- N270M Recovered From 3 Justices
- Security Forces Vow More Arrests
- NJC, NBA, Others React
The Department of State Services (DSS) yesterday said it raided the homes of Justices of the Supreme Court and Judges of High Courts it accused of “corruption” and “professional misconduct” in parts of the country.
Several houses belonging to justices were stormed Friday night by security officials in Abuja, Rivers and Gombe states, with some of the judicial officers taken into custody.
The simultaneous operations reportedly lasted until early hours of Saturday.
On Friday night, security operatives raided the Abuja residences of Justices Sylvester Ngwuta, John Inyang Okoro of the Supreme Court, and whisked them away. They also picked Justice Adeniyi Ademola of the Federal High Court, Abuja at his Apo Legislative Quarters home and searched the house of another Abuja Federal High Court Judge, Justice Nnamdi Dimgba. In Gombe, the operatives whisked away Justice Mu’azu Pindiga of the state High Court.
It was gathered that the DSS operatives arrived Justice Ngwuta’s residence about 12 midnight on Friday and stayed till 4am yesterday before he was arrested, while Inyang was arrested about 9am, after his house was searched for several hours. Their residences are located inside the Judges Quarters opposite the Federal High Court, Maitama, Abuja.
Daily Trust on Sunday leant that a contingent of the operatives surrounded the homes of two Federal High Court Judges around 9pm Friday at Nos. 32 and 34 Samuel Ogbemudia Crescent, Apo Legislative Quarters, Abuja. Dimgba was not at home at the time of the raid, it was gathered.
However, the attempted arrest of another Federal High Court Judge at his at No: 35, Forces Avenue, Port Harcourt, Rivers State, led to a face-off between the operatives and the Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike.
A neighbour of Justice Pindiga told our correspondent in Gombe that the DSS personnel that stormed his Manawachi Quarters residence on Friday afternoon took him away but later released him, after which he travelled to Abuja yesterday morning.
But a source very close to the family said Pindiga was arrested around 3am yesterday and his whereabouts were unknown as at 4pm.
An official of the Service, Abdullahi Garba, who briefed newsmen at the DSS headquarters in Abuja, said the current operation against corrupt Judges will be sustained until sanity and sanctity is restored.
He said about N271.7million in both local and foreign currencies had been recovered from three judges being investigated over alleged corrupt practices.
According to him, the Service, in the past few days, had embarked on a series of special sting operations involving some judges of the Supreme, Appeal and High Courts.
He said: “These operations were based on allegations of corruption and other acts of professional misconduct by a few of the suspected Judges.”
The official said: “We have been monitoring the expensive and luxurious lifestyle of some of the judges, as well as complaints from the concerned public over judgements obtained fraudulently.”
Garba said the Judges involved were invited, upon which due diligence was exhibited and their premises searched.
He said: “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.” Garba gave a summary of the money recovered from search on the houses of three judges as: N93, 558,000; $ 530,087; £25, 970; € 5,680.
Garba, who did not give the names of the Judges or the number of those arrested, said preparations were ongoing to arraign them in a competent court of jurisdiction.
He also said: “In one of the states where the Service operations were conducted, credible intelligence revealed that the Judge had 2million United States dollars stashed in his house.”
The official, who was apparently referring to Wike, said a certain governor had stopped DSS operatives from arresting the Judge.
According to him, the governor reportedly stormed the residence in company of the state Commissioner of Police, Francis Odesanya, and stopped the arrest, after getting information that DSS operatives had raided the Judge’s Forces Avenue, GRA residence about 1.00am and was about taking him away.
When Daily Trust on Sunday visited the resident of the Judge adjacent to Rivers State office of the DSS, the entrance gate to the building was under lock, just as two Armoured Personnel Carriers (APCs), belonging to the state police command were positioned opposite the building.
Fierce-looking and gun-wielding policemen mounted sentry along the entrance to the building, just as the whereabouts of the Judge were unknown.
Governor Wike, who earlier spoke to journalists, said he would not allow security agents under his watch to perpetrate needless impunity.
When our reporter visited of Justice Ademola residence at Ogbemudia Crescent, only the security guards were at the gates.
The security guards who spoke to our reporter on condition of anonymity said the since the Judge was taken away around 5am yesterday nothing had been heard from him.
One of the security guards attached to his next door neighbour, Justice Nnamdi Dimgba, said the security operatives who came in large number, in about five Hilux vans first stormed Justice Dimgba’s residence before moving to his neighbour’s house.
He said: “Justice Dimgba was at home when the DSS operatives arrived around 8pm with a search warrant bearing a wrong address. In embarrassment the Judge left the house.”
The guard added that after Justice Dimgba had left, an argument ensued between his relative and the state operatives which ended in the relative being beaten up and the driver hit with the butt of a rifle by one of the state security operatives.
Meanwhile, the National Judicial Council (NJC) has condemned the raid on the residences of the judicial officers. Speaking through its Acting Director, Media and Publicity, Soji Oye, the NJC condemned the act, saying the DSS operatives could not have invaded the houses of the senior judges without an authenticated order which would have warranted their arrest.
When Daily Trust on Sunday contacted the Special Adviser to the Chief Justice of Nigeria on Media, Ahuraka Yusuf, he replied: “I have no authority to speak on it yet.”
The president of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Abubakar Balarabe Mahmoud (SAN), has asked the federal government to immediately release judges arrested.
Mahmud made the call yesterday while addressing newsmen at a press conference in Lagos.
Present at the conference are past presidents, including Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), Olisa Agbakoba, (SAN), JB Daudu (SAN). Others are former secretary, Dele Adesina (SAN), Kemi Pinheirro (SAN), Kanyinsola Ajayi (SAN), Yusuf Ali (SAN), and Monday Ubani, among others.
He called on President Muhammadu Buhari to call the security agencies to order, adding that the NBA will go to any length to protect the sanctity of the judiciary.
Also, the immediate past chairman of the Council of Legal Education, Chief OCJ Okocha (SAN), has described the development as strange and bizarre, saying, “in any civilised world, you don’t go to raid a judge’s house because you want to arrest him if you have not earlier invited him and he declined.”
Justice Sylvester Ngwuta
Justice Ngwuta, according to the official website of the Supreme Court, started as a private legal practitioner in July 1978 before being appointed a judge of the High Court of Abia State in October 1995. He was elevated to the Court of Appeal in 2003 and was sworn-in as Justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria in May 2011. He is the 6th on the Supreme Court’s seniority roll.
Justice John Inyang Okoro
Justice Inyang was appointed as Justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria and confirmed by the Senate in 2013. He is the 13th on seniority roll of serving Justices of the Supreme Court.
Justice Nnamdi Dimgba
In December 2015, Dr Nnamdi Dimgba was sworn into the Nigerian Bench as a Judge of the Federal High Court.
Justice Adeniyi Ademola,
Justice Adeniyi Ademola is the eldest grandson of the first indigenous Chief Justice of Nigeria – Sir Adetokunbo Ademola . He was born 9th April, 1953 in Romford, Essex, United Kingdom and hails from Ogun State.
He has handled several sensitive cases too numerous to mention.
Justice Mu’azu Pindigi
Justice Mu’azu Pindiga is a High Court Judge in Yobe State. He served on the election tribunal in Rivers State as its chairman.