The Yoruba socio-political group, Afenifere, lawyers and some human rights groups have condemned the invasion of the homes of judges and the arrest of over four of them by the Department of State Services.
According to them, the actions of the DSS are reminiscent of the executive lawlessness and human rights abuses that characterised the nation’s military era, including the period that President Muhammadu Buhari spent in power as a military dictator.
Gun-wielding DSS and police operatives had on Friday night and in the early hours of Saturday swooped on the residences of senior judges, breaking doors and threatening to harm their family members and aides.
Although the DSS said the raids – in Abuja, Port Harcourt and Gombe – were legal and amounted to a crackdown on corruption, Afenifere said the actions were shocking and illegal.
The National Publicity Secretary of Afenifere, Yinka Odumakin, in an interview with SUNDAY PUNCH, said, “It is executive lawlessness and usurpation of investigative functions of the judicial arm of government. It was not done with the authority of the National Judicial Council as stipulated in our constitution.
“We are certainly descending into a deeper dictatorship trajectory than we have ever witnessed in our polity even during military interregnum.
“If judges can come under this raw show of naked power, what would be the fate of the everyday citizens? This is a new low never witnessed in our country and all lovers of justice, democracy and decency must condemn this barbaric act.”
A lawyer and President of Committee for the Defence of Human Rights, Malachy Ugwummadu, said it was a “misadventure too many and will be decisively resisted by all well-meaning Nigerians.”
He stated, “If left unchecked, they will invade the hallowed precincts of our courts and desecrate them even during sittings. President Buhari must therefore rise to the occasion and call for a full briefing into the circumstances of this breach of public peace, and obstruction of public officers in the discharge of their duties.”
A Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mr. Adegboyega Awomolo, described the invasion as the height of corruption.
Awomolo said, “Let the good people of the world note that this is a move to demystify, denigrate and ridicule the judiciary after humiliating the legislature.
“What the executive is doing is not fighting corruption but promoting recklessness and impunity. Supreme Court justices are not absconding criminals to be harassed, attacked and whisked away in the night. This is barbaric and unacceptable.”
But a human rights activist, Dr. Jackson Omenazu, said there was nothing wrong with the time the security agents came to arrest the judges, adding that since a judge has no immunity, no law stops the DSS from effecting his/her arrest.
He said, “While I condemn the attitude of the judiciary because justice in Nigeria today appears to be for sale or for the highest bidder, due process must be adopted before arresting anybody.
“It is out of point for anybody to condemn the time of arrest because the law did not set a particular time for a suspect to be arrested. One of the worst things that can happen to a society is when judges pervert justice. It is worse than armed robbery.”
The activist, however, said Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, overstepped his bounds by going to the scene of the incident, adding that he (Wike) could have intervened from a distance.
“I also frown at the DSS officer pushing a governor because an assault to the Rivers State Governor is an assault to Rivers people. But the governor must always put up a reasonable conduct,” he said.