In a dramatic move, the Department of State Services, DSS, has admitted on bail, the judges it arrested and detained on Friday night, ending the sudden and inexplicable agony of the learned men.
A top source close to the operation, confirmed to Vanguard last night that the judges were granted bail on self-recognition on Sunday night but asked them to report back yesterday, a condition which the embattled men gladly accepted.
The admittance of the learned men to bail, came just as the retiring Chief Justice of Nigeria, Mahmud Mohammed, visited the embattled judges at the DSS headquarters and had some discussions with them.
However, it was not clear if the CJN, who is leaving office next month, played any role in the unexpected release of his colleagues from detention barely 48 hours after they were taken in, sparking national outrage by the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, politicians and human rights activists.
One of the officials who witnessed the release of the judges said last night: “They (detained judges) were all released on bail yesterday (Sunday) on self recognition.
“They reported this morning (yesterday) and they have all gone back home. They will be coming back (today).
And everything went procedurally well. “They were released on bail on self recognition based on the fact that given their standing in the society, they cannot run away. They were instructed that they should come back today by 10am. “They did report for investigation this morning (yesterday) and they have gone back home.
And the investigation continues in preparation to charge them to court,” the official explained. Vanguard learnt that the release of the suspects was a prelude to their formal arraignment in court, with the DSS claiming to be set to present what a top source in the security agency called “incontrovertible evidence” to prove that the suspects engaged in corrupt practices, which the NJC, turned a blind eye to.
It was gathered that although the DSS spearheaded the sting operation, it would nonetheless, incorporate other agencies such as the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and the Office of the Attorney General of the Federation into the trial of the suspects, expected to kick off this week.
In anticipation of the docking of the high profile suspects, anxious journalists and photographers on Monday laid siege to an FCT Magistrate Court in Jabi till the close of work but the men were not taken there.
While they awaited the suspects at the court premises, the DSS was, however, interrogating them in their office after which, they were asked to return to the comfort of their homes, pending when they would be charged to court to account for their alleged graft. It will be recalled that the DSS had on Friday night, in a series of coordinated sting operations, hauled into its custody seven judges it accused of corruption.
Two of the detained judges, Sylvester Ngwuta and John Okoro, serve in the Supreme Court. Others are: Adeniyi Ademola, of the Federal High Court, Abuja, Kabiru Auta, Kano, and the beleagued Enugu Chief Judge, A. I. Umezulike, Muazu Pindiga, Gombe, and Justice Ibrahim Tsamiya, from Sokoto. The two judges were recently recommended for retirement by the NJC.
“As we speak now, we have incontrovertible evidence of brazen corruption against the seven judges in our custody and we are ready to charge them to court, even tomorrow. By our own analysis, the rot in the political scene, election rigging, inter and intra-party crises and election petition trials from tribunal to Supreme Court, gave rise to the deep corruption in the judiciary.
“In the economic sphere, Nigeria lost cases to foreign investors due to the collusion of judges with foreigners, leading to the loss of hundreds of billions of Naira by the country, among them, the Malabo Oil deal, where the country lost over $ 2 billion.
“We have the mandate not only to pre-empt and prevent but to also take necessary actions to bring the culprits of economic and financial crimes to book. That is why we are challenging those who think that our action is unconstitutional to take us to court since we cannot allow Nigeria’s security interest to be jeopardised.
“Let it be known that anybody whose action can create hardship for the rest of Nigerians must be stopped by us before the crime is committed and there is no other agency that is as capable of doing that as the DSS,” the agency said.