by Yusuf Alli, Abuja,
Two more judges were yesterday arrested by the Department of State Services (DSS), taking the number of judges so far picked up to nine.
Justices Bashir Sukola and Ladan Manir of the Kaduna State High Court, were arrested in Kaduna and taken to the DSS Headquarters in Abuja at about 8.30pm.
A top source said they were immediately taken in for interrogation.
Six other judges are under probe.
The DSS, it was learnt yesterday, has frozen the accounts of some of the judges under investigation.
In some of the accounts are “huge lodgments”, a source said yesterday.
The agency has received more petitions against the judges. Many of the petitioners, it was learnt, are willing to testify against them.
There were strong indications last night that the judges might be arraigned in court next week because the DSS has set a deadline in order not to extend the investigation of the judges beyond this week.
All of them are to face trial, the source said.
Under probe are two Supreme Court Justices – Sylvester Ngwuta and Inyang Okoro – the suspended Presiding Justice of the Court of Appeal, Ilorin Division, Justice Mohammed Ladan Tsamiya, who was picked up in Sokoto; Justice Adeniyi Ademola (Federal High Court); the Chief Judge of Enugu State, Justice I. A. Umezulike; Justice Kabiru Auta of Kano State High Court; and Justice Muazu Pindiga (Gombe State High Court).
The source, who spoke in confidence because he is not allowed to talk to the media about the investigation, said: “Some accounts have been frozen through orders of the court. This affects some of the judges. Not all of them.
“We found some huge lodgements that are questionable in some accounts and in addition to that we also observed the inflow of their salaries over a long period without them making any withdrawal at all.
“What that means is that they don’t live on their salaries at all. Those accounts have been frozen but as I said not all of the judges are affected.”
On why the judges were yet to be charged to court, the source added: “We are waiting for the action of the NJC. We expect the NJC to suspend them, otherwise it’s like taking a sitting judge to court.
“In the Service, when anybody is being investigated for any serious crime, the first thing we do is to place such a person on suspension.
“After the investigation, such a person would face trial and get dismissed from service on conviction and later face prosecution in the law court.”
Asked what will happen if they are not suspended, the source quipped: “The NJC does not have the luxury not to suspend them.
“We wrote the NJC on Monday but we haven’t received any response.”
There has been a rumour of a hot exchange of words between the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Mahmud Mohammed and the Director-General of the DSS, Mr. Lawan Daura on Monday during a session with the President. “There was no such meeting,” the source said.
The secret service is said to have discovered that a governor, who is sympathetic to the judges, was behind the online publications against the DG of DSS.
The source said: “There is no truth in that at all. There was never such a meeting. The President does not even have such luxury of time.
“Maybe what they are referring to was the visit of the Chief Justice to the DSS headquarters on Sunday afternoon.
“The CJN paid a solidarity visit to the detained judges and expressed some concern. He probably saw the DG too when he learnt that he was in his office at the time of his visit.
“The CJN did not even know that they would be released on bail later that Sunday evening.
“We know it is the handwork of a governor to launch vitriolic media attacks on the DSS. We also know those being used. But Nigeria is greater than all.”
The source gave insights into more petitions being received against the judges by those described as “victims” of bribe.
He expressed confidence that the trial of the judges might begin next week because the DSS has set a timeline to conclude the investigation on or before the end of the week.
The source said: “We are almost through with investigation. The ongoing investigation is not supposed to go beyond this week.
“We have written the NJC about what has happened and we expect the NJC to take some decisions about the affected judges this week. Once that is done, hopefully by next week or thereabouts, we should arraign them in court.
“For now more facts in the form of petitions are coming in about the judges. It’s like everyone who has had cause to go to court for one reason or the other has been a victim.
“Some victims have even indicated their readiness to testify in court.”
The source added that contrary to insinuations, steps were taken to accord the seven judges arrested at the weekend the desired respect before their arrest and while they were in custody.
The sourced added: “Justice Ademola Adeniyi requested that his lawyer should be present before his residence could be searched.
“The counsel came, examined the search warrant and confirmed the validity of the warrant. He thereafter asked the judge to cooperate with the DSS team.
“Some of the judges also allowed their lawyers to witness the search of their homes.”