The Nigerian Senate and the House of Representatives have come down heavily on the Department of State Security, DSS, for the arrest of some of the countries senior Judges in the early hours of Saturday, October 8. The judges were however released on bail on Sunday.
The lawmakers say such moves go against the principle of separation of powers and did not fall within the mandate of the DSS.
At the commencement of plenary on the floor of the Senate on Tuesday, Joshua Lidani, raised a point of order, saying that the arrest of the Judges were unlawful.
Lidani said that he was in full support of the fight against corruption but stressed that “The fight against corruption should be done within the confines of the Law.”
“The Senate supports the fight against corruption but with strict observance to the principles of separation of power,”
Seconding the motion, the Senate committee Chairman on the FCT, Dino Melaye said: “It is a misnomer. It is absurd for the directorate of the SSS to operate outside their mandate.
“These are not allegations of rape, terrorism or crime; they are allegations of professional misconduct.
“I acknowledge the existence of corruption in the judiciary but the DSS overstepped and abused their boundaries,” he said
Another lawmaker, Suleiman Hunkuyi urged the national assembly to call relevant agencies to carry out their activities within the ambits of the law.
“National Assembly cannot provide the rule with one hand and collect it with the other hand,” he said, “every agency must operate within the confines of the law.”
Also contributing to the motion, Chukwuka Utazi, said government cannot claim to be protecting democracy by throwing all caution to the wind and engaging in extra-constitutional actions.
“What will the International Community think of us with our gestapo approach?” he asked.
“The act cannot be rationalized, the world is watching the senate, we must rise and stand for Justice,” Utazi stated.
However, the Senate Minority Leader, Godswill Akpabio, was a little cautious in his analysis.
He said: “The way we handle this matter will determine how the public view this senate.
“The senate is made up of erudite people. Nigerians believe in us (so) we must see things from both sides.
“The senate supports President Buhari in his corruption fight but we must look at the image of the country and do things right.”
The Senate President, Bukola Saraki also acknowledged that the judiciary needs to be sanitized but he condemned the unlawful mode of arrest.
“Any anti-corruption action that goes against the rule of law does not help the fight against corruption,” he said.
Saraki added that “The National Assembly has been playing its role to support other arms of government in its fight against corruption.
He subsequently moved for the adoption of the recommendations and refered the matter to Committee on Judiciary and Human Rights and Legal Matters.
The committee will report back to the senate in four weeks.
The House of Representatives on its part, passed a resolution to constitute an ad-hoc committee to probe all the invasions by DSS from last year to this year.
The decision followed the adoption of a motion by Kingsley Chinda, an APC lawmaker, who described the invasion of the Judges’ residences by the DSS as “almost a civilian coup”.
“There’s no doubt that we condemn corruption, but the method must follow the rule of law. Our people are waiting to see what we’ll do on this affront to democracy,” he argued.
However, another APC member of the House, Mojeed Alabi, raised a point of order, citing sections 4, 5 and 6 of the constitution, and saying that the House could not go into such matters because of the principle of separation of powers.
But he was booed by almost all the members and shouts of “sit down! sit down!” rented the air.
Speaker Yakubu Dogara ruled him out of order and the motion was consequently adopted by the majority of lawmakers.