•Urges FG to fish out culprits, sponsors for prosecution
The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) yesterday described the recent invasion of the residence of a Supreme Court judge, Justice Mary Peter-Odili, by a mob as a debasement of the rule of law.
It said in a statement that not only was the action an attempt to intimidate the jurist but the judiciary.
Justice Peter-Odili headed a five-man panel that on February 13 unanimously upturned the victory of David Lyon as Bayelsa State governor-elect while hearing the case against the Deputy Governor-elect, Biobarakuma Degi-Eremienyo.
However, on February 18, a mob, carrying placards ostensibly protesting the judgment of the Supreme Court, invaded Justice Peter-Odili’s residence in Abuja.
But in the statement signed by its President, Mr. Paul Usoro (SAN), the NBA said it was disheartening to see that the country had descended very low.
The association expressed shock that since the invasion, it has not seen nor read any official statement from the executive branch of government condemning the incident.
It added that the attack was a further step towards the complete dismantling of the independence of the judiciary.
“That incident is nothing but an attempt to intimidate not only Peter-Odili, but the entire Nigerian judiciary. It amounts to a statement by the paymasters of the mob that they are prepared and able to move violently against any judicial officer or a panel of judicial officers who enter judgment in any matter against their perceived interest.
“It is a further step towards the complete dismantling of the independence of our judiciary. They, the paymasters of the mob, are serving notice on all judicial officers that they, the judicial officers, must, at all times, second-guess the wishes of the mob’s paymasters and tailor their judgments, rulings and decisions in conformance thereto, failing which, there may be disastrous consequences, including but not limited to organised mob actions.
“The NBA has not seen nor read any official statement from the executive branch of the federal government on the egregious invasion of the Abuja residence of Justice Peter-Odili,” it added.
The NBA said it had to single out the executive branch of government because it directly controls all the security and intelligence agencies and has the coercive competence to fish out not only the members of the mob that descended on Justice Peter-Odili’s residence, but the sponsors.
It noted that when the executive branch of government keeps quiet over such a grave infraction and blatant debasement of the judicial institution, it gives Nigerians cause for concern.
While calling on security agencies to fish out and bring to justice the members of the mob that invaded Justice Peter-Odili’s Abuja residence and their paymasters, the NBA urged the federal government to restore the confidence of Nigerians in the country’s collective commitment to the protection and promotion of the rule of law and its critical component, including the independence of thought of judicial officers.
“To be clear, the attack on Justice Peter-Odili is a collective attack on all of us and a flagrant erosion of the rule of law. This is a road that leads to anarchy and a complete system collapse.
“In any judicial decision, there must be winners and losers. To comprehend the abyss to which we are descending, it is worth reflecting on where we would all end up if all losers in judicial decisions were, henceforth, to rent their respective crowds with threatening posters and descend on the residences of the ‘culpable’ judicial officers.
“The rule of law, we must remember, is there to serve and protect all of us. Without it, we are all endangered and life would be totally reduced to the animal kingdom where might is right and life is short and brutish. “A critical component of that rule of law is the independence of thought of the judicial officers which must not be tampered with howsoever. Our judicial officers must be allowed their freedom of thoughts and opinion in the determination of cases and appeals before them. They must not be subjected to any form of intimidation or embarrassment.
“The executive branch owes us a duty to protect the independence of our judiciary and prevent the erosion of the rule of law. “The starting point as it relates to Justice Peter-Odili’s incident would be an unequivocal statement from the federal government condemning, in strong terms, the invasion of His Lordship’s residence by the mob.
“Beyond that, the security agencies must fish out and bring to justice the members of that mob that invaded Justice Peter-Odili’s Abuja residence and their paymasters.
“We need the executive branch to restore the confidence of Nigerians in our collective commitment to the protection and promotion of the rule of law and its critical component, to wit, the independence of thought of our judicial officers,” NBA said.