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Atiku, Southern groups condemn Justice Odili’s home raid

Former Vice President of Nigeria, Atiku Abubakar and several groups have continued to condemn the raid on the home of Justice Mary Odili of Nigeria’s Supreme Court.

Atiku, a former Presidential aspirant on the platform of Peoples Democratic Party(PDP) called the act “disgusting as it negates the ideals of a democratic society”.

In a press statement issued by the media office of the former Vice President Friday October 30, 2021, Abubakar said continuation of the notorious behaviour of security operatives conducting a raid on residences of senior judicial officers negates the ideals of a democratic society and an affront to the independence of the judiciary.

He said, “It is with utmost disgust that we continue to witness situations whereby law enforcement agencies conduct raids on residences of senior judges in the country. Irrespective of the investigations that they pursue, such practices give expression of professional misconduct and put our country in very poor images.

“It needs not be reiterated that this is a democratic republic and every organ of the state bureaucracy, especially the security agencies, must conduct themselves in responsibility to the people of Nigeria,” Atiku said.

The statement further calls for a discontinuation of such misconduct and asks for an apology to the victim of the current circumstance in the person of Justice Mary Odili, a probe of the circumstances that led to the raid and sanction of those involved in this disgraceful act.

A group, the Southern and Middle Belt Alliance (SaMBA) warned Security Agencies to desist from harassing Judges from the Southern region of the country.

The global group which advised the Security agencies to follow due process and route whatever complaint they may have to the National Judicial Council (NJC) noted that no agency of government is above the law.

They therefore call on President Muhammadu Buhari to not only lead by example, but should as a matter of urgency issue official query to any security agency found to be acting without following due process.

In a signed press statement issued by Prince Rwang Pam Jnr, the SaMBA’s official spokesman condemned the conduct of the security agents as undemocratic and unprofessional.

The group recalled the 2016 invasion of the residence of some Judges from SaMBA regions including Justices Sylvester Ngwuta and John Okoro of the Supreme Court, and Nnamdi Dimgba and Adeniyi Ademola, of the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court. SaMBA also recalled the unholy removal of the former Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Walter Onnoghen ahead of 2019 General Election.

The Group further warned against any plan to set up Justice Olukayode Ariwoola who is due to succeed the incumbent CJN in office.

The statement further reads, “The continuous harassment of Judges from Southern Nigeria can no longer be acceptable. It is disheartening that security agents could invade the residence of a Justice of Supreme Court without following laid down rules or procedure.

“The question that begs for answer is why the residence of Justice Mary Odili was invaded when the case of VAT collection instituted by Lagos and Rivers states at the Supreme Court is pending; is it an attempt to intimidate the judges and force her to give judgement in favour of the Federal Government?
“This intimidation of our judiciary is a clear attempt to compromise the independence of our third arm of government.

“We totally condemn this blatant attempt to intimidate and corrupt the judiciary and strongly advice Mr Abubakar Malami, the Attorney General and Minister of Justice to immediately fish out the culprits and make sure that adequate punishment is meted out to them to avoid future reoccurrence.

“The Nigeria populace will resist any attempt to northernize the Judiciary or any attempt to intimidate and frustrate Judges from Southern and Middle Belt region”, the statement stated further.

The Concerned Senior Advocates of Nigeria of Southeastern Extraction also  condemned in strong terms the unlawful raid on Justice Odili, who they regarded the second most senior Justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria.

In a statement signed by three senior advocates of Nigeria, Professor Ilochi Okafor SAN, Mr. Etigwe Uwa SAN, and Mr. Chijioke Okoli SAN, the group stated:

“We are worried that this event is part of a series of events aimed at systematically intimidating and emasculating the Judiciary . We recall similar raids by the EFCC, the DSS and other security operatives on the premises of Justices of the Supreme Court in 2016, and residence of some Judges of the Federal High Court, in Abuja. Despite these security agencies publicly stating the raids were on mistaken identity of the premises, no one has been arrested and prosecuted for such brash criminal attack on the judiciary. Similar raids by the DSS operatives had also taken place in the Courtroom of the Hon Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu of the Federal High Court while the Judge was sitting, to abduct a defendant in an on-going criminal case, and none of the perpetrators have been held accountable;

These consistent and systematic attacks of the judiciary by the executive is clearly in breach of the constitutional protection of judges and the judiciary. In particular, Section 158 and Paragraph 21 Part 1 of the Third Schedule of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 clearly empower the National Judicial Council with responsibility to handle all complaints and matters relating to judicial officers;

This position of the law has been confirmed in the case of NGANJIWA V FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA (2018) 4 NWLR (Pt. 1609) 301 where the Court of Appeal stated that “If any judicial officer commits a professional misconduct within the scope of his duty and is investigated, arrested and subsequently prosecuted by security agents, without a formal complaint/report to the NJC, it will be a usurpation of the latter’s constitutionally guaranteed powers under Section 158 and Paragraph 21 Part 1 of the Third Schedule, thereby inhibiting the NJC from carrying out its disciplinary control over erring judicial officers as clearly provided by the Constitution. … it is only when the NJC has given a verdict and handed over such judicial officer (removing his toga of judicial powers) to the prosecuting authority that he may be investigated and prosecuted by the appropriate security agencies”;

We re-emphasis that it amounts to executive infraction on the judicial independence to continue to harass, intimidate and humiliate judges. We want to further reiterate in clear terms that in view of the constitutionally guaranteed doctrine of independence of the Judiciary, no security agency or prosecuting authority in Nigeria has the power to investigate, arrest, or prosecute a siting judicial officer without first referring the matter to the National Judicial Council, and await the directive of the Council;

We call on the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to immediately direct investigation of all security agents and other persons who played any role in this assault on the Judiciary and any persons found cupable should be made to face the full wrath of the law”.

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