A Professor of International Law and Jurisprudence, Akin Oyebode, has criticised the recent arrests of some judges accused of corrupt acts by operatives of the State Security Services, SSS.
In an interview with PREMIUM TIMES in Lagos, Tuesday, Mr. Oyebode said the Nigerian Police Force are the appropriate authority to have undertaken the task.
“I don’t believe breaking into homes at the dead of the night and arresting judges accused of corruption is part and parcel of the mandate of the DSS (another name for the SSS),” said Mr. Oyebode, Chairman of the Office of International Relations, Partnerships and Prospects, University of Lagos.
“The DSS is a security police to arrest attempts to overthrow the government of the day, treason, sedition, all those anti government acts. Whereas corrupt practice is under the jurisdiction, in my view, of the ICPC and EFCC.
“By no stretch of the imagination can the DSS be said to have it within its jurisdiction.”
An overnight assault on some senior judges in six states by the SSS late Friday and early Saturday resulted in the arrest of some judges.
Officials of the SSS had told PREMIUM TIMES on Saturday that the operation was ordered after months of investigation, during which the secret police established credibly that the affected judges were involved in questionable financial dealings.
The crackdown on the judges generated heated debates across the country and, once again, put Nigeria’s secret police’s mode of operation on the spotlight.
Of the 15 judges – from the High, Appeal, and the Supreme Court – said to be under investigation, seven were arrested during the weekend raid.
The seven were granted bail on Monday on self – recognition, with the SSS attributing their actions to a seeming lack of cooperation from the National Judicial Council, a body saddled with disciplining errant judges.
“I think it’s a sad day for Nigeria, because you don’t break the law in order to implement the law,” said Mr. Oyebode.
“Which is what the DSS seem to be saying, that because of the inaction or lack of cooperation by the NJC they had to resort to self-help.
“In fact, my gut reaction is that this might be the handiwork of fifth columnists, those that want to do in the government of Buhari.
“I’m not sure a Buhari who has touted himself as a born again democrat, welded to the notion of rule of law will authorise the outrageous act by the DSS.
“So either some people…misguided…who want to impress the powers that be by their work decided to go for broke in that respect. And I think it should be deprecated because there are so many rules of law that have been breached.
“And their subsequent comments, almost trying to try the accused in newspapers and what have you, because the accused have presumption of innocence and the onus of proof is on the state, and the onus is proved beyond reasonable doubt.
“You had given the impression that you have basis and reasons for what you did and you have not ensured that the public hears the side of the arrested persons, which is unfair.”
Mr. Oyebode said under the Nigerian Constitution, the task of discipline in the judiciary lays solely with the NJC who investigate and isolate the judge if found culpable.
“Now having separated the judge who had been found wanting in terms of his calling and judicial oath – you know there’s a judicial oath that judges swear when they are appointed, to do justice to all manner of persons without fear, affection or ill-will to be very neutral, non-partisan, fair to everybody, and not bend the scales of justice in favour of any accused person. That’s the judicial oath.
“So if any of them is found to have violated that oath, definitely he should be removed from the judiciary. The removal from the judiciary will lay the foundations for trial for any criminal act, say bribery and corruption .
“But the way things turned out, the DSS is the accuser, the jury, and almost the executioner. It’s not done.”