It what looked like bending backward, the National Judicial Council (NJC), Thursday, asked judges who were arrested recently by the Department of State Security (DSS) over allegations of corruption to step aside from handling cases pending investigation of the allegations against them.
The NJC, headed by the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Mahmud Mohammed, took this step after a two-day meeting, which ended in Abuja, Thursday.
There has been public outcry, calling on the Judges to step aside and stop presiding over cases until when they would have been cleared of the corruption allegation against them.
The NJC said in a statement signed by its Acting Director, Information, Soji Oye, on Thursday, that it took the decision to suspend them at its 79th meeting.
The statement read: “The National Judicial Council under the Chairmanship of the Hon. Chief Justice of Nigeria, Hon. Justice Mahmud Mohammed, GCON, at its 79th Meeting held on the 2nd and 3rd day of November 2016, commenced implementation of specific aspects of the National Judicial Policy which came into force in April 2016 and was launched on Monday 24th October, 2016.
“During the Meeting, Council set-up a Transparency and Anti-Corruption Policy Implementation Committee as follows: Hon Justice E. O. Ayoola, CON (Rtd Justice of the Supreme Court) – Chairman.
“Hon Justice Kashim Zannah, Chief Judge of Borno State – Member. A. B. Mahmoud, SAN, President Nigeria Bar Association – Member.
“Section 6 of the National Judicial Policy aims at putting in place multi-faceted strategies and guidelines that will ensure transparency and eliminate corruption in the Judiciary.
“It seeks, amongst other measures, to provide a platform and opportunity to citizens who profess factual and credible knowledge of information on the nature and modalities of corruption in the judicial system to ventilate such.
“Council also decided that Judicial Officers shall not be standing trial for alleged corruption related offences and be performing judicial functions at the same time.
“Council however decided that it will ensure that Judicial Officers who are being investigated for alleged high profile criminal offences do not perform judicial functions until their cases are concluded”.
The DSS in the early hours of October 9 raided the homes of some High and Supreme Court Justices, nationwide.
Among were Adeniyi Ademola (Federal High Court, Abuja), Sylvester Ngwuta (Supreme Court), John Okoro (Supreme Court), Kabiru Auta (Federal High Court, Kano), A. I. Umezulike (Enugu state Chief Judge), Muazu Pindiga, (Gombe State judge), Justice Samia (Sokoto State Judge) and Justice Mohammed Liman (Rivers State Judge)
The DSS said the operation was ordered after months of investigations, during which the secret police established credibly that the affected Judges were involved in questionable financial dealings.