The Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN) says the October 7 and 8 arrest of some judges by the Department of State Services (DSS), had his approval.
According to The Vanguard, the AGF, said this on Tuesday when he appeared before the Garba Datti-led House of Representatives Ad-hoc Committee investigating the arrest of judicial officers.
Malami said his office had received a plethora of petitions against the judicial officers.
Malami said, “When we are talking about constitutional obligations, it goes without saying that all state instruments, Ministries, Departments and Agencies, MDA, are under obligation, inclusive of the legislature and the judiciary, to take steps that will abolish corrupt practices.
“It is in respect of that obligation that whatever issue arises from the search and arrest of the judicial officers were carried out.
“The state was in receipt of multiple petitions of corrupt practices by the judicial officers and there was further apprehension that if immediate steps were not taken, the possibility of dissipating existing evidence that were believed to have been kept within their respective domain will eventually be tampered with.
“Arising from the responsibility created and established by Section 15 of the constitution, the state had to act.
“But the question of which agency has the responsibility of executing it, my response to that derives from the fact that multiple petitions were written to Office of the AGF, DSS, EFCC and a lot of other agencies of government and to my mind, I have a discretion to weigh the situation and decide which agency, against the background of the petition, will act for the purpose of ensuring that the obligation of the provisions of Section 15 (5) of the constitution are carried out.
“So whatever evolved from the search and arrest of the judicial officers revolved around the need to comply with the responsibility and obligation vested on them by provisions of the constitution and the need to ensure that the investigation is not in any way tampered with negatively.
“These were the circumstances that led to the operation. It was a clear exercise of the constitutional mandate in respect of what is expected of the state to abolish corrupt practices.”
Malami said the DSS raid followed the refusal of the NJC to act on petitions earlier sent to it by the AGF and other investigating agencies.
He said, “When we got the petitions, I had cause to personally write to the NJC requesting that they take administrative steps to investigate the allegations contained in the petitions.
“A response was made to office that NJC can only act unless the petitions were accompanied with affidavits but I felt there was no reason the petitions cannot be looked on their own merit by placing sanctions on the AGF while it was a constitutional obligation.
“Incidentally, multiple petitions were also written to DSS and I requested that they equally write to NJC to look into the petitions but it was the same response DSS got from NJC that without a supporting affidavit, the petitions can’t be looked into.
“So we have a situation where there’s reasonable ground for suspicion for commission of corruption and we have a body saddled with the primary, administrative responsibility of looking at such things first but seems not to be cooperating in that respect.
“Meanwhile, when issue of commission of corrupt practice is established, the Executive has the responsibility of investigation without recourse to the judiciary. That is how the idea of taking the advantage of Section 15 (5) arose.
“I asked EFCC and DSS and another agency to investigate because they were in receipt of several petitions on the same subject and I was informed by the DSS before the search and arrest and I did not object.
“The DSS presented a formal report to me before and after effecting the search and arrest, they informed me that the operation will be done at any hour without restriction.
“I had no objection that the operation would be carried out at night because I have taken time to go through the administration of Criminal Justice Act and I was convinced that this operation can be conducted at any hour, any moment without restriction.
“I don’t have to inform the Inspector General of Police (IGP) or Commissioner of Police in the State about the DSS operation because they were also under the same constitutional obligation to act and one of the agencies had investigated, came up with a report and I was convinced.
“If any other agency came up with cogent reason for a search and arrest I will equally give them the permission and they are not under any obligation to reverse back to me when searches are to be carried out, they are independent and statutory mandate to act without recourse to me but only after the search and arrest they can make a report in order to aid further action on the matter.
“I was happy with the DSS operation simply because those allegations were established arising from the result of the searches and investigations that were carried out”.