Two judges of the Federal High Court in Abuja, whose official residences were raided in the Federal Capital Territory between October 7 and 8, have written to their employer, the National Judicial Council, narrating their ordeals at the hands of the Department of State Services operatives.
Both Justices Adeniyi Ademola and Nnamdi Dimgba threatened to sue the DSS for violating their rights if their wish was granted by the NJC.
Justice Ademola, in his letter dated October 11, 2016 and addressed to the Chief Justice of Nigeria and Chairman of the NJC, said the ordeal he faced last weekend was instigated by the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami. Our correspondent on Saturday obtained extracts from the six-page letter in which the judge maintained his innocence, saying there was no incriminating material found in his house during the raid.
The letter was addressed to the Chief Justice of Nigeria and Chairman of the NJC, Justice Mahmud Mohammed, through the Office of the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Ibrahim Auta.
Justice Ademola said in the letter that the sum of money alleged to have been found in his house was blown out of proportion but that he could not determine how much was actually recovered, since the money was allegedly recovered from his house in his absence.
He said he was later told by the DSS operatives after 24 hours of his arrest that the allegations for which he was being investigated included a petition by Mr. Jekins Duvie dated April 4, 2016 sent to the NJC.
He said he was also accused of, at different times, granting “unconstitutional” bails to ex-National Security Adviser, Col. Sambo Dasuki (retd.), as well as the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, Nnamdi Kanu.
He explained that Malami only instigated his arrest to take back his pound of flesh after he (the judge) had pressed a case of professional misconduct against the minister while he (the minister) was still practising as a legal practitioner in Kano.
The judge said he was then a judge of the Federal High Court serving in the Kano Division.
An extract from the letter read, “What is more intriguing in this whole episode, is that I see it as a vendetta/revenge from the Hon. Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami. While I was in Kano between 2004 and 2007 as a Federal High Court judge, he was involved in a professional misconduct necessitating his arrest and detention by my order.
“However, with the intervention of the Nigerian Bar Association, Kano branch, the allegation of misconduct was later withdrawn by me.
“Consequently, the National Judicial Council referred Abubakar Malami (SAN) to the Nigerian Bar Association’s Disciplinary Committee for disciplinary action.”
Insisting that the amount claimed by the DSS to have been found in his house was untrue, he said, “After stating the grounds for the invasion as stated above, they requested explanation of the money found in my apartment, as well as two licensed firearms also found in my apartment.
“All the allegations that border on judicial decisions were supported with Certified True Copy of Proceedings showing that those applications were not opposed by the counsel representing the Department of State Services of the Federal Government of Nigeria.”
Asking for the NJC’s permission to sue the DSS, he said, “My Lord, with this infringement of my fundamental right, I seek for the leave to commence an action against the Department of State Services to enforce my right that was breached.”
Narrating his ordeals in his letter to the NJC, the judge said he initially took the DSS operatives for armed robbers or thieves “especially because this was at an ungodly hour of the night.”
He said the operatives numbering about 45 with all of them masked, came to his official residence at House 30, Ogbemudia Crescent, Apo Legislative Quarters, Abuja “on or about 12 am at midnight of the said day, Friday.”
He said he was “awaken by the operatives’ loud sound of banging, breaking and hitting.”
Excerpts from the letter read further, “They asked me to open the door and I responded, asking them, ‘Who are you?’ They answered ‘We are officers of the Department of State Services and we are here with a search warrant to search your house.’
“I told them to allow me to call my counsel. At this point, they had already began kicking at my door and after about three kicks, I got up and opened my bedroom door and let them in.
“To my surprise, I saw about 45 masked officers of the DSS, all heavily armed pointing their guns at me. They flashed a document purported to be a search warrant and ordered me to sign on a document claiming that they had already conducted a search downstairs.
“They also added that I was totally under their custody as I have always made an order against them (the DSS).
“I complied and upon signing the document, they told me that I was under arrest and ordered me with guns still pointed at me to move outside. As I was going, they told me they were taking me to their office without showing any warrant of arrest,” the letter read.
“I obeyed them and at about six o’clock in the morning, I was whisked away from my residence to the DSS office.
“From the time of my arrival at the DSS office, at about 6:45am on October 8, I was not told what my crime was for over 24 hours till the evening of October 9.
“A DSS official finally informed me that the search and my arrest were based on these three allegations: the petition of Hon. Jenkins Duvie dated April 4, 2016 to the National Judicial Council and granting bail to Col. Sambo Dasuki and the unconditional release of Nnamdi Kanu.”
On his part, Justice Dimgba, whose residence is separated from Justice Ademola’s house by a fence, stated in his letter dated October 10 to the NJC, that he was subjected to harassment and intimidation because of the rulings he had delivered against the DSS.
He said his ordeal started on September 16, 2016, when the DSS invited and detained his registrar at their office in Abuja.
He said the registrar was re-invited on September 26, 2016.
Dimgba added that the registrar was detained, her phones seized, and the operatives of the DSS “threatened her to provide them with testimonies that could implicate me in the performance of my official duties.”
He also complained that his house was “invaded” by a team of over 20 operatives of the DSS in about five operational vehicles without a search warrant.
He stated, “When I asked, they first presented me with a search warrant for a No. 19 Ogbemudia Crescent, Apo Legislative Quarters, Zone E and which had a John Inyang Okoro as defendant. When I explained to them that my house address was not No. 19 Ogbemudia Crescent, Apo Legislative Quarters, Zone E, and that my name was certainly not John Inyang Okoro, on the search warrant, the DSS team leader explained that there was a mix-up, and then presented me with another search warrant for 30 Ogbemudia Crescent, Apo Legislative Quarters, Zone E, but which had A.F.A Ademola as the defendant.
“When I also explained that I was not A.F.A Ademola but that my name was Justice Dimgba, the DSS team leader stated that whatever was the case, they (the DSS) were under instructions from above to search Justice Nnamdi Dimgba’s house.”
He said he tried to resist the search because the operation was not backed by a search warrant and later managed to “seek refuge in the garden” in an adjacent premises.
“I endured the whole ordeal in this open garden as my neighbour was away.
“Thereafter, the DSS operatives turned on my nephew, who resides with me, and my driver, beat them to a pulp with guns, and forced their way into and ransacked the entire house in the course of execution of a non-existent search warrant,” he said.
He said the DSS operatives eventually went away with his work bag “containing a number of case files which I had planned to work on for the weekend in relation to judgments adjourned, the power cable of my laptop and also my copy of the reply dated September 4, 2016, which I had sent to the NJC to the DSS’ petition against me.”
He demanded the following prayers from the NJC: “I pray, my Lord, for your intervention to: stop these acts of harassment and intimidation against me by the DSS; and
“Ensure the immediate return of these seized case files and my answer to their petition to me. Not returning the case files makes it almost impossible for me to proceed with the completion of the judgments.
“I also wish to state that I intend to commence legal proceedings in court against the DSS for the above brazen violations of my rights, unless my Lord otherwise advises.”
In another letter sent as response to the NJC’s query concerning a petition earlier filed against him by the DSS, Dimgba had said the agency was attempting to cow him.
Our correspondent obtained extracts of the judge’s response to the petition by the DSS on Saturday. According to Dimgba,the petition was “meant to humiliate and embarrass him for having the courage to deliver judgments against the DSS on fundamental rights suits.”
In the letter dated September 4, 2016 sent to the NJC before last weekend’s raid, the judge said, “I state that as far as they relate to me, the said allegations are monumental fabrications which I deny in totality and in absolute terms.
“I believe that this petition and the allegations contained therein are aimed at cowing me from the principled stand that I took against the disobedience of my court order.”
Dimgba cited as an example of his orders flouted by the DSS the bail he granted a former member of arms probe panel, set up by the Federal Government, Air Commodore Umar Mohammed (retd).
Mohammed was again granted bail by another judge of the Federal High Court in Abuja, Justice John Tsoho, the same terms and condition as earlier imposed by Justice Dimgba.
The DSS operatives, who had produced him before Justice Tsoho for a rearraignment, would not allow the former military chief to perfect his bail conditions as the operatives whisked him away from the court premises.
Calls made to Malami and his spokesperson, Mr. Salihu Isah, on Saturday were not answered.
The text messages sent to their telephone lines had yet to be delivered as of the time of filing this report at about 7 pm on Saturday.
The DSS had, between October 7 and 8, arrested Justices Sylvester Ngwuta and John Okoro of the Supreme Court; the suspended Presiding Justice of the Court of Appeal, Ilorin Division, Justice Mohammed Tsamiya; a judge of the Kano State High Court, Justice Kabiru Auta; and Justice Adeniyi Ademola of the Federal High Court, Abuja.
Others arrested were a former Chief Judge of Enugu State, Justice I. A. Umezulike; and Justice Muazu Pindiga of the Federal High Court, Gombe Division.