“Attack On Justice Mary Odili’s Residence Is Attack On Entire Judiciary” – SANs
Lawyers under the auspices of Senior Advocates of Nigeria of South-eastern Extraction, have condemned the recent raid of the residence of Justice Mary Peter Odili.
In a statement signed by Senior Advocates Ilochi Okafor, Etigwe Uwa and Chijioke Okoli, the group described the raid as yet another frontal attack on the independence and integrity of the Judiciary.
“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 Justices 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 has been arrested and prosecuted for such brash criminal attack on the judiciary.” the statement read.
It continued: “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 on-going 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. 1609) 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 group emphasised that it would amount to executive infraction on the judicial independence to continue to harass, intimidate and humiliate judges. “We want to further reiterate 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 sitting judicial officer without first referring the matter to the National Judicial Council, and await the directive of the Council”, it said.
It called on President Mohammadu Buhari to ensure an investigation of all security agents and other persons who played any role in the raid and that they be made to face the full wrath of the law.