The National Judicial Council has responded to the call yesterday by the Nigerian Bar Assoiciation, (NBA) for the body to suspend the the seven judges recently arrested by the Department of State Service over allegations of corruption and abuse of office. The NJC, in a statement by its Acting Director, Information, said it had no powers to suspend serving judges without investigating the allegations levelled against them.
According to the NJC suspending the Judges as the NBA recommended would amount to violation of section 158 of the Constitution.
Part of the statement read, “Thus, the current position of the Nigerian Bar Association vis-à-vis its recommendation that the affected judicial officers involved in the on-going investigation of Judicial Officers by the DSS, be requested to proceed on compulsory leave until the conclusion of all disciplinary proceedings against them, is unacceptable to the NJC; as it breaches the 2014 Revised Judicial Discipline Regulations formulated by NJC pursuant to Section 160 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as amended.
“It is to be reiterated also that by the provisions of Section 158 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as amended, NJC shall not be subject to the direction or control of any other authority or person while exercising its disciplinary power of control over Judicial Officers in the Federation.
“The members of the public are hereby informed that the mechanism that will determine a judicial officer to be directed or requested to proceed on compulsory leave or be suspended from office, is a disciplinary power that NJC can only exercise after initiating disciplinary proceeding on the complaint or petition forwarded against the Judge, after he has been found culpable.
“Therefore, to act on the recommendation of the NBA, it is not only contrary to the provisions of Section 158 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as amended, but it means NJC will direct any judicial officer that has been petitioned even if the allegations contained therein are frivolous and baseless, to proceed on compulsory leave or be suspended from office without complying with the rule of law.