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that the invasion was pursuant to a search warrant issued by a Magistrate Court in Abuja, which search warrant has now been revoked.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 instil 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.
(C) Olumide Akpata, NBA President