The Federal Government on Wednesday said it was not unusual to step on sensitive toes in its current fight against corruption.
The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said this in an interview with State House correspondents at the end of a meeting of the Federal Executive Council presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
Mohammed was reacting to the outrage that has been trailing the recent arrests of judges and raids on their homes by officials of the Department of State Services.
While asking Nigerians to separate emotions from facts, the minister advised that the fight against corruption should not be mistaken for a fight against the judiciary.
He insisted that the arrests of the judges were carried out within the ambit of the law since they do not have immunity against investigation and prosecution.
He said the fact that about 11 of the President’s ministers are lawyers out of which about five are Senior Advocates of Nigeria showed that Buhari has a lot of respect for the judiciary.
Mohammed added that the fact that the President took the cases of his three failed attempts to become the President before the judiciary also demonstrated that he respects that arm of government.
The minister said, “Do not confuse the fight against corruption as a fight against judiciary. What the government is concerned and passionate about is to fight corruption.
“In the process of fighting corruption, it is not unusual that you step on some very sensitive toes but the question to ask and I think these has been adequately answered by the Attorney-General is that let’s remove emotion from facts.
“One, do judges have immunity? The answer is no. Can judges be arrested? The answer is yes. Have judges that are serving be arrested in Nigeria? The answer is yes. Justice Okoli had been arrested and tried.
“Now, the next question to ask is what is the proper procedure for arresting anybody including judges. There must be properly executing search warrant. Was such presented? The answer again is yes.
“People have tried to muddle the facts about when do you search the person’s house. The truth of the matter is that under the new criminal justice law, you can search anybody, anywhere, anytime.
“Again they have tried to muddle issues by trying to say that the NJC is the only authority that can attend to complaints and discipline. The answer once again is no.
“When a judge is accused of professional misconduct is quite different from what is happening now. If you suspect anybody including Governors who have immunity, they are still subject to investigations. So I want to make it clear, this government has the highest respect for judiciary and two we are not in anyway trying to ridicule the judiciary.
“We are not painting the whole of the judges with the same brush but we also have a duty to fight corruption at whatever level and in doing so, we will do so within the ambit of the law.”Punch