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Who is Afraid of Justice Mary Peter-Odili?

Who is Afraid of Justice Mary Peter-Odili?


The primitive use of force on defenceless citizens and the treatment of the judiciary with disdain as evidenced in the recent raid on the residence of a Supreme Court judge, Justice Mary Peter-Odili, and the October 2016 midnight invasion of the homes of some respected justices, are only prevalent in a fascist state. Ejiofor Alike wonders why Justice Odili, who has barely six months to retire after a glorious career has suddenly become a threat that should be destroyed by the enemies of the rule of law who are masquerading as agents of a democratic government

The ugly treatment being meted to judicial officers and other defenceless citizens by the agents of this present administration has lent credence to the fears expressed in some quarters that Nigeria is increasingly sliding to a fascist state.

It is under this present dispensation that security agents with official endorsements break fences and remove doors at the residences of unarmed citizens in midnight raids to effect arrests or execute suspicious search warrants.

The fact that the present government does not respect the rule of law had manifested in the early life of the administration when on Friday, October 7 and Saturday, October 8, 2016, the agents of the administration broke into the homes of some Supreme Court justices, and other judges, at midnight.

Justices Sylvester Ngwuta and Inyang Okoro, both of the Supreme Court; the then suspended Presiding Justice of the Court of Appeal, Ilorin Division, Justice Mohammed Tsamiya; Justice Kabiru Auta of the Kano State High Court and now retired Justice Adeniyi Ademola of the Federal High Court, Abuja, were all arrested.

Others arrested were a former Chief Judge of Enugu State, the late Justice Innocent Umezulike, and Muazu Pindiga of the Federal High Court, Gombe Division.

The operatives also raided the home of the immediate past CJN, Justice Walter Onnoghen, who had then been pencilled as the next Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) and second in rank to the then incumbent CJN.

Following public outcry and strong speculations that the raid on Onnoghen was to stop a southerner from becoming the next CJN, the enemies of democracy quickly beat a retreat, explaining that they entered his premises in error.

Onnoghen and Ngwuta were said to be neighbours at the Judicial Officers’ Quarters in Abuja.

However, the attempt by the operatives to arrest a Federal High Court judge in Port Harcourt, was foiled by the Rivers State Governor, Mr. Nyesom Wike, who had rushed to the judge’s residence to rescue him from the invaders.

With the relevant authorities admitting authorising the raid, nobody was sanctioned for such brazen assault on the priests of the temple of justice.

The apparently helpless CJN at that period, Justice Mahmud Mohammed, had at the valedictory court session held in honour of a retiring Justice of the Supreme Court, Justice Suleiman Galadima, described the midnight raid on the homes of the judges as “very saddening and deeply regrettable, ….distressing and unfortunate incident.”

But the Department of State Services (DSS), which carried out the assault, described it as a “sting operation.”

Expectedly, many Nigerians who were still hoodwinked by the hoax anti-corruption posture of this administration had either kept mute or hailed the brazen assault on democracy, misconstruing it as a fight against corruption.

When the DSS operatives repeated the assault on democracy by laying siege to the National Assembly on Tuesday, August 7, 2018, the new Sheriff in charge, the then Acting President Yemi Osinbajo, sacked their Director General, Mr. Lawal Daura.

With this administration’s obvious disdain to the rule of law, the raid on Justice Odili’s home did not come as a surprise.

The federal government had looked the other way when a gang of thugs invaded her residences in Abuja and Port Harcourt on Friday, February 14, and Tuesday, February 18, 2020 and subjected her to unwarranted intimidation.

The hoodlums had claimed that they were dissatisfied with her judgment in an appeal that was decided by a full panel of Justices of the Supreme Court of Nigeria.

The apex court had on February 13, 2020, nullified the victory of Mr. David Lyon of the All Progressives Congress (APC) as governor of Bayelsa State and ordered that his opponent, Senator Douye Diri of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Senator, be sworn-in as governor.

A clearly sponsored protest was staged blockading her home in Abuja, condemning her role in the delivery of the judgment.

However, despite all the condemnations and calls for the arrest of the invaders, they enjoyed official protection.

Human rights activists, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN) had disclosed that it was the failure of the federal government to arrest the first invaders of her residence that encouraged the security operators to embark on the latest assault on her.

The respected Supreme Court judge was on Friday, October 29, 2021, subjected to further intimidation in the same house by a combined team of security operatives, who were purportedly executing a search suspicious warrant.

The invaders comprising over 50 armed operatives said they were from the Joint Panel on Recovery in the Federal Ministry of Justice headed by the Attorney-General of the Federation.

A witness, Aliyu Umar, said in an affidavit dated October 13, 2021, that he had given the information that illegal activity was going on in that residence to the EFCC.

In a second affidavit deposed to by a senior police officer, CSP Lawrence Ajodo, the panel applied to a chief magistrate in Abuja seeking a search warrant for the house.

But Chief Magistrate Emmanuel Iyanna, who issued the warrant of arrest later turned round to revoke it on the grounds that he was misled by the office of the Attorney-General of the Federation.

The Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami; Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the DSS have denied involvement in the intimidation of the second most senior justice of the apex court.

Malami and the Inspector General of Police (IG), Usman Alkali Baba have since promised investigation.

Baba has also disclosed that the operatives who raided the residence of Supreme Court judge had been arrested.

But most Nigerians do not trust such promises of arrest and investigation, which had been used in the past to bury similar issues under the carpet.

There is no strong indication that the identity of the senior government officials, who ordered the raid will be revealed soon.

It is gratifying to note that the Supreme Court has taken up the challenge to conduct independent probe and fight for the independence of the judiciary.

In a statement by its Director of Press and Information, Dr. Festus Akande, the apex court warned that judiciary should not be misconstrued by any individual or institution of government as the weeping child among the three arms of government.

The statement recalled painfully, the ugly memory of the October 2016 midnight invasion of the homes of some respected justices, insisting that there were no satisfactory explanations as to the true motive behind such brazen assault.

While insisting that “enough is enough,” the apex court said it has commenced a full-scale independent investigation to unravel those behind the invasion as well as the real motives behind it.

Many conspiracy theories are being peddled as to the reasons why some uncomfortable government officials want to get Justice Mary Peter-Odili out of the way and only an independent probe can unmask the men behind the masks.

Any investigation initiated by the AGF, IG and the EFCC may only end up recommending punishment for the security officials who merely acted on directives.

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