Arrest of judges prompted by economic crime, terrorism, narcotic crimes – says AGF
…says most judges yet to declare assets to CCB
Abubakar Malami, Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) on Tuesday disclosed that the decision to arrest and invade residences of some judges was prompted by allegations bothering on economic, terrorism and narcotic crimes.
Malami who doubles as the Minister of Justice disclosed this when he appeared before the Adhoc Committee investigating all cases of property and arrest of persons for reasons outside general duties of the State Security Service (SSS), chaired by Garba Datti.
He explained that the SSS was considered the most appropriate State Instrument to carry out the operation adding that the decision was taken in line with section 15(5) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) which vested the responsibility obligation on the State to abolish all forms of corrupt practices and abuse of power.
The Minister who stressed that there is no special protection under the law for Judicial officers, noted that most of the Justices and Judges failed to submit their asset declaration forms to Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) Act and the Fifth Schedule of the 1999 Constitution.
Malami who could not ascertain whether all the Judicial officers have complied with the Constitutional provisions on assets declaration as at today, observed that allegations against the affected Judges were not limited to financial crimes.
He maintained that “in law, there’s no difference between a judicial officer and ordinary citizens when criminal offence is involved,” adding that there’s no special protection for Judges,” who acted outside the corner of his office.
Malami who faulted National Judicial Council (NJC) for failing to take administrative steps to investigate multiple petitions levelled against some Judges by certain individuals and institutions, despite requesting for investigation into the allegation.
While noting that NJC failed to act on the petition base on their merits, Malami noted that NJC insisted that supportive affidavit must be provided before it could take any step even when DSS, EFCC and Police formally requested for similar investigation.
He further argued the section 148 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act empowers any State Instrument including DSS and other security agencies to make arrest at any period of the day, on Sunday even on public holidays, adding that there were reasonable proves on the allegation that warranted the steps taken.
According to him, multiple petitions were also written to DSS, Police and Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) who referred them to his office.
He however noted that after directing all the agencies to petition NJC, the were requested to provide supportive affidavit, hence the decision to carry out the arrest in order to ensure that the evidences were not tampered with.
Malami noted that those evidences obtained by the DSS operatives are being used in the ongoing prosecution before competent Court.
“I have no concern at all because those allegations confirmed the allegations by the outcome of the searches,” Malami told the committee.
He maintained that the EFCC Act don’t s not confer exclusivity on the Commission to investigate and prosecute cases on financial Crimes adding that all cases of economic crimes have security dimension.
Malami argued that various Decrees promulgated during the military regime are applicable, valid, subsisting, enforceable except they are abrogated by the National Assembly or Judiciary, hence the Instrument 1 which empowers DSS to investigate and arrest remain valid.
In his remarks, Datti who noted that the investigative hearing was to forestall undue infringement on the rights of ordinary Nigerians, assured that nobody is being put on trial.
He added that the House has the mandate to recommend for amendment of the relevant laws where there is lacuna in order to avoid conflict of interest among the security agencies.
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