That Invasion Of Rivers Judiciary


Recently, the Rivers State House of Assembly resolved to petition the presidency, the United Nations (UN) and major foreign embassies over the invasion of the state High Courts Complex in Port Harcourt by armed thugs suspected to be members of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state.
Hoodlums, apparently acting on the orders of their masterminds in the APC had on May 11, invaded the Courts Complex ransacked several court rooms, destroyed several vehicles and looted properties.
While the attack was on, judicial and non-judicial workers were denied access to the complex as all gates were locked and surrounded by the APC thugs. The heavily armed thugs injured some judicial officers, other officials and extensively damaged some equipment.
The invasion was sequel to an attempt by a faction of the APC to stop the issuance of court injunction being sought by another faction led by Senator Magnus Abe, an APC governorship aspirant.
Members of the faction had approached a Port Harcourt high court to seek an injunction to stop APC from going ahead with the party’s local government congress. They hinged their move on the fact that the ward congress was still a subject of litigation.
Several condemnations have trailed the invasion. The Rivers State Government through Governor Wike roundly condemned it and promised to ensure that culprits and their masterminds would be made to face the music.
Similarly, the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) Justice Walter Onnoghen in his reaction condemned in the strongest terms the attack, describing it as not only disturbing but a complete show of shame which ought not to be encouraged by right thinking members of the public.
Onnoghen declared: “these hoodlums who are said to be heavily armed reportedly inflicted bodily harm on judicial officers and other staff going about their lawful duties. This action was aimed at stopping the court from sitting and delivering a ruling in an intra-party dispute of the APC”.
Also, the Social Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) condemned the continued disobedience of court rulings by the APC-led federal government and noted that it is an affront to the supremacy of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended.
The Tide agrees no less with Governor Wike, CJN, SERAP and other well-meaning Nigerians and lovers of democratic ethos. We note that it was not the first assault in the state judiciary as the closure of the courts for more than a year by the immediate past administration of Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi is still fresh in our minds.
The attack which occurred as judges, magistrates and lawyers were reporting for duty is to say the least, an affront on the judiciary and invitation to anarchy. It sends wrong signals to Nigerians, particularly at a time when the 2019 general elections are around the corner.
We, therefore, call for a high-level probe to fish out the hoodlums and their masterminds. We implore the federal authorities to act now. The silence that has trailed the incident since these past weeks is worrisome.
Our position is in tandem with that of Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), the House of Representatives, Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) that also called for immediate action and sanction against the perpetrators of the anti-democratic and barbaric act.
We agree with the NBA that “the invasion was an attempt to impede and diminish the integrity and confidence of the people in the Rivers State judicial system.
Also, the Tide urges the Rivers State judiciary to refuse to be intimidated by agents of darkness but rather be strengthened and pursue justice to its logical end.
The Federal Government, we insist, must muster the political will to unmask those behind the invasion no matter who they are or what their position is.
We also salute the courage and boldness of Governor Wike for coming out swiftly in defence of the judiciary to carry out its constitutional responsibility in a peaceful atmosphere.
We expect the security agencies, especially the police to discharge their duties without let or hindrance and be guided by its professional calling always.