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Lawyers react to DSS arrests of judges

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Various lawyers have expressed their displeasure at the clampdown of some judicial officers by the Department of State Services (DSS).

Officers of the DSS raided the homes of four judges in Abuja in the early hours of Saturday, October 8, 2016.

Though the security agency has issued a statement saying the judges were arrested for corrupt practices, the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) has called for their release.

According to Punch, Lagos lawyer, Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, called on the courts to go on indefinite strike.

He also said “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 executive arm of government through the Department of State Services.

“As judges have no voices to speak officially, I call on the Nigerian Bar Association to declare an indefinite strike so that all courts of law in Nigeria will be boycotted until there is respect for the rule of law and the Constitution. This should commence from Monday, October 10, 2016, until further notice.

“This is full blown dictatorship now in action. It is now a case of anarchists in power. The clampdown on judges has been on for a long time, through agents of government in the various institutions of oppression. We are now back to the 1984 jackboot system of intolerance, where all dissenting views and opinions must be silenced.

“It is now clear, without any shadow of doubt, that the so-called anti-corruption war is a hidden agenda to perpetuate the president in office beyond 2019. It is meant to silence the opposition and to cover the inefficiency and cluelessness of this administration.

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“In a democracy, the rule of law prescribes the independence of the judiciary, whereby judges must be allowed the unfettered right of taking decisions, according to law and according to their consciences.

“It is in this regard that the invasion of the homes of judges by the DSS is totally condemnable. It should never happen that the executive is indirectly threatening and intimidating members of the third estate of the realm.

“The judiciary is the arm that stabilises democracy and should not be exposed to ridicule in the manner that the DSS is currently doing.”

A Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Onueze Okocha also said “It is an irregular and bizarre situation. It is unheard of. The hour the invasion was allegedly done (1am) in the wee hours of the morning is uncalled for. No arrest should be executed in the middle of the night, especially in a country where we know that all kinds of people are running around to kidnap, rob and kill people. I think this is a condemnable act.

“I have to say that if there is an allegation against a judge, the first thing to do is to invite the judge for interrogation and if the judge refuses, then you can begin to make an arrest of the judge if it is a criminal offence. But nobody should execute an arrest warrant or a search warrant at 1am.

“So, it is very condemnable. Judges render essential services because they secure the liberty of the citizens of this country just as the courts are instituted to secure the liberty of the citizens. We need to get to the root of this and find out who authorised this raid and why such a person did so. Due process must always be followed in every law enforcement process.”

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The Legal Defence and Assistance Project (LEDAP) also condemned the actions of the security agency, and called on lawyers to boycott the courts next week from Monday, October 10 to Friday, October 14, 2016.

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