The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) on Saturday, called for immediate release of the judges arrested by the Department of State Services (DSS) and also declared a state of emergency in the judiciary following the midnight arrest of some judges.
The declaration of the state of emergency was made on Saturday evening in Lagos by the NBA President, Abubakar Mahmoud (SAN).
Mahmoud addressed the press alongside four past presidents of the association – Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), Dr. Olisa Agbakoba (SAN); Mr. J.B. Daudu (SAN) and Augustine Alegeh (SAN).
Mahmoud said two Supreme Court justices, Inyang Okoro and Sylvester Ngwuta were “abducted”, with their families, adding that he had yet to have the full detail of other judges who could have been involved.
Mahmoud said the NBA condemned what it termed the Gestapo-style operation of the DSS.
He announced the constitution of an emergency or crisis management team, comprising past NBA presidents to engage with the government.
Mahmoud, who said it was not the responsibility of the DSS to arrest judges, described the DSS action as an unconstitutional means of intimidating the judiciary and undermining its independence.
The NBA President called on President Muhammadu Buhari to order the immediate release of the arrested judges, vowing that there would be consequences should the demand be ignored.
Mahmoud said, “I want to emphasise again that we are not under military rule and we cannot accept this unholy event and Gestapo-style operation.
“We, therefore, call on President Muhammadu Buhari to immediately caution all the state security agencies and to respect the rule of law and to respect due process.
“Any issues affecting the judicial officers, there are established procedures for handling them and we demand that this constitutional process must be obeyed.
“Given the unfolding nature of the event and the seriousness of the situation, the NBA hereby declares a state of emergency as it affects the affairs of the judiciary and I hereby constitute a crisis management team, comprising all past presidents of the association.
“I want to, on behalf of the association, make the very following clear and unequivocal demands: we demand the immediate and unconditional release of all the judges abducted from about 9pm yesterday (Friday).
“The release must be done immediately and without any conditions. Two, we demand that the Department of State Services should limit itself to its statutory and constitutional responsibilities.
“I’ll be meeting with the CJN later tonight or tomorrow. There will be consequences should these demands are not met.”