By Joshua Olalekan
The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) today said that it will conduct investigation into the invasion and arrest of some judges by the Department of State Services.
The NHRC said that the focus of the investigation would be to determine the alleged abuse and of the rights and privileges of the affected judges.
Executive Secretary of the Commission, Prof. Ben Angwe, stated this when he received some protesting lawyers under the umbrella of Lawyers in Defence of Democracy (LDD) in his office.
Angwe assured that the NHRC will not take side or take orders from anybody in conducting its investigation.
The Executive Secretary explained that the commission did not commence investigation of the matter before now because there was no petition before it.
He added that LDD petition would enable the commission take up the issue to determine the veracity of the allegation of human right abuses assuring that the commission will be fair to all parties concerned.
The convener of the protest, Ikenga Ugochinyere, who spoke at a press briefing prior to the visit to the NHRC office in Maitama area of Abuja said that his group rejected in its totality the call for the arrested judges to step aside.
Ugochinyere insisted that backing the call for the judges to step down would amount to victory for tyranny.
He noted that National Judicial Council (NJC) decision that the arrested judges should not resign until there is proper investigation and proof of evidence to establish prima facie case of corruption against the affected judicial officers.
The protesters demanded the DSS and other agencies immediately release from detention all those granted bail by the courts and who have fulfilled their bail conditions including compliance with all judgments and orders.
Continuing to hold such persons in disregard of court judgement, the group said, “is an affront on the authority of the judiciary, dictatorial and a desecration of the fundamental democratic principle of separation of powers.”
The group urged the NJC and the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) to direct all judges in the country to ignore any applications from the DSS and other agencies, except bail applications, until there is obedience to all pending orders against them.
It said that the Executive arm of government cannot be prosecutor and judge at the same time.
The group asked rhetorically, “Of what use are the courts if their orders cannot be enforced and obeyed by the state.”
The group further urged on the United Nations, United States, and UK Governments, NHRC, Amnesty International and the international community “to immediately call this regime to order and halt this drift to the edge of destruction of our democracy as any further delay could lead to irretrievable derailment of Nigeria’s democracy.”
The protest took off from the Merit House in Maitama to Federal High Court and a brief stop over at the National Assembly gate.
They were however prevented from gaining access to Aso Rock Villa by a horde of security operatives stationed close to the Villa.