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The Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN),
Justice Mahmud Mohammed has said the invasion of the official residences of
some judges in the country by operatives of the Department of State Services
(DSS) was an affront on the judiciary’s independence as an arm of government.

The DSS had on October 7 and 8,
swooped on seven judicial officers comprising two justices of the Supreme Court
and judges of the Appeal and High Courts across the country over allegation of
corruption.

Justice Mohammed, in a statement issued
on Saturday by his Senior Special Assistant, H. S. Sa’eed in Abuja, condemned
the call by the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) for the suspension of the
embattled Judges from the Bench, saying that there is a procedure for the
discipline of errant members of the bench

In the statement, Justice Mohammed
explained that the constitutional procedure for their suspension, as being
sought by some stakeholders, is clearly spelt out.

The outgoing CJN noted that the
requisite engagement to arriving at the said point, had not been activated by
the DSS which began the push for their suspension.

The statement reads: “Under the
powers provided by the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria(as
amended) and as the Head of the Third Arm of Government, the Honourable,   the  
Chief   Justice   of  
Nigeria   and   Chairman  
National   Judicial Council,
Honourable Justice  Mahmud   Mohammed, 
GCON, is calling on all Nigerians  
to   continue   to  
have   faith   and  
full   confidence   in  
the   Nigerian Judiciary.

“The   Honourable  
Chief   Justice   of  
Nigeria   (Hon.   CJN)  
is   indeed   deeply concerned   by  
the   rising   antagonism  
over   the   recent  
arrest   of   our  
Judicial officers and other issues pertaining thereto.

“Furthermore, it must be reiterated
that the current misunderstanding is only between the National Judicial Council
(NJC), which was established by the constitution and the Directorate of the
State Security (DSS), in the Presidency. Hence, we  must 
emphasise that   the  judiciary continues  to 
maintain cordial relations  with
the other arms of government, that is, 
the Executive  and the National
Assembly.

“The   Honourable  
CJN   reiterates   that  
the   Nigerian   judiciary,  
as   an   arm  
of   the government of the Federal
Republic of Nigeria, is not a party in this matter, nor is the Nigerian
judiciary on trial.

“On the call by President of the
Nigerian Bar Association, A. B. Mahmoud, SAN, to suspend judicial officers
whose residences were invaded and who were subsequently arrested and detained
by the DSS, we believe that the call was unnecessary and hasty as the said   judicial  
officers are   still being   investigated   by the DSS. Furthermore,   the  
DSS   is   yet  
to   forward   any  
complaint   or   any  
official communication regarding the seven judicial officers to the
National Judicial Council.

“Indeed, some of the affected
judicial officers have already been investigated by the NJC, which found some
culpable and recommended their removal from office by dismissal or retirement
to the president and respective governors as provided under the constitution.
While some are still being investigated by the NJC, in respect of others, no
complaint against them has been received by the NJC   whose  
powers   to   suspend  
must   be   exercised  
in   accordance   with  
the provisions of the constitution establishing it.

“The National Judicial Council is
currently investigating the various complaints made against a number of
judicial officers. As soon as such investigations are completed,   appropriate  
recommendations   will   be  
made   to   the  
resident   or governors, as the
case may be, who will have the final say on the fate of the affected judicial
officers who could then be charged for the offences disclosed from the facts
against them and be prosecuted if necessary.

“The Hon. Chief Justice of Nigeria
also wishes to state in clear terms that the ‘sting’ operations carried out by
the DSS   on 07 and 08 October 2016 was
certainly an assault on the independence of the Nigerian judiciary.
Nonetheless, the judiciary fully supports the anti-corruption drive of the President
of the Federal   Republic   of  
Nigeria,   President   Muhammdu  
Buhari,   GCFR.   The Nigerian judiciary has never and will
never shield any judicial officer who is found to be guilty of corruption,
however, the  Hon.   CJN  
believes that due process and the rule of law must be followed.

“As a testament to our commitment
to uphold the Constitution, the Nigerian judiciary continues to function and
our courts remain open to all who seek remedy.

“With the support and goodwill of
all Nigerians, the Nigerian judiciary will continue to serve with all its heart
and might.”

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