- The arrest of judges by by DSS operatives raised concern about how the president treats the constitution
- Lai Mohammed defended President Buhari and insisted he respects the law
- He pointed out the number of lawyers in the current administration was a testament to the president's respect for law
The arrest of some judges by operatives of the Department of State Service has raised comments how President Muhammadu Buhari feels about the law especially in a bid to rid corruption out of the country.
The Peoples Democratic Party described the president as a dictator who has no respect for the law with the manner in which the judges were treated.
The Punch reports that Alhaji Lai Mohammed said the president has the utmost respect for the rule of law and lawyers which was evident in the number of lawyers in his cabinet.
The minister of information and culture said the arrest of the judges was within the scope of the law and due process was followed.
He noted that 11 of the President’s ministers are lawyers out of which about five are Senior Advocates of Nigeria which was a testimony to Buhari’s respect for the judiciary.
He said: “Do not confuse the fight against corruption as a fight against judiciary. What the government is concerned and passionate about is to fight corruption.
“In the process of fighting corruption, it is not unusual that you step on some very sensitive toes but the question to ask and I think these has been adequately answered by the Attorney-General is that let’s remove emotion from facts.
“One, do judges have immunity? The answer is no. Can judges be arrested? The answer is yes. Have judges that are serving be arrested in Nigeria? The answer is yes. Justice Okoli had been arrested and tried.
“Now, the next question to ask is what is the proper procedure for arresting anybody including judges. There must be properly executing search warrant. Was such presented? The answer again is yes.
“People have tried to muddle the facts about when do you search the person’s house. The truth of the matter is that under the new criminal justice law, you can search anybody, anywhere, anytime.
“Again they have tried to muddle issues by trying to say that the NJC is the only authority that can attend to complaints and discipline. The answer once again is no.
“When a judge is accused of professional misconduct is quite different from what is happening now. If you suspect anybody including Governors who have immunity, they are still subject to investigations. So I want to make it clear, this government has the highest respect for judiciary and two we are not in anyway trying to ridicule the judiciary.
“We are not painting the whole of the judges with the same brush but we also have a duty to fight corruption at whatever level and in doing so, we will do so within the ambit of the law.”
Meanwhile, the federal government has dropped plans to arraign alleged corrupt judges arrested in a DSS raid at the weekend.
It is not clear why the judges are not going to be arraigned again even as Nigerians remain deeply divided over the raid on their homes.