* Says attack on Port Harcourt Court, Signals Danger for Nigerian Democracy
The Chief Justice of Nigeria, Hon Justice Walter Samuel Nkanu Onnoghen, has condemned in strong terms the attack on Rivers State judiciary. He said the act is disturbing and that such show of shame ought not to be encouraged by right thinking members of the Nigerian Public.
The CJN made this statement sequel to the attack on the Port Harcourt High Court complex on Friday, 11th May, 2018.
In a statement made available to The Nigeria Lawyer.com Hon. Justice stated that the act was carried out in order to stop the court from giving its ruling in an intra-party dispute of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
According to the reports, this attack took place as Judges, Magistrates, staff and lawyers reported for duty at the said Rivers State High Court Complex in Port Harcourt, the RiversState capital. Judicial and non-Judicial staff were denied access to the Complex as all the gates had been padlocked and the buildings surrounded by hoodlums.
“These hoodlums, who were said to be heavily armed, reportedly inflicted bodily harm toJudicial Officers and other staff of the Judiciary going about their lawful duties and destroyedsome properties belonging to the Judiciary.
He further stated that “this action was aimed at stopping the Court from sitting and delivering a ruling in an intra-party dispute of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in respect of the Local Government congresses of the party in the State.
“This latest act of intimidation of the judiciary and the unwarranted violence against a peaceful institution of an Arm of Government is quite disturbing. More importantly, such show of shame ought not to be encouraged by right thinking members of the Nigerian Public.
“If the enemies of our peace and democracy succeed or get away with what occurred at the High Court in Port-Harcourt, it would be a source of encouragement to them to do same to the court of Appeal, and ultimately, the Supreme Court of Nigeria, whenever any one of them perceives that a judgment may be delivered against any of them or the interests they represent,” Justice Walter added.
He also said that the Judiciary remains the last hope of man, and our Judges and Judicial Officers are called upon to remain true to their Oath of Office. They must remain focused, resolute, and courageous, regardless of the effort at intimidating them.
He therefore urged all Nigerians to continue to have faith in the Judiciary of the Nation.
“Any person with a legitimate complaint against another person, organisation or institution is advised to employthe civilized and legal mode of redress as contained and guaranteed by our Constitution.
“Whoever is dissatisfied with the outcome of decisions of our Courts of Law has the right of appeal as Constitutionally guaranteed. The Judiciary will never fail in its duties.
“Violence, the type visited on the Judiciary of Rivers State is alien to any civilized society and therefore condemnable,” he stated.
He also noted with grave concern that this magnitude of violence could be visited on the Judiciary during a Ward/Local Government intra-party primary election, and wonders what the situation would be during the forthcoming general elections in 2019.
The Chief Justice, however, commends security agencies for bringing the chaos under control, thereby allowing the Judge to go ahead and deliver the ruling on the matter, but warns that attacks on the Judiciary is a disaster that would end democracy in Nigeria as parties would resort to self-help in the absence of the Judiciary or confidence in the Judiciary as an arbiter.
The CJN also seizes this opportunity to reiterate the commitment of the Judiciary to expeditious hearing of all political matters to avoid escalating political tension in the nation.
The Hon. Chief Justice of Nigeria, finally, advises Judicial Officers to go about their lawful duties without fear or favour.