Crackdown on Nigerian judges by Buhari’s govt saddens me—Afe Babalola (SAN)

 

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  • This is just the beginning, Buhari ‘ll soon go after the media–Fayose

Legal luminary and foremost Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Chief Afe Babalola (SAN) on Wednesday joined prominent Nigerians to condemn last week midnight raiding of the houses of seven Nigerian judges including two justices of the Supreme Court before whisking them away like common criminals, saying the development saddened him.

Afe Babalola (SAN) spoke in Ado Ekiti during the foundation laying ceremony of the N1.29 billion worth Ekiti State new High Court Complex named after the Oluyin of Iyin Ekiti and the pioneer Chief Judge of the State, Justice Ademola Ajakaye.

He said the onslaught against the judges was a dangerous attack on the independence of judiciary in the country.

Babalola said raiding the houses of eminent jurist when they could have allowed the National Judicial Council (NJC) to take disciplinary actions against the judges, if truly they are corrupt, was a constitutional infraction that must not be tolerated.

“I am particularly saddened by the attack. How can they be treated like criminals?

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“The fact that the DSS released the judges on the second day showed that they did not evade arrest.

“Why should they then harass and humiliate them in the first instance?

“It is a trite law that process of the court can’t be served after 7pm. Even if the DSS had the arrest warrant, they should not have gone on midnight raid of the houses of the judges.

“The NJC has the power to promote, appoint and discipline judges. This was done to ensure independence of that arm.

“So, I expect them to have approached the NJC.

“How can you arrest sitting Supreme Court judges and take them to magistrate court for trial?

“That could only be done after they have been removed”, he said.

Also at the occasion, the state governor, Mr Ayodele Fayose joined hief Babalola to condemn the arrest of the judges, the development portended grave danger and a bad omen to the country’s democracy.

Fayose said if judges, who were occupying sacred positions could be harassed and treated that way by the Department of State Service (DSS), he said what it meant was that nobody was safe under the President Muhammadu Buhari’s government .

Fayose however said he would continue to hold judiciary in high esteem and do everything possible to ensure effective administration of justice in the country.

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He said he found it expedient to build another high court complex to replace the current one that was bequeathed to the state in 1968.

“I am particularly glad with what is happening today because the judicial officers had not done enough to put the executive at checks.

“ I had earlier raised the alarm that something like this will happen, so the current predicament of these judges will teach a lesson that nobody is safe from harassment in Nigeria.

“However, no matter the offence they might have committed, the arrest is regrettable and sad.

“ This should not have happened to judges who built their careers from the scratch.

“But let me tell you, this government will still do more.

“If we do not allow for due process, the DSS would soon descend on other arms of government and innocent people.

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“They may soon descend on the media and others because of the feelings that they are not doing their biddings.

“I won’t approach any judge for assistance or to subvert justice in any way whatsoever.

“We must all protect the judicial arm and that is why I am building this new complex that will have modern accessories to ease administration of justice and smoothen legal matters in the state”, Fayose said

The Chief Judge of the State, Justice Ayodeji Daramola and the Attorney General and Commissioner of Justice, Mr. Owoseeni Ajayi, said the new court complex would help in speedy administration of justice in Ekiti when completed.

Ajayi said the present complex has become choky and often overcrowded when matters are being heard, thereby subjecting judges to harsh condition during hearing.