Graft Fight: Senate set to probe DSS’ raid, arrest of judges

110316-senate-floor-1110316-senate-floor-1The Senate on Wednesday gave its Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters the go-ahead to investigate the penultimate weekend raiding of the houses of serving and retired judicial officers nationwide and their arrest by operatives of the Department of State Service (DSS).

They were purportedly arrested over corruption related offences.

The senate gave the committee its nod after it (the committe) had explained at the plenary that there was the need to invite the judges for clearer insight on the issue.

Specifically, Chairman of the committee, Sen. David Umaru, had on point-of-order during plenary said that it was necessary to invite the judges to provide answers to certain questions from the senate.

“By virtue of the 1999 Constitution as amended and Order 96, Rule 37 of our Rules, the powers of this committee to oversight the Judiciary and its powers include judicial matters and judges.

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“I am bringing this to the attention of the Senate so that we can take the permission to enable us conduct proper oversight on this matter and invite the justices.

“This is to enable us to interact with them in order to conduct proper oversight as we are enjoined by the provision of our rules and the 1999 Constitution,” he said.

In his response, President of the Senate, Dr Bukola Saraki, gave the committee permission to proceed with the oversight function as they had already been empowered by the rules.

“You do not need to come to us; you have your powers under the oversight and you should be able use the powers and do whatever you deem necessary.

“So, do your job in line with your powers,” Saraki said.

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Operatives of the DSS had in a sting operation between October 7 and 8 raided the houses of seven judicial officers before arresting them and whisked them away to the Yellow House Office of th DSS in Abuja.

The judges are John Okoro and Sylvester Nguta of the Supreme Court and a former Chief Judge of Enugu State, Innocent Umezulike.

Others are Nnamdi Dimgba and Adeniyi Ademola of the Federal High Court, Abuja; Kabiru Auta, from Kano judiciary and Muazu Pindiga of Federal High Court, Gombe.

The National Judicial Council (NJC) had last Thursday night  after a three day marathon emergency meeting described the arrest of the judges as threat to democracy and to the independence of the judiciary.

It had insisted that the arrest was an attempt to humiliate, intimidate, denigrate and cow the judiciary.

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But the executive had said it had due regard for rule of law in conducting the sting operation and that the exercise was an onslaught against corruption and not the judiciary.