The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) on Saturday, condemned the Friday’s siege laid by security operatives to the Abuja home of a Justice of the Supreme Court, Mary Odili.
In a statement issued on behalf of the association, the president, Olumide Akpata, described the act as an “affront on the judiciary, designed to intimidate and ridicule the judiciary”.
He said the association would hold an emergency meeting of its National Executive Committee (NEC) on the matter.
No date was disclosed in the statement.
“To be clear, last night’s event is an affront on the judiciary and grossly undermines the democracy that we profess to practise.
“In line with the aims and objectives of the NBA which include the protection and defence of the independence of the Judiciary and the rule of law in Nigeria, we will be convening an emergency meeting of the NBA National Executive Committee solely to discuss this issue and take a definitive stand on behalf of the NBA,” Mr Akpata said.
The NBA president also said he would lead a delegation to meet with the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF), Abubakar Malami, and the heads of the various security agencies.
This, he said, would be done, “to seek further clarification on the circumstances of this incident.”
‘Those responsible must be brought to book’
He added that the NBA would “ensure that all those responsible for this unfortunate incident are brought to book.”
“We must do all that is required to safeguard the independence of our judiciary and indeed protect our hard-won democracy,” he added.
Both the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the State Security Service (SSS), initially reported to have led the invasion of the judge’s home, have denied any involvement in the act.
The AGF, Mr Malami, who was indicated in court documents as the applicant who obtained the search warrant executed at Mrs Odili’s home on Friday, has also distanced himself from the event.
Mr Malami pointed out in his statement on Saturday that some “incongruities” in the court documents filed at the Chief Magistrate’s Court in Wuse Zone 6, Abuja, suggested that the documents could have emanated from his office.
Noting that a police officer appeared to have signed the document, Mr Malami called on “relevant authorities” to intensify investigations into the matter and prosecute anyone found to be culpable.
‘Rogue security agencies’
With Mr Malami’s denial on Saturday, the NBA president said this “suggests the inference that the residence of the second most senior judicial officer in Nigeria was raided by rogue security agencies”.
“The grave implications of this possibility leave a lot to be desired,” Mr Akpata said, as he recalled similar occurrence in 2016 when SSS operatives invaded the homes of many judges including two of the Supreme Court, and others of the Federal High Court.
“When viewed in the context of a similar raid on the premises of Supreme Court Justices in 2016, the rationale of which was never fully explained or indeed justified, the NBA interprets last night’s incident as a part of an orchestrated affront on the judiciary, designed to intimidate and ridicule the judiciary.
“The NBA will no longer allow this to continue.”
He expressed regrets that the law enforcement agencies had 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.”
‘Mrs Odili alive and well’
Meanwhile, Mr Akpata also said he had spoken with Mrs Odili, the wife of a former governor of Rivers State, Peter Odili, and second most senior Justice of the Supreme Court, and assured she was alive and well.
“I have spoken with My Lord, Peter-Odili JSC and I am happy to report that she is alive and well,” he said.
As the news broke on Friday, many reports quickly suggested that the security operatives’ invasion of Mrs Odili’s home was fuelled by reported EFCC’s investigations of her husband, who was Rivers State governor between 1999 and 2007.
The EFCC had made a move to prosecute Mr Odili but was barred by the Federal High Court which issued a perpetual injunction restraining EFCC and other security agencies from arresting him.
Recently, Mr Odili filed a suit at the Federal High Court in Abuja to challenge the seizure of his passport by the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) which claimed to have acted on EFCC’s instruction.
Delivering judgement in the suit earlier in October, the judge, Inyang Ekwo, ordered the NIS to release Mr Odili’s passport, while also affirming the previous court decisions prohibiting his prosecution. (Premium Times)