Last Saturday, Nigerians woke up to the distasteful news of the terrifying Invasion of justice Mary Odili’s home in Abuja by well-armed security operatives from DSS, Nigerian Army, EFCC, and police.
Only a few citizens were shocked at such an ignoble act and utter disregard for the judiciary arm of government by the overbearing and tactless executive under the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari. In 2016, during its early days in power, the Buhari government — in what was to become an unprecedented assault on the highest echelon of the country’s judiciary — ordered the invasion of homes of Supreme Court judges in the dead of the night. In Gestapo style, the daredevil security detonated C4 explosive devices to blow off the doors of judges’ homes and kidnap no fewer than four judges.
Of course, the saddening incident was met with muffled criticism as the Buhari government, which was still riding gloriously on the strength of the ubiquitous goodwill that brought it to power, claimed the invasion became imperative owing to the indictment of the senior judges in corrupt practices and malfeasance. Many believed him, and why not? In the build to the 2015 election, Buhari had berthed his electioneering ship at the harbour of corruption. So when he gave corruption as the reason for invading judges’ homes in the dead of the night many undiscerning minds and slavish supporters of the government then cheered his unpleasant effort of trying to clean the Augean stable to high heaven without a second thought. But many prescient minds knew such occurrence is an anomaly and its portends danger for the country’s relatively fledgling democracy.
Fast forward to 2019, with the thick ominous cloud of defeat in the presidential election looming on the horizon, and knowing that the likelihood of repeating the 2015-like monumental victory was unrealistic, the Buhari administration started oiling the wheels of its rigging machines ahead of the election, with INEC and security agencies in its control, it needed to capture one vital entity — the judiciary. For a government that has become synonymous with nepotism and exacerbation of the country’s fault line, It didn’t help that a southerner, Walter Onnoghen, was the chief justice of Nigeria then. This alone triggers the fear of what would be should the loser decide to contest its outcome at the Supreme Court. Hence, the need to get rid of the erstwhile CJN and find a way to get a pliant and amenable law officer that will do its bidding.
Without much of a hassle and through the gravely compromised code of conduct bureau and its unscrupulous chairman, Danladi Umar, Onnoghen was unceremoniously removed as the CJN without as much as a fair hearing. With Onnoghen out, Mohammed Tanko, a northerner, became the CJN. It did not take long before his intellectual deficiencies and poor grasp of the legal profession came to the fore after an unconvincing and troubling display at the Senate during his confirmation hearing.
After the disgraceful removal of Onnoghen, the executive arm of government has not stopped with its denigration of the judiciary, though the desecration became less pronounced and audacious but anyone who’s interested in the affairs of the country and its development knows these developments do not bode well with future of the country.
With preparation for the 2023 election gaining momentum, the sickening de javu of witnessing what happened in 2019 again is increasingly looking likely. The recent frightful and obnoxious Invasion of justice Mary Odili’s home is a pointer to such odious reality.
Different reasons have been alluded to the systemic desecration of the judiciary, especially the recent attack on the home of justice Odili. The most prominent one of these conspiracy theories is that some elements in this government do not want Odili, who’s next in line to become the CJN, to attain the position. This conjecture, if there’s an atom of truth in it, is a sharp and troubling indication of how bad things have deteriorated in the country under the current.
Even more worrisome is the denial by those who have been fingered in the show of shame, never mind that these are people who should know better than treating an exalted arm of the government with scorn and disrepute. A chief magistrate in Abuja had said attorney general of the federal, Abubakar Malami, had lied to her to get her to sign the warrant used in invading Odili’s residence. Expectedly, the office of CJN denied having a hand in the raid. Of concern is the fact that the warrant, which was revoked afterwards, was also discovered to have an address different from that of the judge’s residence.
Having said that, the Supreme Court response, though long in coming, was firm and categorical in its condemnation of intimidation and harassment of its justice. We practice democracy and toying with an arm of government considered as the last hope of common man by power mongers should not be condoned by men and women of good conscience in the country.
It’s a good thing that the inspector general of police has ordered an investigation into the Invasion. We hope such an investigation will get to the root of the matter and prosecute those found culpable.
We can’t afford to let the desecration of our judiciary become a convention.