DSS raids: I didn’t move $2m from my house – Judge tells Reps

Justice Abdullahi Liman of the Federal High Court Port-Harcourt Division has debunked claims that he moved $2 million from his official residence during a sting operation by officers of the Department of State Services (DSS).

Liman said this at a public hearing conducted by the Hon. Garba Datti-led House of Representatives Adhoc Committee investigating cases of invasion of property and arrest of persons for reasons outside the general duties of the DSS, yesterday.

Liman said he was not the target of the raid.

Between October 7 and 8, DSS raided the homes of some senior judges, in Abuja, Port Harcourt, Gombe, Kano, Enugu and Sokoto states.

Justice Liman said his reputation degenerated by false reports emanating from the raid. This was even as he blamed a section of online media for reporting that he was the unnamed judge which the DSS said in its statement quickly moved money out of his home during its operation.

Liman also told the committee that it was Justice Uche Agomoh’s home that was the target of the Saturday, October 8 raid, which he said lasted from 1:00am to 4:00am.

“I must state categorically that the DSS did not come to my house, which is No. 33 but it was Justice Agomoh’s house they targeted. It was shocking and frightening when, on Saturday afternoon, the DSS released an official statement claiming to have attempted to search the house of an unnamed judge, who, when approached, resisted and mobilised thugs and with the assistance of Governor Nyesom Wike and the tacit support of a sister security organisation, removed $2 million which was stashed in his house to an unknown place…”

Another judge of the Federal High Court, Abuja who was arrested during the raid in Abuja, Nnamdi Dimgba who appeared at the hearing, however, said it would be prejudicial to speak on the matter.

Meanwhile, Speaker Yakubu Dogara, who declared the hearing open stressed that the House was investigating the propriety, or otherwise, of operations conducted by the DSS, at the homes of judges and other alleged DSS invasion of Akwa Ibom State governor’s lodge and Ekiti State House of Assembly.

Dogara who was represented by the Minority Whip, Yakubu Barde, said the peobe will be useful should the National Assembly find reasons to amend the National Securities Agencies Act.

“It is critical that any investigation of this nature must have a legislative purpose as required by section 88 of the 1999 Constitution, as amended. It is in this regard that I enjoin this committee to make relevant findings of fact that will enable the National Assembly initiate the necessary amendments to the National Security Agencies Act and even the Constitution, where necessary”.

But, a mild drama played out when chairman of the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB), Sam Saba, reversed his position that the DSS has the power to arrest judges over allegations of corruption as corrupt acts are a threat to national security.

Earlier, Saba cited section 2 sub section 3 of the National Security Agencies (NSA) Act Cap N74 which states that the DSS has powers of prevention, detention within Nigeria against the internal security of the country.

He further cited Section 4 and the provisions of subsection (1) (2) and (3) of the NSA Act, saying it shall have effect not withstanding the provision of any other law to the contrary or any other natter therein mentioned.

He also told the committee that the DSS didn’t need to give the National Judicial Council (NJC) prior notice before arresting the judges. He equally stated that the CCB has powers to investigate criminal allegations against judges, especially with regards to under-declaring or false declaration of assets.

But Saba chose to withdraw his statement when asked by committee members, Kingsley Chinda and Edward Pwajok to state categorically, if false declaration of assets by public officers threatened internal security of the country.

Explaining his role during the failed arrest of Justice Agomoh, Governor Wike blasted the DSS and described the episode as a “national tragedy,” adding that the DSS failed to observe the rule of law in conducting the Port-Harcourt raid.

According to the governor, the DSS operatives, one of who assaulted him, didn’t know where exactly they were headed to even as they conducted themselves in an unprofessional manner. The governor was represented by his Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Emmanuel Aguma.

SSS official releases details of how Justice Liman allegedly took bribes

The ongoing crackdown on senior judges across the country will not end without the arrest of a judge attached to the Port Harcourt Division of the Federal High Court, PREMIUM TIMES learnt late Sunday.

Sources at the State Security Services (SSS, said Mohammed Liman, among other corrupt conducts, allegedly took bribes from Governor Nyesom Wike to give favourable judgment to the Ahmed Makarfi-led faction of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

The sources also accused the judge of habitually crossing Nigerian borders to allegedly receive bribes from litigants.

In a nationwide operation, scores of SSS operatives descended on the homes of senior judges between late Friday and Saturday, arresting seven of them after searching their residences.

The development sparked divergent reactions across the country, with some Nigerians and professional bodies condemning the raids.

Most of the critics said the raids were reminiscent of the dark military era which Nigerians assumed had ended with the return of democracy in 1999.

But an undaunted SSS in a statement Saturday said the nocturnal operation yielded recoveries of huge sums of money denominated in different currencies, including the U.S. dollars, euros and British pounds.

On Sunday evening, a top SSS official told PREMIUM TIMES that operatives were still tracking Mr. Liman and would ensure his arrest in the coming days after the initial attempt was thwarted by Mr. Wike.

Mr. Liman is among eight other judges being investigated apart from the seven arrested in the Friday night raids.

The source said Mr. Liman allegedly took bribes to subvert justice in the leadership tussle within the PDP which has left the party factionalised for several months.

Mr. Liman’s July ruling authenticated the Ahmed Makarfi faction? of the PDP which had been deemed illegal by Justice Okon Abang.

The PDP crisis culminated in another botched convention in August, although the opposing parties are currently working to end the quagmire.

“We received a petition that he (Mr. Liman) received bribes to give his ruling and our investigations confirmed it,” a top SSS official told PREMIUM TIMES.

The source added that Mr. Liman is “also a distributor” who receives bribes on behalf of other judges and helps distribute it.

“He travels across the border to Ghana, Republic of Benin and other West African countries to meet lawyers in hotels to take bribes for himself and his colleagues on the bench,” he said.

The source also said the amount involved in Mr. Liman’s botched arrest on Saturday morning was actually $2.5 million, and gave more explanation as to why operatives’ failed to arrest the judge or get the money.

“The vehicle that was used to cart away the $2million was faster than our men’s own,” the source said. “They just couldn’t catch up with them at such a high speed. It’s like chasing a 7-cylinder vehicle with a 3-cylinder.”

“We will arrest him in coming days; we have no doubt about this as we have enough evi?dence to nail him in court. By bringing Governor Wike in, he has worsened his own case.”

But Governor Nyesom Wike whom the SSS blamed for interfering to frustrate the planned Friday night arrest of Mr. Liman, in a statement early Sunday dismissed the allegations as an attempt by the SSS to divert attention from its gross desecration of the constitution.?

The SSS “concocted” the allegations to justify an “unconstitutional assault on the nation’s judiciary,” Mr. Wike said.

Mr. Wike said he didn’t know the judge, but he moved in to prevent him from being taken away because the mode of the SSS arrest did not comply with the dictates of the law.

“In the police, erring and corrupt policemen are first given orderly room trial, sacked and then appropriately prosecuted,” Mr. Wike said. “For judicial officers, the SSS has no role.”

“I am not in support of any judicial support being involved in corruption,” but “this impunity must stop.”

The Nigerian Bar Association, the umbrella organisation of lawyers, condemned the raids as an attempt to intimidate judges and demanded an immediate release of those arrested.

“We are in a democratic society and we cannot accept a situation where armed, masked SSS operatives invade homes of the justices of the Supreme Court and judges of our high courts.

“This is a ploy by the executive to intimidate the judiciary and we will not accept it. The NBA will not accept it. I want to emphasise again that we’re not under military rule and we cannot accept this Gestapo style of operations.” Abubakar Mahmoud, NBA president, said Saturday.

But a senior lawyer, Femi Falana, said the action of the operatives was justified since the bar and the bench had allegedly failed to check corruption in the judiciary.

He called for the prompt trial of the arrested judges.?

President Buhari also said on Sunday that the SSS did not flout the law in its arrest and detention of the judges.

“There is a convergence of views that the country has a corruption problem that needs to be corrected,” Mr. Buhari said in a statement signed by his media aide, Garba Shehu.