Odili
Justice Mary Odili

The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) and suspended National Chairman of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Prince Uche Secondus, have joined other well meaning Nigerians and organisations to condemn the invasion of the residence of Justice Mary Odili, a Supreme Court judge, by security operatives on Friday night.

A team of police officers, said to be operatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), and soldiers late Friday, invaded Justice Odili’s official residence at Maitama, Abuja, brandishing a search warrant issued by Emmanuel Iyanna, a chief magistrate at Wuse Zone 6 Magistrate Court, which has since been withdrawn.

Reacting to the development, the NBA in a statement on Saturday by its president, Olamide Apata, said it “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.”

The NBA regretted that, “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that the invasion was pursuant to a search warrant issued by a Magistrate Court in Abuja, which search warrant has now been revoked.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.”

Apata emphasized that the invasion was an affront on the judiciary, noting that the association will convene an emergency meeting to discuss it.

“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,” he said.

“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.”

Similarly, Secondus in a statement by Ike Abonyi, his SA Media, described the invasion as an embarrassment to the nation, “and an insult on the judiciary the search carried out in the home of Justice Mary Odili of the Supreme Court Of Nigeria.”

The statement further said, “Prince Secondus said that nothing can explain the embarrassing act of the security operatives on a woman who has put in much in the service of her fatherland.

“He said that relevant authorities should come clean on what informed such ignoble and dishonourable behavior and render unreserved apology to the Justice and the Judiciary.

“It’s our responsibility as a democratic nation to ensure the continued sanctity of the judiciary as a critical component of democracy.

“Prince Secondus frowned at the frequent harassment of the judiciary by this administration pointing out that it does not tell well on our democratic credentials and the respect for the doctrine of separation of power.

“Prince Secondus also noted that the development calls for more diligence on the part of judicial officers in responding to search warrant requests from overzealous officials of the executive.”