The Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, SAN, has justified the arrest of some senior judges by operatives of the Department of State Services over allegations of corruption.
Malami said as far as there was suspicion of corruption, the DSS raid was legitimate and was in continuation of the ongoing war against graft.
The Friday night raid on the homes of some judges has drawn mixed reactions from Nigerians over whether the DSS had the constitutional mandate to do so.
Addressing newsmen on the matter on Wednesday, Malami argued that no arm of government and no individual was too big to be arrested or probed over allegations of corruption.
“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.”
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.
Seven judges were arrested, and have since been released on self recognition.
According to the DSS, huge sums of money in local and foreign currencies were recovered from the arrested judges.
Those arrested include Justice Sylvester Nguta and John Okoro of the Supreme Court, Adeniyi Ademola of the Federal High Court Abuja, 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.