Group slams Nigerian govt’s “scare-mongering tactics” in raids on judges’ homes

SSS Nigeria

A judicial advocacy group, Access to Justice, has condemned the midnight raids on the homes of some senior judges, describing the action as an attack on the independence of the judiciary.

Joseph Otteh, the group’s Director, described the raid, which occurred late Friday and early Saturday as disgraceful and an abuse of power.

“The form which the raids and arrests took is degrading, abrasive and traumatizing,” said Mr. Otteh.

“It is despotic for officials of one branch of government to treat those of another branch in a manner that completely lacks respect and decorum: these attacks represent an invidious and insidious threat to the independence of the Judiciary.”

An overnight assault on senior judges in six states across the country by the State Security Service resulted in the alleged brutalisation of a governor.

Officials of the SSS told PREMIUM TIMES on Saturday that the operation was ordered after months of investigations, during which the secret police established credibly that the affected judges were involved in questionable financial dealings.

Mr. Otteh said breaking into the judges’ homes, assaulting their relatives, and arresting them in the middle of the night over-reached the boundaries of how the SSS can legitimately conduct its business in a democratic government.

“The SSS says the raids were part of corruption investigations,” he said.

“Access to Justice, and other stakeholders have often expressed concerns about corruption in Judiciary and the slow progress being made to tackle it, but this is no legitimate way to tackle corruption. 

“The tactics used by the SSS in these incidents are scare-mongering, and we are concerned that it may be calculated to intimidate judges who are opposed to the government’s persistent disobedience of court orders.

“If the government or its agencies have any suspicions against judges, the government is entitled to pursue these complaints in a procedurally fair and legitimate way.

“Judges would be expected to honour any invitations from government agencies where an investigation is being done. This is the way anti-corruption agencies have treated many of those it is currently prosecuting. Why is the government denying judges this procedure?”

Access to Justice called on President Muhammadu Buhari’s government to respect the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary and rein in the excesses of its agencies.

“There is something yet more portentous about what these incidents represent: if judges can be treated in this way, what rights do ordinary citizens have?,” Mr. Otteh continued.

“Is this government serving notice that it will not anymore observe restraints or protocols that regulate inter-branch relationships, but will ride rough-shod over everything in its way, including the due process rights afforded by the Constitution to any and everyone?

“The government must denounce the actions of the SSS, investigate this assault on the Judiciary, express its regrets and reassurances to the Judiciary and ensure that those who authorized these assaults on judges and their households are disciplined.

“The government must further address concerns that its agencies may be using the investigation of corruption allegations as a means to cower judges, and cajole them into silence, or as a way to intimidate judges who question the administration’s fledging respect for the rule of law and court orders.”

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  • abdul dull daura

    And this government will take cases to courts? I foresee government losing most corruption and other cases. You treat senior judges like criminals, and you expect the juniors to clap for you? We are watching.

    • douglas edosomwan

      What are they? Ibori has no case to answer by the independent arm of Government, yet he Ibori pleaded guity on the same offence in far a way UK.

      • Dejandon

        Odili even got a ‘forever-leave-me-alone’ judgement in Nigeria – first of such in any known legal system

    • Observer

      Ibori was also takrn to same court during the time that therr was no intimidation, what happened? Discharge and acquainted, but he was jailed for same case abroad. Wailers, please, lets call a spade a spade

  • Flash

    We like to be like Singapore and Dubai but not ready to pay the price. With these types of judges we cannot go near such nations. Those nations had at a point in time yo cleanse their judiciaries. The joke in UK is a nigerian judge in Asaba freed Ibori and he was jailed in UK . These judges should yell nigerians how they become billionnaires without trading like Dangote

    • Arabakpura

      Don’t mind them!

    • Zy

      No one is against fighting corruption, but in doing so due process must be followed. Some months ago the CJN sanctioned some judges and the were sacked,. if there is no hidden agenda what stops the government from using due process to prosecute such judges. We shouldnt support intimidation against judges that ruled in favor of opposition. It may be you or your family member that will arrested tomorrow for having opposing views, let’s be carefull what we wish for. We know one thing for sure that this government manufactures lies to legitimize their illegalities.

      • Flash

        for sure , in a normal society this approach is wrong. Ours is not normal. Do you ask why these Judges’ names were missing from list of those sanctioned by NJC in the first place? Some Judge sat in Asaba and cleared an Ex Gov of all charges and only for the same person to be convicted elsewhere on the same charges. That cases are now won or lost on the basis of much judges get is a CRIME against humanity and God. You may not have known that your and my family members might have been victims of this cash and carry Judges . A terrible problem requires unusual solution. There are other areas like INEC, NAFDAC, Police act to clean up drastically. If the judges cannot keep their distance from politicians’ money, they should not expect to be left alone by politicians in power! After all not all judges’ houses were besieged.

        • absam777

          @ Flash, you are the man 🙂 Tell those looking for more of the same that the old approach did not work. The Nigerian establishment need a wake up call

        • Aminu Baba

          Three of the judges; Auta, Tsamiya and Pindiga are in the list of NJC sanctions. Remember that NJC only retired them but recommended their prosecution which is what the DSS is pursuing further. Also let those calling for due process know that the DSS obtained a warrant from their fellow judges before embarking on their assignments, which is also backed by law (go and revise the money laundering and EFCC laws please). Some people just because they have a pathological hatred for Buhari, are bitter PDP losers or are related to the country’s pillagers (looters is a very light adjective for these bandits), feel they need to critisise anything that moves from the government in power just to muddle up the waters. Pleas know that Jealousy is cancer that kills or invites hypertension unnecessarily

      • Dejandon

        What is the due process that was breached in this case? You people talk about due process as if the ones performing the act do not have access to same legal information. Let us know what the breach is here and then we can debate such.

  • Isaac Azor

    Mr. Access to Justice, I now know where you truly stand in this project call Nigeria! Its a pity Nigeria is full of such pretenders and unless they are properly identified they will continue to deceive and mislead Nigerians and Nigeria in the name of human rights and justice for their selfish ends.

  • Observer

    Well, SSS personnel are like FBI agents that will Nab any one that wants to drag the name of the country in mud. Well done SSS. We need more of this

  • Eldorado

    What a load of malarkey!
    What’s happened has happened and I support the government fully.
    Go and get paid from your corrupt paymasters for your inconsequential press conference.

  • Aminu Baba

    They are jokers. How can we have access to justice when the judges are collecting millions in bribe money? Hypocrites!