Arrest Of Judges: Senate Moves To Amend DSS Act | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Arrest Of Judges: Senate Moves To Amend DSS Act

Nigeria senate, JAMB
Posted: Oct 12, 2016 at 4:30 am   /   by   /   comments (6)


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  • NDDC: Upper Chamber Rejects Ajasin, Enyinnah, Weli





Rotimi Akinwumi & Ahmed Musa


Abuja – It was condemnation galore for the Department of State Services (DSS) at the Senate plenary on Tuesday when the issue of the arrest of judges suspected of corrupt act by the agency came up for debate by the senators.

According to the Senate, the methodology adopted by the DSS was “draconian”.

After an exhaustive debate on the issue, the lawmakers, among others, resolved to amend the laws that establish some security outfits in the country including the DSS.

The Senate, however, rejected the prayer that sought to have the Director General of the DSS, Mamman Daura, appear before it to explain reasons why his men carried out the action.

The condemnation of the action of the DSS, especially the manner in which it carried out the arrest of the jurists was the result of a debate of a motion raised as  matter of urgent national importance by Senator Joshua Ledani.

The Senate in the debate also urged President Muhammadu Buhari to call all security agencies to order and direct the full observance of the rule of law in the discharge of their duties.

The Senate was of the strong view that the DSS went beyond its bounds when it usurped the powers of the National Judicial Council (NJC) which had the statutory powers of handling matters of misconduct and indiscipline against judicial officers.

The upper chamber noted that the act of breaking into the residences of judicial officers at night with chisel and hammer was one that had further worsened the image of Nigeria among the comity of nations.

The Senate warned that such actions by the DSS could erode the confidence in the judiciary, pointing out that turning the law upside down to fight corruption was an act of corruption in itself.

However, the Senate assured that it will continue to support the efforts to eliminate corruption from Nigeria because of the harm it is doing to the country.

Its committee chairman on Anti-Corruption and Financial Crimes, Senator Chukwuka Utazi from Enugu State, said the invasion has painted Nigeria before the international community as a country that does not respect the rule of law.

Utazi posited: “This last weekend was the most difficult the country has had. My spirit is very hurt. I can feel the pulse of Nigeria over what has happened. I do not know how the international community will see us after this. It appears the DSS is following the body language of the president of this country rather than follow the rule of law.

“To go in the wee hours of the morning and use force to break into a judge’s house is condemnable. The whole world is watching the Senate to see how we will react. This is pure dictatorship and it should not happen. Enough is enough. This is unguarded dictatorship. We should not treat this issue lightly.

“We have always condemned corruption in this 8th Senate. The NJC has powers in doing what the DSS is doing right now. To take this approach the DSS is taking is condemnable.”

Senate minority leader and a former governor of Akwa Ibom State, Godswill Akpabio, while making his contribution said the current anti-corruption war has painted former governors as corrupt people and warned that such toga should not be extended to the judiciary.

“We know that there is separation of powers. That is why in the judiciary, we have NJC. This is a very touchy issue and so many people run the risk of making comments and having security agents surround their houses tomorrow. That is why many of them have gone out to urinate.

“We must not speak from both sides. While supporting the fight against corruption, we must bear in mind the need to safeguard our democracy. Today, it is hard for a former governor in Nigeria to be respected outside Nigeria. They believe that every former governor is corrupt.

“They have extended the toga to the judiciary and this means a lot. It means people will not take seriously any judgment from our courts. If this government fails, it means we have all failed. We have to advice the government on what it must do. I am very worried about the method. We must speak out. If we do not speak up and we think it is okay, one day, the rain will fall on another roof”, Akpabio said.

Suleiman Hunkuyi from Kaduna State supported Melaye’s position. He insisted that every agency of government created by law must operate within the ambit of the law.

“This chamber and the National Assembly from which this status of the DSS originated must call on other agencies to remain within the mandate provided by law. The fight against corruption is for every patriotic Nigerian. The National Assembly cannot provide the law with one hand and look the other way.

“Every agency should operate within the ambit of the law. This misnomer that has now emanated provides the National Assembly the opportunity to stress that corruption has assumed a new dimension. However, nobody will justify the procedure or method used in prosecuting corruption.

“We must not forget the fact that the country is run under the principle of separation of powers. The judiciary needs to be independent in order to safeguard the sanctity of the country’s democracy”, he argued.

The SSS raided the homes of seven judges in six states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory between Friday night and Saturday morning.

During the raid, the SSS said it recovered a huge stash of money in local and foreign currencies. Seven judges were arrested, and have since been released on bail.

Those arrested include Justice Sylvester Nguta and John Okoro of the Supreme Court and Adeniyi Ademola of the Federal High Court Abuja.

Others are Justice Muazu Pindiga of Gombe State; Kabiru Auta of Kano State, Innocent Umezulike of Enugu State and Justice Mohammed Tsamiya, an appeal court judge in Ilorin.

The House of Representatives’ members were on Tuesday divided over moves to summon the leadership of the DSS over the recent invasion of houses belonging to some senior judicial officers and their subsequent arrest.

The House, however, resolved to set up an ad-hoc committee to investigate the legalities or otherwise of the act based on the enabling laws setting up the service.

The resolution is to summon Abubakar Malami, the Attorney General of the Federation, and the Director General of the DSS, Lawal Daura, to appear before it to explain the invasion and arrest of serving judges and justices for alleged corruption and abuse of office.

The decisions followed a motion under matters of urgent public importance brought by Kingsley Chinda (PDP, Rivers), stressing the need for proper investigation into the matter.

But a mild drama ensued immediately the motion was seconded by Gabriel Onyereri (APGA, Anambra) with Mojeed Alabi (APC, Osun) who raised a constitutional point based on privilege to counter Chinda’s motion.

Citing Sections 4 and 6 of the 1999 constitution as amended, Alabi argued that his privilege as a lawmaker has been violated as the matter in question was not urgent nor of national importance warranting the intervention of the House.

He was immediately shouted down by mostly PDP lawmakers as his plea for the chair’s protection was turned down by Speaker Dogara who in response to his plea said: “I can’t protect you as the House rule is very clear on this. The House had already voted on this motion.”

“You have to come by way of a motion to correct what you intend to correct after the arguments must have been taken”, Dogara said.

Speaker Dogara who did not allow a debate for or against by members said the House would have to investigate the matter first before arriving at a conclusion.

Meanwhile, the raids carried out weekend by the DSS on residences of senior judges were routine investigations, and were legitimate, the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, has said.

Addressing journalists in Abuja on Tuesday, Malami said the government had resolved to fight corruption, and would not be deterred by class or reputation of suspects.

“Once crimes and criminality are concerned, nobody is an exception. I think the undertone should be exclusively the consideration of the existence of a prima facie case; existence of reasonable grounds for suspicion of commission of a crime,” he said.

“And if there are, no member of the legislature, judiciary and executive can definitely be exempted from investigation. I think where we are now is the point of investigation and that is what is taking place.”

Malami said the search and subsequent arrest of seven judges were steps in an ongoing investigation that even constitutionally guaranteed immunity does not prevent.

“The bottom line is that we have a responsibility to fight corruption. Corruption is a crime and nobody, regardless of how highly placed is exempted as far as issues that border on crimes and criminalities are concerned.

“The limited exceptions, as we know constitutionally, are the exceptions of immunity. And to the best of my knowledge, those exceptions do not apply to investigation. For those that are conferred with the immunity, the right to investigate has not been taken away constitutionally.

“So, I think the framework and the circumstances within which we are operating are clearly whether there exists the right to investigate or not, and whether the action borders on criminality,” he said.

The Senate also on Tuesday announced the rejection of the trio of Olatokunbo Ajasin (Ondo), Donatus Eyinnah (Abia) and Igo Weli (Niger Delta) as members of the board of Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) on the grounds that they are not specifically from oil producing communities as stipulated by the NDDC Act.

Their nominations by the president, the Senate noted, was in breach of the NDDC Act.

However, the Senate confirmed the nomination of Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba as chairman of NDDC.

It also confirmed the nomination of Nsima Udo Ekere as Managing Director.

Senator Eyinnaya Abaribe had during the debate on the report of the Senate Committee on NDDC pointed out that Section 2(1)(b) of the NDDC Act stipulated that nominees for the board of the commission must be from communities where oil is produced.

Another nominee, Senator Osita Izunaso (Imo), had earlier written the Senate committee to voluntarily reject his nomination on similar ground of not being an indigene of an oil producing community. Argument by Senator Sola Adeyeye (Osun) that the Act did not make it mandatory for nominees to come from oil bearing communities was shot down by majority of members.

Chairman of the Senate Committee on NDDC, Senator Peter Nwaoboshi, informed the Senate that in the case of Ajasin, people from the Ilaje area of Ondo State, stormed the screening venue in 11 fully loaded commuter buses protesting his nomination.

Two other nominees, Mahmoud Isa-Dutse and Abdul-Kazeem Bayero from the Federal Ministry of Finance and Federal Ministry of Environment were also confirmed.

But the two would cease to be members of the NDDC board whenever they are transferred from their present ministries to other MDAs.

Other nominees confirmed are Adjogbe Ajenakevwe Samuel, Mene Ienyie Derek, Frank Samuel George, Brambaifa Nelson and Sylvester Effefiom Nsa.

The rest are Ogaga Ifowodo, Uwuilekhue Saturday, Harry Iboroma Dabibi, Benard Banfa, Yahaya Mohammed and Mustapha Dankadai.




Comments (6)

  • Oct 12, 2016 at 7:16 pm Dr Udeh

    Birds of the same feather. Others are going to the moon, but we are busy stealing our future, and justifying it. Future generation will dig up our bones and burn them times and again.

  • Orbunde Terve Daniel Oct 12, 2016 at 8:52 am Orbunde Terve Daniel

    *Plot twist* DSS arrests saraki and ekweremadu before the bill arrives…. PS:That would be amazing

  • Oct 12, 2016 at 7:37 am Olawale

    Fools,we Nigerian don’t expect anything positive from league of fraudulent senators.
    Since their inauguration how many law that impact positively on us have that passed?
    Little wonder,most of them came to Senate via dubious means,e.g Stella oduah and co .
    Continue to fool yourself untill your misadventures term expires.
    We are waiting for you 2019!

  • Oct 12, 2016 at 6:51 am Ugwumba Ngodo

    Corruption is fighting back – what a laughable state of affairs. The international community is really more embarrassed by the shenanigans of the National Assembly and NBA than any actions taken by the DSS. So, the DSS should have waited till morning, by which time the element of surprise would have gone and the evidence of corrupt practices tampered with? Which Judge did they harm? The FBI and British Intelligence have historically arrested corrupt justices during sting operations, so why would they be embarrassed when we do the same thing? Is this not the same National Assembly whose members have routinely embarrassed us at international fora. Abeg make person hear word!!!

  • Jamal Aliyu Oct 12, 2016 at 6:32 am Jamal Aliyu


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