CHIEF Justice of Nigeria Mahmud Mohammed spoke yesterday of his disappointment at “rising antagonism over the recent arrest of our judicial officers and other issues pertaining there to.”
Justice Mohammed who will be retiring in about three weeks from now deplored the recent sting operations carried out by the Department of State Security (DSS) on some judges, including two justices of the Supreme Court, as an assault on the independence of the Judiciary.
But he explained that the judicial arm is not in any way at war with the executive and legislative arms, saying it is a misunderstanding between the National Judicial Council (NJC) and the DSS.
“It must be reiterated that the current misunderstanding is only between the National Judicial Council (NJC), which was established by the Constitution and the Directorate of the State Security (DSS), in the Presidency,” he said in a statement issued by his Senior Special Assistant to the CJN, H. S. Sa’eed.
It was an update on the CJN’s position on the arrest and interrogation of Justices Sylvester Ngwuta and Iyang Okoro both of the Supreme Court and Justices Adeniyi Ademola of the Federal High Court ,Abuja; Kabir Auta of the Kano High Court; Muazu Pindiga of Gombe High Court; Mohammed Tsamiya of the Court of Appeal in Ilorin; and I. A. Umezulike of the Enugu State High Court.
The statement: “Under the powers provided by the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) and as the Head of the Third Arm of Government, the, the Chief Justice of Nigeria and Chairman National Judicial Council, Justice Mahmud Mohammed, GCON is calling on all Nigerians to continue to have faith and full confidence in the Nigerian Judiciary.
“The Chief Justice of Nigeria (Hon. CJN) is indeed deeply concerned by the rising antagonism over the recent arrest of our Judicial Officers and other issues pertaining thereto. “Furthermore, it must be reiterated that the current misunderstanding is only between the National Judicial Council (NJC), which was established by the Constitution and the Directorate of the State Security (DSS), in the Presidency.
“Hence, we must emphasise that the Judiciary continues to maintain cordial relations with the other arms of government, that is, the Executive and the National Assembly.
“The CJN reiterates that the Nigerian Judiciary, as an Arm of the Government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, is not a party in this matter, nor is the Nigerian Judiciary on trial. “On the call by President of the Nigerian Bar, A. B. Mahmoud, SAN, to suspend Judicial Officers whose residences were invaded and who were subsequently arrested and detained by the DSS, we believe that the call was unnecessary and hasty as the said Judicial Officers are still being investigated by the DSS.
“Furthermore, the DSS is yet to forward any complaint or any official communication regarding the seven Judicial Officers to the National Judicial Council.
“Indeed, some of the affected Judicial Officers have already been investigated by the NJC, which found some culpable and recommended their removal from office by dismissal or retirement to the President and respective Governors as provided under the Constitution.
“While some are still being investigated by the NJC, in respect of others, no complaint against them has been received by the NJC whose powers to suspend must be exercised in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution establishing it.
“The National Judicial Council is currently investigating the various complaints made against a number of Judicial Officers. As soon as such investigations are completed, appropriate recommendations will be made to the President or Governors, as the case may be, who will have the final say on the fate of the affected Judicial Officers who could then be charged for the offences disclosed from the facts against them and be prosecuted if necessary.
“The Chief Justice of Nigeria also wishes to state in clear terms that the ‘sting’ operations carried out by the DSS on 07 and 08 October 2016 was certainly an assault on the independence of the Nigerian Judiciary.”