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How to avoid another invasion of court

The attacks were the second time in four days to be launched by thugs with reckless abandon, forcing lawyers to scamper for safety.In a country…

The attacks were the second time in four days to be launched by thugs with reckless abandon, forcing lawyers to scamper for safety.
In a country where  the slow pace of justice delivery has become a nightmare for most citizens, the closure of all courts in  Ekiti State represents a dangerous signal to get justice as at when due in Nigeria.
But observers have argued that Justice Daramola’s orders for the closure of the courts in the state should not be viewed from the prism of the delay in justice delivery alone but rather from the severe implication the reverse would have if the thugs had been allowed completely to desecrate the temple of justice.
How could one explain a situation where a sitting judge was beaten to stupor and his suit torn to shreds by thugs?
   Justice John Adeyeye who was presiding over a case that had nothing to do with the last Ekiti governorship election, courted trouble when he called on the governor-elect, Ayo Fayose, to caution the people following him to the tribunal.
The record book of the Chief Judge, Justice Ayodeji Daramola, was also torn into pieces by the thugs who also disrupted proceedings at the state Election Petitions Tribunal.
According to Chief Mike Ozekhome, SAN, “the drama in Ekiti can simply be described as one of the signs of the end times because even during military rule, judges were never attacked. Did you ever hear of any judge being beaten up during the military era? But now, we have seen hallowed chamber of justice being defiled by politicians.
“They now defecate in our courts in broad day light. It is a dangerous trend because the implication of what happened is that judges will no longer deliver judgment on the basis of facts and laws before them but on the basis of fear of being attacked violently. If we allow this to continue, then justice will not only be for the highest bidder but for the violent character who can take on judges at any time,” Ozekhome said.
Yinka Farounbi, the Ikeja branch chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), who led a fact-finding team to the state revealed that: “The attacks were clearly carried out with the aim to stop the court from discharging its lawful and constitutional responsibility of adjudicating over disputes brought before it.
“Those that may be found to have participated in the desecration of the Ekiti judiciary should be made to face the wrath of the law. The law is no respecter of any person.
“Democracy cannot survive where there is no rule of law and respect for the judiciary,” he said.
The Ekiti attacks are not the first onslaught suffered by the judiciary in the discharge of its duties in the country. Judges and lawyers have been victim of one physical assault or the order in recent times.
These officers have also raised concerns about the rising insurgency caused by the dreaded Boko Haram and security implications to the justice system, especially to its members in the volatile north-east zone of the country
Recently, courts in Rivers State were bombed as a result of the stalemate created by the state’s failure to swear in either an acting or a substantive chief judge in the state. And for the Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN), the development was unacceptable and would force the union to take measures to protect its members and the judiciary in general.
But the Ekiti manhandling of judges was a new phenomenon in the desecration of the third organ of government in the country, especially as the all-crucial 2015 elections draw near.
The National Judicial Council (NJC) has swiftly instituted a probe into the crisis to protect its constituency from further assault despite the usual buck-passing and blame game by the political actors in the crisis.
The NJC has since begun probe on the crisis while there are requests from some quarters for the Ekiti State election tribunal to be relocated to Abuja or another safer area in order to give room for the quick hearing and adjudication on the case.
Stakeholders in the nation’s political and judicial circle see the attacks as a desecration of the rule of law and democracy that if left unchecked will spell doom for the country.
In order climes, judicial sanctity is not negotiable while its officers are duly protected from the claws of unhealthy characters.
Human rights activist, Barrister Femi Aborisade, lamented that politicians and all their political parties have desecrated the judiciary, adding that “those who have not physically and violently attacked the judiciary, exercise nauseating, annihilating, overwhelming, absolute and unconditional control within their political jurisdiction.”
According to him, a typical Nigerian politician is desperate to remain in power, or to seize power by all means and at all costs.
He said: “All the major ruling political parties are resorting to self-help rather than reposing confidence in the judiciary to do justice. Invading the courts violently is an abomination, so also is assassinating political opponents. The language of rig and roast, we have no patience for going to court, shows the undemocratic nature and character of politicians in Nigeria today.’’
He said what is responsible for the development is access to political power which translates to limitless money kingdoms or economic power.
To nip the development in the bud, the lawyer suggested the need for constitutional backing for the policy and that those occupying political elective and appointive offices shall earn only the minimum wage, plus incidental expenses, without the right to award or take government contracts.
He said: “Government ministries must execute government projects through direct labour and/or through collaboration with public institutions nationally and internationally through what is called Public-Public Partnership (P-PPs) as opposed to Public-Private Partnership’’
Within the context of such policies, the tension generated by elections, he explained, would evaporate, adding that those who are motivated by the genuine desire to serve would be left in the race.
He said resources would then be available for the basic needs of the masses as against the greed of the rulers.
He suggested that judges should be elected rather than being politically appointed, adding that the development would make them feel more responsible to public interests rather than being indebted to those who backed them politically to be appointed.
He said: “Election of judges would also engender public confidence in the expectation that the courts would dispense justice according to the law rather than the interests of the forces that influenced the process of their appointment.”
Another lawyer, Akin Adebayo advised politicians in the country to respect the sanctity of the judiciary as the last hope of the common man.
Citing the Ekiti case, the lawyer decried the desecration of courts and manhandling of judicial officers, adding that the development may spur crisis in the country.
He suggested that the NJC should do more than rhetoric in upholding the integrity of the judiciary in the country as well as sanction its own who are found to have connived with politicians to desecrate the temple of justice.
He also suggested that the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) should be on guard of its members who connive with politicians to drag the name of the judiciary into the mud.

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