2 S’Court justices accused of corruption,absent at sittings

From Godwin Tsa, Abuja

A group, Lawyers in Defence of Democracy, yesterday protested in Abuja over the arrest of judges by the Department of State Services (DSS) over three weeks ago.

In their protest letter, the lawyers in partnership with Citizens for Good Governance [CGG] urged the United Nations, United States, the United Kingdom, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Amnesty International and the international community to call the Buhari administration to order and save the nation’s democracy from drifting into anarchy.

The groups also called on the National Judicial Council (NJC) and the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) to direct all judges in the country not to hear any applications from the DSS and other agencies, except bail applications, until there is obedience to all pending orders against them.

The DSS had, between October 7 and 8, arrested Justices Sylvester Ngwuta and John Okoro of the Supreme Court; Justice Adeniyi Ademola of the Federal High Court, Abuja, and Justice Muazu Pindiga of the Federal High Court, Gombe Division.

Another Judge of the Abuja division of the Federal High Court, Justice Nnamdi Dimgba’s residence was also searched, but not arrested.

The aggrieved lawyers urged the judges whose homes were invaded by the DSS not to step aside as doing so would amount to victory for the secret service.

Meanwhile, the Executive Secretary of NHRC, Prof. Ben Angwe, said the commission will not take side or orders in handling the arrest and alleged clampdown of some judges over corruption.

The commission said it was waiting for petitions from the public on the alleged arrest of the judges and violation of their rights.

Addressing the protesters in his office, Angwe said the petition by the group, will spur the NHRC into action, adding that the commission will be fair to all parties.

A statement issued by the joint Convener of the groups, Ikenga Ugochinyere, faulted the clampdown on judges, noting that the independence and integrity of the Bench cannot be sacrificed under the guise of anti- corruption crusade.

Meanwhile, Supreme Court spokesman, Ahuraka Isah, yesterday confirmed reports that two Supreme Court justices accused of corruption, have stopped sitting. They reported at Department of State Services (DSS) office yesterday.

Justices Iyang Okoro and Sylvester Nguta were among seven judges arrested by operatives of the DSS following allegations of corruption.

Mr. Isah, who speaks for the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Mahmud Mohammed, told Daily Sun that the Supreme Court justices did not sit yesterday.

“None of the judges whose houses were raided and arrested by the DSS have been suspended by the NJC,” the spokesperson said. “But the two affected Supreme Court justices voluntarily excused themselves from all judicial functions since the raids occurred.”