SANs Condemn Buhari’s Crackdown on Judges, Say the Media is Next for Attack
We are not in 1984
The Federal Government should know that this is not 1984. By 1984, I refer to that year and the dystopian novel written by George Orwell on dictatorship. Nigeria is a country ruled by law and even for the worst of crimes, we must follow the process of law. If we don’t, we will end up like Uganda under the autocrat, Idi Amin. We cannot bear such oppression. So, whatever the DSS is doing must be in line with the dictates of the law. Under no circumstance should they try to invade a judge’s residence at 9 or 10pm, wielding weapons and wearing masks. It is totally deplorable. It is abhorrent and what we must all know is that they are infringing on the rights of people. The courts exist for a reason. This system of law enforcement seems to be discriminatory, whimsical and contrary to the rule of law. It won’t get us anywhere as a country. It is the worst form of corruption you can think of. It is not right. In Pakistan, the chief judge of the country decided that since the military government was not obeying the law, there was no point in the courts carrying on and it became a flashpoint in that country.— Dr. Kanyinsola Ajayi (SAN)
Courts should go on indefinite strike
I read with great amazement and total disbelief, the news of the invasion of the homes of judicial officers in Port Harcourt and in Abuja, by the executive arm of government through the Department of State Services.
As judges have no voices to speak officially, I call on the Nigerian Bar Association to declare an indefinite strike so that all courts of law in Nigeria will be boycotted until there is respect for the rule of law and the Constitution. This should commence from Monday, October 10, 2016, until further notice.
This is full blown dictatorship now in action. It is now a case of anarchists in power. The clampdown on judges has been on for a long time, through agents of government in the various institutions of oppression. We are now back to the 1984 jackboot system of intolerance, where all dissenting views and opinions must be silenced.
It is now clear, without any shadow of doubt, that the so-called anti-corruption war is a hidden agenda to perpetuate the president in office beyond 2019. It is meant to silence the opposition and to cover the inefficiency and cluelessness of this administration.
In a democracy, the rule of law prescribes the independence of the judiciary, whereby judges must be allowed the unfettered right of taking decisions, according to law and according to their consciences.
It is in this regard that the invasion of the homes of judges by the DSS is totally condemnable. It should never happen that the executive is indirectly threatening and intimidating members of the third estate of the realm.
The judiciary is the arm that stabilises democracy and should not be exposed to ridicule in the manner that the DSS is currently doing.— Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, lawyer
There must be sanity in the system
There are ways of effecting arrests. The one I remember recently is where the National Judicial Council, that is responsible for the discipline and appointment of judges, referred a particular judge to the EFCC or the police for arrest. For me, that is a tidier way of doing things.
We operate constitutional democracy; the constitution is sovereign and has a binding effect on all persons and authorities. There is also what is called judicial immunity. As such, if the judicial immunity should be broken for the purpose of effecting an arrest, what is appropriate in this instance is that the National Judicial Council would be notified of the intention, in terms of the report leading to the dismissal or removal of the judge, and then an arrest can be effected.
What happened is unconstitutional; it is actually a rape and desecration of the Nigerian constitution. Quite frankly, this is not a banana republic. Due process must be followed.
While we cannot continue to shield people who are corrupt, I think we should follow due process. There is nowhere in the world where such an action would be condoned. If you must effect the arrest of an executive judge, there are ways of going about it. If a judicial officer makes a pronouncement that one is not comfortable with, if one has evidence that the judicial officer has been compromised, there is a way to go about it. The National Judicial Council is responsible for the discipline and removal of judges.
Judges should boycott court hearings because of what happened. This is nothing but an encroachment on the powers of the judicial council. If a judge is corrupt, as alleged, the NJC is responsible. Recently, some judges have been recommended for dismissal, and some were asked to lose their promotion. There are certain things the NJC has put in place.
There are three arms of government; the executive, legislature and the judiciary. Findings have been made. If there is a report, they should submit it to the NJC, monitor what the outcome will be and see what the NJC would do. The judiciary is responsible for cleaning its stable.
If the judiciary is independent, there must be sanity in the system. Some years ago, the late Justice Abdulkadir Jega, when he was still sitting as a judge in Ilorin, made a pronouncement that the government wasn’t comfortable with. Owing to this, his police orderly was withdrawn. And then the bar rose up to support his position and his orderly was restored. How can we continue like this? This is not a military system, this is a constitutional democracy. — Mr. Norrison Quakers (SAN)
Arrests irregular, bizarre
It is an irregular and bizarre situation. It is unheard of. The hour the invasion was allegedly done (1am) in the wee hours of the morning is uncalled for. No arrest should be executed in the middle of the night, especially in a country where we know that all kinds of people are running around to kidnap, rob and kill people. I think this is a condemnable act. I have to say that if there is an allegation against a judge, the first thing to do is to invite the judge for interrogation and if the judge refuses, then you can begin to make an arrest of the judge if it is a criminal offence. But nobody should execute an arrest warrant or a search warrant at 1am. So, it is very condemnable. Judges render essential services because they secure the liberty of the citizens of this country just as the courts are instituted to secure the liberty of the citizens. We need to get to the root of this and find out who authorised this raid and why such a person did so. Due process must always be followed in every law enforcement process.— Mr. Onueze Okocha (SAN)
Arrests are wrong
Whether one is a judge or not, everybody deserves his peace and liberties. So, the DSS should not have gone to arrest anybody, whether a judge or not, without evidence that such a person had committed an offence. I am saying this not because they are judges, but because they are also citizens of Nigeria. They must have committed an offence or maybe there is a warrant of arrest for such a person to be arrested. But without such evidence, of committing offences worth being arrested for, be he a citizen, the DSS and others have no right to do that, not to talk of a judge.
If a court is handling a case and the government is not happy about it, the right thing to do is to appeal. As for the report on the blocking of the court premises, there is no reason to do so on a Saturday when the court is not sitting. Unless the DSS operatives have security reports that the judge is harbouring criminals or harbouring documents related to the security of the nation. But otherwise, it is not right for any organ of government to do that.— Prof. Taiwo Osipitan (SAN)
The media is next
I am not surprised. I am rather surprised that some Nigerians are still surprised. Some of us warned, wrote, preached and talked. But, we were ignored due to political partisanship. A leopard cannot change its spots. It started with political opponents and the opposition. Some of us cried out. Then, they moved against some very senior and well-respected lawyers. Some clapped. They said it was anti-corruption. We cried out. It extended quickly to the National Assembly, another arm of government. Many described the government as tough, no-nonsense and anti-corruption-inclined. Some of us warned. Now, it is the judiciary. Up to the very apex court of the land, the Supreme Court, has been targeted and is now being intimidated and humiliated.
Virtually all the judges are southerners. My prediction is that the media will be the next. The recent onslaught against the judiciary signals great danger to our democracy, freedom, human rights, independence of the judiciary and the doctrine of separation of powers as espoused in 1748 by the great French philosopher, Baron De Montesquieu.
We are supposed to be operating a constitutional democracy, not military dictatorship or tyrannical absolutism. Governor Wike was almost shot dead by fully armed DSS operatives. His “offence” was that he came to rescue a Federal High Court judge who was being abducted. Other serving judges, who would ordinarily respond to a mere phone call, are being humiliated and rounded up in the ungodly hours of the night, like common criminals.— Mr. Mike Ozekhome (SAN)
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