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Lawyers Divided Over Judges’ Arrest by DSS

More reactions have continued to trail the arrest of some judges at the weekend in Abuja and some parts of the country by men of the Department of State Service (DSS).
Some lawyers, who spoke to newsmen in Lagos on Monday, lauded the action of the DSS, while others condemned the invasion of their homes on the grounds that it contravened the provisions of the law.
The DSS had on Oct. 7 raided the residences of seven judges of the Supreme, Federal and State High Courts across the country over allegations of corrupt practices. On Oct. 8, the service in a statement, said it had recovered over N360 million from the homes of three of the judges (names withheld) following the raid.
The DSS had said that the raid was aimed at restoring “sanity and sanctity’’ to the esteemed third arm of government in the interest of the society.
Human rights lawyer, Mr Ebun Olu-Adegboruwa described the arrest as a worrisome development. His words: “I read with great amazement and total disbelief, the news of the invasion of the homes of judicial officers in Port Harcourt and in Abuja by the DSS.
“It is highly condemnable for the DSS to be breathing down on the judicial arm of government under the guise of fighting corruption.
“In a democracy, the rule of law prescribes the independence of the judiciary, whereby judges must be allowed the unfettered right of taking decision according to law and according to their consciences.
“It is in this regard that the mindless invasion of the homes of judges by the DSS is totally condemnable; the judiciary is the arm of government that stabilizes democracy and so, should not be exposed to ridicule or opprobrium.”
According to Adegboruwa, any fight against corruption must be done in accordance with acceptable standards and principles of law.
In the same vein, a constitutional lawyer, Mr Paul Umuzuruigbo, believed that the fight against corruption must follow laid down rules and procedures.
“Any fight against corruption must be done under the rule of law, and there is no law that authorizes the invasion of the home of a judge at an unholy hour of the night.
“Being public officers, there is no way these judicial officers would have absconded or run away from normal arrest during the day, if need be.
“It is the height of lawlessness and gross intolerance to go about the arrest of judicial officers in the way and manner played out by the DSS,” he said.
But another Lagos-based lawyer, Mr Justice Chimezie, reacted differently, urging the DSS to ensure that investigations were carried out to the letter about the corruption allegations.
He said: “Whether the arrest is constitutional or not, the fact still remains that there are allegations of corruptions hanging on the necks of these judges.
“The onus resides with them to establish their innocence of the allegations.
“I think we must learn to put aside sentiments in dealing with issues that touches on national consciousness.”
Chimezie stressed the need for such investigations to be done bearing in mind the principles of fundamental human rights.
To another lawyer and social critic, Mr Emenike Nnoromlele, the action of the DSS cannot be faulted.
“I keep wondering why a good number of members of the NBA are crying foul with regards to this issue; the DSS possesses every power to dispense its duties as it deems fit.
“To my mind, the fight against corruption should leave no stone unturned. There should be no sacred cows and no anointed hands; the fight must be holistic.” Nnoromlele noted that where a case had been referred to the National Judicial Council for disciplinary measures, such a case could still be investigated by security agencies particularly if the outcome is unsatisfactory.

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