From: TONY JOHN, Port Harcourt
Security was beefed up around the residential area of the Federal High Court judge, where there was a failed attempt to arrest a judge yesterday, by security operatives in Port Harcourt, Rivers State.
This is even as the state governor, Nyesom Wike, has alleged that he was manhandled by Federal security agencies, early morning of yesterday, when personnel of the Department of State Security (DSS) and Police went to “abduct” the judge residing at Number 35 Forces Avenue in the state capital. Shortly after the incident, which attracted many people, several police patrol vans and an Armoured Personnel Carrier (APC) were positioned opposite the judge’s house, which is close to the DSS office.
Reason for the foiled attempted arrest of the judge and name of the affected judge could not be ascertained at the time of filing this report, as all efforts to get reaction from the DSS failed. Several calls and a text message to the Director of Operations were not replied.
But, when the State Commissioner of Police, Mr. Francis Odesanya, was contacted for reaction, he declined knowledge of the manhandling of Governor Wike, saying he was not present when the incident occurred.
Odesanya told Sunday Sun that he got wind of the development at Number 35 Forces Avenue, Port Harcourt, and went there to mediate.
He said: “I didn’t witness it. I was not there. I think DSS went to effect the arrest of a judge and he (Wike) tried to obstruct them. It was later I got information about it and I went there to mediate.”
Meanwhile, it was gathered that DSS operatives allegedly rough-handled Governor Wike, pushing him around and injuring his hand. A few of the operatives were said to have cocked their rifles and threatened to shoot the governor.
A Government House statement claimed that the security operatives were irked by Governor Wike’s arrival at the scene shortly after the failed abduction process began, adding that Wike received security information on the illegal moves, minutes after the operation started.
The statement further said that security operatives blocked the entrance of the residence of the judge about 1.00 am, claiming that they were acting on orders from above. Addressing newsmen, Governor Wike said: “Not under my watch wiĺl I allow this kind of impunity to take place. That is why we are here. I don’t know which judge they were detailed to abduct. I didn’t bother myself to know which judge. All I am interested in is that, at this level, it is not allowed. “He is not a criminal and he is not an armed robber. If the person has committed an offence, invite him. It is only when he refuses to honour the invitation that you can adopt this commando style.”
He declared that their reckless action portends danger to the nation’s democracy, noting that he was convinced that President Buhari was not aware of the level of impunity being perpetrated by Federal securiy agencies.
Governor Wike, however, said that whatever might be the situation, the rule of law must prevail in a democratic setting. He said if the security agencies had a lawful directive to implement, they must follow due process. “The Commissioner of Police is here, the Director of DSS is here. Their operatives cocked their guns and threatened to shoot me. I have never seen that before. Again, this is to tell you what we are facing. We know that more will come. For us in this state, we shall continue to resist it.”
Governor Wike added: “It doesn’t matter what it will cost. When you talk about liberty, sacrifices must be made. We are not trying to stop an arrest. All we are saying is that things must be done decently and in line with the rule of law. Rivers State is under siege. For you to see a governor out at this time of the day, something is wrong. A siege is an understatement. If this type of thing happens next time, the people wiĺl resist it to the last. They are trying to do something funny in this state, probably to declare a state of emergency.”
Bribery of S/C judges: Count me out, says Akpabio
In the wake of the controversial raid on the homes of some judges by the Department of State Security (DSS), Senate Minority Leader, Senator Godswill Akpabio has denied any involvement in the alleged bribery of Supreme Court judges.
In a statement, the Special Assistant on Media to Senator Akpabio denounced the attempt by the Akwa Ibom State chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC) to link with the alleged bribery of justices of the apex court.
The denial was in reaction to a publication by Akwa Ibom APC, with the banner headline: “Breaking News! 2015 A’Ibom polls: Fear grips Akpabio over arrest of Supreme Court Justices.”
“The story in its entirety is spurious, baseless, false and the figment of the imagination of mischief makers who concocted it.
Their frantic and desperate attempt to link Senator Akpabio with the saga is to tarnish his image in their continuing pull-him-down syndrome, which has increased in intensity since the party lost Akwa Ibom State,” Ekong said.
He stressed that Akpabio was in no way involved in the alleged bribery of Supreme Court judges and so had no reason whatsoever to be scared over the arrest of the judges.
He noted that Akpabio is a democrat that believes in the sanctity of the electoral process, and could not have been involved in bribing any Judge, stressing that doing so is “not in his character” as his election to the Senate was seen as a no-contest after a sterling performance as Governor of Akwa Ibom State. The process was free and fair.
“It is most disingenuous and reprehensible for Akwa Ibom State APC to attempt to link Senator Akpabio to something he has no knowledge of and impute he was gripped with fear when he was busy celebrating with his colleague on the marriage of his daughter in Irrua, Esan Central Local Government of Edo State,” Ekong said.
“It is however sad that Akwa Ibom State APC, rather than wait for the investigation to take its course, have already condemned their son, Justice Inyang Okoro and celebrate his present ordeal.”
Akpabio cautioned all political players to take actions that would sustain democracy and not actions that imperil the country’s hard earned democracy.
DSS invasion: Fayose condemns attack on judges
From WOLE BALOGUN, Ado-Ekiti
Governor of Ekiti State, Mr. Ayodele Fayose has condemned the invasion of the residences of five judges, including those of two Justices of the Supreme Court – Justice Walter Onnoghen (who is in line to succeed the outgoing Chief Justice of Nigeria) and Justice Sylvester Ngwuta, by armed men of the Department of State Service (DSS) and reported arrest, describing the development as a direct assault on the judiciary.
Governor Fayose, who addressed the press in Ado-Ekiti yesterday evening, said: “It should now be obvious to all Nigerians and the international community that democracy is under threat in Nigeria and Nigerians must rise to save democracy from being truncated.
For all intent and purposes, there is no how the Federal Government can justify the Gestapo and crude action of the DSS against our judiciary, the last hope of the common man and I believe they just want to hide under anti-corruption fight to blackmail and intimidate the judiciary.
If not, have the affected judges been reported to the National Judicial Council (NJC), the body saddled with the responsibilities of investigating and sanctioning erring judges?
Were the affected judges ever invited by the DSS and they refused to honour the invitation?
Fayose urged Nigerians to recall that he had previously raised the alarm and warned that democracy in Nigeria was becoming unsafe in the hands of the APC government, following the invasion of the Akwa Ibom State government house and later the Ekiti State House of Assembly, by operatives of the DSS.
Back then, Fayose said, he had warned that those keeping silent because of politics might also end up in the belly of the roaring lion that is threatening to consume our democracy.
“Now we have gotten to the height of it and Nigeria faces full-blown military dictatorship! This is sad! It is more worrisome that two of the judges involved, Justice Adeniyi Ademola and Justice Nnamdi Dimgba ruled against the DSS and condemned its impunity on the cases of former National Security Adviser (NSA), Col Sambo Dasuki (rtd) and retired Air Commodore, Umar Mohammed and one wonders if upholding the rule of law by refusing to help the DSS to sustain its reign of impunity has now become a criminal offence for which judges must be harassed, intimidated and arrested,” Fayose said.
He added: “The question to ask is that, will the DSS be a judge in its own case? Even if there are evidence(s) of corruption against the judges as they will want Nigerians to believe, the law is clear as to what to do.
The NJC must be informed and the council will in turn investigate the allegation and take appropriate actions. It is after this that the affected judges can be invited for questioning and possibly prosecuted.
“It should be noted that few days ago, the NJC sacked three judges for breaching the Codes of Conduct for Judicial Officers and went further to recommend that one of them, Justice Kabiru M. Auta be handed over to the Inspector General of Police for prosecution for alleged corruption.
“If NJC could do this less than one week ago, has the same NJC been informed of any allegation of corruption against the judges whose residences were invaded?
“I therefore call on all Nigerians and the international community to rise in defense of democracy and the rule of law in our country because as it is, no one will be spared by this rampaging dictatorship.”