Nigeria’s Supreme Court on Tuesday said the raid on the Abuja residence of Justice Mary Peter-Odili, a justice of the apex court and next in line to the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), was “impunity taken too far.”
The Supreme Court, in a statement by its Director of Information, Dr. Festus Akande, warned that the judiciary should not be misconstrued by anyone or institution of government as the weeping child among the arms of government.
It was the first reaction of the Supreme Court to the incident, which occurred on Friday.
Over 50 security operatives, comprising personnel of the Nigeria Police and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), had invaded Odili’s house situated at 7 Imo River Street, Maitama, Abuja.
While the action of the security agencies came under heavy criticism, the Nigeria Police, EFCC, and Attorney General of the Federation denied involvement in the incident.
Even the Magistrate, who issued the search warrant upon which the said security operatives under the AGF acted, claimed he was misled and subsequently revoked the search order.
The apex court described the action of the security operatives as uncivilised and a shameful show of primitive force on an innocent judicial officer.
The statement said, “We are alarmed with the news of the unwarranted and despicable raid on the official residence of one of our senior justices in the Supreme Court, Hon. Justice Mary Peter Odili on Friday October 29, 2021 in a Gestapo manner.
“The attack unfortunately depicted a gory picture of war by some armed persons suspected to be security operatives representing different agencies of government who seemed to have come to kill and maim their target under the guise of undertaking a search whose warrant was questionable and baseless.
“We are deeply saddened and taken aback by this uncivilised and shameful show of primitive force on an innocent judicial officer that has so far spent several years of her productive life serving the country she calls her own.
“This incident brought back, rather painfully, the ugly memory of the October 2016 midnight invasion of the homes of our respected justices with no satisfactory explanations as to the true motive behind such brazen assault on our collective sensibility.
“We wish to make it abundantly clear that the Nigerian Judiciary is the third arm of the government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and should be respected and treated as such.”
It added, “We have had a full dosage of this fusillade of unwarranted and unprovoked attacks on our judicial officers and even facilities across the country and we say it loudly now that enough is enough.
“The judiciary should never be misconstrued by any individual or institution of government as the weeping child among the three arms of government that must always be chastised and ridiculed to silence because of our conservative disposition.
“Though there have emerged discordant tunes from the various security agencies that allegedly participated in the dastardly act, we are not lying low on this dehumanising treatment meted out to one of our own.”
The statement disclosed that the apex court had commenced a full-scale independent investigation to unravel those behind the attack as well as their real motives.
It called on the Inspector General of Police to rise up to the occasion by carrying out a discreet investigation and make his findings known to the public with a view to bringing the perpetrators to justice as quickly as possible.
The statement added, “The Nigerian judiciary cannot only bark, but can also bite. We can no longer be treated with disdain and levity. The rule of law and constitutionality must govern our conduct so that we can tag along with the comity of nations and be taken seriously, too.”
Meanwhile the Body of Senior Advocate s of Nigeria (BOSAN), yesterday met with the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN, and demanded for a thorough investigation into the siege on the house of the justice. The group, led by a foremost senior lawyer, Chief Adegboyega Awomolo, condemned the act, warning that the development is a threat to the independence of the judiciary and the nation’s democracy.
They insisted that government must uncover those behind the act.
The senior advocates said, “We have come to see the AGF concerning the unfortunate and ugly invasion of the residence of Justice Mary Odili of the Supreme Court last Friday by yet to be identified security operatives.
“When judges’ lives, careers, security and safety, when their independence is threatened, then democracy is also threatened.
“The AGF has said he did not have knowledge of the incident and he had written a letter of complaint to the Inspector General of Police for a thorough investigation as demonstration of his sincerity.
“He said he is open to be investigated if there is any information that connects him to the incident.
“We are going to meet with the Chief Justice of Nigeria and let him know that the Body of SANs is very concerned about the lives, security and safety of our judicial officers anywhere and everywhere.
“This incident appears to be in isolation but we cannot let it be swept under the carpet. The incident must be investigated and investigated thoroughly. Nigerians are interested in this matter. It should not be politicised; it’s a matter of grave, political and constitutional importance.
“There are three arms of government: the executive, the legislature and judiciary. One is not supposed to be in ambush or overriding the other or threaten the other’s existence, otherwise democracy is at risk.”
Reacting, the AGF exonerated himself, saying he is open to investigation.
“Neither the federal government nor the office of the AGF is involved in the invasion of the Abuja home of Justice Mary Odili,” the AGF said.
In a related development, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) alleged that the invasion was part of a renewed plot by the All Progressives Congress (APC) to hijack the 2023 election. The party described the attack on Odili as horrendous, rascally, irresponsible, and unjustified, insisting that it should not be swept under the carpet on the guise of misleading whistleblower operation.
In a statement by the outgoing National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Kola Ologbondiyan, the party stated, “This is more so as the paw prints of the APC are visible in the incident, in its desperation to cow the judiciary and subvert the cause of justice ahead of the 2023 elections.
“It is clear that the attack on Justice Odili is part of a renewed script by the APC. Nigerians will recall how, ahead of the 2019 election, former Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen, was clandestinely yanked off from his hallowed chamber, preparatory to the massive rigging that characterised the 2019 presidential election.”
The PDP said Nigerians could equally recall how respected judges were assaulted by the APC administration through obnoxious sting operations in a bid to arm-twist the judiciary and set the stage for the endorsement of a culture of impunity that characterized the 2019 elections.
PDP cautioned the APC and the presidency “to know that times have changed as Nigerians are not ready to stomach a repeat of APC’s coordinated assault on the institutions of democracy, but will firmly resist them with every means available within the ambit of the law.”
The party also urged, “The judiciary to remain firm and not be deterred by the suppressive proclivities of the fizzling APC, that has since been rejected by Nigerians.”
Chuks Okocha and Alex Enumah in Abuja