In its latest act of dictatorship & disrespect for the rule of law, the Directorate of State Security (DSS) raided the homes of several Judges of the Federal High Court and Justice of the Supreme Court in the early hours of October 8th, 2016.
In one swoop, raided the homes of Justices Walter Onnoghen & Sylvanus Ngwuta of the Supreme Court as well as the homes of Justices Adebiyi Ademola, Muazu Pindiga and Nnamdi Dimgba of the Federal High Court. DSS agents spent time breaking down the gate of Justice Dimgba’s house with a sledgehammer before beating his brother to pulp when they could not find him. At this time, Justices Ademola & Pindiga have been arrested and detained.
This is new addition to a long list of actions that show that the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari has no respect for the rule of law, the principles of separation of powers and is only interested in using the apparatus of state to harass real and perceived enemies.
Many will recall the disdain with which President Buhari has spoken about the judiciary and the legal profession in Nigeria. On January 31, 2016 at a meeting in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia he told an astounded audience that the judiciary was his main headache in achieving some of his plans. To buttress his point, he cited how the judiciary ruled against him in his previous bids to become President.
Many will also recall that prior to that comment, on August 13, 2015 at the opening ceremony of the 55th General Annual General Conference of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) President Buhari had advocated that lawyers should not represent people accused of corruption, in spite of the provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria that guarantees all accused people the right to be represented by a lawyer of their choosing.
Many will further recall that on July 18, 2016 the Presidential Advisory Committee on Anti-Corruption (PACAC) organised a conference where speaker after speaker took turns to take umbrage against the judiciary. At the end of that event, PACAC (a body unrecognized by the Constitution) gave out sentencing guidelines it had developed to Judges.
These acts of intimidation and harassment come on the heels of other such actions that started with the invasion of the Akwa Ibom State Government House in September 2015 by DSS and have gone on to include:
• the arrest & detention of online journalists and bloggers;
• the mass murder of more than 1000 Shiite Muslims;
• the continuous extra-judicial murder of Nigerian citizens in the South East;
• the continued detention of several people despite Courts ordering their release;
• the violation of the principles of separation of powers as enshrined in our Constitution, and
• the constant refusal to obey orders of Courts.
It was predicted before the presidential elections that President Buhari lacked the democratic values to be a democratically elected President of Nigeria. He has continuously lived up to his reputation as a despotic, dictatorial leader who views respect for the rule not as the foundation of the existence of a democratic society but as a irritation to be dispensed with by whatever means necessary.
The events of last night mirror the abduction of Justice Benedict Kiwanuka – the then Chief Justice of Uganda – by the despotic President Idi Amin Dada of Uganda.
Members of the Bench are not above the law and must abide by its provisions at all times. However, our Constitution and other laws provide that erring Judges are to be disciplined within the framework provided by the National Judicial Commission not through Gestapo style abductions in the middle of the night.
It is particularly worrisome that these events are taking place when Yemi Osinbajo, a law professor and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), is the Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
These actions are reprehensible, and all well meaning Nigerians – irrespective of tribe, religion or political leanings – must come together to condemn them in their totality before they completely erode the very fabric of our democracy.
God bless Nigeria.