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The curious invasion of Mary Odili’s home

By Guardian Nigeria
14 November 2021   |   4:10 am
The most alarming and worrisome factor in the invasion of the home of Supreme Court Justice Mary Odili perhaps is that none of the multiple security agencies in the country is accepting responsibility....

Justice Mary Odili

The most alarming and worrisome factor in the invasion of the home of Supreme Court Justice Mary Odili perhaps is that none of the multiple security agencies in the country is accepting responsibility for it; until three days ago when the police paraded 14 men who Force Spokesman Frank Mba described as “impostors unknown to any of the nation’s security forces” as the masterminds of the invasion. Mba also called the men, made up of serving and former policemen, soldiers, lawyer, journalist and even a spiritualist, as “loose cannons and documents forgers.” Their arrest nonetheless has further deepened public curiosity as to the origin and motive of the invasion.

And so, once again, Nigerians have been made to witness an invasion by security agents of the home of a serving judicial officer, the second most senior justice of the Supreme Court at that. When in 2016, the homes of her colleagues, late Justice Sylvester Ngwuta, Justice John Okoro and others were invaded and the government swore to high heavens of its conviction of the guilt of the judicial officers, no conviction would later be secured and in fact in one instance, no charge was preferred. This time, the raid is being attributed to fake officers one of who was bold enough to say he was consulting for the attorney general of the federation and justice minister; a charge Abubakar Malami (SAN) had vehemently denied immediately. The development for now supports the denial of involvement made by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), the State Security Service (SSS), and the office of the attorney general. The apex court has described the incident as an “unwarranted and despicable” exercise carried out in a “Gestapo manner.”

This habit of invading the homes of serving judges by security agencies is despicable and a desecration of the reverence normally attached to that highly exalted office. Even if judicial officers, particularly of superior courts of record breach the law, surely there must be a more approving way to call them to order, other than brazenly violating the sanctity of their privacy in a manner that makes no distinction between the judges and armed kidnappers. Unless the issue is adequately addressed, raids on residence of judges on spurious suspicion are capable of truncating the nation’s democratic system of government and have to stop.

Ordinarily, a search carried out on the home of a judicial officer in the cause of an investigation does not in itself constitute an illegal act, as no one is above the law. It is notable that even the immunity granted the president and state governors by the Constitution does not preclude such public officers from being investigated while in office. What is, however, of concern to Nigerians is the manner with which these raids and or invasions are carried out; an act, which by its manner of execution has left very few in doubt of its nefarious intent. Indeed one of the suspects in Odili’s case confirmed that the raid was a possible attempt to rob under false pretext. But these initial confessions must not be taken on their face values. The police should do a very thorough inquiry.

Indeed, some people have suggested that the raid may not be unconnected with the forthcoming general elections, with the aim being to cow judicial officers into submission to the will of the ruling party. While these allegations are not substantiated, government should be careful of carrying itself in a way to fuel these rumours and ineptitude. It is as well that some revelations are being made; these should be pursued to logical conclusions.

If the home of a senior judicial officer could be invaded by security agencies of no known or fixed address, then the average Nigerian has every cause to worry about his or her own safety. It is not outlandish that Governor Nyesom Wike described the act as an assassination attempt. And to think that someone had the audacity to secure a Search Warrant, to present an attempt at doing things by the book, even though the Magistrate Court has equally revoked the order on ground of misrepresentation of material facts by a unit of the Federal Ministry of Justice.

The Nigeria Police should heed the significant admonition of the Senate, on Tuesday, ordering the Inspector General of Police, Usman Alkali Baba to publish the report of the investigation of the incident. Besides, the Senate strongly condemned the invasion and described it as a breach of Justice Odili’s privacy.

The condemnation of the incident by other stakeholders is a reflection of the frustration of Nigerians with government over its scant regard for the rule of law. As the Supreme Court had stated in its release, enough is enough. The various panels of investigation set up by the Supreme Court and the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) is equally commendable. The question of the authority, source and sponsorship of the raid must be unraveled and availed the public. So also is when the suspects had been involved in their activities, particularly whether they had raided homes or offices of other Nigerians before the current incident.

Nigerians long for results that will ensure that punitive measures are taken against those responsible, to serve as a deterrence to others; not face-saving measures that will bury the substance while celebrating the shadows. Under no circumstance should state apparatus be employed to desecrate institutions while culprits get away with it. Preserving the sanctity of the country’s sacred institutions is critical to the nation’s unity and democratic institutions.

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