President Muhammadu Buhari’s office on Monday defended the arrests of senior judges as part of Nigeria’s campaign against corruption.
At least four and as many as seven judges from the country’s highest courts were arrested over the weekend by the Department for State Security (DSS), leading to concerns about the independence of the judiciary.
“The presidency has received assurances from the DSS that all due processes of the law, including the possession of search and arrest warrants, were obtained before the searches,” presidential spokesman Garba Shehu said in a statement.
“To suggest that the government is acting outside the law in a dictatorial manner is to breach the interest of the state.”
The arrests have been portrayed as being part of Buhari’s anti-corruption drive. However, the policy of seeking out unscrupulous officials has been criticized for concentrating on figures linked to the previous government of President Jonathan Goodluck.
The National Judicial Council has demanded the immediate release of the arrested judges and the Nigerian Bar Association accused the police of abducting the judges in a “Gestapo-style operation”.
However, Shehu said the “surgical operation… is specifically targeted at corruption and not at the judiciary as an institution.”
On Saturday, DSS spokesman Abdullahi Garba said the raids were launched after allegations of professional misconduct. He said cash worth $871,000 had been seized during the operation.
“We have been monitoring the expensive and luxurious lifestyle of some of the judges, as well as complaints from the concerned public over judgments obtained fraudulently and on the basis of money paid,” he said.