Judge’s Arrest: ‘Why AGF snubbed House of Reps proceedings’

Senate-1…As House threatens Malami with arrest

The House of Representatives on Thursday vowed to issue warrant of arrest for the production of the Attorney-General of the Federation, Mr Abubakar Malami should he fail to appear before it next week Tuesday.

The House had issued about three summons on Malami to appear before it to shed light on the legality or otherwise of the sting operation conducted by operatives of the Department of State Service (DSS) between the night of October 7 and the wee hours of October 8 resulting in the arrest of serving and retired judges.

The House had invited some stakeholders including some of the victims, all of whom had appeared to explain what actually transpired and shared their perspectives on the issue.

The proceedings of the committee of the House of Representatives had, however, been criticized in some quarters as exceeding the legislature’s  oversight functions.

Besides, it was argued that the subject-matter of investigation is already a subject of litigation before a court of competent jurisdiction.

Stakeholders felt it was and insisted that it is not neat for both the legislature and the judiciary to be conducting proceedings on same issue at the same time.

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The Attorney General who had purportedly been invited a couple of times had not dignified them with representation let alone appearance.

A source told Bar and Bench Watch that the Attorney-General is distancing himself from the proceedings so as not to sew a garb of legality on the proceedings of the committee which is evidently prejudicial.

But Garba Datti, who chairs the ad hoc Committee investigating cases of invasion of property and arrest of persons for reasons outside the general duties of the Department of State Service (DSS) as prescribed by the National Securities Act expressed frustration with the conduct of the Attorney-General.

He said: “The only area we are having problem is the AGF who is the chief law officer.

“We sent letters to him, no answer and no memorandum from him.

“Before the public hearing, we had summoned him even today (Thursday), he did not appear or sent any representation.

“This Committee is disturbed by the non-appearance of the AGF.

“We have given him the opportunity to appear on Tuesday (next week) 29th November, failure of which this Committee will invoke all the relevant laws that give us power for arrest.”

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However, while the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) said the SSS has not erred by the search and alleged arrest of the  judicial officers, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) disclosed that it was not involved in the alleged search and arrest of the judges.

The EFCC however disclosed that it was also investigating some judicial officers.

ICPC Chairman, Nta  Ekpo Nta backed his assertion with legal instruments, saying,  “Section 3(1) of the SSS instrument I of 1999 provides that: “For the purpose of facilitating the discharge of its functions under these instrument, personnel of the State Security Services are hereby conferred with the powers of Superior Police officer in respect of searches and arrest.”

“Likewise, section 3 (2b) of the SSS Instrument I of 1999 provides that in the execution of its functions set out in the Instrument, the SSS shall have power to “impound and keep in its custody the passports or any other property of persons or organizations under investigation if considered appropriate by the Director-General.”

On his part, EFCC Chairman, Ibrahim Magu, who was represented by Johnson Ojogbana, Assistant Director (Prosecution) said his agency was empowered to initiate investigation of individual, organisation or any judges including public or political office holders.

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According to him, the anti-graft agency’s statutory powers include investigation and prosecution of all financial and economic crimes and any form of fraud, narcotic drug and trafficking, money laundering, embezzlement, bribery, looting and any form of corrupt malpractices.

“I can say that EFCC was not involved in that wee hours operation. We have been investigating some judges and our modus operandi have been painstaking. We have not investigated all of them (judges), a few of them filed petitions and investigations are on-going,” he said.

While noting that complaints against the incident should not be equated with opposition to the anti-corruption fight, Ojogbana said it was the methodology employed that was questioned.

“There is a way you can do something with good intention and it turns out to appear bad.

“It is the duty of the committee to review procedures of operations of the security agencies to be in line with the democratic tenets,” he added.