Some legal practitioners under the aegis of Lawyers in Defence of Democracy and Citizens For Good Governance took to the streets of Abuja on Monday to express dissatisfaction with the call for the judges accused of corruption to step down.
Ikenga Ugochinyere, convener of the two groups, said it was not right for the judges to do so without evidence of misdeeds.
He described the “U-turn” made by Abubakar Mahmoud, president of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), as “prejudicial to the innocence of the judges”.
Mahmoud, who had condemned the arrest when it recently happened, later said it would be good for the judges to step aside till they cleared their names.
“The call for the arrested judges to step aside when there is no proof of evidence linking them to the alleged crime is baseless and at best a move to cement kokoama democracy,” he said.
“That is why we view the call by the president of the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) after a private visit to the presidential villa as prejudicial to the innocence of the judges and contrary to the 2014 revised judicial discipline regulations formulated by the National Judicial Council (NJC) pursuant to section 160 of the 1999 constitution as amended.
“The unilateral call by Abubakar Mahmoud (SAN) asking the judges to step aside without weighing the limitations and the possibility of an overbearing executive using the same loophole to get at other judges not willing to dance to their tune is unacceptable, hasty and counter-productive.
“We still stand on the initial declaration of emergency in the judiciary by NBA and reject the call for judges to step aside.”
Ugochinyere called on the judicial council and the chief justice of Nigeria (CJN) to direct all judges in the country to not hear any applications from the DSS and other agencies, until there was obedience to all pending orders against them.
He said the flagrant disobedience to court orders is the worst form of judiciary corruption and an impeachable offence in a democracy.
“Justice and morality cannot be seen from the eyes of one man but through the law,” he said.
“We cannot return to the dark ages when citizens go to work without knowing if they will ever come back to their families, were fear is instilled in us that non obedience to the men on the high table will earn you the dark corners of the detention wall, an era where by the time we leave here our houses would have been raided and many of us taken away to be charged even for imaginary treason and terrorism just because we spoke out.
“No society can be built on lawlessness. In a loud voice, we say the attack on the judges who ruled against DSS and government interest was not a fight against corruption but a failed move to whip the courageous judges into line like school children.”
The protesters started their rally at the office of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), then proceeded to the federal high court and the ministry of justice.