By GODWIN OBI
Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike has accused the Federal Government of intimidating the judiciary ahead of the 2023 general elections in the country.
Wike’s criticism followed a recent invasion of the residence of Justice Mary Odili of the Supreme Court in her Abuja residence by men believed to be security operatives.
Speaking on Thursday during a special court session to mark the opening of the 2021/2022 Legal Year of the Rivers State Judiciary in Port Harcourt, the governor said the Federal Government wants to continue to ride roughshod unchecked over the rule of law and the sanctity of the country’s electoral system, hence, the renewed attack on judicial officers.
“Although it is still early morning in our democratic match towards 2023, the attack on Justice Mary Odili is a prelude to many more and even worse political maneuverings we should be prepared to experience from the APC-led Federal Government, which having lost relevance and popular support is becoming more and more desperate over its dwindling political fortunes by the
“While cases with political undertones, including the constitutional validity of certain sections of the recent amendments to the 2010 Electoral Act, if assented to by Mr President, would necessarily come before our courts; what is important is the duty and capacity of our judiciary to save our democracy and the country.”
According to him, it is the responsibility of the government at all levels to protect the judiciary and accord the courts such assistance as they may require enabling them to safeguard their independence, advance the rule of law, and dispense justice equally and fairly to all citizens.
While the present Federal Government has been very weak in resourcing and strengthening the judiciary, Wike said it has been very strong and readily predisposed to ridiculing the entire institution and subjecting individual judges to both physical and psychological trauma for its own self-interest.
“We all witnessed the infamous midnight raids on judicial residences and the subjection of some judges, to illegal raids, arrests and detentions by agents of the Federal Government purportedly carrying out a baseless sting operation back in 2016
“Since then the intimidation of judges whose judgments, intellectual or moral disposition they are not comfortable with has continued unrelenting with the latest attack on a peaceful mother, wife of a former Governor and Justice of the Supreme Court, our own highly revered Hon. Justice Mary Odili
“It is important to emphasize that we allow these intimidations to become acceptable standards of behaviour and even become complicit in their unholy design to undermine the administration of justice when we all opt to keep quite in the face of these assaults,” Governor Wike added.
Governor Wike, who commended the leaders of the Nigerian Bar Association, the Chief Justice of Nigeria and members of the public for promptly condemning the idiotic siege on judiciary, said they must quickly move beyond the verbal protestations to unveil those behind the raid on Justice Odili’s residence and ensure that they all are held to account for their actions, otherwise this impunity would never cease to rear its ugly head in the country.
He challenged the Federal Government to come clean on this infamy with the names, identities and affiliations of those allegedly arrested for their roles or found to have been involved in the attack on the residence of Justice Odili, if it is not to be perceived as the primary mastermind.
Speaking on the proposed setting up of law school campuses, the governor urged the management of the Nigerian Law School, the Council of Legal Education and the Federal Government to see the folly in the plan, and nib the idea from the bud before it causes more damage to a foremost institution that is already severely challenged for lack of adequate funding.
He explained that the Port Harcourt Campus of the Nigerian Law School being built by the Rivers State Government was consciously demanded for and approval secured from the Council of Legal Education and ultimately from President Muhammadu Buhari, through the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice and named after late Nabo Graham-Douglas, SAN.
Wike added, “Here again, some lazy and uninformed characters have criticised our Law School development project with the unfounded and lousy allegation that it lacks budgetary provisions in our 2021 budget, even when they conceded to the propriety of the project and the optimal benefits it would attract to the State and the business community.”