Mahmud Mohammed, the Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, has confronted President Muhammadu Buhari in a face-to-face meeting in the Presidential Villa following the weekend crackdown on federal judges and two Supreme Court justices by the country’s secret police.
The Trent exclusively reports.
The meeting, which held in the morning of Monday, October 10, 2016, was at the instance of the Honourable Justice Mohammed, multiple sources reveal.
Present at the meeting were Lawal Daura, the director-general of the Department of State Security Services, DSS, which serves as the country’s secret police and the president of the National Industrial Court of Nigeria, Babatunde Adejumo.
Our findings are that the meeting was very tense and the chief justice did not mince words when addressing the president on the matter. The visibly infuriated CJN tongue-lashed the president for violating the democratic principles of separation of powers and assuming the unconstitutional status of “supervisor” of the judiciary, an independent arm of government.
Justice Mohammed accused President Buhari of victimizing the judges targeted in the midnight crackdown by the DSS for refusing to be intimidated by the secret police over the matters of the election petitions of Rivers and Akwa Ibom states.
According to one of our top inside sources, the CJN exposed a series of scare and intimidation tactics carried out by the DSS director general, a kinsman to President Buhari, to make the bench bow to its wishes and overturn the judgement against the current governors of two oil-rich states.
Mohammed expressly accused the DSS DG of using the name of President Buhari in carrying out what he called an “unprecedented attempt to influence the bench and pervert justice” in the country. The president was visibly upset by the revelations and repeatedly denied knowledge of such harassment of of judges by the DSS.
Mr. Daura attempted to deny knowledge of such subterranean moves and claimed that the judges that were arrested, in what the secret police wrongly termed as “sting operation”, were corrupt. A claim which saw the CJN shout him down telling him to shut up and sit down.
After lambasting the secret police boss, Justice Mohammed proceeded to unreel instances in which Daura contacted judges handling the election petition cases claiming that ruling in favour of the All Progressives Congress, APC, candidates was “what President Buhari wanted”. Again, the president denies issuing such instructions.
The CJN also revealed that the minister of transportation, Rotimi Amaechi offered the judges millions of dollars to overturn their ruling on the two election petitions. He said the honourable justices rebuffed Amaechi because they were hellbent on delivering a sound judgment on the cases which had been unduly sensationalised by politicians.
Justice Mohammed revealed that Amaechi also said that he was acting on the orders of the president and that in actual fact, the judges arrested over the weekend were those who refused to be corrupted by the DSS and Amaechi and insisted on preserving the independence and integrity of the bench.
On this revelation, Buhari presented a disturbed contenance, our sources say. The president requested that the CJN puts down his position which we are reliably informed has been done.
Insiders revealed to The Trent that the climate in Aso Rock is unusually tense following the posture and damning revelations by the CJN.
There are whispers in the corridors that based on the gravity of the allegations against the DSS director and Amaechi, Buhari may let go of the duo to “clear his name from the embarrassing episode’, a top security source told our reporter.
Justice Mohammed went on to describe the DSS action as “very saddening”, “deeply regrettable” and a “distressing and unfortunate” incident when he later addressed the valedictory court session held in honour of a retiring Justice of the Supreme Court, Suleiman Galadima. The attorney general of the federation and minister of justice, Abubakar Malami was conspicuously absent at the event on Monday.
In the early hours of Saturday, October 8, 2016, operatives of the county’s secret police invaded the homes of a number of senior judges and abducted some of them from the homes under the guise of an anti-corruption battle.
“My lords, invited guests, ladies and gentlemen, not to detract from this occasion, it is indeed very saddening and deeply regrettable, the distressing and unfortunate incident which occurred on Friday, October 7 and Saturday, October 8, 2016,” Mohammed said at the valedictory court session held in honour of a retiring Justice of the Supreme Court, Suleiman Galadima
President Buhari appointed Lawal Daura, his kinsman from his hometown in Katsina on July 2, as head of the DSS after firing Ita Ekpeyong. Daura was recalled from retirement as he had retired from the service of the DSS when he reached the mandatory age of 60 according to the Civil Service rules of Nigeria. He is also a member of Buhari’s political party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) and served on the security committee for Buhari’s presidential campaign.
While the election petitions were being heard at the courts, the INEC resident electoral commissioners (RECs) for Akwa Ibom, Austin Okojie, was detained and tortured for 13 days and his Rivers State counterpart, Gesila Khan , was also detained for two weeks by Nigeria’s secret police. The harassment, detention, and torture of electoral officials of the two oil rich states was reportedly connected with the interest of President Buhari in reclaiming electoral victory from main opposition party, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in those states.
None of the INEC officials detained by the DSS have been charged with any crime and the election petitions were eventually ruled in favour of the PDP by the Supreme Court.