*Says incident must not be swept under Nigeria’s carpet of deceit
By Alex Enumah in Abuja
The Body of Senior Advocates of Nigeria (BoSAN) on Thursday said only a Judicial Commission of Enquiry set up by President Muhammadu Buhari can reveal the real identities of those who invaded a courtroom of the Federal High Court, Abuja last Friday.
Courtroom number 7, presided over by Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu trying the convener of #RevolutionNow protest, Omoyele Sowore, over alleged treasonable felony charge was allegedly invaded by operatives of the Department of State Services (DSS) in their bid to rearrest Sowore, less than 12 hours after his release from detention.
The invasion since last Friday has received strong condemnation from both within and outside the country.
Although the security agency has continued to distance itself from the incidence, accusing Sowore and his supporters of staging the act, however, lead lawyer to Sowore, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN), and others maintained that evidence abound as to claims that the DSS actually carried out the act.
Just on Wednesday, the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), disclosed that the federal government has put machinery in place to prove the culpability or otherwise of the security operatives.
BoSAN warned that unless the truth is unravelled, Nigeria would lose respect and become an object of ridicule among the comity of nations.
The body gave the warning in a speech made at a special valedictory court session to mark the retirement of Justice Kumai Aka’ahs from the Supreme Court.
The event held at the headquarters of the Supreme Court in Abuja.
Chief Onomigbo Okpoko (SAN), who delivered the body’s speech, remarked that the incident with similar ones in the last three years points to the level of disregard to the rule of law and the judiciary.
“The Nigerian Bar Association has come up with a statement from the bar condemning the action. As members of the Nigerian Bar Association, the Body of Senior Advocate of Nigeria, associates itself with the condemnation of the show of shame.
“It will however go one step further to suggest that this matter should not be swept under the expanding carpet of deceit in Nigeria.
“The pertinent question is who was responsible for the action in the courtroom? This is a task that the government must carry out to ascertain the truth,” he said.
While stating that the Nigeria police being a sister organisation cannot investigate the matter thoroughly, he said even the Nigerian Army, Nigerian Customs Service and other paramilitary forces in the country cannot also do a thorough job.
Okpoko added that even the National Assembly is not sufficiently equipped to investigate the matter.
“The way out is an Independent Commission of Enquiry under the law. This can be achieved. The Body of Senior Advocates hereby demands that Mr. President considers without delay, the setting up of a Judicial Commission of Enquiry to hear publicly and determine the perpetrators of the acts, their sponsors and their objectives.
“Unless, this is done, Nigerians are unlikely to be convinced by any other explanations that the act was not the work of the DSS.
“It is the result of any such judicial inquiry that will lead to the reestablishment of discipline in the society. The DSS and its officers are not above the laws of the land and the constitution. In Nigerian law and in the common law, the superior orders is no defence to a criminal conduct. It has never been and this administration must not allow it to be,” the body said.
Also speaking at the occasion, the NBA President, Paul Usoro (SAN), condemned the persistent disobedience and flouting of court orders by the authorities in the country.
“We desecrate the temple of justice when we blatantly flout and disobey the orders of courts. A court that is made to be helpless in the face of flagrant disobedience of its orders is as useless to society as a toothless bulldog is to its owner.
“No one fears a bulldog that is known to be toothless. It has no capacity to keep away a marauding army or a band of invaders,” he said.
Usoro therefore tasked the government to imbibe the culture of respecting court orders and set a good example for the society.
Justice Aka’ahs bowed out of the nation’s judiciary at the apex court upon attainment of 70 years.