The senior special assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari on Prosecution and Legal Matters, Okoi Obono-Obla, has dismissed condemnation of the sting operations carried by the DSS on homes of senior Judges of the High Court and the Supreme Court last Friday and Saturday. He said the argument that the raid was an infraction on the independence and sanctity of the judiciary is “hogwash.”
“There is no infringement on the independence and sanctity of the judiciary in any manner whatsoever. Judges do not have immunity to do what they like,” he said in a statement.
Obono-Obla said that when a judge commits a crime it is both a professional misconduct and a crime and so is not just the business of the National Judicial Council (NJC) to deal with it but also a matter for security agencies to handle.
He accused the NJC of protecting and covering senior judges.
“I want to say that evidence abound of the protection and covering of senior Judges by the NJC and perhaps this might be one of the reasons why government resorted to such measures, which in any case is within the bounds of the law,” he said.
As an example, he cited the case of the presiding justice of the Court of Appeal, Ilorin Division, Hon. Justice Mohammed Ladan Tsamiya, who the NJC recommended for compulsory retirement in late September. According to him, “Justice Tsamiya collected two hundred million as bribe but NJC inexplicably only recommended his retirement. But another Judge in Kano who collected a bribe of N190 million was ordered to be arrested by the Police by NJC.” The other judge in question was Justice Kabiru Auta of the Kano high court.
“It is perverse logic and reasoning for any body to contend that independence of the judicial branch of government means that the executive branch of government should close it eyes to the infractions of the law and Constitution by Judges,” he said, pointing out that in the United States of America, the FBI sometimes carry sting operations to arrest roguish judges.
“On 5th October, 2015, the CBS/Ap reported the arrest of a federal Judge, Judge T. Camp by the FBI in a sting operation for gun running and illegal drugs involvement with a stripper. In Philadelphia nine Judges were arrested on charges of corruption on the 13th January, 2013! The judges face charges of conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud, wire fraud,mail fraud,perjury,making false statements to the FBI, and aiding and abetting.
“In Puerto Rico, on the 30th May 2014, FBI agents arrested a Puerto Rico Superior Court Judge , Manuel Acevedo Hernandez suspected of accepting bribes in exchange for acquitting a man charged in a fatal drunk-driving case. On the 4th November 2015, a North Carolina Superior Court Judge, Judge Arnold Jones 11 was arrested in a sting operation by FBI and charged with trying to bribe an FBI officer to collect text messages between two phone numbers.
“However, in Nigeria a country blighted by many years of impunity no judge has ever been arrested! Even judges that have been accused of corruption and collection of bribes are usually treated with kid gloves and merely retired or dismissed! This is the first time Judges would be arrested by Law Enforcement agency in the history of the country; so the impression among members of the public is that Judges are above the Law.”