Arrest of judges threatens harmony in judicial council

The National Judicial Council (NJC) is fast losing its harmony as members failed to take a common stance on the arrest of judges after meeting for two days in Abuja.They extended the meeting to a third day — today.

The council is one of the federal executive bodies created by law to insulate the judiciary from undue influence of the executive arm of government.

The Department of State Services (DSS) at the weekend arrested seven judges suspected to be corrupt. Many Nigerians, including the country’s body of lawyers — the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) — and major corporate organisations, have condemned the manner of the arrest.The Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Mahmud Mohammed, who chairs the NJC, condemned the action and members still failed to take a definite position at the end of yesterday’s meeting. The Council’s media unit disclosed that the meeting has been adjourned till Thursday.

The council had summoned an emergency meeting on Tuesday to examine the circumstances surrounding the arrests, at the end of which it was expected to issue a statement.

At the end of the first day, the resolution was not reached as the meeting was rescheduled for the following day.

There was an assurance from the media unit that a statement would be issued before the end of the meeting yesterday.

Having waited continuously without further information, journalists decided to remain on the premises of the council, the venue of the meeting, pending when it would be called off.

They were dispersed mid-day by security guards, who insisted that any form of gathering was not permitted around the premises for security reasons.

At the end of the day, it was learnt that the meeting had been extended till today.

Meanwhile, Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court heard some cases yesterday.

Activities in various courts within the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) had reduced drastically since the Monday following the clampdown on judges.

The DSS has said investigations into the judges over alleged corruption case would be concluded this week.

A security expert told journalists yesterday evening that the judges might be arraigned next week.

A close associate of the NJC, who did not wish to be named, had said on Tuesday night that judges across the country were disturbed at the manner the SSS went about arresting their colleagues.

He said he was not aware that the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Mohammed, wrote any damning letter to President Muhammadu Buhari implicating some of the president’s subordinates in an attempted bribery.

“Even if there was any letter, I am not in a position to know, but all the talk about what they discussed when they met could not have been true,” he said.

He admitted that there was anger among the rank and file of the judiciary over the manner the judges were treated.

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