The Nigerian Bar Association on Thursday threw its weight behind the two Justices of the Supreme Court who were part of the seven judges recently arrested by the operatives of the Department of State Services.
The umbrella body of legal practitioners in the country, while faulting the recent clampdown, described the arrest of the judicial officers as unconstitutional and clearly outside the mandate of the Service.
The President of the NBA, Mr. Abubakar Mahmoud (SAN), who addressed a press conference in Abuja on Thursday, said, contrary to the claim by the DSS, the two Justices of the apex court, Justices Sylvester Ngwuta and John Okoro, were never invited and there was no formal complaints against them before their homes were raided.
He said, “We have engaged with the NJC and there was no evidence that has been made available to us that suggests that the two Justices of the Supreme Court were ever invited or indeed there was any complaint by anybody against them.
“This is the information we got from the NJC and we don’t have any reason to doubt it. So, where no complaint has been made either by the DSS itself or by other citizens, then these sort of very drastic measures were taken, we do not see any justification for that.
“The Supreme Court and indeed other superior courts in Nigeria are part of the judicial institutions of this country and we cannot denigrate them under the guise that we are fighting corruption.
“We must not destroy the institution or expose it to ridicule or disdain and humiliation both locally and internationally because of the allegations against them.
“But in this case, especially in the case of the two Justices of the Supreme Court, we have been informed that there was no formal complaint against any of the two prior to this action being taken.
“With respect to the other five, we have been informed that at least cases of four of them have been dealt with by the NJC and they are being recommended for various disciplinary measures both to the President and their various governors and it is not the responsibility of the NJC to remove them as recommended by the NJC.
“The fifth case was pending before the NJC as of the time of this invasion. So, we do not see reason why this sort of military style approach should be adopted in respect of cases that have already been dealt with and disciplinary measures recommended.
“As for the two Justices of the Supreme Court where there are no complaints either to the NJC or any other authority, there is no any other justification where that sort of action should have been taken.”
Before the news conference, the meeting received briefings from the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami, and the Secretary of the National Judicial Council, Mr. Danladi Halilu.
Also at the meeting were four former NBA presidents, Chief Wole Olanipekun, Mr. Olisa Agbakoba, Mr. Joseph Daudu and Mr. Okey Wali.
Three former AGFs comprising, Chief Kanu Agabi, Chief Akin Olujinmi, and Mr. Adetokunbo Kayode, were also at the meeting.