UPDATED: EFCC lacks powers to prosecute serving judges, Court of Appeal rules

EFCC
EFCC Operatives

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission does not have statutory powers to investigate or prosecute serving judicial officers except where such individuals have first been dismissed or retired by the National Judicial Council, the body saddled with disciplining erring judges, the Lagos Division of the Court of Appeal ruled on Monday.

According to the appellate court, serving judicial officers can only be prosecuted for offences like murder, stealing and others if such offences were committed outside the discharge of their official duties. But once the offence was allegedly committed in the discharge of their duties, they must first be tried by the judicial council, NJC, and dismissed or retired before the EFCC can investigate or prosecute them, the court said.

A judge, Obaseki Adejumo, who delivered the lead judgment for the Court of Appeal, held that the condition precedent to filing for Charge No: LD/4769/2017 had not been fulfilled, adding that the NJC must first strip or remove the appellant (judicial Officer) of his judicial standing before he could be charged with such alleged offence allegedly committed in the course of discharge of his duties.

The Court of Appeal’s decision was in respect of a suit brought by the EFCC against Hyeladzira Nganjiwa, a judge of the Bayelsa Division of the Federal High Court, who was accused of unlawfully receiving $260,000 and N8.6 million through his bank account between 2013 and 2015.

The accused had challenged the jurisdiction of the Lagos Division of the Lagos State High Court to entertain the suit but was dismissed by the judge.

The Court of Appeal held that the High Court of Lagos State lacked the jurisdiction to hear and determine the charge against the serving judicial officer and accordingly set aside the ruling of the lower court. It also upheld the preliminary objection filed by the appellant in the high court and dismissed the charge against him.

‘Ridiculous’ ruling

Responding to the appellate court’s Monday ruling, the EFCC said it would appeal the judgment.

“The Commission considers the ruling a dangerous precedent that has no basis in law and, is confident that the Supreme Court will upturn the judgment,” the anti-graft agency said in a statement by its spokesperson, Wilson Uwujaren.

“Criminal trial takes precedence over administrative procedures and it is strange that the Court of Appeal wants to put the cart before the horse. This is ridiculous. The appellate court simply wants to confer immunity on public officers from prosecution for corruption, it will not stand.”

Mr. Nganjiwa was among the six judges recalled by the NJC last June after they had been earlier suspended following corruption allegations against them.

The decision to recall the judges was criticized by civil society groups who accused the NJC of attempting to paper over the cracks in the Nigerian judiciary.

But barely one week after he was recalled by the NJC, Mr. Nganjiwa was arraigned by the EFCC on a 14-count charge of corrupt enrichment and giving false information to an EFCC officer.


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  • bola

    The judiciary which is suppose to be the last hope of common man is taking this decision of shielding serving judges from prosecution. Rubbish

    • Bassey Frank

      Law is not sentiments.

      • Bala Luguja

        There is no law that says a sitting judge cannot be prosecuted. Maybe this judge wants to legislate from the bench

        • lifesmart

          The last time I checked your name is not on the list of the appellate judges. Which law school did you attend? When we you called to the bar?

          • Manuel Tobby

            Are you not clowning around when you think you have to be a doctor to be comment on health care issues?

        • Bassey Frank

          The Supreme Court is there to interpret.

  • Hope

    Kudos for the presiding Judge for the boldness. Hope $2000000000 will not be traced to the account of this judge soon. Looking forward to an independent Judiciary and complete separation of powers.

    • share Idea

      Aptly sated, he will be labeled as the owner of Ikoyi flat…Nigeria we hail thee

    • oyoko

      you should be crying for judgement like this. I thought the constitution have immunity for Mr President, Mr Vice President, Mr Governor and Mr Deputy Governor only. Where is this coming from?

  • disqus_jLJUa0YmE9

    Judiciary taken side with the corruption

  • Bassey Frank

    EFCC has been operating with great zeal but shallow knowledge.

    • forestgee

      From performance and the forehead of the Acting Chairman, abi?

  • Tunsj

    Kangaroo Court of Appeal.

  • Anthony Uremeh

    ….So judges have legislated immunity from investigation and prosecution on themselves. No wonder anti-corruption war is failing..

  • joelaw

    Licence to steal and loot i would say. Nonsense.

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    • musa aliyu

      Una wan carry the gullible through Libya again? Only fools will listen to una!

  • Ezekiel. J.

    What a judgement, true talk some judges are corrupt.

  • Gidi

    Buhari’s war on corruption is officially over in Judiciary if this report is true. The only way out is for National Assembly to fix the loopholes in the law that makes EFCC powerless when it comes to prosecuting corrupt judges.

    Again, this is the more reason we should pay close attention to Institutional building as opposed to strong man mentality. I salute the judge that brought this case against EFCC, although he still have a corrupt case hanging on his/her neck, it is important for Nigerians to know where the weakness in our law exist and push lawmakers to fix it.

    As part of building our institutions and making it better, this case will serves as precedent upon which other legal works will be built and provide ample evidence for lawmakers to amend existing laws that inadvertently grant immunity to sitting / retired judges that were not dismissed from service due to corruption.

    Now, the ball is in Buhari’s court. He needs to act swiftly by pushing for amendment to the law. We know where Supreme court we land. EFCC reserve the right to appeal the case to supreme court , but Buhari shouldn’t wait for the whole legal drama to unfold. He should push National Assembly to fix the law and block loopholes

    • Iniobong Uko

      The situation in the law is not an immunity from prosecution for judges, it is simply that before a person (who use to be a judge) can be prosecuted for offences purportedly committed in the course of his work as a judge, the NJC should first investigate and sit over the matter and make a finding whether he is liable or not, and where he is liable, he is stripped of his title as a judge and handed over for prosecution in the regular courts. I think this is good and proper law. If there is some weaknesses in the punishments to be meted out by the NJC, then the law may be reviewed to give more teeth and bite to the punishments to be meted out by the NJC.

      N/B; it will not augur well for our judicial sanctity to jack a serving judge and place him in the dock in a criminal court to face a criminal charge.
      Noting that a criminal charge is not synonymous with a declaration of guilt, a situation where the accused “judge” is discharged and acquitted at the end of the day, much damage will have already been done to his reputation and that of the entire judiciary.
      I will advise that as a country let us toe the path of sanity.

      INIOBONG UKO Esq.
      writes from Uyo.

      • Manuel Tobby

        Do you have a right to sue your doctor for negligence without the Nigeria Medical and Dental Council first hearing/clearing out ?

        Since you claim you are a lawyer you ought to know that many doctors have been sued without the doctor’s Council involvement at any stage!!!

        Or may to you and your fellow jokers called judges ARE NO LONGER CIVIL SERVANTS OR YOU ARE SUPERIOR AND TOO SPECIAL TO BE PROSECUTED like any other government employees?

        It’s just shocking to know you lawyers claiming to be learned fellows think you are the only proffesionals who has a regulatory and administrative council , OR you all think your own Council is superior to that of engineers, surveyors, doctors, nurses etc??

        So you really think you members of the judiciary really have a reputation?

        Learned Rogues creating fabricated immunity!

  • YahayaOmaye

    Lawyers what does immunity clause say in the constitution about judges. Please help out quickly before we are misled.

  • p5usa

    Surprise, may God help Nigeria. Despicable is the language I should use here. Nigerians need a total revolution to weed out an element like this judge who believes Nigeria belongs to the few.

  • tosin

    Nigeria judiciary would take first place in the world for looking at technical aspects of cases rather than the charges against the accused. May God save this country. Very soon the same judge would be suspended by NJC and awarded just compulsory retirement.

  • rules_emmanuelO.

    Where in our constitution is this ‘immunity’ granted? To the ‘Hon. Justices’ Ajumogobias, Mary Odilis, and the likes, Christmas has just come early for you all. You can now enjoy your proceeds of corrupt enrichment from ‘misjustices’ in peace!

  • PolyGon2013

    Corrupt judgess! This court is setting a bad precedence.

  • Manuel Tobby

    Now our notorious judiciary have just hit another national and monumental low!
    Really, why did I expect these to jail thr colleagues when after all they all operate bureau De Change at home!

    Now I am saying a final goodbye to war against corruption in Nigeria with these crop of clowns manning our judiciary!

    Do you have a right to sue your doctor for negligence without the Nigeria Medical and Dental Council first hearing/clearing out ?

    Since they claim they are lawyers they ought to know that many doctors have been sued without the doctor’s Council involvement at any stage!!!

    Or may to you and your fellow jokers called judges ARE NO LONGER CIVIL SERVANTS OR YOU ARE SUPERIOR AND TOO SPECIAL TO BE PROSECUTED like any other government employees?

    It’s just shocking to know you lawyers claiming to be learned fellows think you are the only proffesionals who has a regulatory and administrative council , OR you all think your own Council is superior to that of engineers, surveyors, doctors, nurses etc??

    So you really think you members of the judiciary really have a reputation?

    Learned Rogues creating fabricated immunity!v