DSS releases judges on bail

DSS releases judges on bail

The seven judges, who were arrested on Friday and Saturday by the Department of State Services, have been released on bail.

A source in the DSS, who confided in newsmen on Monday evening, said the judges were released on own recognisance on Sunday.

The DSS source said, “They were all released on bail yesterday (Sunday) on own recognisance. They reported this morning (Monday) and they have all gone back home. They will be coming back tomorrow (Tuesday); and everything went very procedurally well and civil.

“They were released on bail on own recognisance based on the fact that given their standing in the society, they cannot run away. They were instructed that they should come back today (Monday) by 10am. They did report for investigation this morning (Monday morning) and they have gone back home.

“The investigation continues and preparation to charge them to court.

“Also, the action was sequel to the lack of cooperation by the National Judicial Council such as the refusal by the NJC to allow the affected persons to be questioned by the DSS. Investigation started some seven months ago, precisely in April 2016.”

A top judiciary officer in Abuja, who spoke on condition of anonymity, confirmed that the judges had been released.

But calls to the mobile of one of the judges did not go through.

The DSS had, in what it called a sting operation, arrested Sylvester Ngwuta and Inyang Okoro, both of the Supreme Court; the suspended Presiding Justice of the Court of Appeal, Ilorin Division, Justice Mohammed Tsamiya; Justice Kabiru Auta of the Kano State High Court and Justice Adeniyi Ademola of the Federal High Court, Abuja.

Others arrested were the sacked Chief Judge of Enugu State, Justice I. A. Umezulike, and Muazu Pindiga of the Federal High Court, Gombe Division.

However, the DSS on Monday, intensified its ongoing investigation of two Justices of the Supreme Court and other judges arrested over the weekend after simultaneous raids on their homes.

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Top sources in the Federal Ministry of Justice confided in one of our correspondents on Monday that the DSS had extended its ongoing probe of the arrested judiciary chiefs to the asset declaration forms they submitted to the Code of Conduct Bureau.

The DSS had said it was getting the cooperation of the Federal Ministry of Justice in its ongoing probe of the judges.

Credible sources in the ministry, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to speak on the probe, confirmed to newsmen that the office of the Attorney-General of the Federation was involved in the ongoing investigation.

The sources, one of whom visited the DSS office in Abuja on Monday, said the Service had placed requests for the asset declaration forms submitted by the judges to the CCB.

The source added, “As of today, the ministry is still obtaining statements from the judiciary officers.

“You will recall that apart from the raw cash recovered from the judges, documents relating to the assets linked to some of the Justices were also recovered from their houses.

“So, since it has to do with assets, the DSS thought it wise to place request to the CCB for their asset declaration forms.

“We should be able to compare the forms they submitted to the CCB and the evidence of the ownership of the assets linked to them.”

The Head of Protocol and Publicity Unit of the CCB, Mr. Muhammed Idris, could not be reached for his comment on the DSS request to the bureau on Monday.

The Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justices of the Supreme Court and those of the Court of Appeal as well as other judicial officers are, under Paragraph II of the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution, expected to declare their assets and liabilities to the CCB periodically.

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Paragraph 11 of the Part II of the Fifth Schedule to the Constitution reads, “11.—(1) Subject to the provisions of this Constitution, every public officer shall within three months after the coming into force of this Code of Conduct or immediately after taking office and thereafter— (a) at the end of every four years ; and (b) at the end of his term of office, submit to the Code of Conduct Bureau a written declaration of all his properties, assets, and liabilities and those of his unmarried children under the age of eighteen years.

“(2) Any statement in such declaration that is found to be false by any authority or person authorised on that behalf to verify it shall be deemed to be a breach of this code.

“(3) Any property or assets acquired by a public officer after any declaration required under this Constitution and which is not fairly attributable to income, gift or loan approved by this code shall be deemed to have been acquired in breach of this code unless the contrary is proved.”

One of our correspondents, on Monday, obtained a copy of the petition sent to the AGF’s office linking Justice Okoro of the Supreme Court to some suspicious properties in his home state of Akwa Ibom.

The petition was forwarded by the AGF to the DSS in August.

A letter from the AGF’s office to the DSS stated, “Investigation privately carried out by Akwa Ibom activist and legal practitioner, and which he generously availed me, shows that Honourable Justice Okoro has suddenly acquired stupendous wealth, which he has used to develop massive estates in Calabar, Cross River State, and Uyo in Akwa Ibom State, which is inconsistent with his status as a Justice of the Supreme Court.

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“These estates, which Honourable Justice Okoro recently acquired are as follows:

“A maisonette at Plot 6, Unit S-G, Ewet Housing Estate, Uyo, Akwa Ibom State.

“Block of flats at Fanama Street, Off Ategong Drive, Calabar, Cross River State, built by Marilyn and Costa, and

“A maisonette at Shelter Afrique, Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, to mention but a few.”

Meanwhile, there were indications on Monday that the judges might be arraigned before a Magistrate’s Court, Life Camp, Abuja, any moment from now.

Journalists and some lawyers, who had anticipated that the detained judges might be arraigned on Monday, converged on the premises of the court at about 11am.

But they later dispersed at about 5pm after it was evident that the arraignment would no longer take place.

Judges of the Federal High Court in Abuja, whose colleague, Justice Adeniyi Ademola, was among the judges arrested during the weekend, did not sit on Monday.

One of the judges confirmed to Journalists that they could not sit because they were in bad mood due to the weekend incident.

The trial of a former Governor of Imo State, Ikedi Ohakim, that was supposed to come up before Justice Ademola on Monday was stalled.

Also, the ongoing trial of the immediate past Chief of Air Staff, Alex Badeh, for money laundering was part of a number of cases that ought to come up before Justice Okon Abang, but could not proceed.

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