A Lagos-based lawyer, Mr. Olukoya Ogungbeje, has instituted N50bn suit number, FHC/ABJ/CS/809/16, against President Muhammadu Buhari, the Department of State Services (DSS), and its Director-General (DG), Lawal Daura, among others for violating the rights of the judges whose houses were raided by DSS operatives between October 8 and 9.
Co-defendants in the suit filed before the Federal High Court in Abuja, on October 14, include the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, the Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Ibrahim Idris, and the National Judicial Council (NJC).
Ogungbeje stated that the arrest of the judges without recourse to the NJC was unlawful and amounted to humiliating them adding that the DSS operations violated the rights of judges under sections 33, 34, 35, 36, and 41 of the Constitution.
The Lawyer sought 10 prayers, among which is an order awarding N50bn against the defendants as “general and exemplary damages”.
Ogungbeje also sought to be awarded N2m as the cost of the suit.
Other prayers sought by the Plaintiff include an order compelling the DSS to return to the judges the sums of money recovered from them and perpetual injunction restraining the defendants from arresting, inviting, intimidating, or harrassing the judges with respect to the case.
The plaintiff contended in his suit that the raid on the residences of the judges and their arrest was unconstitutional, maintaining that their arrest did not follow the law.
In a 39-paragraph affidavit which he deposed to in support of the suit, he stated that, “The 1st (President Buhari), 2nd (DG of DSS), 3rd (DSS), 4th (AGF), and 5th (Inspector-General of Police) respondents against there is no petition by the affected to the 6th respondent (NJC).
“That the 6th respondent is the only body empowered by the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to discipline judges and judicial officers in Nigeria.
“That the judiciary is an independent arm of government in Nigeria and separate from the executive and the legislature.
“That this illegal and unconstitutional action by the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th respondents have been roundly condemned by the Nigerian Bar Association.
“That the 2nd (DG of DSS), 3rd (DSS), and 5th (IGP) respondents carried out their action which brazenly infringed upon the rights of the affected five judges without lawful excuse or recourse to the 6th respondent.
Recall that the DSS had, between Friday and Saturday, arrested Justices Sylvester Ngwuta and John Okoro of the Supreme Court; Justice Adeniyi Ademola of the Federal High Court, Abuja, and Justice Muazu Pindiga of the Federal High Court, Gombe Division.
Justice Nnnamdi Dimgba’s residence was also searched but he was not arrested.
Others who were arrested had been placed on suspension by the NJC pending the President Buhari and their various state governors would approve its recommendation for their sacking.
They are a former Chief Judge of Enugu State, Justice I. A. Umezulike, the Presiding Justice of the Court of Appeal, Ilorin Division, Justice Mohammed Tsamiya; and judge of the Kano State High Court, Justice Kabiru Auta.
The DSS said it recovered large sums of money in Nigerian and foreign currencies from three of the judges during the raid on the houses of the seven judicial officers.
All the seven of them had since been released on self-recognition by the DSS.
Meanwhile, Ogungbeje’s suit is restricted to five of the arrested judges who are still in active service, namely, Justices Ngwuta, Okoro, Ademola, Pindiga and Dimgba.