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Published On: Wed, Oct 12th, 2016

Senate Condemns Arrest Of Judges, Moves To Amend DSS Act

LAGOS 12TH (URHOBOTODAY)-It was condemnation galore for the Department of State Services (DSS) at the Senate plenary on Tuesday when the issue of the arrest of judges suspected of corrupt act by the agency came up for debate by the senators.
According to the Senate, the methodology adopted by the DSS was “draconian”.
After an exhaustive debate on the issue, the lawmakers, among others, resolved to amend the laws that establish some security outfits in the country including the DSS.
The Senate, however, rejected the prayer that sought to have the Director General of the DSS, Mamman Daura, appear before it to explain reasons why his men carried out the action.

The condemnation of the action of the DSS, especially the manner in which it carried out the arrest of the jurists was the result of a debate of a motion raised as matter of urgent national importance by Senator Joshua Ledani.
The Senate in the debate also urged President Muhammadu Buhari to call all security agencies to order and direct the full observance of the rule of law in the discharge of their duties.
The Senate was of the strong view that the DSS went beyond its bounds when it usurped the powers of the National Judicial Council (NJC) which had the statutory powers of handling matters of misconduct and indiscipline against judicial officers.
The upper chamber noted that the act of breaking into the residences of judicial officers at night with chisel and hammer was one that had further worsened the image of Nigeria among the comity of nations.
The Senate warned that such actions by the DSS could erode the confidence in the judiciary, pointing out that turning the law upside down to fight corruption was an act of corruption in itself.
However, the Senate assured that it will continue to support the efforts to eliminate corruption from Nigeria because of the harm it is doing to the country.
Its committee chairman on Anti-Corruption and Financial Crimes, Senator Chukwuka Utazi from Enugu State, said the invasion has painted Nigeria before the international community as a country that does not respect the rule of law.
Utazi posited: “This last weekend was the most difficult the country has had. My spirit is very hurt. I can feel the pulse of Nigeria over what has happened. I do not know how the international community will see us after this. It appears the DSS is following the body language of the president of this country rather than follow the rule of law.
“To go in the wee hours of the morning and use force to break into a judge’s house is condemnable. The whole world is watching the Senate to see how we will react. This is pure dictatorship and it should not happen. Enough is enough. This is unguarded dictatorship. We should not treat this issue lightly.
“We have always condemned corruption in this 8th Senate. The NJC has powers in doing what the DSS is doing right now. To take this approach the DSS is taking is condemnable.”
Senate minority leader and a former governor of Akwa Ibom State, Godswill Akpabio, while making his contribution said the current anti-corruption war has painted former governors as corrupt people and warned that such toga should not be extended to the judiciary.
“We know that there is separation of powers. That is why in the judiciary, we have NJC. This is a very touchy issue and so many people run the risk of making comments and having security agents surround their houses tomorrow. That is why many of them have gone out to urinate.
“We must not speak from both sides. While supporting the fight against corruption, we must bear in mind the need to safeguard our democracy. Today, it is hard for a former governor in Nigeria to be respected outside Nigeria. They believe that every former governor is corrupt.
“They have extended the toga to the judiciary and this means a lot. It means people will not take seriously any judgment from our courts. If this government fails, it means we have all failed. We have to advice the government on what it must do. I am very worried about the method. We must speak out. If we do not speak up and we think it is okay, one day, the rain will fall on another roof”, Akpabio said.
Suleiman Hunkuyi from Kaduna State supported Melaye’s position. He insisted that every agency of government created by law must operate within the ambit of the law.
“This chamber and the National Assembly from which this status of the DSS originated must call on other agencies to remain within the mandate provided by law. The fight against corruption is for every patriotic Nigerian. The National Assembly cannot provide the law with one hand and look the other way.
“Every agency should operate within the ambit of the law. This misnomer that has now emanated provides the National Assembly the opportunity to stress that corruption has assumed a new dimension. However, nobody will justify the procedure or method used in prosecuting corruption.
“We must not forget the fact that the country is run under the principle of separation of powers. The judiciary needs to be independent in order to safeguard the sanctity of the country’s democracy”, he argued.
The SSS raided the homes of seven judges in six states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory between Friday night and Saturday morning.
During the raid, the SSS said it recovered a huge stash of money in local and foreign currencies. Seven judges were arrested, and have since been released on bail.
Those arrested include Justice Sylvester Nguta and John Okoro of the Supreme Court and Adeniyi Ademola of the Federal High Court Abuja.
Others are Justice Muazu Pindiga of Gombe State; Kabiru Auta of Kano State, Innocent Umezulike of Enugu State and Justice Mohammed Tsamiya, an appeal court judge in Ilorin.

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