Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, has justified the recent raid on the homes of judges.
Speaking to newsmen on Wednesday, October 12, Mohammed said the raid and arrest of the allegedly corrupt judges was carried out within the ambit of the law contrary to what is widely speculated.
He said that the Federal Government is not in any way trying to ridicule the judiciary, but rather making good of its commitment to fighting corruption at any level.
He said: “People have tried to muddle the facts about it. 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 indiscipline; the answer, once again, is no. One, do judges have immunity? The answer is no. Can judges be arrested? The answer is yes. Have judges that are serving been 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 executed search warrant. Was such presented? The answer, again, is yes.
“I think the federal government is being very careful with handling of this particular issue. I want to state clearly that this government believes very much in separation of powers; this government has a lot of respect for the judiciary and for obvious reasons, not just because the constitution says so but I think probably this is one cabinet that has the highest number of lawyers as ministers.
“As at the last count, about 11 or 12 council members are ministers and we have female lawyers also in cabinet. Until death robbed us of late Ocholi, we had five SANs in our cabinet and I think this is unique. Therefore, you can understand the kind of respect we have for the judiciary.
“And also, look at Mr. President himself. Three times he sought to be president; three times it was thwarted and all the three times he took his case to the judiciary.”
The minister stressed that it would be a mistake to think the fight against corruption in the judiciary is a fight against the judiciary.
Mohammed spoke further: “What the government is concerned and passionate about is to fight corruption.
“In the process of fighting corruption its 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.
“When a judge is accused of professional misconduct, it is quite different from what is happening now. If you suspect anybody, including governors who have immunity, they are still subject to investigations.