The National Judicial Council (NJC) has suspended seven judges who were recently accused of corruption by the Department of State Services (DSS).
The judges were among those who were arrested last month when their official homes were raided by DSS operatives on allegations of receiving bribes to pervert the course of justice in their courts.
The NJC said its action in suspending the judges was to ensure that judicial officers who were being investigated on allegations of corruption should not be performing their judicial functions until their names were cleared.
In spite of mounting public pressure, the NJC had initially refused to suspend the judges, saying the allegations against them had not been substantiated.
Although the NJC did not give the names and the number of suspended judges in its statement yesterday, it will be recalled that operatives of the DSS had stormed the homes of two Justices of the Supreme Court, Sylvester Ngwuta and John Inyang Okoro, and also arrested five other judges: Adeniyi Ademola, Muazu Pindiga, Mahmud Liman, Mohammed Tsamiya, Kabiru Auta and I. A. Umezulike, between October 7 and 8, 2016 for alleged corruption. They were later released on bail.
Before their arrest, Justices Tsamiya, Auta and Umezulike were no longer in active service. The NJC had already recommended to the President and the state governors to sanction them.
Therefore, the NJC’s current hammer will only fall of Justices Ngwuta, Okoro, Ademola and Pindiga.
Rising from its 79th meeting yesterday, the NJC, headed by the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Mahmud Mohammed, resolved that judicial officers should not be standing over alleged corruption related offences and at the same time performing their judicial duties.
In a statement issued by the Council’s Acting Director of Information, Mr. Soji Oye, the NJC said it would ensure that judicial officers who are being probed over high profile corruption allegations do not perform their functions until they clear their names.
The statement said: “The Council also decided that judicial officers shall not be standing trial for alleged corruption related offences and be performing judicial functions at the same time. Council however decided that it will ensure that Judicial Officers who are being investigated for alleged high profile criminal offences do not perform judicial functions until their cases are concluded.
“The National Judicial Council under the Chairmanship of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Hon. Justice Mahmud Mohammed, GCON, at its 79th Meeting held on the 2nd and 3rd day of November 2016, commenced implementation of specific aspects of the National Judicial Policy which came into force in April 2016 and was launched on Monday 24th October, 2016.
“During the meeting, the Council set up a Transparency and Anti-Corruption Policy Implementation Committee as follows:
“Hon Justice E. O. Ayoola, CON (rtd) Justice of the Supreme Court) – Chairman, Hon Justice Kashim Zannah, Chief Judge of Borno State, A. B. Mahmoud (SAN) and President Nigeria Bar Association.”
Prior to the suspension of the judges, the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) had called on them to step down until investigations into the allegations against them were completed.