Eight more judges are currently on the radar of the Service and they will be arrested this week as controversy is enveloping the political landscape in Nigeria following the arrest and detention of seven judges by the Directorate of Security Services (DSS) last weekend.
Those already in custody are Justice Inyang Okoro and Justice Sylvester Ngwuta, both of the Supreme Court; Justice Mohammed Tsamiya of Appeal Court, Ilorin; chief judge of Enugu High Court I, A. Umezulike; Justice Adeniyi Ademola of the Federal High Court; Justice Kabir Auta of Kano High Court and Justice Muazu Pindigir of Gombe High Court.
An informed security source, who told the Nigerian Tribune of the planned arrest of eight others under investigation, did not, however, dsclose their names.
The source revealed that the DSS received petitions on a daily basis on the judges and how they allegedly collected money from both parties in a case and even their conduct in the court.
According to the source, “we received these complains and we became worried, some of these things were becoming disturbing, people bringing facts and figures and we need to verify that the facts were all correct.”
The source said the analysis revealed that the political rot ended up in the judiciary in the last three to four years, adding that “Nigeria lost a lot of cases and billions of dollars because of corruption in the judiciary.”
It maintained that it would be interesting if the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) takes the SSS to court, noting that “what the NBA does not realise is that there is no agency as powerful as the SSS, because we can involve ourselves in any issue and get away with it.”
It added that “we have been receiving petitions about source of these funding of these judges. We have informants who have been giving us information about some of them. Some of them have become bigger than Nigeria itself, as they bend the law in order to collect gratification.”
The SSS source cited an instance where a judge arrived at a supermarket as if he was there for shopping but entered to collect dollars from a go-between in a case he was adjudicating into, not knowing that officers of the Service were trailing him.
The source noted that judges were covered with immunity only within the court premises, adding that once they were outside the court, “they are equal to any other Nigerian.”
The source added that if the judges in detention had answered questions asked them after making their statements on Saturday, they would have been allowed to go home.
“Definitely, today or tomorrow, they will go home. Their families have been visiting them, we want to take the cases to court quickly,” the source added.
Asked if the DSS can fight the battle, the source said “nobody dares a monster if he is not prepared. We are prepared.”
On whether the DSS is not creating tension in the country, the source said “anyone who tries to provoke any problem will have to pay for it, nobody is above the law, even lawyers who were used as conduit to pass the bribes will soon be arrested.”
When asked by a Presidency source on whether the cases of the judges would be handed over to the police for investigation, the source said “the cases will be prosecuted by the SSS.”
The source said very soon, Nigerians would hear about banks and how they are tripping foreign exchange.
It said the banking sector is now under the radar of the DSS, adding that the Service would soon descend of erring banks.
“We have virtually torn the banks to shreds, at least, every week, four executives report to us here,” the source said.
Meanwhile, the leadership of both the DSS and the National Judicial Council (NJC), held a closed door meeting on Sunday afternoon through evening, over the fate of detained senior judicial officers.
Outgoing secretary of the council, Halilu Danladi, was at the head of the judiciary team that attended the meeting held at the DSS headquarters, Abuja.
The outgoing Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Mohammed Mahmud, was reportedly fully debriefed by the council delegation when the meeting ended around 7.00 p.m.
Checks by Nigerian Tribune did not confirm the rumoured release of Justice Okoro to the judiciary delegation, but it was learnt that the cases the security agency claimed to have built against the affected judicial officers may be transferred to the council for an appropriate action.
The council had scheduled an emergency meeting for tomorrow to recommend the most senior justice of the apex court, Justice Walter Nkanu Onnoghen to President Muhammadu Buhari as the next CJN.
The sole agenda of the meeting had been fixed before the arrest of the serving judges.
Nigerian Tribune was told by a system source last night that the ongoing probe of some judges for giving conflicting judgments in cases emanating from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) leadership crisis and Abia governorship tussle, may come up for strong consideration in the light of the development.
The source added that it was almost certain that the arrest of the Supreme Court justices and the claim by DSS of recovering huge money from them would dominate the emergency meeting.
Corruption, not judiciary, under attack —Presidency
Meanwhile, the Presidency has said President Muhmmadu Buhari reserves his highest respect for the institution of the judiciary as the third arm of government.
Reacting to media reports on the arrest of judges by the operatives of the DSS, in a statement on Sunday night, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, said President Buhari respected the rule of law as a committed democrat.
“President Buhari remains a committed democrat, in words and in his actions, and will not take any action in violation of the constitution.
“The recent surgical operation against some judicial officers is specifically targeted at corruption and not at the judiciary as an institution.
“The Presidency has received assurances from the DSS that all due processes of the law, including the possession of search and arrest warrants, were obtained before the searches.
“To suggest that the government is acting outside the law in a dictatorial manner is to breach the interest of the state,” the statement said.
Arms panel member caught with $1m cash re-arraigned
A member of the AVM Jon Ode-led Presidential Arms Probe Panel on $2.1 billion arms procurement fund, who was caught with $1 million cash in his house, Air Commodore Umar Mohammed (retd), has been re-arraigned before a Federal High Court in Abuja.
Umar, 54, was re-arraigned together with his firm, Easy Jet Integrated Services Limited, before Justice John Tsoho last week, on a four-count amended charge, marked: FHC/ABJ/CR/145/16, on money laundering, illegal possession of firearms and violation of Official Secret Act.
The DSS arrested Umar in June, for allegedly fronting for other members of the panel in receiving large sums of money from certain individuals and companies in order to evade prosecution.
Justice Tsoho ordered that Umar be remanded in Kuje Prisons, pending when he is able to perfect the bail, as the case was adjourned till November 7.