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Raids On Judicial Officers Expose Them To Criminals, Says NJC

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Chief Justice of Nigeria, Mahmud Mohammed
Chief Justice of Nigeria and Chairman of the National Judicial Council, Mahmud Mohammed

The National Judicial Council, NJC, has said that the raid on some judges of the federation has left judicial officers prone to attacks by criminals.

While describing the raid and illegal arrests as a threat to the independence of the judiciary, the NJC added that the actions of the DSS “have subjected judicial officials to insecurity, as criminals might take advantage of the recent incidents to invade their residences under the guise of being security agents.”

This was part of the position taken by the NJC after its two-day emergency meeting to discuss the arrest of some judges by the DSS.

In a statement released on Thursday night after its meeting, the NJC said that “no judicial officer shall be invited by any institution in the country, including the DSS, without complying with the rule of law and due process.”

The council said it considers the DSS’ action as a clear attempt by the DSS to “humiliate, intimidate, denigrate and cow the judiciary‎”.

The judicial council noted that when the DSS wrote to the council asking that Justice Mu’azu Pindiga should appear before it, the Chief Justice of Nigeria and Chairman of the National Judicial Council, Mahmud Mohammed directed that the said Judge answer the DSS’ summon, “which His Lordship did.”

It added “That the National Judicial Council has never shielded, nor will it shield any judicial officer who has committed any misconduct.

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The statement also pointed out that “contrary to the claim by the DSS and as published in the electronic and print media, council has never received any petition against the aforesaid judicial officers: Hon. Justices Ngwuta and Okoro of the Supreme Court of Nigeria, by the DSS”.

The statement read further: “The council vehemently denounces a situation whereby the psyche of judicial officers in the federation is subjected to a level where they would be afraid to discharge their constitutional judicial functions, without fear or favour, intimidation, victimisation or suppression.

“The council will not compromise the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary.

“The council wishes to reassure the public that any person who has a genuine complaint against any judicial officer is at liberty to bring it up to the council for consideration, after following due process vide its Judicial Discipline Regulations.”

Meanwhile, the NJC at the two-day meeting, also “unanimously agreed to recommend Justice W. S. N. Onnoghen, as the most senior, suitable and competent justice of the Supreme Court to President Muhammadu Buhari for appointment as the next Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), to succeed Justice Mahmud Mohammed, who retires from office on the 10th November 2016.

‎The council also restated its “absolute confidence” in President Buhari’s administration and its determination to “uphold the principles of democracy, separation of powers and the rule of law enshrined in the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as amended and the United Nations Charter, of which Nigeria is a member.”

“‎That it shall continue to support the President Buhari administration in its fight against corruption in all its ramifications in the federation; and in cleansing the judiciary of corrupt judicial officers.”

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