Home / Featured / 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)

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)

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)

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