The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) has insisted that the arrests and subsequent detention of seven judges by the Department of State Service (DSS) remained unlawful and unconstitutional acts.
The NBA President, Mr Abubakar Mahmud (SAN), maintained the stance when he briefed newsmen in Abuja on Thursday.
Mahmud said the invasion of the houses of the justices in the middle of the night by masked security operatives remained improper.
He said steps must be taken to bar the country’s judiciary from being exposed to ridicule and disdain by security operatives under the guise of fighting corruption.
The NBA president said the association had never condoned any acts of indiscipline among judges, adding that its present stance was not meant to shield judges found to have contravened the law.
Mahmud said the justification of DSS actions by the Presidency was not tenable, adding that the Presidency must act within the rule of law in the ongoing corruption war
On the claim that the National Judicial Council (NJC) did not act on the intelligence supplied by DSS on conduct of the judges, Mahmud dismissed it, saying NJC was not accountable to the service.
Mahmud said the NBA had proof there were correspondence between the DSS and NJC in respect of disciplinary actions already taken against some of the justices.
He, however, said the dissatisfaction shown by the service as to the severities of Council’s recommendation.
“This does not in any way suggest that the NJC did not carry out a thorough job.
“It was in our view wrong for the DSS to ask the NJC to make available to it the copies of disciplinary proceedings against judges for its vetting.
“This is the bone of contention. The NJC is not answerable to the DSS, It is not under its control and supervision and therefore, such demand negates the law,’’ Mahmud said.
Mahmud said: “We want to make it clear that the NBA is not against criminal investigation of judicial officers but that such action must be conducted in line with the rule law’’.
“From our investigation, two justices of the Supreme Court were never invited or any complaint filed against them,’’ he said.
Mahmud further said the petitions filed against four of the judges of the Federal High Court had been properly handled and disposed by the NJC.
“The Council made recommendations for their punishment to the appropriate authority, while the allegation against the fifth judge is still pending.
“From the records, the two justices of the apex court were never investigated because no formal complaints were brought against them, so why the humiliation,’’ he asked.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the NJC which is statutorily mandated to oversee the conduct of judges has yet to come out with a position on the matter.
The NJC held an emergency meeting on Tuesday which end on Wednesday night.