After being kept in custody for over 24 hours, the Department of State Services (DSS) had released all the seven judges arrested in connection with alleged corrupt practices. New Telegraph learnt that the judges were granted bail on self-recognisance.
Those arrested and granted bail are Justices Inyang Okoro and Sylvester Ngwuta of the Supreme Court; Adeniyi Ademola of the Federal High Court, Abuja; Kabir Auta of the Kano High Court; Muazu Pindiga of the Gombe High Court, Mohammed Tsamiya of the Court of Appeal in Ilorin and the Chief Judge of Enugu State, I. A. Umezulike.
The source, who pleaded for anonymity, said all the seven judges were released on Sunday night, but they were made to report at the service headquarters in Aso drive, Abuja, yesterday morning. The judges have also been asked to be reporting daily to the DSS office in Abuja pending when they will be arraigned in court. According to the source, the judges were granted bail on self-recognition based on their standing in the society, as they cannot run away.
The judges have been instructed to report at the DSS office today by 10a.m. It was also learnt that the DSS had been on the trail of the judges in the past seven months, monitoring their activities and “placing a web around them.”
“The judges reported at the DSS office on Monday morning for investigation and they have gone back home. The investigation continues preparatory to their arraignment in court. “Also, the arrest was as a sequel to lack of cooperation by the National Judicial Council (NJC).
The NJC refused DDS opportunity to question the affected persons. The investigation on the conduct of the judges started seven months ago, precisely in April 2016,” the source stated. New Telegraph learnt that DSS operatives have been monitoring the judges, bugging their telephone lines and that of their associates, suspected to be links with some politically exposed persons.
According to the source, the secret service is still on the trail of a Federal High Court judge who is said to be at large. “The judge has gone underground. He has failed to report at the DSS office. But we are on his trail,” a source told New Telegraph.
The secret service is, however, tidying its end to prefer charges against the seven judges. The secret service had on Saturday morning arrested seven judges over alleged corruption. DSS, in a statement, said huge sums of money were recovered from both Justices Ngwuta and Okoro’s residences.
At the residence of Justice Ademola, the DSS said it recovered at least $171,779 and N54 million in cash, in addition to documents of landed property belonging to the judge.In the course of the raid, the DSS said it recovered N35 million, $319,475 from Justice Ngwuta while N4.3 million and $38,833 were recovered from Justice Okoro.
While justifying the judges’ arrest, DSS said it monitored “the expensive and luxurious lifestyle of some of the judges as well as complaints from concerned public over judgement obtained fraudulently and on the basis of money paid,” adding that the judges involved were invited, upon which due diligence was exhibited and their premises searched.
The DSS is also presently investigating about eight more judges over alleged corruption and may get them arrested soonest. The eight judges are asides the seven that will be charged to court any moment from now.
Although the identities of the judges are still unknown as at the time of filing this report, New Telegraph learnt that another justice of the Supreme Court is involved and two judges from the Federal High Court. The service had been investigating the judges for some time now and had got enough evidence to go after them.
Meanwhile, the National Judicial Council (NJC) will be holding an emergency meeting today to discuss whose name it will send to President Muhammadu Buhari as the next Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN). The CJN, Justice Mahmud Mohammed had yesterday said that the council will also look into the arrest of judges by the DSS.