The dust is yet to settle on the war on corruption which swept across a sect hitherto regarded as sacred cows, as untouchables and sacrosanct.
Public opinion continues to swell every passing day as the ripples of the recent DSS raid on some judges across the country widens.
Some members of the bar (lawyers) and empathizers in the bench (judges/magistrates) quickly labelled that raid as a crackdown and desecration of the judiciary; an abuse of rights of judges, and a breach of due process; a return to dictatorship and a clear attempt to intimidate and ridicule the judiciary.
Lawyers were the first to condemn the raids which were simultaneously carried out in about five or six locations across the country in a military/coup style. They called it a travesty of justice and a slap on the judiciary.
But these utterances seem to have provoked many Nigerians to an outcry. Many are now calling for outright jail terms for corrupt judges. They are blasting the National Judicial Council saying this is not a case of professional or administrative misconduct which the NJC handles but suspected criminal infraction.
Nigerians are asking if our judges had become foreign exchange dealers to stock their homes with different huge amounts of foreign currencies.
People are saying that nothing incriminating or an evidence (exhibit) would have been found in the homes of these suspected judges if they had been formally invited by the EFCC or DSS before the raid. They would have starched away the monies allegedly found in their homes.
A retired noble judge, Justice Oguade said frankly that a judge should not have allowed himself or herself to be so humiliated by soiling one’s hands or robes (or being a suspect in the first place).
The Punch Newspaper in its editorial of Tuesday October 11, 2016 detailed the affected judges, the alleged accusations, the amounts recovered and a retrospective look into cases involving the judiciary (see box) all of which point to the erosion of values and long reputation of the judiciary carried by the like of T.O. Elias of the World Courts, Ajibola, Eso, Oputa, Onyeama etc.
Today the NJC has refused to suspend the affected judges insisting that the DSS must present convincing evidence to it before such could happen.
But many Nigerians are calling for the constitution of a special court, the type Obasanjo set up through Justice Eso to try special cases. They believe that the present crop of judges will always protect their members and eventuallyset them free. Besides, no one should adjudicate in a matter he/she is the accused.
As the presidency prepares to raid another batch of judges, some of the first accused judges are alleging that it was a vendetta by the Attorney General. Some lawyers have even filed a N50billion suit against the President, the IG, the DSS, the Attorney General on the matter. They allege that due process was not followed, that the DSS operated in a crude manner and that the executive arm wants to intimidate the judiciary.
Aggrieved Nigerians are asking judges if they had forgotten that some controversial decisions/judgments were taken at mid night including the Abiola’s June 1993 case while some other judgments were delivered at odd wee hours so why will these ones worry that they were raided at midnight.
Besides, in what manner does filthy lucre travel? What conduit pipes or vector quantities/conveyor belts are used to move illicit funds? Of course, in the case of judges, it is only lawyers who can have access to judges for such money exchanges. This is why lawyers are crying more than the bereaved on this matter.