The Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, has described as absurd, explanations by the Presidency that the Department of State Services’ “surgical operation” at the weekend was targeted at corruption, not the judiciary.
The DSS had carried out a simultaneous sting operation late Friday and early hours of Saturday on the residences of Justices of the Supreme Court, Appeal Court and judges of High Court in different parts of the country, which led to the unprecedented arrest of seven members of the bench.
The backlash that trailed the gestapo style raid and arrest of the judges by the DSS resulted in the Presidency explaining that President Muhammadu Buhari has the highest regards for the institution of the judiciary as the third arm of government and will not do anything to undermine its independence.
Speaking at the valedictory session in honour of a retired Supreme Court Justice, Suleiman Galadima, in Abuja yesterday, the NBA President, Abubakar Mahmoud, insisted that President Buhari should call the security agencies responsible for the arrest of the judges to order.
Reiterating his position on Monday, Mr. Mahmoud said “We viewed these actions as illegal and unconstitutional and a threat to the independence of the judiciary and must be aimed at intimidating the judiciary and the legal profession.
“These military style operations are totally unacceptable in a democratic society. They are unacceptable against private citizens but even more against serving justices of superior courts”.
He said the NBA rejected the explanations and justification by the Presidency that the judges’ arrest were targeted at corruption and not the judiciary.
“We find it absurd that the presidency will accept assurances from DSS that it followed due process of the law.
“We maintain our position that these operations are illegal and unconstitutional. I want to reiterate that the position of the NBA is not aimed at protecting any judge. We are not also shielding any judges from investigation from charges of corruption”, he said.
Mahmoud also addressed the divisions among lawyers over the arrests and raids of the judges’ houses in the middle of the night by masked armed men.
“We do not accept it. This portends real danger to the Nigerian democracy. It is contrary to all civilised norms and accepted standards”.
He advised the DSS to restrict itself to its constitutional and statutory duties as according to him, DSS core mandate is to guaranteeing internal national security.
“It is not its responsibility to conduct sting operations on judges for corruption or professional misconduct in the middle of the night”, he said.