NJC And The Recall Of Judges

WHEN the operatives of the Department of security Services (DSS), in October 2016 raided the homes of some Justices in what the security men tagged a ‘sting operation’ over alleged corrupt practices, many right thinking Nigerians had their reservations as to whether the operatives had their bearings right.
his is not because the victims of the operation were considered infallible, above the law or untouchable, rather, the citizens were and are still disturbed by the commando style and the most humiliating template adopted by the DSS in carrying out the operation.
For instance, apart from the fact that the raid was carried out in the unholy hours of the night, some members of the household of some justices were subjected to ridicule, assault and other forms of physical abuse, while the premises were forcefully broken into by the gun-totting security operatives.
his was uncalled for, particularly when no modicum of resistance or obstruction was put on the way of the security operatives by either the justices or the members of the household before, during or after the raid.
Worse still, no deliberate and diligent effort was made to properly investigate most of the allegations, let alone diligently prosecuting majority of the Justices.
Even in the case of Justice Adeniyi Ademola, who was charged along with his wife and a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), the hollow nature of the allegations, the manifestly unreliable showing, the lacklustre approach by the traducers devoid of any iota of substance did not take long to manifest, following which the court had no difficulty in holding that the accused persons had no case to answer.
t is instructive to note that unlike justice Ademola, many other justices who were victims of the sting operation even remained at the mercy of the DSS for eight good months, without any formal criminal charge brought against them by the security operatives.
Worse still, all the justices, including Justice Ademola were suspended from office by the National Judicial Council (NJC) in anticipation of the prosecution of the accused persons by the security operatives and perhaps to douse tension or suspicion that the council intended to shield its own from facing the long arm of the law.
espite all this, the DSS failed, neglected or refused, to take advantage of this surplus age of support or incentive from the NJC to present credible and reliable evidence against the accused persons.
n the prevailing circumstance, some of the questions that arise include for how long will these learned brothers be subjected to the Sword of Damocles and the double jeopardy of being suspended from duty and yet for eight good months their accusers never deemed it necessary to bring a formal charge against them? Does their continued suspension from office without trial not amount to a violation of their fundamental right to the presumption of innocence guaranteed by Section 36(5) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended)?
Definitely, an accused person is deemed innocent until proved otherwise and failure of the DSS to adduce credible evidence tantamount to no case.
We, therefore, commend the NJC for recalling the Justices since, from the totality of the showing of the security agency, it has become unprofitable, preposterous, reprehensible and unconstitutional to deprive the accused persons of their fundamental rights, whereas their accusers are merely labouring in futility to shop for allegations against the justices.
With regards to the argument that the judgment exonerating Justice Ademola was being appealed against hence he ought not to have been recalled until full determination of the appeal, we humbly submit that it is not our law that a pending appeal without more, renders nugatory a judgment or even puts same in abeyance. It is entirely a different case when such appeal is accompanied with a stay of execution of the judgment being appealed against. This, however, is not so with the case in point.
What’s more, the NJC has eloquently made it clear that the security agency was operating out of the time allowed for the appeal against the judgment and we believe that in that circumstance, the legal minds of the agency should know better.
We applaud the NJC for its maturity, courage, profound respect for the rule of law, forthrightness, defence and protection of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and calm disposition, even in the face of glaring provocation, preponderance of mudslinging, intimidation by agents of destabilisation.
We call on the recalled Justices not to be deterred by this travail but to see it as part of the sacrifice made in the larger interest of the defence of justice, fairplay and equity, which will galvanise them to remain firm, fearless and just in their chosen career in expanding the frontiers of our jurisprudence, no matter whose ox is gored.
While we do not support any form of corruption, no matter the profile of the suspects, we firmly believe that steps towards redressing such situation have to be in tandem with the rule of law and in accordance with the Constitution.
We caution that never again should the temple of justice be desecrated and ministers in this hallowed chamber or indeed, any citizen of Nigeria be subjected to unsubstantiated, trumped up charges or intimidation without basis for such abridgement of constitutionally-their guaranteed rights.
The war against corruption is not won by mere suspicion, harassment and intimidation of citizens, executive lawlessness and settling of scores, but through thorough investigations and diligent prosecution, anchored on credible and reliable evidence. Enough is enough.