A group of lawyers and human right activists on Monday held a protest march in Abuja to call on the National Judicial Council (NJC) to blacklist government agencies defying court orders.
They also condemned the call for suspension of judges recently arrested by the State Security Service.
The protesters also called on the National Judicial Council (NJC) to compile a list of persons being detained in violation of bails granted them by courts.
The protest march, organized by Lawyers in Defence of Democracy (LDD) and Citizens For Good Governance (CGG), began with a rally in front of the office of the National Human Rights Commission in Maitama. It then proceeded through the Federal High Court and the office of Attorney-General of the Federation to the Three Arms Zone.
Addressing the rally, one of the joint conveners, Ikenga Ugochinyere, urged Nigerian courts to stop attending to cases involving security agencies involved in alleged human rights abuses.
Mr. Ugochinyere said while his group supported “a holistic reform of the judiciary and that the NJC deals ruthlessly with cases of corruption” he urged Nigerians to resist “sting operations against some marked judges not doing the bid of politicians and some government agencies”.
He commended the NJC for “defending the independence of the judiciary, the sanctity of democracy and insistence on rule of law and sanctioning some judges who abused their offices” but urged it to stop hearing any case involving any agency that defied a court order.
“Deciding to ignore judgments of courts that do not favour you and implement the ones that protect your interest are clear signs of an emerging dictatorship”, he said.
Mr. Ugochinyere said his group “supports every genuine effort to fight corruption and fish out corrupt judges and indeed all other corrupt officials, but we condemn the brutish and Gestapo attack on the judiciary. That is not the way to go”.
He said the call by the President of the Nigerian Bar Association, Abubakar Mahmoud, for the suspension of arrested judges was contrary to the 2014 Revised Judicial Discipline Regulations formulated by the NJC, pursuant to Section 160 of the 1999 Constitution as amended.
The lawyers say judges must not step down from cases involving the SSS as that would amount to victory for tyranny and intimidation.
But they demanded that judiciary workers go on strike until the SSS obeys all pending judgments.
The SSS has been accused of disobeying several court orders since 2015.
The most notable cases involve the former National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki, and the leader of the pro-Biafra group, Nnamdi Kanu.
Some judges have recently stood down from cases involving the SSS, following the arrest seven senior judges on allegation of corruption.
Also, the spokesperson of Nigeria’s Supreme Court, Ahuraka Isah, on Monday confirmed reports that two of its judges accused of corruption have stopped sitting.
The two judges, Iyang Okoro and Sylvester Nguta, were among the seven judges arrested by operatives of the State Security Service, following allegations of corruption.
In a telephone chat with PREMIUM TIMES, Mr. Isah, who speaks for the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Mahmud Mohammed, said the Supreme Court judges suspended sittings since the raid on their homes and their subsequent arrest.
“None of the judges whose houses were raided and arrested by the SSS have been suspended by the NJC,” the spokesperson said. “But the two affected Supreme Court justices voluntarily recused themselves from all judicial functions since the raid occurred.”
Seven judges were on October 7 arrested by the SSS following allegations of corruption.
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