From Fred Itua, Abuja
The Senate, yesterday, said a joint panel recovery unit of the Ministry of Justice, comprising the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), police and Ministry of Justice, was behind the invasion of the Abuja residence of Justice Mary Odili of the Supreme Court.
It said the establishments sought a search warrant from an FCT Magistrate for the operation after “a so-called whistleblower claimed to have observed illegal activities allegedly going on in a house at Imo street, Maitama.”
It condemned the invasion and demanded that all those involved be apprehended and prosecuted.
Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), Abubakar Malami and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had denied involvement in the raid. Malami and Usman Baba, inspector-general of police (IGP) have ordered probes into the incident.
However, at yesterday’s plenary, the upper legislative chamber condemned the invasion and mandated the IGP to make public all findings of investigation into the matter.
It commended the police for making arrests and constituting a panel to investigate the raid on Odili’s residence.
These formed part of resolutions reached by the Senate, following a point of order raised by Betty Apiafi during plenary. While coming under order 42 and 52 of the Senate Standing Rules, she moved a motion on the “Urgent need to investigate the invasion of Justice Odili’s residence by security agents.”
The lawmaker, in her motion, noted that on October 29, 2021, security operatives invaded the home of Justice Mary Odili, the second most senior judicial officer in Nigeria.
“The senate is worried that this incident brings back to mind similar invasion of homes of some senior judicial officers, including chief judges of the Supreme Court and judges of the Federal High Court in Abuja and other parts of the country in October 2016, which was widely condemned.
“Further worried that the home of such a highly revered judicial officer could be raided in such a manner by security agents. The senate is disturbed that 11 days after the incident, though the Inspector General of Police claims some arrests have been made and investigations are still ongoing, even though the details of such arrest have not been made public.”
Michael Bamidele, who chairs the Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters, said no member of the upper chamber “was at ease hearing the news of what happened.”
He said the motion presented by Apiafi represented the collective desire of members of the National Assembly in ensuring that the government takes appropriate steps to bring to book all those found culpable. He said doing so would send a clear signal on the need to respect the sanctity of the judiciary and to also protect judicial officers in Nigeria, whose rights under the law must be protected.
George Sekibo recalled that the Port Harcourt residence of Justice Mary Odili was invaded a couple of months ago.
“Several reasons were given why thugs invaded the house. I don’t want to mention the reasons so that it does not bring in controversy. Recently, as the motion said, the house in Abuja was also invaded. (And) then after a struggle, the security agents that invaded the place left the residence. They claimed to have brought a warrant from a Magistrates Court in Abuja. They claimed the Minister of Justice was aware of it. There are several claims. The minister of justice has denied and dissociated himself from that, the chairman of EFCC has also done that. I have read statements by the Inspector General of Police that he has made some arrests and that they are investigating the matter. My problem is this; oftentimes, things happen and then police investigates, and in most cases, we don’t get the result of the investigation. I pray that this investigation comes to limelight.”
The senate asked the IGP to disclose the findings of the investigation as soon as possible.
Meanwhile, the Senate has charged the IGP to investigate the circumstances leading to the disappearance of Mr. Tordue Salem, an Abuja-based Vanguard newspaper reporter.
This followed the adoption of a point of order by Orker-Jev Emmanuel Yisa (Benue- North).
Citing order 42 and 52 of the Senate Rules, Yisa said Salem, before his disappearance, was a journalist with the Vanguard newspaper covering the House of Representatives.
“On October 13, between 8-9p.m, Salem went missing and all phone contact with him ceased.”
He said efforts by his family, friends and colleagues to trace his whereabouts have proved abortive. He, however, expressed optimism that the intervention of the senate would persuade the police to get to the root of the matter.
Similarly, the House of Assembly charged various security agencies to probe the circumstances surrounding the disappearance of the journalist.
It mandated its Committees on National Security and Intelligence, Police, Defence and Interior to interface with security chiefs and report back to the House within two weeks.
The House, while describing the journalists disappearance as worrisome, expressed dismay with the spate of insecurity in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, stating that the city had become unsafe with kidnappings and banditry becoming regular occurrences.
This followed the adoption of a motionby the minority leader, Ndudi Elumelu titled: “A Case of Missing Journalist, Need to Investigate Circumstances Surrounding the Disappearance.”
Elumelu, in his lead debate, said it was imperative for security agencies to take urgent steps to stem the disappearance of innocent Nigerians in Abuja.
“Mr Tordue Salem is a member of the House of Representatives press corps and he reports for the Vanguard Newspaper. Mr Salem reported for work at the National Assembly premises on Wednesday the 13th of October and was last seen in Garki District of FCT before his alleged disappearance same day.
“His disappearance was immediately reported to the relevant security agencies as all efforts by both friends and family to reach him have been abortive. In spite of official effort by the leadership of the House to galvanise the security agencies at promptly resolving his disappearance, there’s been no headway. This sudden disappearance is an extension of the deteriorating state of insecurity in the nation’s capital and again questions the efficiency of the country’s security operatives.
“If necessary measures are not put in place to curtail the indiscriminate disappearance of innocent Nigerians living in Abuja , the federal capital may soon become a breeding ground for kidnappers and bandits, hence the need for an urgent investigation.”