The Federal government has insisted that the recent arrest of some supreme Court judges by the Directorate of State Service (DSS) is a fight against corruption and not the judiciary .
Speaking to State House Correspondents after the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari, Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed said the government will step on sensitive toes in its effort to rid the country of corruption.
According to him, the government believes very much in separation of powers and the present administration has a lot of respect for the judiciary and has no intention of humiliating the judiciary.
Mohammed said ; In the process of fighting corruption its not unusual that you step on some very sensitive toes but the question to ask and I think these has been adequately answered by the Attorney General is that let’s remove emotion from facts.
“One, do judges have immunity? The answer is no. Can judges be arrested? The answer is yes. Have judges that are serving be arrested in Nigeria? The answer is yes. Justice Okoli had been arrested and tried. Now the next question to ask is what is the proper procedure for arresting anybody including judges,there must be properly executing search warrant. Was such presented? The answer again is yes.
” People have tried to muddle the facts about when do you search the person’s house, the truth of the matter is that under the new criminal justice law, you can search anybody,anywhere,anytime.
“Again they have tried to muddle issues by trying to say that the NJC is the only authority that can attend complain and discipline the answer once again is no.
He argued that there is a difference when a judge is accused of professional misconduct is quite different from what is happening now.
“If you suspect anybody including Governors who have immunity they are still subject to investigations. So I want to make it clear, this government has the highest respect for judiciary and two we are not in anyway trying to ridicule the judiciary. Three we are not painting the whole of the judges with the same brush but we also have a duty to fight corruption at whatever level and in doing so, we will do so within the ambit of the law.”
The Minister lamented that unfortunately people have even brought issues that are completely irrelevant to the matter,some people are saying the reason why they went to some particular judges house is because the President wants somebody from one part of the country to be chief justice of the federation.
He added that ; I think that is preposterous. I want to assure you that this government has no intention to humiliate the judiciary and for those who are talking about separation of power, I think you are stretching it too far. I and members of the Executive, I can be invited by any arm of the government and I will go, so I think we should situate this thing in the right perspective.
“You were all witnesses in 2015 in Ghana here, 32 judges were caught on tape by journalists asking for bribe, 22 of them were dismissed in one day in Ghana.
Yes its true that what is happening today is probably never happened at this level before but frankly speaking and with all due respect we do not intend to humiliate any judges, we have no intention to humiliate the judiciary but believe me what we have done we have done within the ambits of the law, He stated.