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Group Petitions NHRC, Demands Apology, Compensation For Arrested Judges

ENUGU – A human rights group, Citizens Rights Realisation and Advancement Network (CRRAN) has asked the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), to compel the Federal Government to apologise to judges who were arrested by the Department of State Security Service (DSS) in 2016, but later freed for want of evidence to sustain charges against them.

CRRAN’s demand was contained in a petition it addressed to the Executive Secretary of NHRC and titled: “A Frightened and Terrorised Judiciary: Demand For Apology and Compensation To Judges Arrested by Department of State Security Services in 2016, But Were Not Later Charged To Court For Lack Of Evidence To Sustain Charges Against Them.”

The affected judges include Inya Okoro of Supreme Court, Uwani Abba Aji of Court of Appeal and Agbadu James Fishim of National Industrial Court.

In the petition dated January 29, 2019, CRRAN noted that the Executive arm of government has in recent years under the guise of fighting corruption, massively attacked the judiciary and in some instances arrested and detained some judicial officers.

The group stated further: “It is submitted that it is good to fight corruption in the judiciary but what happens in a situation where judicial officers are arrested, detained and dragged in the mud and after the whole episode, the security agencies were not able to find anything incriminating against them?

“A Judiciary that has been terrorised and frightened is the same as a corrupt judiciary as citizens can never get justice in both situations. Our random investigation and analyses of Nigeria Judiciary reveal that most Judges in Nigeria are so much afraid of the executives and we can never witness any radical judgments from the courts as obtainable in the past, even against the Military governments that ruled the country in the past.”

“The judges became so afraid because after the arrest and detention of some judges in October 2016, and despite the humiliation, the Department of State Security Services could not get any evidence to sustain criminal charges against some judges and despite the clear infraction on the rights of these judges no apology was tendered by the government.

“Justice John Inyang Okoro, of the Supreme Court was arrested and detained by the Department of State Security Services (DSS) for committing no offence. Others arrested in the October 2016, raid on Judges’ home and no evidence to sustain the criminal charge against them are Justice Uwani Abba Aji of the Court of Appeal; Justice Musa H. kurya of the Federal High Court and Justice Agbadu James Fishim of the National Industrial Court of Nigeria,” CRRAN stated.

The group recalled that in the case of Justice Inyang Okoro of the Supreme Court, officials of State Security Services despite ransacking his home till late midnight of the fateful day without incriminating items has not deemed it fit tender unreserved public apology to him and others.

According to CRRAN, the fact that the National Judicial Council (NJC) directed these Judicial officers to resume their judicial duties on June 7, 2017, after eight months suspension, does not totally cured the infraction of their violated rights.

It recalled that the Hon. Attorney General of the Federation Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN), had immediately after the arrest of these Judges asked the NJC  to relieve the affected judges of their judicial duties pending the conclusion of the investigation of the allegation against them.

It made it clear that for Fundamental Human Right society to flourish in a democratic society, judges administering justice in our courts should not be so afraid to discharge their duties.

It noted that the NHRC has a vital role to play in ensuring that judges discharge their duties without fear or favour and the only way to regain self-confidence and esteem by the judicial officers in Nigeria and the affected judges, in particular, is for the Commission to look into the area of rights violations regarding their arrest and detention with a view to demanding from the Federal Government unreserved public apology and payment of compensation to the affected judges.

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