Sowore: Body of SANs charges Buhari to set up commission of enquiry to probe DSS’ court invasion
•As NBA calls for stiffer actions to check cases of disobedience to court orders
The Body of Senior Advocates of Nigeria, on Thursday, asked President Muhammadu Buhari to set up a Judicial Commission of Enquiry that would conduct public hearing to determine those behind last Friday’s invasion of a courtroom by operatives of the Department of State Security (DSS) to re-arrest the convener of RevolutionNow Protest, Omoyele Sowore.
The umbrella association of SANs in the country said it was troubled about the audacity with which some of the “actors” entered the Courtroom while the Judge was still sitting, saying it, “exposed our hallmark of indiscipline to the whole world in a matter of seconds”.
It maintained that emphatic claim by Sowore’s counsel, Femi Falana (SAN), that it was DSS operatives that invaded the courtroom, and the agency’s denial that its officers were not involved in the saga, called for the constitution of an Independent Commission of Enquiry under the law to investigate the matter.
The body made its position known in a speech it presented at a Valedictory session of the Supreme Court to mark the retirement of Justice Kumai Aka’ahs from the bench.
It said it was opposed to allowing either the Police or the National Assembly to carry out the investigation.
While extolling the virtues of Justice Aka’ahs who bowed out of active judicial service upon clocking the 75 years mandatory retirement age, the body of SANs said: “If his Lordship, was to go back memory lane to tell us whether the Judiciary he is leaving behind today, enjoys the same respect, honour, and dignity as it enjoyed when he first joined the judiciary years ago. I am not in any doubt as to what the answer will be.
“In the days before the Military Coup in 1966, the judiciary was accorded the highest recognition and honour in Nigeria. Judges were well respected and held high in all circles of the Society. Their orders were respected and obeyed by everyone including the Colonial government at all levels.
“There were clear signs of a disciplined society where the rule of law flourished to a great extent, and the rights of citizens were respected and upheld.
“The story today is totally different. The society of today is one where indiscipline has taken firm root such that Judgments and Orders of Court are now treated with disdain.
“Desperate politicians are mounting roadblocks on the path of the Rule of Law. They are doing all within their power to replace the Rule of Law with their own rule for their own selfish interest.
”The effect of an unrestrained quest for political power has all sewed to disrupt the efficiency of the judiciary and damaged its perception.”
“ln spite of all disruptions, His Lordship and his learned brothers continued in the performance of their duties. A country that does not respect its judiciary cannot qualify as a democratic country.
“The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria recognized the Judiciary as the third arm of government in the country to which the Judicial powers of the nation is vested.
“It has been clearly stated by our predecessors in the profession of law that the Judiciary is undoubtedly the weakest of the three arms of government under the Constitution. It has no arms or weapons and controls no force and does not hold the key to the nation’s treasury.
“Save for the interpretation of the statutes made by the Legislature, the Judiciary plays no part in enactment of Laws. By the Constitutional arrangement of the Country, the only power left to the Judiciary is to decide matters in issue and make appropriate orders, Limited in its power, the judiciary remains the unbreakable pillar of the Nation.
“The Judiciary was in place in colonial times and it continued thereafter.
“When the Military intervened it did not abolish the Judiciary all they tried to do was try to coerce but it failed.
“The Nation prides herself as a democracy. Its Constitution (as Obaseki JSC puts it in The Government of Lagos State vs. Ojukwu) is founded on the Rule of law, the primary meaning of which is that everything must be done according to the law. it means also that the Government should be conducted within the framework of recognized rules and principles which restrict the discretionary powers.
“By our Constitution, therefore, Nigeria opted for and accepted that Nigeria and Nigerians are to be ruled and governed by the laws of the land.
“The events of the past 3 years or so have shown that while Nigeria professes to be governed by the Laws of the land, some of its actions and her officers show otherwise. No one suggests that Judges are above the law or that they ought not to be arrested when there is justifiable cause for it.
“But in doing so, one ought to recognize the fact that the judiciary is an arm of government and its judicial officers are persons deserving of decency and respect in their treatment.
“In the recent past, we have witnessed the arrest of judges in their official residence at night time. Entry into the residence or offices of judges vi et armies is an assault on the Judiciary.
“The incidence has come and gone and no State Officer was questioned or queried for the manner they purported to have carried out their state duty of arresting judges in the manner they did.
“Of immediate concern is the recent incidence of the alleged invasion of a courtroom while the Court was in session for an alleged purpose of effecting the arrest of Sowore. Treasonable felony is a grave crime in the statute book but there is nothing special about it.
“Chief Obafemi Awolowo & Ors. were once charged and tried for it. So, Sowore is not the first to be so accused. He will certainly have his day in Court.
“The evidence so far is that they wore vests with the Inscription, “DSS”. Denial has come from the Department of State Security saying that its officers were not the ones that operated in the Courtroom.
“They submitted that the whole incident was ”orchestrated” by some interest groups. Whoever did so, our country now stands out as an indiscipline Country where such bizarre operation takes place in the Courtroom and in Court that was in session.
“This is the picture of the state of affairs of our country and the Judiciary which Honourable Kumai Bayang Aka’ahs OFR is leaving behind.
“As I Speak, no one has owned up to be responsible for what everyone saw on the television screen. The question is now, how can we curb that kind of behavior in the future? The Nigerian Bar Association has come up with a Statement from the Bar condemning the action.
“As members of the Nigerian Bar Association, the Body of Senior Advocates of Nigeria Association associate itself with the condemnation of the show of shame. It will, however, go one step further to suggest that this matter should not be swept under the expanding carpet of deceit in Nigeria.
“The pertinent question is who was responsible for the action in the courtroom? This is a task that the government must carry out to ascertain the truth. The Nigeria Police is a sister agency to DSS, they cannot, therefore, investigate this matter, so also the Nigerian Army, Nigerian Custom and other Paramilitary forces in the country.
“The National Assembly is not sufficiently equipped to investigate the matter.
“The way out is an Independent Commission of Enquiry under the law. This can be achieved. The Body of Senior Advocates hereby demands that Mr. President considers without delay, the setting up of a Judicial Commission Enquiry to hear publicly and determined the perpetrators of the acts their sponsors and their objectives.
“Unless this is done, Nigerians are unlikely to be convinced by any other explanations that the act was not the work of the DSS.
“It is the result of any such judiciary inquiry that will lead to the re-establishment of discipline in society. The DSS and its officers are not above the laws of the land and the Constitution. In Nigerian law and in the Common Law, the Superior Orders is no defence to criminal conduct. It has never been and this administration must not allow it to be.
The SANs made their demand, barely 24 hours after the AGF, Malami, SAN, disclosed that the federal government has set up a mechanism to investigate the alleged court invasion by the DSS to re-arrest Sowore who was the presidential candidate of the African Action Alliance AAC, in the last general election.
On its part, the NBA, at the valedictory court session, decried what it termed as the desecration of the temple of justice through persistent disobedience and flouting of court orders.
The NBA said it was unfortunate that the judiciary was gradually being turned to “a toothless bulldog”.
It warned that disrobing the court and making a mockery of its toga as the last hope of the common man would enthrone anarchy and promote the practice of self-help.
“That slide into the abyss of anarchy and disorder must be arrested immediately and before it is too late. Our governments must take the lead in that regard. They must be exemplary in obeying and complying with court orders.
“Beyond appealing to the good conscience and sense of responsibility of litigants and Nigerian principalities generally, we urge the courts to demonstrate that they are not toothless in sanctioning persons who flagrantly disobey and flout court orders.
“Such persons, for example, must not have continued audience before the courts that they so flagrantly denigrate.
“They need to be denied the audience before any and all courts during the pendency of their contemptuous conduct. They need to know that disobedience of court orders can be and is costly”, the NBA added in a speech that was presented by its President, Usoro, SAN.