Nigeria: Body of Senior Advocates Condemns SSS Court Invasion, Demands Independent Investigation

12 December 2019

A Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Onomigbo Okpoko, on Thursday, said Friday's invasion of the Federal High Court and similar ones in the last three years point to a disregard for the rule of law and the judiciary.

The senior counsel said this while delivering a speech at a special valedictory court session to mark the retirement of Justice Kumai Aka'ahs from the Supreme Court.

Mr Okpoko represented the Body of Senior Advocates of Nigeria at the event, which was held at the headquarters of the Supreme Court in Abuja.

PREMIUM TIMES reported how SSS officials invaded the court on Friday in a bid to rearrest an activist, Omoyele Sowore.

Mr Sowore had been released Thursday night, after 124 days in detention, based on the order of Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu.

Mr Sowore, the publisher of Sahara Reporters, is facing trial alongside an activist, Olawale Bakare, for treasonable felony, fraud, cyber-stalking and abusing President Buhari.

Many Nigerians have criticised the president for not condemning the court invasion and holding the SSS officials accountable.

The SSS spokesperson, Peter Afunnaya, has distanced his agency from any wrongdoing, saying Mr Sowore was mobbed by his "supporters" who were trying to shield him from "an imaginary arrest."

Mr Sowore's lawyer, Femi Falana, however, said not only did the SSS invade the court premises, but its official also apologised to the high court judge, Ijeoma Ojukwu, afterwards.

This newspaper reported that the Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, on Wednesday said the federal government has ordered an investigation into the invasion.

The Senate President, Ahmed Lawan, also on Wednesday directed the committee on judiciary to commence an investigation into the matter and report in one week time.

Condemnation

The body of SANs on Thursday, while condemning the invasion, warned that unless the truth unravels, Nigeria would lose respect and become an object of ridicule among the comity of Nations.

Mr Okpoko said: "The Nigerian Bar Association has come up with a statement from the bar condemning the action. As members of the Nigerian Bar Association, the Body of Senior Advocate of Nigeria associates itself with the condemnation of the show of shame.

"It will, however, go one step further to suggest that this matter should not be swept under the expanding carpet of deceit in Nigeria.

"The pertinent question is who was responsible for the action in the courtroom? This is a task that the government must carry out to ascertain the truth," he said.

"While stating that the Nigerian Police is a sister organisation cannot investigate the matter thoroughly, he said even the Nigerian Army, Nigerian Customs and other paramilitary forces in the country can also not do a thorough job."

The senior lawyer added that even the National Assembly is not sufficiently equipped to investigate the matter.

"The way out is an Independent Commission of Enquiry under the law. This can be achieved. The Body of Senior Advocates hereby demands that Mr President considers without delay, the setting up of a Judicial Commission of Enquiry to hear publicly and determine the perpetrators of the acts, their sponsors and their objectives.

"Unless this is done, Nigerians are unlikely to be convinced by any other explanations that the act was not the work of the DSS.

"It is the result of any such judiciary inquiry that will lead to the re-establishment of discipline in society. Officers are not the laws of the land and the Constitution. In Nigerian law and in the Common Law, the Superior Orders is no defence to criminal conduct. It has never been and this administration must not allow it to be," the body said.

Also speaking at the occasion the NBA President, Paul Usoro, condemned the persistent disobedience and flouting of court orders by the authorities in the country.

"We desecrate the temple of justice when we blatantly flout and disobey the orders of courts. A court that is made to be helpless in the face of flagrant disobedience of its orders is as useless to society as a toothless bulldog is to its owner.

"No one fears a bulldog that is known to be toothless, it has no capacity to keep away a marauding army or a band of invaders", he said.

Mr Usoro tasked the government to imbibe the culture of respecting court orders and set a good example for the society.

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