Nigerian judges facing graft probe asked to step down

2016-11-04 15:23
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Abuja - Nigeria's National Judicial Council watchdog has asked a group of judges facing corruption investigations to step down pending resolution of their cases.

At least seven judges were arrested last month by the Department of State Service (DSS) accused of taking bribes, triggering an outcry from the bar association and rights groups who described the raids as unprecedented. In all 15 judges are under investigation.

In a statement at the end of a two-day meeting in Abuja on Thursday, the NJC said it had decided that judges "shall not be standing trial for alleged corruption-related offences and be performing judicial functions at the same time."

"Judicial officials who are being investigated for alleged high-profile criminal offences (must) not perform judicial functions until their cases are concluded," added the body, headed by Chief Justice Mahmud Mohammed.

The NJC, which aims to ensure the independence of the judiciary and protect it from government control, also set up a three-member transparency and anti-corruption committee to handle petitions and graft accusations against the judges.

Lack of co-operation 

Although the judges have since been released on bail, they are yet to be charged.

Justice ministry sources told AFP the attorney-general has prepared their charges and they would be arraigned in the coming days.

Some $800 000 in cash was seized during last month's nationwide operation from the homes of the judges involved, according to claims by security agents.

The DSS said the arrests followed a "lack of co-operation by the National Judicial Council, such as refusal by the NJC to allow the affected persons to be questioned by the DSS".

The agency said its investigation started in April.

President Muhammadu Buhari was elected last year on an anti-corruption platform, vowing to stamp out the endemic graft that plagues the oil-rich country.

But critics have accused the former military ruler of using his anti-graft crackdown to silence political opponents and crush dissent.

Read more on:    muhammadu buhari  |  nigeria  |  west africa

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