By Onyebuchi Ezigbo, Paul Obi and James Emejo
Abuja — The House of Representatives on Tuesday passed a motion setting up an ad hoc committee to investigate the immediate and remote causes of the assault on the judiciary in Rivers State on May 11, to prevent future occurrence and report back within four weeks for further legislative actions. It condemned the attack in strong ters.
This came as the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) warned against intimidation of the judiciary in the country.
The House resolution followed a motion moved under matters of urgent public importance by Hon. Betty Apiafi (PDP, Rivers) and 12 other members on the assault on Rivers State judiciary by hoodlums aided by men of the Federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad (FSARS).
She noted with concern that organised hoodlums, aided by 40 operatives of FSARS under the command of Akin Fakorede Command in the state had on the fateful day blocked all the entrances of the Rivers State High Court complex for hours, preventing judicial workers, judges, litigants and lawyers from gaining access into their offices and court rooms to carry out their judicial duties and businesses.
She said while the siege lasted, the hoodlums freely harassed innocent persons including lawyers, judges and other judiciary staff.
The lawmaker pointed out that public properties were vandalised while equipment and furniture were stolen in the act, adding that private and government-owned vehicles parked within the vicinity of the high court premises and the court buildings were ransacked and destroyed.
She noted that the incident was purportedly a fallout of the All Progressives Congress (APC) local government congress where an aggrieved faction had gone to court to seek redress, while the other faction, with the backing of the security men were cut out to prevent the court from sitting.
Apiafi argued that Nigeria is a democratic nation and Section 6 (6) of the constitution as amended clearly vested adjudicator powers in the Judiciary.
She further expressed worry that such brazen an sponsored invasion of an arm of government amounted to assault and contempt of the judiciary and a show of violence as well as an infringement of the constitution.
She accused security agencies, particularly the police of failing in its responsibility to protect democratic institutions.
She added that the invasion of institutions of government was now becoming a norm which no doubt ridicules the country’s democracy before the international community.
Members who contributed to the debate said the unfortunate incidence was a disgrace to the country and called for its total condemnation.
Hon. Henry Okon Archibong (PDP, Akwa-Ibom) said the incident showed “the kind of leadership we have” adding that “the police should also invade the presidential village” so they could also taste the bitter pill.
Hon. Nnnena Elendu-Ukeje (PDP, Abia) said the incident does not portray a democratic status on the country, adding that the incident should be investigated.
“We can’t continue like this,” she said.
Hon. Mohammed Monguno (APC, Borno) said the rule of law was being sidelined, adding that it was a clear case of the judiciary being harassed in Rivers.
He said:”If allowed to continue this way, we will be heading towards chaos and anarchy.
“This is a threat to our hard earned democracy and should be condemned.”
Also, a bill for an Act to Repeal the Explosives Act, 2004 and Re-enact the Explosives Bill, 2018 to make Comprehensive Provisions for the use and control of explosives in Nigeria and for related matters, 2018 was read for the third time and passed in the House yesterday.
Meanwhile, the NLC has warned against intimidation of the judiciary in the country.
NLC President, Ayuba Wabba said: “We at the Nigeria Labour Congress condemn the attacks by hoodlums and their sponsors on the Court in Port Harcourt.
“These attacks represent the primitive instincts of the hoodlums and the desperation of their promoters.
“But beyond this, an attack on the court, any court for that matter, constitutes a violation of the sanctity of the judiciary and an invitation to anarchy.”
He explained: “In light of the fact that the court is the last hope of the common man, no explanation is good enough for this level of primitive violence.
“In our view, our democracy can only make meaning as well as stand the test of time with strong institutions.
“Accordingly, we should eschew undermining them as that will only render them prostrate and amenable to manipulation.
“However, judges owe themselves and the system the duty of living above board. Anything to the contrary, erodes the confidence of the citizenry in the courts and makes attractive the quest for alternative route to justice, which often times could be savage!
“Finally, we urge the police to fish out and prosecute these culprits, no matter how highly placed. We say ‘No to intimidation of the courts’ Wabba submitted.
However, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has urged the police to immediately arrest and prosecute leaders of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Rivers State allegedly linked with the violent attack and invasion of a High Court in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, last Friday.
The party said Nigerians were alarmed when armed thugs allegedly sponsored by some ‘desperate leaders of the dysfunctional and violent-prone APC’ attacked the court, shot their way through, assaulted judicial officers and disrupted proceedings in a bid to stop the court from giving a ruling against them.
A statement issued by its National Publicity Secretary Kola Ologbodion, said: “It is instructive to note that the attack came on a day the court set aside to make pronouncement on a suit related to APC’s ward congresses for which some APC leaders in a faction allegedly aligned with the presidency, including a serving minister, unleashed hoodlums on the court.
“We are particularly alarmed that since the attack, no arrest has been made, while the federal government has not taken any concrete steps to bring the perpetrators of this treasonable act to book.
“The failure of the APC-led federal government to act validates allegations that the attack was coordinated as part of the design to intimidate and emasculate the judiciary and ultimately erode its ability to boldly dispense justice on election matters ahead of the 2019 general election, having realised the electoral failure that awaits the APC.”
PDP said it was also aware of secret interferences, threats, harassments and coercion of judicial officers since the sting operation on judges, to do APC’s bidding in cases related to PDP members as well as the 2019 elections.
“Furthermore, we note that this assault on the judiciary is coming on the heels of the invasion of the National Assembly by hoodlums sponsored by the agents of the APC, who brazenly stormed the Senate chambers, disrupted proceedings, threatened our lawmakers and carted away the mace, after which none of them has been brought to book.
“We therefore invite Nigerians to rise up and resist this drift towards fascism. Our citizens worked hard for the democracy we have in our country today and we cannot fold our hands and allow the APC destroy it with their lust for power.
“Finally, while we urge the judiciary to do all to protect itself against the onslaught of the APC, we want the APC to come to terms with the fact that no amount of intimidation, violent attacks, harassment and smear campaign can stop Nigerians in their determination to rally on the platform of the repositioned PDP to end this misrule and return our country to that path of peace, national cohesion and economic prosperity in 2019,” it said.