Written by Emmanuel Ogbeche

Judges plan escape, DSS vows more arrests

>Indications emerged weekend that the judiciary has been thrown into panic over the siege on the homes of some judges by the Department of State Security, DSS, across some states in the country, weekend.

The Abuja Inquirer learnt from judiciary sources that most of the judges are in a quandary g, and may be thinking of fleeing the country.

“I can tell you that most of My Lordships are in a fix over the latest onslaught by the DSS on their brother judges.

“Most cannot even go close to their phones because they are not sure who is listening at the other end. I know one or two who have contemplated running out of the country because to them there is no way the regime is going to back down on the ’anti-corruption’ drive,” one of the sources said.
Another source said the Chief Justice Mahmud Mohammed is pained by the development and cannot wait to see out his retirement which is November 10, when he clocks the mandatory age of 70.

The DSS in a wave of arrest on Friday to wee hours of Saturday invaded the homes of two Justices of the Supreme Court – Justices Walter Onnoghen and Sylvester Ngwuta – as well as two judges of the Federal High Court, Justices Adeniyi Ademola and Nnamdi Dimgba.

It has however said that Justices Onnoghen is not under investigation.

Justice Ademola was taken away at about 5am on Saturday, while the DSS operatives allegedly beat up Justice Dimgba’s brother during the operation.

On Friday, Justice Muazu Pindiga, who was the first chairman of the Rivers State Election Petition Tribunal, before he was changed midway into the hearing of the dispute arising from the 2015 governorship election in the state, was arrested in Gombe and has not been heard from since then.

Addressing journalists at its headquarters on Saturday, Garba Abdullahi, an agent of the service, said the service had been monitoring the lifestyle of some judges, and that it was determined to bring sanity to the judiciary.

“The DSS, in the past few days, has embarked on a series of special sting operations involving some judges of the supreme, appeal and high courts.

“These operations were based on allegations of corruption and other acts of professional misconduct by a few suspected judges. The service is in line with its core mandate, as we have been monitoring the expensive and luxurious lifestyle of some of the judges as well as complaints from the concerned public over judgment obtained fraudulently and on the basis amounts of money paid.

“The judges involved were invited, upon which due diligence was exhibited and their premises searched. The searches have uncovered huge raw cash of various denominations, local and foreign currencies with real estate worth several millions of naira and documents affirming unholy acts by these judges.
 
“Meanwhile, some of them have made useful statements while a few have‎ declined even with the glaring evidences that were found against them in terms of material cash, documents and property recovered pointing to their compromise.”

Abdullahi alleged that $2m was stashed in the house of one of the judges.

“In one of the states where the service operations were conducted, credible intelligence revealed that the judge had $2m stashed in his house,” he said.

“When he was approached for due search to be conducted, he, in concert with the state governor, mobilised thugs against the service team. The team restrained itself in the face of unbridled provocative activities by those brought in by the governor. Unfortunately, the judge and the governor also engaged the tacit support of a sister security agency.

“The service surveillance team noticed that upon frustrating the operation, the judge, with the active support of the governor craftily moved the money to an unknown location, which the service is currently making effort to unravel.”

Abdullahi gave a breakdown of the money recovered from three of the suspects as N93.558m, $530, 087, 25, 970 pounds and 5, 680 euros.

Governor Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti state in his reaction to the arrests said: “It should now be obvious to all Nigerians and the international community that democracy is under threat in Nigeria and Nigerians must rise to save democracy from being truncated.

“For all intent and purposes, there is no how the federal government can justify the gestapo and crude action of the DSS against our judiciary, the last hope of the common man and I believe they just want to hide under anti-corruption fight to blackmail and intimidate the judiciary.

“If not, have the affected judges been reported to the National Judicial Council (NJC), the body saddled with the responsibilities of investigating and sanctioning erring judges? Were the affected judges ever invited by the DSS and they refused to honour the invitation?”

He said it was more worrisome that two of the judges involved, Justice Adeniyi Ademola and Justice Nnamdi Dimgba, ruled against the DSS and condemned its impunity on the cases of former National Security Adviser, NSA, Sambo Dasuki,; and Umar Mohammed, a retired air commodore.

Also, Nigeria Bar Association, NBA President, Mr Abubakar Mamoud, SAN, who addressed journalists in Lagos, alongside three past presidents of the association; Chief Wole Olanipekun, SAN, Dr. Olisa Agbakoba, SAN and Mr Joseph Daudu, SAN, on the arrest and detention of the two Justices of the Supreme Court and the invasion and harassment of judges of the Federal High Court in Abuja, Gombe and Port Harcourt, Rivers State, said “DSS has been carrying out raids in the houses of Justices of the Supreme Court and that of judges of the Federal High Court in Abuja, Gombe and Port Harcourt, Rivers State.

“Some family members of the judges were manhandled. We gathered that the raids were carried out at 2a.m.

“We condemn the raids in the strongest possible terms. We are in a democratic society and we cannot accept a situation where armed masked DSS operatives invade the homes of the Justices the Supreme Court and judges of our high courts.

“This is a ploy by the executive to intimidate the judiciary and we will not accept it. The NBA will not accept it.

“I want to emphasise agBI want to emphasise again that we’re not under military rule and we cannot accept this Gestapo style of operations.

“First, the NBA demands the immediate and unconditional release of the Justices the Supreme Court still being held by the DSS without further delay.

“The DSS should limit itself to its constitutional duties and responsibilities.”

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