By Ayo DADA
THE STATEMENT OF THE NIGERIAN BAR ASSOCIATION ON THE RAID OF JUSTICE MARY ODILI’S RESIDENCE BY SECURITY OPERATIVES
The Nigerian Bar Association (“NBA”) received with grave concern the news of the unlawful siege on the Abuja residence of a Justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria, Honourable Justice Mary Ukaego Peter-Odili, last night by officers of one or more of the Nigerian security agencies.
Almost 24 hours later, information concerning the basis of the siege remains hazy and the subject of speculation, apart from reports that the invasion was pursuant to a search warrant issued by a Magistrate Court in Abuja, which search warrant has now been revoked.
The Honourable Attorney-General of the Federation under whose office the team that purportedly carried out the raid is allegedly domiciled has also denounced the team, which suggests the inference that the residence of the second most senior judicial officer in Nigeria was raided by rogue security agencies. The grave implications of this possibility leave a lot to be desired.
When viewed in the context of a similar raid on the premises of Supreme Court Justices in 2016, the rationale of which was never fully explained or indeed justified, the NBA interprets last night’s incident as a part of an orchestrated affront on the Judiciary, designed to intimidate and ridicule the Judiciary. The NBA will no longer allow this to continue.
In case the law enforcement agencies have not learnt their lessons, events like this do nothing but erode the independence of sacred democratic institutions like the Judiciary, undermine the rule of law in Nigeria, and set the country back in the quest to instill confidence in citizens of Nigeria, Nigerian businesses, and foreign investors that Nigeria operates a democracy with an independent Judiciary.
I have spoken with My Lord, Peter-Odili JSC and I am happy to report that she is alive and well. Beyond that however, it is my pledge to Nigerians that the NBA will get to the root of this matter.
To be clear, last night’s event is an affront on the Judiciary and grossly undermines the democracy that we profess to practise. In line with the aims and objectives of the NBA which include the protection and defence of the independence of the Judiciary and the Rule of Law in Nigeria, we will be convening an emergency meeting of the NBA National Executive Committee solely to discuss this issue and take a definitive stand on behalf of the NBA.
I will also lead a delegation to the Honourable Attorney-General of the Federation, Mr. Abubakar Malami, SAN and the relevant heads of security agencies to seek further clarification on the circumstances of this incident. Thereafter, the NBA will ensure that all those responsible for this unfortunate incident are brought to book. We must do all that is required to safeguard the independence of our Judiciary and indeed protect our hard-won democracy.
Nigerian Bar Association
30th October 2021
The question on the minds of every law abiding Nigerian is, on what premise was the house of a sitting JSC could be raided, especially with a fraudulent warrant, one that was illegally obtained ab initio?
Based on the facts available to Nigerians, does this mean that anyone can go to the authorities and say they observed illegal activity about someone else based on that lone testimonial for a judge to then issue a search warrant? Isn’t there a problem with this? Why wasn’t further investigation done after the initial whistleblower, Aliyu Umar, claimed to have observed illegal activities going on at No. 7, (not 9 which is justice Odili’s residence) Imo Street, Maitama, Abuja? If there was an investigation, Nigerians need to know, let them come out and prove this.
Conspiracy theorists are saying that the actions of the security agents is in retaliation for Rivers State going against the federal government for refusing to hand over the taxes they collect from their hard working citizens, that Nigerians know the region that benefits the most from the current VAT status quo.
A reliable source informed Mataz Arising that what he/she is hearing is that Justice Odili will be the one to choose the panel of Associate Justices to hear the VAT case that is surely going to come before the Supreme Court, that the powers that be want her out of the way for obvious reasons. This criminal action by the state security agencies is one to smear the accomplished judge and to tarnish her name.
Events that follow the botched attempt to embarrass and possibly criminalize Justice Odili with the fraudulent search warrant backfired when Chief Magistrate Emmanuel Iyanna of Wuse Zone 6 magisterial division in Abuja admitted that he was lied into signing the search warrant for the residence of a top Supreme Court jurist by the Federal Ministry of Justice under Attorney-General Abubakar Malami (“Willful misrepresentation to this honourable court”.)
Mr Iyanna consequently revoked the search warrant he approved against Justice Mary Odili’s residence due to misrepresentation on the first information/application supplied by an ad-hoc public asset recovery panel domiciled under the justice ministry and overseen by Mr Malami.
This development has elicited harsh criticisms of Mr Malami, whose controversial role in alleged anti-democratic moves of the administration contributed to his new status as a formidable force in President Muhammadu Buhari’s cabinet, some refer to him as the de-facto president.
In 2016, Mr Malami supported the State Security Service when its brutal personnel broke into the residences of over a dozen federal judges, including three of the Supreme Court at the time. The attorney-general also recently proposed the suspension of the Nigerian Constitution and the declaration of martial law in order to restore peace in volatile parts of the country. Also, his pronouncements against the anti grazing laws lawfully enacted by the southern states governors, his non adherence to court rulings and judgements against the federal government.
Malami did not just deny knowing anything about the search warrant and the siege on Justice Odili’s residence, but the agency that secured the warrant fraudulently and those that carried out the raid. This makes the raid comprehensively criminal. At times, this government seems to be notorious for denials and outright falsehood.
This is a very serious matter that the president must not sweep, or allowed to be swept under the carpet, the president must therefore take over the investigation and see it to a logical conclusion. Those found culpable must be punished accordingly; heads must roll.
The president can’t be silent now!
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