The National Judicial Council, NJC, has convened an emergency meeting to decide the fate of the seven  judges currently under investigation over their alleged  involvement in acts of corruption.

image The meeting, to be presided over by the Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Justice Mahmud Mohammed, will hold between  Wednesday,  November 2 and Thursday, November 3 at the NJC Secretariat situated inside the Supreme Court complex in Abuja.

Sunday Vanguard learnt that  issues to be considered at the meeting include the request by some of the judges, whose homes were raided between October 7 and 8 by the Department of State Service, DSS, for leave of the Council to institute legal action against the DSS.

A source at the NJC, who pleaded anonymity, equally disclosed that the meeting would afford the legal body the opportunity to further deliberate on whether or not the embattled judges should  step down from the Bench as requested by the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA. “Besides, the Council will also consider, at the meeting, the request by a non-governmental organisation, Citizens Advocacy for Social and Economic Rights, CASER, for live broadcast of sensitive court cases”, the source added.

The group had, in a letter it forwarded to the CJN on February 26, sought the NJC approval for court proceedings to be relayed live to Nigerians. It argued that such measure would enhance greater transparency in the justice delivery system in Nigeria, saying the request was necessitated by “rising public consciousness of the role of the courts in ensuring justice, public order and stability of Nigeria.” As a follow up, the group also wrote the CJN on October 20, insisting that the  clampdown on judges over allegations of corruption further underscored the importance and urgency of its request. “CASER is convinced that live media broadcast of court proceedings will debunk corruption and help in sustaining the integrity of the judiciary in Nigeria,”the group said.

“Live broadcast of court proceedings in Nigeria has its foundation in the constitutional provision of Section 36 (3) and (4)”. Among the judges  seeking the NJC leave to drag the DSS and the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN, to court over the “sting operation” that was carried out against them, are two justices of the Supreme Court- Inyang Okoro and Sylvester Ngwuta. Others include two judges at the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court, Justices Ademola Adeniyi and Nnamdi Dimgba.

The judges, in separate letters to the NJC, maintained that the DSS, by its action, violated their constitutional rights. All the judges were arrested and subsequently granted administrative bail except Justice Dimgba who was not arrested though his home was thoroughly ransacked by the DSS. NJC had earlier sacked Justice Mohammed Tsamiya of the Court of Appeal, Ilorin, and the Chief Judge of Enugu State, I. A. Umezulike, after it found merit in the petitions against them.

The Council equally okayed the prosecution of Kabir Auta of the Kano High Court, even as it dismissed the petition DSS lodged against Justice Muazu Pindiga of the Federal High Court, Gombe Division. Although about 21 judges are currently under the radar of the DSS, so far, only 15 of them have been taken in for interrogation. The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, is equally investigating some judges involved in alleged   dubious transactions. Dimgba and Ademola had, in different letters, dated October 10 and 11, applied for the permission of the   NJC to file actions against the DSS for the enforcement of their fundamental human rights.

Dimgba, in his letter, told the NJC that his court had been under the radar of the DSS since September 16 when his registrar was detained after the agency invited her to its office for a chat. He said the registrar was released but re-invited on September 26, after which her phones were seized by the DSS.

Similarly, Okoro and Ngwuta, while accusing the DSS of violating their rights, said their ordeal  arose from their refusal to help the Minister of Transport, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi, to pervert justice in election disputes involving the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC.

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