Shock, anger, and condemnation have continued to trail the invasion by security agents of the Abuja home of Supreme Court justice, Mary Peter-Odili. Reports indicate that some security operatives had, on Friday night, laid siege to her residence based on information that “illegal activities” were going on there. They claim to have been authorised by a search warrant from an unknown magistrate.
Since the incident, the Ministry of Justice, Economic, and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Department of State Service (DSS), and the Police have been in a frenzy trying to exonerate their agencies from that shameful over- handedness.
We also recall that in 2016, operatives of the Department of State Service (DSS) had invaded residences of some judges in Abuja, Port Harcourt, and Gombe in a bid to arrest them for offences that are not clear even till now. The crackdown was said to have begun in Gombe State with the arrest of Justice Muazu Pindigi.
The DSS Operatives also invaded the Abuja homes of two Supreme Court Justices, Walter Onnoghen and Sylvester Ngwuta. Not done, they proceeded to the Abuja homes of two judges of the Federal High Court, Justices Adeniyi Ademola, and Nnamdi Dimgba.
We recall that the invasion was viewed from the prism of the executive wanting to intimidate another arm of government in a veiled political move preparatory to the 2019 election. This in utter disregard for the democratic norm that encourages strengthening of institutions to ensure independence among the three arms of government.
It is gratifying to note that the recent invasion of Justice Odili has been condemned in various quarters. The Supreme Court management said the invasion which “depicted a gory picture of war” appeared like a mission to kill or maim her. It said the raid carried out under the guise of undertaking a search based on a “questionable and baseless” warrant was “uncivilised and shameful”. In the opinion of the apex court, it was impunity taken too far.
The Supreme court said the judiciary is the third arm of the government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and “should be respected and treated as such”. It added that the judiciary should never be misconstrued by any individual or institution of government as the whipping child among the three arms of government that must always be chastised and ridiculed to silence because of its conservative disposition.
Sequel to this unfortunate development, the Inspector General of Police, IGP Usman Alkali Baba, is reported to have ordered a detailed investigation into the ill-advised invasion of the Abuja residence of Justice Odili. He noted that the leadership of the Force was not aware of it and did not, at any time, order Police operatives to carry out such assignment. He described the reported violation of the sanctity of the residence of the Justice of the Supreme Court as unfortunate and unacceptable. Baba directed the Force Intelligence Bureau (FIB) to conduct a discrete investigation into the incident.
To be sure, this newspaper is not averse to security agencies investigating judges or lawmakers who have infringed on the law. But we are totally against the Gestapo-like manner of this invasion and the one in 2016 was conducted.
In the considered opinion of this newspaper, our security agencies must learn how to carry out their operations within the ambit of the law. The rule of law should be their watchword. Breaking into people’s homes in the middle of the night in the guise of fighting crime in an era of rising insecurity is, in our view, primitive and should be condemned by all right-thinking Nigerians.
Indeed, the invasion of the residence of Justice Odili who is the second most senior Supreme Court justice is shameful, reprehensible and we insist that it must not be swept under the carpet. While the nation awaits the outcome of the investigation by the Police, we urge the Presidency to check the excesses of some branches of the executive arm. It is embarrassing, to say the least, that a mere magistrate, an unknown one for that matter, had the temerity to authorise the humiliation of a Supreme Court Justice. From unknown gunmen to unknown magistrate. We are, indeed, making progress.
One of the major reasons why impunity reasons continue to thrive in the country is that the perpetrators are not punished. The perpetrators of the 2016 invasion of the Supreme Court have not been punished.
It is from this perspective that we call on the IGP to get to the root of the matter. The perpetrators of this criminal act should be named, shamed, and prosecuted to serve as a deterrent to future offenders. Our political actors should allow our democracy to grow and our institutions strengthened. Only then can we have the Nigeria of our dreams.