The Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed on Wednesday said there was nothing wrong in the arrest of judges’ in the fight against corruption.
Briefing State House correspondents at the end of Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting presided by President Mohammadu Buhari,he said:
“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 been 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 of the 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 complain and discipline, the answer once again is no,” he added.
“Some people are saying oh, the reason why they went to some particular judges house is because the President wants somebody from one part of the country to be Chief Justice of Nigeria. I think that is preposterous.
“I want to assure you that this government has no intention to humiliate the judiciary and for those who are talking about separation of power, I think you are stretching it too far. I and members of the Executive, I can be invited by any arm of the government and I will go. So I think we should situate this thing in the right perspective.” He added
He recalled when 22 out of 32 judges in Ghana, who were caught on tape by journalists asking for a bribe, were dismissed in 2015.
He added: “Yes it’s true that what is happening today has probably never happened at this level before but frankly speaking and with all due respect we do not intend to humiliate any judge, we have no intention to humiliate the judiciary but believe me what we have done we have done within the ambits of the law.
“I think the Federal Government is being very careful with handling of this particular issue, I want to state clearly that this government believes very much in separation of powers, this government has a lot of respect for the judiciary and for obvious reasons, not just because the constitution says so but I think probably this is one cabinet that has the highest number of lawyers as ministers.
“As at the last count about eleven or twelve council members are lawyers and we have female lawyers also in the cabinet until death robbed us of late Ocholi we had five SANs in our cabinet and I think this is unique, therefore you can understand the kind of respect we have for the judiciary.”
He also pointed out that the President himself, who sought to be President four times and had it thwarted three times, took his case to court on the three occasions.
“He took his case to the judiciary, so I can say clearly that this administration has a lot of respect for the judiciary and I think I stand by what Mallam Garba Shehu said that please do not confuse the fight against corruption as a fight against judiciary,” he added