The Human Rights and Anti Corruption Coalition on Wednesday protested the angry backlash from some Nigerians on the State Security Services, SSS, over the agency’s recent arrest of some judges.
At the Ikeja Division of the Federal High Court, the protesters demanded a decisive action against corrupt judges in the country.
The group made the demands at a peaceful anti-corruption protest to the Federal High Court, Ikeja Division Lagos.
”The arrest of seven judge of various courts exposed how bad the cancer of corruption has spread in our polity,” said Desmond Abiona, the Lagos coordinator of the group.
“We mourn not just because these judicial officers have been fooling us, we mourn because they were still able to get gullible citizens that are fighting for them by condemning the sequence of events and the process of their arrests.
“Suddenly, arrests that were executed with valid warrants are being criticized by the same people who have been shortchanged by rogue judges all their lives. It is simply inconceivable.”
An overnight assault on some senior judges in six states across the country 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 generated heated debates across the country and, once again out Nigeria’s secret police 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 judges were granted bail on Monday on self-recognition.
The protesters in Lagos challenged the arrested or indicted judges to exonerate themselves from the allegations from the SSS.
“We dare them to apply the same test of the law that they have applied to the masses on themselves and see if they will not spend the remainder of their natural lives in jail without the possibility of state pardon,” Mr. Abiona said.
Mr. Abiona also said in the coming days, some groups would be recruited by agents commissioned by the judges to hold protests alleging witch-hunt on the judiciary.
“We however want to clearly set out here that arrest of judges, or anyone found to have been corrupt is not witch-hunt, it is not politics and definitely it is not clamping down on freedoms,” he said.
“Anyone that they contact to be part of protests either on the streets or in the virtual cyberspace would do well to identify and appreciate the issues:
“In the number of years that we have returned to democratic rule, corrupt judges have been steadily eroding the gains of democracy.
“They have in some instances sold judgment to the highest bidders such that votes no longer count and millions of people are saddled with representatives and leaders they did not actually vote for.
“The men and women who threatened our democratic freedom with their avarice have no right walking free when indicted, they should face the law they profess and bear their punishments if convicted.”
He further said the Nigerian Police Force could attest of their frustration in the hands of corrupt judges who turn dangerous robbers loose on Nigerian streets for money.
“Every family that has ever lost a loved one to the hails of bullets fired by judge-pampered robbers would attest to the fact that a corrupt judge is worse than a robber in that he wields a more deadly weapon as the scales of justices is superior to firearms,” Mr. Abiona said.
“Has anyone ever wondered why many of the killer kidnappers are not first timers? It is because corrupt judges always set them free everytime security agencies release them.
“And yet, even the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), whose members have been fair game to kidnappers can come out to speak in favour of the corruption that is keeping criminals on our streets.
“How many terrorists have we successfully convicted and put away for good? Not many. Corrupt judges will not allow it. They will rather receive bribes and allow killers roam the land with explosive belts and AK47 than deploy the judiciary as a tool for curbing terrorism.”
The group demanded that all the judges so far indicted or arrested for corruption immediately resign “considering the magnitude of the case that the DSS has built against them.”
“The cases of those that have been given lenient punishments that amount to a slap on the wrist by the National Judicial Council (NJC) should be revisited with a view to dragging them before a law court,” said Mr. Abiona.
“The DSS must widen its investigation to take in all the petitions that the NJC has ever discarded given the fact that the council has demonstrated amply that it tends to shield corrupt judge.”