Law News
Intimidating the judiciary in Ekiti

The race and competition for the descent to the bottom is in vogue in Nigeria. In the last couple of weeks, we have accelerated that descent and we may soon hit that rock which we have been avoiding over the years. We have lost the capacity to be shocked, outraged or even to complain and weep at incredible violations and attacks on the morals, laws and values that make us human and a civilsed society. Where do we begin from? The violations are legion and the authorities do not seem to understand the need for an appropriate response to these matters. It is business as usual in an unusual manner.

Society exists on the basis of laws, rules, regulations, norms and values that should bind all members. There is separation of powers in government and roles are assigned to the executive, legislature and judiciary. Powers are given to the judiciary to determine disputes between individuals and individuals and the state and other private interests. This is guaranteed by the 1999 Constitution and even our traditions at the grass roots created dispute resolution mechanisms in one form or the other. The courts enjoy the confidence and respect of all and its decisions are enforced by the power and sanction of the state. But when judges and other personnel of courts of law are constantly subjected to physical attack by hoodlums instigated by a party to a dispute in court, the hallowed chambers of the judiciary are desecrated.

Media reports indicated that “…on Thursday (September 25, 2014), a set of thugs invaded the premises of a court presided over by J.O Adedeye, beating him up and tearing his suit while police on guard looked unconcerned and uninterested as judges, magistrates, and other members of staff had to run for their lives while court properties were damaged. The court room of the chief judge was not spared in the orgy of assault and destruction as members of staff attached to his office were beaten up and his court record book torn into pieces by these political thugs who also invaded and disrupted proceedings at the election petition tribunal within the High Court premises in Ado Ekiti.” The chief judge of the state had to close all courts indefinitely until the safety and security of judicial personnel can be guaranteed. There are allegations that the Ekiti State Governor-elect, Ayo Fayose, instigated that attack on the judiciary and he vigorously denies same. But this is a matter of fact that can be verified within a couple of days and the perpetrators of the violence established. It is not a matter that should be left to the police who will claim to be on investigations for the next couple of months. If arrests were made as media information indicate, it will not be difficult to establish the instigator(s) of the violence and bring them to justice.

But the fact that Ayo Fayose alleged that the Ekiti judiciary has been compromised to stop his inauguration and that he will not fold his hands and watch being deprived of his mandate makes the matter very curious. If he is the instigator of the violence; is violence a means of ensuring justice? The report of the attack on judges in Ekiti State is clearly an ill wind that will not favour anyone including the person(s) currently instigating it. It is an attack of incalculable proportions on the administration of justice, the civility of the people and indeed the entire foundations of the democracy we currently enjoy. It is to say the least a sacrilege that should be nipped in the bud before its spreads to other states of the federation. It is the expectation that the police, working with the Nigeria Bar Association and the leadership of the bench in Nigeria, should take up this case and ensure that it is not swept under the carpet. This must go beyond a press release by the Nigeria Bar Association or a panel to unravel the “immediate and remote causes” of the incident that will take all the time in the world. Time is of essence. The perpetrators should be brought to justice no matter their standing in society. Even if such a perpetrator is clothed with immunity, he must lose it one day while anyone including the governor-elect who instigates such violence and who is not clothed with immunity should face arrest, detention and prosecution.

It is also imperative for any legal practitioner representing a party that instigates violence leading to physical assault on a judge and the tearing of the court books in the office of the chief judge to reconsider whether it is right and proper to continue representing such a party that has no belief in the rule of law and the sanctity of the judicial process. Is it right for counsel to insist on representing and encouraging a party that has no respect for the bench and the bar? Will that party have any pangs of conscience to beat up or even flog the same legal practitioner representing him if he feels in any way that he has not been properly represented? This attack on the judiciary presents a wonderful opportunity to cage any beast(s) in human form masquerading as a politician or a decent member of society and either in an elevated office or aspiring to take over an elevated office. Those instigating an attack on the courts when a matter is still undergoing trial will not accept any judgement that is not in their favour. Such a party will let loose the demons of hell and blood will flow on the streets of Ekiti if the judgement is against them. So, should the courts be intimidated to deliver judgement in the party’s favour against the run of facts so as to prevent a bloodbath? Unfortunately, the killings have already started as the chairperson of the National Union of Road Transport Workers was reported to have been murdered.

After the first attack on the courts before last Thursday’s incident, it should have dawned on the police to reinforce security around the court and tribunal premises. Should the police wait until lives and properties are destroyed before preempting hoodlums? What has happened to policing with intelligence beyond sheer brawn? It is a very unfortunate dereliction of duty for the police to step in with the poverty of remedial justice after a judge has been physically attacked. Would hoodlums have attacked a judge if over 10 well-armed policemen were on duty at the court premises?

The time to act against those who feel called upon to desecrate the great temple of justice is now. Time is of essence; delay is dangerous and animals in human form should be put in a cage in a zoo (prison) where they belong. If we fail to act now, although the author of this discourse is not a prophet, we will by our failure have granted a charter to violence and violent men. We will reap a thousand fold of our inaction in the near future if we fail to act immediately.

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