In an unprecedented sting operation, officers of the Department of State Security, DSS, carried out simultaneous late night raids on the homes of serving senior judges suspected of engaging in corrupt practices in six states on Friday and Saturday and recovered various sums totaling N360 million in the process.
The raids, on several homes in Abuja, Port Harcourt, Gombe, Kano, Enugu and Calabar have elicited shock from members of the legal profession was based on detailed investigations and monitoring of the “luxurious lifestyles” of some of the judicial officers, according to the DSS.
Our correspondent report that judges whose homes were raided include Sylvester Ngwuta and John Okoro of the Supreme Court as well as Adeniyi Ademola, and Nnamdi Dimgba of the Federal High Court in Abuja.
The residences of a Gombe State judge, Muazu Pindiga, as well as that of his counterpart from Sokoto state, Justice Samia, were also raided during the operation.
In Kano, insiders said the home of a high court judge, Kabiru Auta, was raided along with another residence in Enugu belonging to the Chief Judge of the state, A. I. Umezulike. The two judges were earlier recommended for retirement recently by the NJC.
At the residence of Justice Ademola, the DSS recovered at least $400,000 and N39 million in cash, in addition to documents of landed properties belonging to the federal high court judge.
The raid at Justice Mohammed Liman’s residence in Port Harcourt, was believed to be in possession of $2 million was aborted due to the intervention of the State Governor , Chief Nyesom Wike, who came with policemen and other security operatives to challenge the DSS officers.
The Department of State Services, DSS, said yesterday after the raids that it has recovered a total of N93, 558,000.00, $530,087, £ 25,970 (Pounds) 5,680 (Euro).
DSS disclosed that the recovered currencies came from just three judges besides other recovered currencies, banking documents and real estate documents.
Abdullahi Garba, DSS spokesman while addressing newsmen yesterday at its headquarters in Abuja said the successes were recorded as the service embarked on series of special sting operations involving some of the suspected judges of the supreme, appeal and federal high courts.
Against the backdrop of allegations of a ‘clampdown and Gestapo operations’ against DSS which was said to be carried out even without due invitation in line with the rule of law and constitution of the land, Garba debunked the allegations claiming ‘the judges involved were invited, upon which due diligence was exhibited and their premises searched’.
Further, the DSS spokesman explained that the conducted searches have so far uncovered huge cash of various denominations, local and foreign currencies, with real estate worth several millions of naira and documents affirming unholy acts by the judges under investigations.
Nevertheless, DSS said during interrogations that some of the judges have made useful statements while a few have denied even with the glaring evidence that were found against them in cash, documents and property recovered all allegedly pointing to their compromise.
In one of its operations where the two million United States dollars was recovered, DSS alleged that the suspected judge in concert with state governor mobilized thugs against them.
‘In one of the states where the service operations were conducted, credible intelligence revealed that the judge had two million United States Dollars stashed in his house. When he was approached for due search to be conducted, he in concert with the state governor, mobilized thugs against the service team. The team restrained itself in the face of unbridled provocative activities by those brought in by the governor, unfortunately, the judge and governor also engaged the tacit support of a sister security agency.
Not only was the operation of the service surveillance team frustrated but Garba said the judge with the active support of the governor craftily moved the money to an unknown location which the service said it is currently makingn effort to unravel. Investigations, however, revealed that the unnamed judge by DSS may be Justice Mohammed Liman, residing at No. 35 Forces Avenue in Port Harcourt, capital of Rivers state.
Operatives of the DSS had launched an overnight assault on the residential quarters of senior judges across the country between Friday and Saturday looking for evidence linking the judges to corruption. Reliable sources said the clampdown began in Gombe State where the SSS arrested Justice Muazu Pindiga who served on the elections tribunal in Rivers State.
The operation continued in Abuja on Friday night into early Saturday morning.
In Abuja, official quarters of Justices Sylvester Ngwuta and John Okoro of the Supreme Court were besieged by the SSS for several hours overnight. The operation continued into early Saturday morning.
Also in the capital, the SSS stormed the homes of Nnamdi Dimgba and Adeniyi Ademola, both of the Abuja Division of then Federal High Court, located inside the Apo Legislative Quarters.
Both judges are neighbours on Samuel Ogbemudia Street of the Apo quarters.
A source who did not want his name on print said Mr. Dimgba’s residence was surrounded on Friday night.
It is, hitherto, not clear why he was targeted but the judge recently gave a decision against the continued detention of a retired Air Commodore Mohammed Umar.
It was gathered that Mr. Umar was arrested following allegations of fraud, illegal possession of firearms and abuse of trust. He was granted bail with a bond of N100 million.
The DSS yesterday said the operation was based on allegations of corruption and other acts of professional misconduct and, that the action was in line with its core mandate, saying they have been monitoring the expensive and luxurious lifestyle of some of the judges as well as complaints from the concerned public over judgment obtained fraudulently for which some amounts of money was paid.
The state services also denied the rumour making the rounds that Justice Walter Nkanu Onnoghen was under any investigations and never was he invited.
Nonetheless, DSS has affirmed its respect for the judiciary, promised not to do anything that would undermine its activities and to join hands with the judiciary to fight corrupt judges across the country.
Special Assistant to the Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Mr. Ahuraka Isha when contacted for comments on the development, yesterday said;” I have no authority to speak on it yet”.