In his reaction, an Ilorin-based lawyer, Abeny Mohammed (SAN) said by the provision of Paragraph 21 of Part One of the Third Schedule to the 1999 Constitution, the NJC is the body empowered for the discipline and removal of judges.
“The Court of Appeal decision only affirms the powers vested in the NJC to discipline judges. It does not make judges to be above the law or above prosecution. What the Court of Appeal is saying is that the first step is to refer the judges to the NJC who may now take the appropriate steps and refer them to law enforcement agency where a criminal offence has been established against them,” he said.
“But to just go and clamp on the judge when he is sleeping in the night and arrest him, you are desecrating the office of the judge; you have disgraced the judiciary and it does not augur well for the country,” he said.
An Abuja-based lawyer, Isaac Anumudu said the verdict was in consonance with his stand that the arrest of the judges, without recourse to the NJC, was illegal.
But another lawyer, Carl Umegboro, disagreed. “I hope the Supreme Court upholds the position of the High Court. The NJC has no power to try any judicial officer for a criminal offence. Apart from the president, his deputy, as well as governors and their deputies, every other Nigerian should be liable for arrest and prosecution, if accused of committing a crime,” he said.
We’re studying judgement -NBA
The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) said it has requested for the full judgment of the Court of Appeal in Lagos and will study in order to make its position public.
The President of the NBA, Abubakar Balarabe Mahmoud (SAN) told our rporter yesterday that the association does not know the details of the decision of the court.
The NBA had in October 2016 alongside the office of the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) pressured the NJC to suspend the indicted judges to safeguard the image and “sanctity of the judiciary.”
How it all started
The Department of State Services (DSS) had on October 8, 2016, raided the homes of judges across the country where currencies of different denominations running into millions and vehicles alleged to be proceeds of corruption were recovered.
Judges whose homes were raided include: Justices Sylvester Ngwuta and Inyang Okoro, Supreme Court; Justice Uwani Abba Aji, Court of Appeal; Justice Agbadu James Fishim, National Industrial Court of Nigeria; Justices Adeniyi Ademola, Musa Kurya, Nnamdi Dimgba, Mohammed Liman, Ofili Ajumogobia, Hyeladzira Ngajiwa of the Federal High Court.
Others are Justice Mu’azu Pindiga of the Gombe High Court; Justice Kabiru Auta, Kano High Court; Justice Samia, Sokoto High Court; and Justice A.I Umezulike, Chief Judge, Enugu High Court.
On June 7, the NJC recalled the judges, who were not facing an arraignment including: Justice John Inyang Okoro of the Supreme Court; Justice Uwani Abba Aji of the Court of Appeal; Justices Hydiazira Nganjiwa and Musa Kurya of the Federal High Court; and Justice Agbadu James Fishim of National Industrial Court of Nigeria.
The NJC also asked Justice Adeniyi Ademola, who was charged but acquitted by an FCT High Court of bribery and illegal possession of firearms, to resume sitting.
But the Federal Government continued the prosecution of Justices Ngwuta and Ofili-Ajumogobia. It also filed fresh charges against Justice Nganjiwa and claimed it had appealed Justice Ademola’s acquittal.
12 December, 2017