According to reports, the National Assembly resolved yesterday to probe last weekend’s raids and arrests of judges by the Department of State Services (DSS) which generated an uproar among Nigerians.
Both chambers of the federal legistature raised committees to investigate the DSS ‘sting’ operations and report back within six weeks.
This is even as the National Judicial Council (NJC) which held an emergency meeting yesterday ended inconclusively. It reconvenes today.
Justifying the raids, the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF)/Justice Minister, Abubakar Malami (SAN) said nobody is above the law.
The House resolved to investigate the arrest by the DSS even though the motion brought under Matters of Urgent Public Importance by Kingsley Chinda (Rivers), sharply divided members who showed their support and opposition through shouts during the short debate.
Indications that the motion would be controversial came soon after Chinda, who was permitted to lead the debate by Speaker Yakubu Dogara, urged the House to investigate the constitutional provision from which the DSS drew such powers.
His submission was interrupted by another lawmaker, Mojeed Alabi, who raised a Point of Order under Matters of Privilege. Alabi’s call was not well received by those who supported the motion. There were shouts of “sit down” even as he sought protection from the Speaker, which was turned down.
The Speaker said the motion was premised on a call to investigate which law(s) that empowered the security agency to raid the homes of the judges as part of investigations into alleged corruption. He ruled that the motion be heard, allowing Chinda to continue with his presentation.
Chinda said though corruption, bribe-taking and misconduct shouldn’t be condoned in any form, all actions taken to prevent financial crime must be done with reference to the Rule of Law.
When put up for a voice vote by Speaker Dogara, the motion was passed with the ayes sounding much higher than the nays. The motion is to be referred to the Adhoc Committee which is to also investigate all cases of invasion of property and arrest of persons for reasons outside the general duties of the DSS as prescribed by the National Securities Act, since May 29 2015 and report back to the House within six weeks.
Meanwhile, the Senate yesterday rejected a motion seeking to summon the DSS Director-General, Lawal Daura to brief it on the raids.
The Senate’s position followed Senator Joshua Lidani’s motion, which condemned the invasion. In the motion which came under ‘Matters of National Importance’, the lawmaker called on his colleagues to condemn the DSS’ action.
Lidani urged his lawmakers to summon the DSS’ boss to intimate members on what prompted the action of the security agency. Though the Senators supported other clauses in the prayers of the motion, lawmakers of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), rejected Daura’s invitation.
Senate condemned the invasion, maintaining that the secret police lacked the powers to arrest judges, since the NJC can handle that.
The Senate resolved after a 45-minute debate that its Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters should investigate the incidence and report to the chamber within four weeks.
Senator Dino Melaye, while supporting the motion, alleged that judges give commercial rulings. He said, like other lawmakers, he was firmly in support of Federal Government’s efforts to tackle corruption.
He said: “I rise to state that it is true there is corruption in the judiciary. This was confirmed last week by the expulsion of three judges. It is a fundamental truth that judges give commercial rulings. The Senate will continue to support the fight against corruption irrespective of who is involved.
Committee Chairman on Anti-Corruption and Financial Crimes, Senator Chukwuka Utazi (Enugu), said the invasion has painted Nigeria before the international community as a country that does not respect the Rule of Law.
Minority Leader Senator Godswill Akpabio digressed while making his contribution. He said the current anti-corruption war has painted former governors as corrupt people and warned that such toga should not be extended to the judiciary.
At the end of the long debate, lawmakers unanimously urged President Buhari to call the heads of security agencies to order.
Senate President Bukola Saraki said the fight against corruption must be done within the ambit of the law. “We must eradicate corruption in all spheres of our society and this is a matter that we must continue,” he said and added, “I think the National Assembly has been playing its role to continue to support government in its fight against corruption.
Meanwhile, President Buhari has nominated two justices to the Supreme Court. In a letter addressed to Saraki, he urged lawmakers to confirm the appointment of Sidi Dauda Nage from Nasarawa, representing North-central and Paul Adamu Galinje from Taraba, representing North-east.
Also, the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) has said the arrest of the judges did not portray Nigeria in good light. It said Nigeria is not a Banana Republic.
In a related development, Malami declared yesterday that no individual or arm of government would be spared the rod in the fight against corruption.
Malami, who is the Chief Law officer of the Federation, was reacting to the decision of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) on the clampdown. He said nobody is exempted from being investigated including the President, Vice President, Governors and their deputies, who are covered by the immunity clause under Section 308 of the 1999 Constitution.
The AGF, who spoke yesterday after inaugurating the Committee for the second cycle of the review of implementation of the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) in Abuja, said if there are allegations of crime against anybody, he or she can be invested, no matter how highly placed because nobody is above the law.
But the AGF in justifying the action of the DSS yesterday in the presence of the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Magu, his counterpart. Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), Ekpo Nta, said: “The fundamental consideration is whether an allegation of a commission of a crime and whether the need for investigation is there and whether the relevant provisions and indeed all circumstances of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act are put into consideration in our conduct to the fight against corruption.
“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.
Meanwhile, while inaugurating the committee, Malami reiterated the commitment of the President Buhari administration to the fight against corruption.