Critics of the Buhari administration continue to protest the October 8-9 Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) arrest of judges, including some from the Supreme Court, for corruption. Initially, the focus was on the rough “Gestapo style” way the arrests were carried out. Now, critics see the arrests as compromising the independence of the judiciary, in theory one of three co-equal branches of government.
The issue is that the EFCC is part of the executive branch of government. But, it is the National Judicial Council (NJC) that is charged with questions of removal: the NJC is empowered to “recommend to the president the removal from office of the judicial officers… and to exercise disciplinary control over such officers.” So, the argument is that the EFCC (or any other investigating agency) should turn over its findings to the NJC, which would then take appropriate action. Even supporters of the Buhari administration are suggesting that the EFCC must follow the law, even while they are not directly criticizing the arrests.
The Buhari government faces a dilemma. Judges are widely perceived as corrupt, and indeed the EFCC October 8-9 arrests turned up large amounts of cash (in Naira, U.S. dollars, British Pounds, and Euros) in at least one judge’s residence. Yet, the NJC does not appear to have been especially vigilant with respect to judicial corruption.