By Evelyn Okakwu:Premium Times
The raids carried out weekend by the State Security Service on residences of senior judges were routine investigations, and were legitimate, the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of justice, Abubakar Malami, has said.
Addressing journalists in Abuja on Tuesday, Mr. Malami said the government had resolved to fight corruption, and would not be deterred by class or reputation of suspects.
“Once crimes and criminality are concerned, nobody is an exception. I think the undertone should be exclusively the consideration of the existence of a prima facie case; existence of reasonable grounds for suspicion of commission of a crime,” he said.
“And if there are, no member of the legislature, judiciary and executive can definitely be exempted from investigation. I think where we are now is the point of investigation and that is what is taking place.” Mr. Malami said the search and subsequent arrest of seven judges were steps in an ongoing investigation that even constitutionally guaranteed immunity does not prevent.
“The bottom line is that we have a responsibility to fight corruption. Corruption is a crime and nobody, regardless of how highly placed, is exempted as far as issues that border on crimes and criminalities are concerned.
“The limited exceptions, as we know constitutionally, are the exceptions of immunity. And to the best of my knowledge, those exceptions do not apply to investigation. For those that are conferred with the immunity, the right to investigate has not been taken away constitutionally.
“So, I think the framework and the circumstances within which we are operating are clearly whether there exists the right to investigate or not, and whether the action borders on criminality,” he said.
The SSS raided the homes of seven judges in six states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory between Friday night and Saturday morning.
During the raid, the SSS said it recovered a huge stash of money in local and foreign currencies. Seven judges were arrested, and have since been released on bail.
Those arrested include Justice Sylvester Nguta and John Okoro of the Supreme Court and Adeniyi Ademola of the Federal High Court Abuja.
Others are Justice Muazu Pindiga of Gombe State; Kabiru Auta of Kano State, Innocent Umezulike, of Enugu State and Justice Mohammed Tsamiya, an appeal court judge in Ilorin.
Reports of their expected arraignment went round on Monday. But while journalists waited at a Magistrate Court in Life Camp, Abuja, where they were expected to be arraigned, officials confirmed that the judges had been released.