There was tension on the streets of Abuja, yesterday, as protesting lawyers and civil society groups under the aegis of Lawyers in Defence of Democracy and Citizens for good governance, kicked against what they described as attempt by the Federal Government to silence the judiciary and calls for the affected judges to step aside.
According to them, the independence of the judiciary remains sacrosanct and the institution must be respected by all. They stressed that justice and morality cannot be seen from the eyes of one man but through the law, adding that President Muhammadu Buhari cannot put the judiciary in his pocket.
The lawyers after briefing journalists, yesterday, at the Merit House, Maitama, Abuja immediately took to the streets and stormed the Federal High Court Abuja, Attorney General’s office, National Human Rights Commission, Aso Rock, Supreme Court and National Assembly, where they insisted that judges must not step down as that will be victory for tyranny and intimidation.
According to the protesters, the Judiciary must down tools until the DSS obeys all pending judgments.
During the protest, major roads were barricaded and there was palpable tension as the protesters met stiff resistance from security agents, who blocked them on the road leading to the Three Arms Zone as they insisted on marching to Aso Rock.
The Joint Convener of the protesters, Barrister Ikenga Imo Ugochinyere said: “We Lawyers in Defence of Democracy and Citizens for Good Governance reject the call for the judges, whose homes were invaded by the DSS, to step aside as heeding the call will be a victory for tyranny and gradual return to Kokoma democracy.
We dissociate ourselves from such call.
“That the DSS and other agencies release from detention all Nigerians who have been granted bail by the courts and who have fulfilled their bail conditions including compliance with all judgments and orders.
Their continuous hold of such persons is an affront on the authority of the judiciary, dictatorial and a desecration of the fundamental democratic principle of separation of powers.
The Executive cannot be prosecutor and judge at the same time.
“We call on NJC and the Chief Justice of Nigeria to direct all judges in the country not to hear any applications from the DSS and other agencies, except bail applications, until there is obedience to all pending orders against them.
Of what use are the Courts if their orders cannot be enforced and obeyed by the state? “That the United Nation, US, and UK governments, National Human Rights Commission, Amnesty International and the international community should immediately call this regime to order and halt this drift to the edge of destruction of our democracy as any further delay could lead to irretrievable derailment of Nigeria’s democracy.
A country where the Federal Government unilaterally concocts police leadership to rope in the leadership of the National Assembly on trumped up charges is a lawless country.
A country where the system encourages selective justice; where even renowned treasury looters define the boundaries of justice is lawless.
A country where anti-corruption war is used to fight political opponents or dissenting views is a lawless country.
“A country where a man can secure bail four times for the same charges and you still detain him is lawless.
A country where a judge will grant bail on bailable offences and the person involved is then arrested on phantom corruption charges because he ruled against the whims and caprices of persons in government is a lawless country.
“Fighting corruption in the judiciary must include not only hunting for corrupt judges in line with the law but also disciplining the executive who ignore the orders because it did not favour them.
Flagrant disobedience to court orders is the worst form of judicial corruption and a gross impeachable offence in a democracy.
“Justice and morality cannot be seen in the eyes of one man but through the law.
We cannot return to the dark ages when citizens went to work without knowing if they will ever come back to their families, where fear is instilled in us that non obedience to the men on the high table will earn you the dark corners of the detention wall, an era where by the time we leave here our houses would have been raided and many of us taken away to be charged even for imaginary treason and terrorism just because we spoke out.
“No society can be built on lawlessness.
In a loud voice, we say the attack on judges who ruled against DSS and the government interest was not a fight against corruption but a failed move to whip the courageous judges into line like school children.
PROTEST—Lawyers in Defence of Democracy and Citizens for Good Governance, during a protest in defence of the Judiciary in Abuja, yesterday. Photo: Gbemiga Olamikan.
Therefore the call for the judges to step aside is baseless, laughable, illegal and an impossible thinking of men who want to return Nigeria to Kokoma democracy where the rule of law, justice and human rights have no place.
“We unanimously pass a vote of confidence on National Judicial Council and their decision taken that the arrested Judges should not resign till there is proper investigation and the proof of evidence shown to establish prima facie case of corruption as allegations of money laundering cannot substitute the claim that there was huge evidence of corruption and judicial compromise aimed to be eradicated through the purported DSS surgical operation.
“Apart from the Judges already disciplined by the NJC, has any evidence so far linked any of the Judges to corruption or that they compromised their position in granting bail to Dasuki, Nnamdi Kanu and Umar Mohammed or has any evidence linked the judges to any compromise or corruption in the Akwa Ibom, Rivers, Abia, Ebonyi and Ekiti governorship cases? Has DSS after its invasion produced any evidence showing Nnamdi Kanu bought his bail, how Umar Mohammed paid Justice Dimgba? Were they not all entitled to bail as spelt out in our laws?”