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Posers over raid on Justice Mary Odili’s home

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That fake armed members of a questionable ‘Joint Panel Recovery Unit’ allegedly on a mission to stop ‘illegal activities’ uncovered by a whistleblower stormed the Maitama, Abuja home of a judge of the Supreme Court, Justice Mary Odili, the second most senior judicial officer in Nigeria and laid siege to it for five hours unchallenged by legitimate security operatives recently, is not only shameful but clearly an affront on the independence and integrity of the judiciary, the rule of law, separation of powers and serious threat to democratic values.

 

Equally very intriguing is the fact that the scammers secured a genuine search warrant from Chief Magistrate Emmanuel Iyanna, who later revoked it after the damage had been inflicted but still carrying out his official duties without any query from his superiors since October 29.

 

Perhaps, most puzzling was the recent disclosure by the Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Usman Alkali Baba, that the Chief Registrar of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) flatly turned down his request that the controversial Magistrate be released to explain the ignoble role played in the invasion in furtherance of current Police investigation, which unfortunately, speaks volume to possible complicity of some powerful forces that might have masterminded the Gestapo manner, operation.

 

Rather than allow Iyanna  appear in person before the investigators, according to the Super Cop, his statement was submitted to the Police, a move we consider as very offensive and apparently a deliberate ploy to obstruct the course of justice on the matter that has continued to attract outrage from both within and outside the country.

 

However, given the dimension the invasion has assumed so far, it is imperative that the Nigeria Police Force intensifies its ongoing investigation into the attack with a view to getting to the root of the tragedy  as well as bringing all those directly and indirectly involved to face the full wrath of the law.

 

We insist that the Police should look beyond the initial 14 suspects paraded recently, as well as those still on the run in getting justice for Justice Mary Odili, who has spent over 10 years of her career at the apex court and expected to bow out of the Supreme Court by May 12 next year when she would have attained the statutory retirement age of 70 years.

 

In other words, we can’t foreclose the possibility of desperate individuals or groups who may be hell bent on tainting the hard-earned reputation of the learned justice over the decades on the Bench few months to her retirement with a view to rendering  her ineligible for future national service. This must be resisted by all right-thinking Nigerians.

 

It is instructive to note that before her elevation to the Supreme Court on June 23, 2011, Hon. Justice Mary Ukaego Odili had previously served as Judge, High Court of Rivers State, Justice, Court of Appeal, Abuja Judicial Division and Presiding Justice, Court of Appeal, Kaduna Division.

 

It should be further noted that in what seems like a calculated onslaught against the Odilis, prior to the recent attack, the international passport of Mary’s husband and former Rivers State Governor, Dr. Peter Odili, was in June seized by the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) shortly on his return to the country from a foreign trip on the flimsy excuse that he was on the ‘watch list’ of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC.

 

However, he got a reprieve when the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja ordered the immediate release of the travelling document on October 18 barely 11 days to the raid on October 29.

 

According to verifiable records, Justice Odili, Commander of the Federal Republic, CFR, has an unblemished career in the hallowed Bench, possesses all the attributes of a fearless jurist, intelligent, courageous, and above all a woman of integrity, dispensing justice to all without fear or favour.

 

These  rare qualities which are uncommon in our country, in our opinion, might have drawn the ire of some influential and powerful interests in the polity who probably want to obtain a pound of flesh from the justice towards the tail end of an amazing career in the public service.

 

We believe that the recent attack on the justice must not be treated with kid gloves like was the case with desecration of the nation’s temple of justice and its officers when in 2016, the homes of her colleagues, late Justice Sylvester Ngwuta, Justice John Okoro and others during sting operations over alleged corruption apparently in what observers believed was a ploy  to arm-twist the judiciary and set the stage for the endorsement of a culture of impunity that characterized the 2019 elections.

 

The point that must be made and very strongly too is that the intimidation and harassment of Justice Odili, just like her colleagues in the Supreme Court and Federal High Court  in the past, cannot be regarded as mere executive excesses but a flagrant assault on judicial independence, and clearly aimed at further weakening judicial independence and the rule of law which portends grave omen not only for the judiciary regarded as the last hope of the common man but for the country.

 

Sadly however, the latest invasion is unique as is being attributed to fake security officers and other accomplices one of who has insisted that he is consulting for the Attorney-General of the Federation and Justice Minister,  Abubakar Malami (SAN), a charge the latter had vehemently denied.

 

Whereas Malami was also the Justice Minister when security agents invaded the homes of justices on alleged corruption but for which no conviction had been secured also under his watch till date, most of the invaders in the October raid have been arrested and paraded by the Force spokesman, Commissioner of Police, Frank Mba. They include the leader of the operation, ‘Chief Superintendent of Police’ Lawrence Ajojo, who admitted that he was an impostor; a lawyer, Alex Onyekoro; a cleric and whistleblower, Aliyu Umar, and Stanley Nkwazema, who claimed to be a freelance journalist with ThisDay  Newspaper.

 

However, the public outcry that has trailed the invasion is commendable especially its total condemnation by the Supreme Court, the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, the National Assembly, Governor Nyesom Wike and leaders of thought of Rivers State ,who have separately advocated that the Police get to the root of the invasion in order to bring all perpetrators to justice as quickly as possible to avoid a recurrence.

 

Although it is premature to apportioning blame on the disgraceful attack, Wike’s allusion that the motive  of the invaders may have been to assassinate the justice, her husband and children is instructive and should serve as a lead to the Police ,while assurances by  the NBA President, Mr. Olumide Akpata, to “ensure that all those responsible for this unfortunate incident are brought to book” as well as “do all that is required to safeguard the independence of our judiciary and indeed protect our hard-won democracy,” is equally commendable.

 

According to him, the attack portrayed our law enforcement agencies as having not learnt their lessons, adding that “events like this do nothing but erode the independence of sacred democratic institutions like the judiciary, undermine the rule of law in Nigeria, and set the country back in the quest to instill confidence in citizens of Nigeria, Nigerian businesses, and foreign investors that Nigeria operates a democracy with an independent judiciary.”

 

But the matter, in our view, has been made less complicated after both the EFCC and the Department of the State Security services (DSS), initially reported to have led the invasion of the judge’s home, swiftly denied any involvement in the act even before the arrest and parade of 14 suspects.

 

We demand that the Police should not leave any stone unturned in apprehending the other fleeing suspects in connection with the raid in order to send a stern signal to criminals plotting similar illegal activities in future as well as reassure judicial officers of their continued safety any where they may reside across the country in their dogged defence of the rule of law and fundamental human rights of the citizens.

 

In case Nigerians have forgotten, the proponents of the doctrine of Separation of Powers between the executive, legislature and judiciary had very good intention of preventing too much concentration of power in one arm of government by providing for checks and balances among the three thereby curbing the dominance of one institution over the others, which the invasion of Justice Odili’s home has clearly breached.

The fact that the security agencies constitutionally charged with the power of coercion are controlled by the executive should not be a licence for the power-that-be to dominate and intimidate the other arms of government in the interest of peace, national cohesion, good governance, socio-economic and technological growth of the country.




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