RAID ON JUSTICE ODILI RESIDENCE: NBA DEMANDS ANSWERS, APPOINTS SPECIAL INVESTIGATOR

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Amidst the sense of outrage that swept across the nation in the wake of the brazen raid on the residential premises of a Justice of Nigeria’s Supreme Court, Hon. Justice Mary Ukaego Peter-Odili, last Friday, October 29, 2021 by as yet unnamed security operatives, the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) has pledged to unearth the details and circumstances behind the action.
Addressing newsmen at a press briefing in Lagos on Friday, November 5, 2021, NBA President Olumide Akpata urged Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari to set up an independent investigative panel to unravel the identities of those behind the raid.
Describing the action as ‘egregious’, Akpata disclosed that initial indications about the raid suggested the active participation of at least two agencies of the Federal Government of Nigeria. Recalling a similar raid on the homes of high-ranking judicial officers in 2016 – also by unnamed security agents of the FG – as well as the peremptory removal of a former Chief Justice of Nigeria from office, he noted that the rationale for these actions has never been fully explained or justified.
The NBA helmsman expressed his Association’s dissatisfaction with the flurry of denials and denunciations by various heads of federal agencies such as the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), the Nigerian Police and the office of the Attorney-General of the Federation.
“If all the relevant Government agencies deny authorising the raid on the premises of a Justice of the Supreme Court,” he asked, “then who authorised the operation? Who took the decision to approach the Magistrate for the search warrant? What if the team had succeeded and any form of harm had befallen His Lordship? Who would have taken responsibility? … What of the potential impact of this raid on the morale and psyche of other judicial officers? Are they truly expected to dispense justice without fear or favour under this dark cloud? Can they go to bed in peace without the fear of being visited by rogue security operatives?”
Akpata asserted that the proper thing to do was to investigate these actions and bring those behind them to book, and to ensure that such an action is neither swept under the proverbial carpet nor repeats itself in the future.

To this end, he announced the appointment of Dr. Monday Onyekachi Ubani, a former national vice-president of the NBA and currently Chairman of the NBA’s Section on Public Interest and Development Law (NBA-SPIDEL), to serve as the Association’s Special Investigator to unmask those behind the attack on Justice Peter-Odili’s home and to ensure that these individuals are made to face the law.

Reiterating the NBA’s resolve to defend the honour and integrity of the judiciary, Akpata said, “The NBA views the incident as an affront on the judiciary and grossly undermines the democracy that we profess to practice … The sting operation by faceless security personnel … is undoubtedly an attempt to intimidate the judiciary and to dissuade our Judges and Justices from dispensing justice without fear or favour.”

He also condemned the mixed messages and discordant voices emanating from certain elements and groups within the NBA in respect of these violations, calling on such elements and groups to rein themselves in and refrain from muddying the waters by embarking on what he described as ‘needless road-shows’ that only serve to suggest that the NBA’s approach to the issue at hand was uncoordinated and ultimately ineffective.

In addition to the appointment of a Special Investigator, Akpata said, the NBA was determined to hold the Inspector-General of Police to his pledge that the perpetrators would be made to face the wrath of the law, and to ensure that the veil of secrecy behind which those who directed the raiders are hiding is torn to shreds, asserting that public officers must be made to account for whatever they do with their entrusted powers. Henceforth, he added, the NBA will also call out and discipline any of its members found to have been part of attempts to ridicule the judiciary.

Noting with approval that the Hon. Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, SAN has agreed to make himself available for investigation, Akpata however said that in order not to breach the rule of natural justice – especially the rule against being a judge in one’s own case – the AGF should be investigated by the Independent Panel of Inquiry being called for.

In addition, he said, the NBA’s National Executive Council would also investigate the circumstances under which Magistrate Emmanuel A. Iyanna issued the search warrant authorising the raid on the Justice’s residence. Where he is found culpable, Akpata said, the NBA’s NEC would initiate a formal petition for misconduct against him to the FCT Judicial Service Committee, to serve as a deterrent to others.

The Hon. Justice Mary Peter-Odili, a former First Lady of Nigeria’s Rivers State, is the second-highest ranking Justice on the nation’s apex Court, after the Chief Justice of Nigeria.

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