Condemnations trail invasion of Justice Odili’s house, AGF orders probe

Justice Odili

Condemnations from several quarters, on Saturday, trailed the invasion of the Abuja residence of Supreme Court Justice Mary Odili by security agencies on Friday.

Among those who condemned the invasion of the Justice’s home were the Nigerian Bar Association; the Pan Niger Delta Forum; two Senior Advocates of Nigeria, Messrs Femi Falana and Mike Ozekhome; a former governor of Abia State, Orji Uzor Kalu; and the suspended Chairman of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, Uche Secondus.

This was as the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami (SAN), denied knowledge of the operation and ordered a probe into the invasion, said to have been carried out by the Joint Panel Recovery Unit of the Federal Ministry of Justice.

Sunday PUNCH had reported that search warrant-wielding security operatives on Friday stormed the residence of the Justice, who is the wife of a former governor of Rivers State, Dr. Peter Odili, whom the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission was once after over alleged corruption.

To shake the EFCC off his tail, the ex-governor had years back secured a perpetual injunction granted by Justice Ibrahim Buba of the Federal High Court, restraining the anti-graft agency from probing or prosecuting him for corruption.

But in what seemed to be a fresh move against the former governor, the Nigeria Immigration Service recently seized Odili’s passport at the airport.

The NIS said it seized Odili’s passport based on the complaint by the EFCC.

But Justice Inyang Ekwo of the Federal High Court in Lagos later ordered the NIS to release Odili’s passport to him.

However, it was learnt that the Friday invasion of the Justice’s home was ostensibly in furtherance of the move against her husband.

But the EFCC, in a statement by its spokesman, Wilson Uwujaren, denied involvement in the operation.

Reacting to the invasion on Saturday, the Nigerian Bar Association, in a statement by its President, Olumide Akpata, described it as “a part of an orchestrated affront on the judiciary, designed to intimidate and ridicule the judiciary.”

Akpata, who said the Friday invasion was reminiscent of how homes of seven judges were invaded by operatives of the Department of State Services in 2016, said the NBA “will no longer allow this to continue.”

The NBA President, in a press release, titled, ‘Statement of the NBA on the raid of Justice Mary Odili’s residence by security operatives,’ said, “In case the law enforcement agencies have not learnt their lessons, events like this do nothing but erode the independence of the sacred democratic institutions like the judiciary, undermine the rule of law in Nigeria and set the country back in the quest to instil confidence in citizens of Nigeria, Nigerian businesses and foreign investors that Nigeria operate a democracy with an independent judiciary.”

However, Akpata said he had spoken with the harassed Justice and “I am happy to report that she is alive and well.”

He vowed that the NBA would get to the root of the matter.

“We will be convening an emergency meeting of the NBA National Executive Committee solely to discuss the issue and take a definitive stand on behalf of the NBA.

“I will lead a delegation to the honourable Attorney General of the Federation, Mr Abubakar Malami, SAN, and the relevant heads of security agencies to seek further clarification on the circumstances of this incident.”

Falana, in a statement, called on the NBA fish out lawyers who approached an Abuja chief magistrate, Emmanuel Iyanna, to obtain the search warrant leading to the invasion of Justice Odili’s home.

The magistrate had on Friday revoked the search warrant, saying the applicants deceived the court to obtain it.

Falana said, “The lawyers that are indicted should be dragged to the Legal Practitioners’ Disciplinary Committee for sanctions.”

Ozekhome, in an interview with Sunday PUNCH, said, “I am happy that the chief magistrate, who initially gave the warrant, revoked it immediately after realising that he was misled.

“We are gradually moving towards the precipice of becoming a Banana Republic; no country in the world will you go and see security operatives burgle or storm the house of a Justice of the Supreme Court in that manner; it is a political move and also a plan to embarrass the judiciary.”

On its part, PANDEF, in a statement on Saturday by its National Publicity Secretary, Ken Robinson, described the invasion as one attack too many on “persons of South-South extraction,” noting that the immediate-past Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen (retd.), who is from Cross River State, was in January 2019 subjected to the similar treatment, that culminated in his leaving office prematurely ahead of the last general elections.

“The raid, in the dusk hours of last Friday, is not only crude and primitive but barbaric and dictatorial. It is another attempt by agents of the (the President, Major General Muhammadu) Buhari administration to further intimidate and humiliate the nation’s judiciary,” PANDEF said.

It demanded that those behind the invasion be fished out and punished.

Also condemning the raid, Secondus, in a statement on Saturday by his media aide, Ike Abonyi, described it as embarrassing.

“It’s our responsibility as a democratic nation to ensure the continued sanctity of the judiciary as a critical component of democracy,” Secondus said.

Also, Kalu, in a statement he personally signed, said, “The invasion of the residence of Justice Mary Odili of the Supreme Court in a Gestapo manner is totally condemnable and unacceptable in a democratic dispensation.”

Meanwhile, the AGF, in a statement on Saturday by his Special Assistant, Media and Public Relations, Dr Umar Gwandu, distanced himself from the operation.

The statement quoted him as ordering a probe into the circumstances surrounding the raid of the Justice’s home.

“It is important to set the record straight that as the Chief Law Officer of the federation, Malami, will not stoop low to be associated with an inelegant and nasty court process on the strength of which the purported search warrant was procured.

“The media reports on the issue depict too untidy process that could never emanate from the Office of the Honourable Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice,” Gwandu’s statement read in part.


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