Fred Itua, Abuja
Abuja-based human rights lawyer and gender activist Esther Uzoma has raised concerns over the safety of judges in Nigeria. The founder of Proactive Gender Initiative (PGI) said judges are no longer safe given what she identified as the tendency of those in power to politicise court decisions, particularly those of the Supreme Court.
Uzoma at weekend warned that the relentless assault on judicial pronouncements, including protests to the homes of judges, was a dangerous signal and “speaks to a broader social malaise.”
Last Wednesday, a group of protesters under the aegis of Bayelsa APC Youth Vanguard for Real Change had led a protest march to the Abuja residence of Justice Mary Odili over the apex court’s decision removing erstwhile Bayelsa Governor-elect, David Lyon, over forgery by his running mate, Biobarakuma Degi-Eremienyo.
“The attack on the judiciary by politicians over decisions of the court and now to even protest at the home of a justice, to say the least, is deplorable and must be halted before it becomes a pattern. This relentless tendency to cast our justice system as a scapegoat for the many difficulties afflicting our country is puerile, mischievous and wholly misplaced,” Uzoma said.
According to her, “to single out one single justice, and in this instance a female, speaks to a broader social malaise which seeks to pillory, scapegoat and make the female gender as the archetype of social ills and evil, and this is untenable and foolish.
“What one had imagined would have happened by now was for the police to have arrested all those who went for the protest and demonstrate that anti-judicial and democratic attempts are not condoned.
“Sadly, the police, known for its overzealousness when not needed, stood by and allowed hired crowd to put a respected judge and her family in harm’s way and to what end?,” Uzoma said.
The PGI national coordinator also wondered why the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) was yet to act on the disgraceful conduct and send a strong message to delinquent politicians that they will reject their briefs if they persist in harassing judges and judicial officers in general.
Uzoma urged judges in the country not to shirk their responsibility of being unbiased, impartial and courageous arbiters in the temple of justice, stressing that it was only when they rise above the pettiness and irrelevance of politicians and jobbers can the sanctity of the judiciary be preserved.