Nigerians who in the past questioned the conduct of many judges, but had no way of prompting investigations despite having evidence of wrongdoing, are inundating the State Security Service with petitions after last weekend’s arrest of seven judges, security sources said Wednesday.
The petitioners accuse the judges of fraud and want the SSS to widen its investigation beyond judges already penciled down for probe and possible prosecution.
“It’s like everyone who has had cause to go to court for one reason or the other has been a victim,” one SSS source told PREMIUM TIMES Wednesday.
The revelation came as the SSS worked to consolidate evidence ahead of the arraignment of the judges arrested in a nationwide anti-corruption sweep between Friday and Saturday, officials said.
Seven judges were taken into custody after the raid conducted simultaneously in six-states, including Abuja.
Supreme Court judges, Inyang Okoro and Sylvester Ngwuta were arrested in Abuja. Federal High Court judges, Adeniyi Ademola and Mohammed Tsamiya were also arrested in Abuja.
Others arrested included, Kabir Auta, Kano; Muazu Pindiga, Gombe; and Innocent Umezulike in Enugu.
The judges were released on Monday after initial plans to arraigned them stalled for reasons not disclosed by the secret police.
But PREMIUM TIMES gathered from sources at the agency’s headquarters on Wednesday afternoon that the jurists will start facing trial from next week.
The sources said the SSS had dispatched proofs of its allegations against the judges to the National Judicial Council for action.
“We have written the NJC about what has happened and we expect the NJC to take some decisions about the affected judges this week,” one source said. “Once that is done, hopefully by next week or thereabout, we should arraign them in court.”
The NJC is constitutionally charged with the task of investigating and sanctioning erring judges.
The agency hopes that the NJC members, led by the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Mahmud Mohammed, will recommend sanctions against the judges based on the evidence of graft tendered against them.
The SSS said it found large sums of money, denominated in naira and other foreign currencies, from the judges’ homes during the raid.
If the NJC finds the evidence by the SSS sufficient, the judges could be dismissed, opening the way for security agencies to arrest and prosecute them.
“The ongoing investigation is not supposed to go beyond this week,” the sources said.
The sources said many Nigerians were supportive of the crackdown by flooding the SSS with damning petitions, with some who had been a victim of abuse of court processes expressing their willingness to testify against the judges.
The sources said the allegations contained fascinating facts that could go a long way in nailing the judges in the court of law.
“More facts are trickling in and we cannot ignore them. It is our statutory responsibility to investigate painstakingly every complaint.
“Some victims have even indicated their readiness to testify in court,” the sources said.
The sources said operatives also uncovered how some of the judges engaged in assets declaration fraud in the course of their investigation.
“The kind of things we observe as regards the forms they submitted to the Code of Conduct Bureau is another kettle of fish.
“We discovered a judge filled three different forms with different information either in terms of assets declared or even personal information like age.
“Imagine one judge filling three different forms with different information just to deceive,” the source said.
The clampdown has continued to generate intense debate amongst Nigerians.
While some see the action of the SSS as a welcome development needed to address corruption in the country’s judiciary, others express concerns that the tactics employed by the agency amounts to intimidation and violates the principle of separation of powers.