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Rivers-State-Police-Commissioner-Mr.-Francis-Odesanya1

The
Commissioner of Police, Rivers State Command, Mr. Francis Odesanya, is
under fire for his role in the aborted arrest of a judge of the Federal
High Court, Port Harcourt, in the early hours of Saturday, The PUNCH
learnt on Sunday.

The Rivers State Governor, Chief
Nyesom Wike, was said to have rushed to No. 35, Forces Avenue, the GRA
official residence of the judge and prevented operatives of the
Department of State Services from arresting the judge.

Wike,
who was said to have had a confrontation with the DSS officials, was
said to have been joined at the scene by the police commissioner.

A
highly-placed source, who spoke to The PUNCH on condition of anonymity,
on Sunday, said preliminary report had shown that Odesanya prevented
the security agencies from carrying out a legitimate order.

Based on the report, he said the police authorities as well as the Police Service Commission would sanction the police boss.

He, however, did not disclose the kind of punishment to be meted out to him.

The
source stated, “The Rivers Commissioner of Police will be dealt with
appropriately. It has been established that the DSS officials who were
at the judge’s residence had with them duly signed search and arrest
warrants.

“By stopping the security agents from doing
their work, what he did was to obstruct justice. He stopped those people
from carrying out a legitimate order.

“He will be sanctioned accordingly.”

The
Public Relations Officer, Rivers State Command, Mr. Nnamdi Omoni, had
told journalists that policemen were only at the judge’s residence to
ensure there was no breakdown of law and order.

It was also learnt on Sunday that no fewer than 15 judges across the country were under investigation by the DSS.

It was gathered that the DSS was investigating the judges based on various petitions, which accused them of corruption.

A
top Federal Government official, who confided in our correspondent on
Sunday, said the 15 judges included seven that were arrested on Friday
and Saturday.

The DSS had, in what it called a sting
operation, arrested Sylvester Ngwuta and Inyang Okoro, both of the
Supreme Court;  the suspended Presiding Justice of the Court of Appeal,
Ilorin Division, Justice Mohammed Tsamiya; Justice Kabiru Auta of the
Kano State High Court and Justice Adeniyi Ademola of the Federal High
Court, Abuja.

Other arrested were a former Chief Judge
of Enugu State, Justice I. A. Umezulike, and Muazu Pindiga of the
Federal High Court, Gombe Division.

It was gathered
that besides the judges, the DSS had invited three court registry staff
across the country as part of the investigations into the alleged
corruption in the judiciary.

“Currently, we are
investigation 15 judges, including the seven that were arrested. Three
court registry staff have been invited and quizzed. We have facts and
figures,” the source stated.

The government official faulted a claim that the DSS acted unilaterally without carrying along the National Judicial Council.

He stated that the Service sent letters to the NJC and the Ministry of Justice concerning the investigations of the judges.

According
to him, while the ministry responded, the NJC did not respond, adding
that the DSS did not dramatise the arrest of the judges as alleged.

The
government official also explained that the fact that the judges were
under the authority of the NJC did not exclude them from investigation
and prosecution.

He stated, “They have no immunity.
Even those (governors), who have immunity, can be investigated. There
are many professional groups, including the Nigeria Union of
Journalists; if you commit a crime, besides facing disciplinary actions
from your union, you should be investigated and prosecuted according to
the law of the country.”

The source further explained
the constitutional mandate of the DSS, adding that the service had not
intervened in what did not concern it by investigating the judges.

Giving
an insight into the allegation against some of the judges, he alleged
that some of them received bribes to compromise judgments.

He
also cited the case of a judge who had a N1.5bn estate, alleging that
granting of bails to defendants had been turned into an avenue for
making money by some judicial officers.

It was learnt
that the government was not happy with way the police handled the
investigation into the alleged Senate forgery involving the Senate
President, Bukola Saraki, and his deputy, Ike Ekweremadu.

Presidency backs clampdown on judges

The
Presidency on Sunday backed the weekend’s raids on the residences of
some judges and their arrest, saying due process was followed.

It, however, said the clampdown was not against the judiciary but against corruption.

The
Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba
Shehu, said this in a statement made available to journalists.

Shehu
said the Presidency had been told by the DSS that all due processes of
the law, including the possession of search and arrest warrants, were
obtained before the searches were carried out.

Describing
the raids as “surgical operation”, he said to suggest that the
government acted outside the law in a dictatorial manner, was therefore
to breach the interest of the state.

The statement
read, “The recent surgical operation against some judicial officers is
specifically targeted at corruption and not at the judiciary as an
institution.

“In a robust democracy such as ours, there
is bound to be a plurality of opinions on any given issue, but there is
a convergence of views that the country has a corruption problem that
needs to be corrected.

“But reports by a section of the media are giving us cause for concern.

“To suggest that the government is acting outside the law, in a dictatorial manner, is to breach the interest of the state.”

Nigeria sliding into fascism, alleges PDP

The national leadership of the PDP said the arrest of the judges was unwarranted.

A
statement by the spokesperson for the PDP, Mr. Dayo Adeyeye, in Abuja
on Sunday, said, “This invasion is the latest in a series of actions
taken by the President Muhammadu Buhari administration which revealed
 its disregard for the rule of law and its abject disdain for the
principle of separation of powers.”

Adeyeye alleged
that the country was sliding into what he called “inexorable fascism”,
adding that it began with the alleged invasion of the Akwa Ibom State
Government House by the DSS and the continued detention of several
people despite courts ordering their release.

He said,
“This slide into fascism has included sustained attacks on the
leadership of the National Assembly as President Buhari has sought to
break its independence and make it a rubberstamp to suit his will.

“It is worthy to note that never in the history of our country has any President attacked the judiciary in such a manner.

“Even
the late dictator, Gen. Sani Abacha, whose regime is remembered by many
as the second worst regime in Nigerian history, did not carry out such
Gestapo-style attacks on the members of the judiciary.”

But the APC said it was concerned about the desperation of the opposition PDP to drag the President into the raids by the DSS. Read More

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