* Recommends Sacking of SSS Boss
Access to Justice has condemned the invasion of the Federal High Court, Abuja by the operatives of the Department of State Security (DSS) to arrest Omoyele Sowore, the former Presidential aspirant and activist who was released a day before the incidence following an Order of Justice Ojukwu, who also had indicted the DSS for disobeying her earlier orders to release him and his co-defendant, Mr. Olawale Bakare. In a statement titled “SOWORE: NIGERIA’S JUDICIARY MUST RISE FROM “SLUMBER” NOW AND AVERT A FULL-SCALE TRAMPLING DOWN BY THE EXECUTIVE AND FURTHER LOSS OF PUBLIC CONFIDENCE” signed by both Joseph Otteh (the convener) and Daniel Aloaye (the program Officer) and made available to TheNigeriaLawyer (TNL), Access To Justice further lampoons the Federal government for its silence and disobedience to court orders. The statement reads in part:
“Access to Justice unreservedly condemns the actions of the DSS and further condemns the continuing silence of the federal government over the atrocious conduct of its agency. A government that promised to abide the rule of law now virtually has the rule of law, largely unpretentiously, under the jackboot, defying numerous orders of courts. The brazen invasion of a sitting courtroom in order to forcibly pull out persons attending to their cases in court represent new escalations of a culture of impunity by security agencies whom the government has given a free hand to do its dirty bidding.”
The organization fears that interference with court proceedings by government operatives, a practice of what would be done against courts in the near future. It added that there is possibility that President Muhammadu Buhari may, close down courts to prevent them from sitting in specific cases and exercising authority over the government It further describes the actions taken by the DSS, as the “promissory note” the government is offering to show that it can do anything..
“Attacking courts is a counter-productive strategy often. “A government that says it is using economic diplomacy to attract foreign investment in order to create jobs in the country ought to see that it shoots itself in the foot by its autocratic domestic behaviour, because investments and capital are hardly attracted by environments where the rule of law is absent or where courts are systematically disrespected or trampled upon. In any event, the handwriting, is on the wall and the Judiciary ought to read it carefully and frightfully. The Judiciary must see this latest effrontery as another significant wake-up call, and a wake-up call following many years of “slumber” and inertness.” The statement further reads in part.
Access To Justice laments that the Nigerian Judiciary has, for many years now, stood and watched as its adjudicatory authority reduced as a result of contempt and impunity, and its judgments and orders defied and trammeled, and has done so very little to re-assert its authority and power of action. It says several other entities, aside the DSS, are now willfully disobeying court judgments and orders and their number will only increase as more and more people and institutions see the Judiciary as a toothless bull-dog. “There are instances around the world where Judiciaries have fought back against tyrannical governments and won, and by so doing deepened public confidence in the institutions of justice! The Nigerian Judiciary must now fight for its life, draw a line in the sand and say NEVER AGAIN!”
It therefore made the following demands:
- That the Chief Justice of Nigeria and the National Judicial Council convene an urgent “Save Nigeria Judiciary” meeting of Judicial Officers in Nigeria, to explore stronger, cogent and collegial ways of responding to both the escalating incidence of disrespect of the judicial branch of government and the depredation of the rule of law in Nigeria.
- Following this meeting, to develop a set of policies and directives (similar to the National Judicial Policy adopted by the NJC in 2016 following the night raids on Judges’ and Justices’ homes) that encourage and guide judicial responses to acts of affront, intimidation and disrespect to the courts. Such policies and directives should declare that it could be an act of misconduct for a court to fail, facing contempt of its orders and authority, to take decisions and actions to uphold its dignity and hold contemnors accountable for their actions.
- That Courts show far better willingness and resolve in defending the Judiciary’s democratic role and constitutional authority alongside public faith in the judicial process by using its’ inherent contempt powers to deal with, and vigorously restrain contempt of judgments and orders.
- That the Director General of the DSS be removed from office immediately.