By Hameed Ajibola Jimoh Esq.
The recent #ENDSARS protest which went ugly leading to arson and looting being committed against some of the Nigerian courts has called for this paper to sympathise with the Nigerian Judiciary, the courts and to recommend the establishment of a ‘Nigeria Special Judicial Police’-herein after referred to as the ‘NSJP’ or in other words a ‘Federal Special Judicial Police-herein after referred to as the FSJP’ or a State Special Judicial Police-herein after referred to as the SSJP- for the judiciary so that our judiciary, judicial officers and the courts of law would no more be vulnerable in any time as this #ENDSARS and any attack on the court while its proceedings are ongoing and on judicial officers and their family members for performing their official duties, hence this paper.
The #ENDSARS protest came initially as a peaceful protest organized by some aggrieved Nigerian citizens, mostly some youths but unfortunately, the protest later went fatal (involving loss of lives and destruction of public and private properties) as a result of an alleged hijack by some alleged miscreants who took the advantage of the protest to carry out arson and looting of both public and private properties! And in these arson and looting cases, some Nigerian courts, such as: the Lagos State High Courts and Magistrate Courts, the FCT-Abuja Customary Court situate at Dutse, FCT-Abuja, the Court of Appeal, Lagos State Judicial Division, and those courts of other States of the Federation etc., were not spared! Hence, the concentration of this paper is on the judiciary. This is because it is really a great sadness to my mind and reasoning that the Nigerian judiciary could be vulnerable to such extent! Some important questions to ask are: Where were the law enforcement and security agencies when those hoodlums invaded those courts till they carried out their nefarious and criminal acts successfully?! Many important but confidential documents and files were destroyed, may be irretrievably and computer systems were looted along other court’s materials! No wonder that our judicial officers and their family members (whether in the court’s proceedings or outside the court room) are all in the hands of God Almighty! The government and or the executive arm of government does not take the judiciary in priority, hence, the hoodlums sadly were able to attack the court with no single security agency on sight to curb such criminal invasion! So ugly, shocking and unpalatable it was to me to hear some lawyers jubilating and commemorating with joy (the sad incidents that befell the judiciary) that it served the judiciary well and that the bench brought such bad incidents upon itself as a result of the attitudes of some of the alleged Judges and or Magistrates! I have also not got enough criticism of such criminal acts from the Nigerian Bar Association-herein after referred to as the NBA- perhaps the NBA is more concentrating on corporate practices rather than litigation which is the source of the legal profession and or the legal practice! Litigation lawyers and human rights activists (such as I am), know the value of the existence of courts of law in this democratic system! Some lawyers (if not many in the litigation) would likely lose some briefs as a result of the arson on the courts and some staff of the courts are likely to be without portfolio in the time being (thank God they are public servants, else, their family members would have suffered economic impacts)! Perhaps the courts would have to call for photocopies of documents in the pending suits in those courts to certify same if both counsel confirm and agree as to their originality since archives are likely burnt too as well as case files! The Nigerian Bar Association in my humble view, has not done enough rather, the concern of the NBA (with due respect) on this saga is #endsars, #endpolicebrutality but has lost concentration on the evil that has befallen the judiciary and our courts’ system! I have not seen (to the best of my knowledge) enough press releases from the NBA sympathizing with the judiciary and the bench on the occasion of these ugly incidents! This in my humble view, is a very low rating in the relationship of the NBA with the judiciary! With due respect, I humbly dissociate myself from this kind of inappropriate criticism and I join myself to sympathise with the judiciary, the bench and the legal profession on these criminal acts of those suspected hoodlums! May we never experience this occasion anymore in our judicial history! All these are apart from the financial impacts of having to rebuild those courts affected! Furthermore, in order for the judiciary not to continue to be vulnerable security wise, it is the aim of this paper to recommend that there should a statute in both the National Assembly and the State’s House of Assembly establishing what I propose as ‘Nigeria Special Judicial Police’- herein after referred to as the NSJP)- for the Federal Judiciary and the States Judiciary or in the most appropriate alternative, a ‘Federal Special Judicial Police-herein after referred to as the FSJP’ or a State Special Judicial Police-herein after referred to as the SSJP-, which will in all, be a formation or a pool from which all the judicial police including the courts’ orderly would be drawn from, so that the judiciary has its own special police (even though they may be trained from the Nigeria Police Force) and they should have their own special uniform, carry arms and weaponry for the defence of judicial officers and the courts (including: the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeal, the High Courts (and other coordinate courts), the Magistrate Courts, the Area Courts, the Customary Courts (and other tribunals), etc. Furthermore, our courts will no longer be secured by only civilian security guards! There would be the NSJP or the FSJP or the SSJP (as the case might be) out-post in every court and such NSJP or the FSJP or the SSJP (as the case might be) would be able to seek help from other sister law enforcement and security agencies of government. This NSJP or the FSJP or the SSJP (as the case might be) would be directly under the control of the head of each court i.e. the Chief Justice of Nigeria (for Supreme Court of Nigeria), the President of the Court of Appeal of Nigeria (for the Court of Appeal); the respective Chief Judge (for the High Courts and the Magistrate Courts); the Shariah Court of Appeal and the Court of Appeal’s respective Heads (for those courts and the respective Area Courts and the Customary Courts), etc. Notwithstanding my listed recommendations, proper modalities of this NSJP or the FSJP or the SSJP (as the case might be) can be deliberated in establishing this security agency of government for the judiciary. This recommended security agency might be under the Inspector General of Police though with its own Head! I believe that these recommendations might not be perfect but I believe that the best of the recommendations would be made out where further deliberations are carried out by the appropriate authorities!
Finally, it is my humble submission that if these recommendations can be made a reality, then, the judiciary and the courts as well as the judicial officers would not be vulnerable to such hoodlums and or criminal invasion as has been recently experienced in the #EndSARS protest and justice would be dispensed by our courts without any fear and or favour! I also humbly request the NBA at both the National and the branches (especially those in the jurisdiction whose courts were those affected) to formally sympathise with the judiciary (though belated but better than none) and to liaise with the judiciary, the National Assembly and the State Houses of Assembly on facilitating the establishment of this NSJP or the FSJP or the SSJP (as the case might be).
Long live the Federal Republic of Nigeria! Long live the Nigeria Judiciary! God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria! God bless the Nigeria Judiciary! God bless the legal profession!