Senior Advocates of Nigeria, SANS of South East extraction, have condemned in strong terms, the unlawful raid on the Abuja residence of Hon Justice Mary Peter Odili, the second most Senior Justice of the Supreme Court.
In a statement signed by Professor Ilochi Okafor, SAN, Mr. Etigwe Uwa, SAN, and Mr. Chijiole Okoli, SAN, for and on behalf concerned SANs of South East extraction, they described the raid “as another frontal attack on the independence and integrity of the judiciary”
They also called for the arrest and prosecution of the perpetrators.
“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 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 was arrested and prosecuted for such brash criminal attack on the judiciary” part of their statement stated.
They recalled that “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 ongoing 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. 1969 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”
The SANs noted that “it amounts to executive infraction on the judicial independence to continue to harass, intimidate and humiliate judges, reiterating 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 culpable should be made to face the full wrath of the law” the statement concluded