Presidency shocked over NJC’s refusal to suspend judges

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The refusal of the National Judicial Council (NJC) to order the suspension from office of the seven judges, currently under investigation by the Department of State Service (DSS), has reportedly rattled the Presidency, a source said last night.

Meanwhile, the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Mahmoud Mohammed, yesterday, insisted the judges would not be suspended

Mohammed, yesterday, insisted the judges would not be suspended, especially as there was no formal complaint to that effect from the DSS to the NJC.

Mohammed spoke in a press statement. The statement was a follow up to the advertorial published in some newspapers, yesterday, by the NJC defending its position not to suspend the embattled  judges.

The advertorial was responding to the statement by the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) that the judges should be suspended.

The judges, whose homes were raided and arrested by operatives of the DSS during separate operations carried out on October 7 and 8, include two Justices of the Supreme Court, Sylvester Ngwuta and Iyang Okoro.

Other judges are Adeniyi Ademola of the Federal High Court Abuja, Kabir Auta of the Kano High Court, Muazu Pindiga of Gombe High Court, Mohammed Tsamiya of the Court of Appeal, Ilorin, and the Chief Judge of Enugu State, I. A. Umezulike.

According to a Presidency official, the action of the NJC, under the chairmanship of the CJN, amounted to a volt face.

One of the prominent officials in the Buhari administration told Sunday Vanguard that the Presidency was shocked by what the CJN did shortly after visiting the Villa and expressing what appeared to be a disposition to suspend the affected judges from office pending the conclusion of their matters in court.

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“Obviously, it seems to us that the man has been ‘captured’, the Presidency official said, referring to the leadership of the NJC but did not explain what he meant by being captured. “But the truth remains that this administration is not going to condone any form of graft and will not be deterred by the antics of the NJC since it is not a court with powers to try criminal matters.

The official explained that the CJN, who heads the NJC, early last week, visited the Villa and may appear to have settled to an understanding that it was necessary to ask the affected judges to step aside from their duty posts until further notice only for him to do the opposite.

The face-off between the two tiers of government has widened the gulf between them, raising questions as to who will eventually try the seven judges to be arraigned for alleged corruption this week.

The National Prosecution Council and the Office of the Director of Public Prosecution, according to Sunday Vanguard sources, have been mandated to handle the trial of the affected judges in batches, while the DSS may serve as a key witness against them.

 

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