THE ARREST OF THE JUSTICES OF THE SUPERIOR COURT: MY TAKE
THE LAW IS AN ASS!
Before stating my take on the arrest of the Justices of the Superior Courts, I think it is important to state categorically that I am not a believer in the Buhari led government! Having said that, my submission herein is purely legal and not politically based. I have read different comments for and against the arrest of the Justices of the superior courts and here is my take. a) Can judicial officers be arrested, investigated and thereafter prosecuted? b) Is the NJC saddled with the responsibility of investigating criminal offence? c) Can DSS effect the arrest of persons on the offence of corruption? d) Does the Administration of Criminal Justice Act provides for time within which arrest of suspect must be effected? In response to the first question, the justices of the superior courts are human just like you and I who doesn’t enjoy any form of immunity, they can therefore be arrested searched, detained and investigated. Section 308 is instructive, immunity cannot be implied, it must be expressly stated! On the second question, I have read the third schedule of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 extensively and it is not provided anywhere that the NJC must first investigate a judicial officer before handing them to the Law Enforcement Agency. The powers of the NJC are basically to recommend appointments, removal and discipline/punish judicial officers in respect of breach of judicial ethics, professional misconduct and not crime. Where the NJC punishes any judicial officer by way of removal or sanction, the state still has the right to prosecute such officer if the misconduct that led to the removal amounts to crime. As much as I think it is only logical for the Justices to be disciplined first by the NJC and therefore be removed as a judicial officer if found guilty before their prosecution by the relevant Agency, there is no law that provides for such procedure. Corruption remains a criminal offence, far more than a professional misconduct, hence, it can only be properly handled by the relevant agency but certainly not NJC. Some learned minds have even canvassed the argument that because the Justices were not first discipline by the NJC, charge against them might not hold water. My question is this; if it were to be a legal practitioner that stole a client’s money and thereafter arraigned before the court for stealing, would the court lack jurisdiction only because the lawyer was not first reported to the Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Committee? My final submission on this is that these judges be suspended by NJC to enable them face their trial and if no charge is brought against them, they have the right to sue the Federal Government and claim fat Billions of naira as their reputation is gone! But as of now, they cannot sit on the bench! This is what Civil Service Commission would do if they were civil servants. On the third question, I have read different comments against the action of DSS as some said they are not the appropriate agency saddled with that function rather EFCC, ICPC or Police. This argument is so tempting to concur with because the alleged offence bothers on corruption and financial crime but I must say that for a Justice of Supreme Court to be alleged of receiving money to pervert justice is far more than just financial crime as that act is capable of posing internal security in our dear nation. Section 3 of the National Security Agencies Act 1986 is instructive on the powers of the DSS. On the issue of the time and manner of arrest, we must first take cognizance of the fact that the law in operation in the jurisdiction where the arrest of these justices were effected is the ACJA and this law does not make provision for time frame within which arrest can be effected, which simply means arrest can be made at any time and in any day. Section,12 (2) and 13 of the ACJA provides for an arresting officer to break into and out of any premises for the purpose of arresting a suspect who fails to let the officer in. it is therefore my view that the arrest so effected by the DSS was legal and all evidence found in the premises shall be admissible in court if the Justices were arraigned. Before concluding this piece, it is of utmost importance for me to say that for any government to succeed in the fight against corruption in Nigeria, the judiciary and the police force must first be sanitized! As of today, Hard work is no longer a cornerstone to success in this sector but “smartness”. As a young lawyer I welcome every idea that fishes out the bad eggs in the judiciary and the nation at large!
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