DSS.

8.8.   RE: HON. JUSTICE NNAMDI DIMGBA OF FEDERAL HIGH COURT ABUJA DIVISION

Council is aware that DSS had written a complaint alleging corrupt

practices and professional misconduct against Hon. Justice Dimgba by a

letter Ref. No. LSD.158/2/31 dated 5th August, 2016.

At its Meeting of 29th September, 2016, Council constituted a Fact Finding

Committee comprising its Members to investigate the allegation.

During the last Emergency Meeting of the Council, it received a Report

from Hon. Justice Nnamdi Dimgba that his Residence was also raided and

ransacked; and in the process, his nephew and driver were man-handled,

using a wrong search warrant which was not meant for the search of his

house.
The Committee has commenced the process of investigating the allegations

before the recent unfortunate raid and search of Hon.

Justice Dimgba's Residence.
9.      Council meticulously considered the entire unfolding events that

led to the arrest of the Judicial Officers and the misinformation and

disinformation making rounds in both Electronic and Print Media that the

DSS acted thus because the National Judicial Council was shielding the

Judicial Officers from investigation and prosecution for corrupt practices

and professional misconduct.
10.    Council noted particularly, that from the available records, the

DSS forwarded only two(2 no.) separate complaints containing allegations

of Corrupt Practices against Hon. Justice Pindiga; and corrupt practices

and professional misconduct against Hon. Justice Dimgba.

11.    The impression created and widely circulated before the public,

that the DSS forwarded a number of petitions containing various

allegations of corrupt practices and professional misconduct against some

Judicial Officers to the Council, and they were not investigated, is not

correct.  The Council urges the DSS to make public the particulars of such

petitions to put the records straight.
12.    Given the above background facts, on behalf of the Judiciary,

Council is constrained to inform the general public that all petitions and

complaints forwarded against Judicial Officers bordering on corrupt

practices and professional misconduct, have been attended to and

investigated, where applicable, by Council since year 2000 to date, within

the powers conferred on it by the 1999 Constitution of the Federal

Republic of Nigeria as amended.
13.    Therefore, any Judicial Officer that was reprimanded by Council or

recommended for removal from office by compulsory retirement or dismissal

to the President or Governor, was done in compliance with the

Constitutional power, Rule of Law and Due Process.
14.    From year 2000, when the National Judicial Council held its

inaugural Meeting to 2016, 1808 petitions and complaints against Judicial

Officers, including Chief Justices of Nigeria, Justices of Supreme Court

and Court of Appeal were received by the respective Honourable, the Chief

Justices of Nigeria and Chairman of the National Judicial Council.

Eighty-two (82 No.) of the Judicial Officers were reprimanded (suspension,

caution or warning), by Council, in the exercise of its exclusive

Constitutional Disciplinary power over Judicial Officers. Thirty-eight (38

No.) of the Judicial Officers were recommended to the President or

Governor where applicable, for compulsory retirement from office; while

twelve (12 No.) were recommended to the President or Governor as the case

may be, for dismissal from office.
In conclusion, Council wishes to state as follows:-

That it maintains its earlier decision that no Judicial Officer shall be

invited by any Institution including the DSS, without complying with the

Rule of Law and Due Process.  That explains why when the DSS wrote to the

Council by letter Ref. No. LSC.960/4 dated 14th September, 2016, to direct

Hon. Justice Mu'azu Pindiga to appear before it, The Hon. The Chief

Justice of Nigeria and Chairman of the National Judicial Council directed

the Hon. Chief Judge of Gombe State to ask Hon. Justice Mu'azu Pindiga to

report to DSS, which His Lordship did.
That the National Judicial Council has never shielded nor will it shield

any Judicial Officer who has committed any misconduct.

3)      That the Department of State Services is an Agency in the

Presidency and its functions as specified in the statute establishing it,

is primarily concerned with the internal security of the Country.

4)      That the action of the DSS is a denigration of the entire

Judiciary, as an institution.
5)      That by the act of the DSS, Judicial Officers are now being

subjected to insecurity, as criminals might take advantage of the recent

incidents to invade their residences under the guise of being security

agents.
6)      The Council vehemently denounces a situation whereby the Psyche of

Judicial Officers in the Federation is subjected to a level where they

would be afraid to discharge their Constitutional judicial functions,

without fear or favour, intimidation, victimization or suppression.

7)      The Council will not compromise the integrity and impartiality of

the Judiciary.
8)      The Council wishes to reassure the public that any person who has

a genuine complaint against any Judicial Officer is at liberty to bring it

up to the Council for consideration, after following due process vide its

Judicial Discipline Regulations.
9)      At the end of the Meeting, Council unanimously agreed to recommend

Hon. Justice W. S. N. Onnoghen, CFR, as the most senior, suitable and

competent Justice of the Supreme Court to President Muhammadu Buhari,

GCFR, for appointment as the next Chief Justice of Nigeria to succeed Hon.

Justice Mahmud Mohammed GCON who retires from office on

10th November, 2016 .
Soji Oye, Esq
Ag. Director (Information)
The post The Position Of The National Judicial Council On The Recent Invasion Of The Residences And Arrest Of Judicial Officers By The Department Of State Services (DSS) appeared first on Pointblank News .