ABUJA, OCTOBER 12, 2016 -The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed has stated that there was nothing unusual about stepping on sensitive toes in the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration’s current fight against corruption.He stated this on Wednesday while interacting with State House correspondents at the end of a meeting of the Federal Executive Council presided over by President Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
Mohammed spoke in reaction to the outrage that has greeted the recent arrests of judges and raids on their homes by operatives of the Department of State Services, DSS.
He insisted that the arrests of the judges were carried out within the ambit of the law since they do not have immunity against investigation and prosecution.
The minister, who called on Nigerians to separate emotions from facts, maintained that the fight against corruption should not be mistaken for a fight against the judiciary.
He argued that the fact that about 11 of the ministers in Buhari’s cabinet are lawyers, about five of which are Senior Advocates of Nigeria, SAN, showed that Buhari has a lot of respect for the judiciary.
Mohammed added that the fact that the President took the cases of his three failed attempts to become the President before the judiciary is a pointer to his respect for that arm of government.
His words, “Do not confuse the fight against corruption as a fight against judiciary. What the government is concerned and passionate about is to fight corruption.
“In the process of fighting corruption, it is not unusual that you step on some very sensitive toes but the question to ask and I think these has been adequately answered by the Attorney-General is that let’s remove emotion from facts.
“One, do judges have immunity? The answer is no. Can judges be arrested? The answer is yes. Have judges that are serving be arrested in Nigeria? The answer is yes. Justice Okoli had been arrested and tried.
“Now, the next question to ask is what is the proper procedure for arresting anybody including judges. There must be properly executing search warrant. Was such presented? The answer again is yes.
“People have tried to muddle the facts about when do you search the person’s house. The truth of the matter is that under the new criminal justice law, you can search anybody, anywhere, anytime.
“Again they have tried to muddle issues by trying to say that the NJC is the only authority that can attend to complaints and discipline. The answer once again is no.
“When a judge is accused of professional misconduct is quite different from what is happening now. If you suspect anybody including Governors who have immunity, they are still subject to investigations. So I want to make it clear, this government has the highest respect for judiciary and two we are not in any way trying to ridicule the judiciary.
“We are not painting the whole of the judges with the same brush but we also have a duty to fight corruption at whatever level and in doing so, we will do so within the ambit of the law.