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The Chairman, Presidential Advisory
Committee Against Corruption, Prof. Itse Sagay (SAN), on Monday, justified the
recent arrest of judges on allegations of corruption, categorising acts of
corruption by judicial officers as a crime against humanity.

Executive Secretary of PACAC, Prof.
Bolaji Owasanoye, also on his part, called for the suspension of the judges
arrested by the Department of State Services on allegations of corruption
pending when they would clear their names.

Sagay and Owasanoye spoke during
PACAC’s interaction with reporters on the first anniversary of the committee’s
activities.

Responding to various criticisms
from some quarters against the raids on the houses and the arrest of seven
judges between October 8 and 9, Sagay said the critics failed to understand the
implications of corruption on the bench.

He said an ordinary man could be
guilty of corruption, but a judge should never be.

The Senior Advocate of Nigeria
stated, “The ordinary men like you and I can be guilty of corruption; a judge
should never be guilty of corruption.

“Once a judge does that, he brings
himself to our level and so, cannot complain if he is treated like you and me
are treated. That is what has happened. Let us be objective and be fair to this
country in our commentary and not be narrow minded.”

Sagay explained that because of its
tendency to inflame, resorting to self-help and ultimately breakdown of law and
order, judiciary corruption could be described as crime against humanity.

He said, “Those who have criticised
the DSS have not looked at the implications of judicial corruption. This is
because at the end of the day, when there is corruption, who do they take the
matter to, to the judge? The judge is the ultimate and if the buck stops at his
table and that judge is complicit in corruption, then, that is the end of the
fight against corruption. That is how awful it is.

“So, any judge, who is corrupt, is
committing what I can even call a crime against humanity because it just
destroys our confidence and the system, which will sustain the state in law and
order.

“It encourages people to resort to
self-help because there is no hope in taking the crime to court.

“Today, we have some governors who
are sitting there who we know did not win election. And because they killed on
their way to office, people are still dying to sustain them in office.

“Yet, some courts at the highest
level gave approval to the process that brought those people to what I call
their bloody seats on which they are sitting.

“If the judiciary is corrupt, if
the only body, in fact, the only arm of government that has the power of life
and death over Nigerians, is corrupt, then it is sad.”

He said people should be sad by the
mere fact that “billions of naira” that were supposed to be meant for the
construction of roads, building and equipping schools and hospitals were found
in private residences.

“Isn’t it enough that billions of
naira is found in private residences? Don’t we associate these billions of
naira with the fact that our roads are in state of disrepair; that our
hospitals are under or ill-equipped; that schools are dilapidated; and that it
affects your daily life? What of those whose salaries are not paid in the
public service? All this money came from the public purse.

He blamed the arrest of the judges
on what he described as loss of moral authorities on the part of current
Supreme Court Justices.

He said in the era of Justices of
the “golden Supreme Court” such as the late Justice Kayode Eso, no government
agency would dare to arrest them even when they delivered a lot of judgments
against the then military administrations, including that of the Head of State,
Maj. Gen. Buhari (now President).

He said, “We need the judiciary;
but we need an upright judiciary. Without that, all arms of government will
collapse, democracy will collapse.

“Let us think of the implication of
what is going on. We should all have a judiciary, which we have confidence in;
the judiciary with integrity and honour and the judiciary with moral authority.

“You will remember the era of Eso,
Oputa, Nnamani, Idigbe, Mohammed Bello, Obaseki. Which DSS would have dared to
question any of those persons? Nobody, no agency of government would have dared
it.

“They gave a lot of their judgments
against military government. I can cite over 20 judgments, where they gave
judgments against military government, against the Buhari military government.

“The moral authority of former
Justices of the golden era Supreme Court was that of the highest power in the
land. That moral authority has crashed. And having crashed like a tree that has
fallen, then ants and all sorts of things can climb over it; lizards can climb
over it. If you bring yourself down, what happens after that is your own
fault.”

While also, justifying the arrest
of the judges, Owasanoye said four of the judges, who are on active service,
should have been suspended pending when they would clear their names.

On whether the PACAC had met with
the National Judicial Council on the need to suspend the arrested judges,
Owasanoye said it was no longer necessary in view of the statement issued by
the NJC, faulting the arrests carried out by the DSS.

He said, “The NJC has responded to
the DSS action.

“The proper thing is for the judges
to be suspended. This is my personal opinion and not the opinion of PACAC. If a
judge is going to be appearing before a judge on criminal charges, is it
appropriate for him to sit over cases?

“The proper thing is for the judges
to be given that chance to defend themselves. If they are exonerated, they can
go back.

“NJC has been investigating some
judges and technically suspending them by not assigning cases to them.”

The PACAC executive secretary
defended the action of the DSS, saying it was lawful.

Owasanoye however argued that the
judges were not covered by immunity from arrest, adding that the search
warrants, with which the judges’ homes were raided, could be executed anytime.

He said, “There is nowhere that
they say judges cannot be arrested. DSS has the power to arrest. The National
Security Act empowers the agency. You can arrest without a warrant

“The law allows you to use
reasonable force if the owner of the house resists. In this instance, they have
followed the law.”

He added that the PACAC had
intervened in resuscitating some dying high-profile corruption scams such as
the Halliburton and Malabu scandals.

“Malabu, Halliburton, and other
cases are not going to die. We have given advisory and they will be reopened,”
he said.

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