On Tuesday, Governor Nyesom Wike led a delegation of Rivers State elders and elected representatives to the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Usman Alkali Baba, at the Force Headquarters in Abuja, charging him to unravel the real motive behind the recent invasion of the residence of Justice Mary Odili of the Supreme Court.
He was accompanied by Senator Betty Apiafi, Senator George Sekibo, Senator Barry Mpigi, Senator Lee Maeba, Senator Olaka Nwogu, Speaker of the state House of Assembly, Ikuinyi-Owaji Ibani, former Presidents of Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Onueze C.J Okocha, (SAN) and Okey Wali, (SAN), former Transport Minister, Dr. Abiye Sekibo, and former Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP) President, Ledum Mitee.
While Wike said it is curious that weeks after the obnoxious invasion of Justice Odili’s residence, the magistrate who issued the search warrant, has not been interrogated to account for his action, he, however, commended the Police chief and his team for the arrest of some of the suspects involved in the condemnable invasion.
The outspoken governor charged the Police to get to the root of the matter in order to ensure that all those directly or indirectly involved face the full wrath of the law, adding, “we believe, we should get to the root of this matter and anybody who is directly or indirectly involved should face the wrath of the law. It does not matter the person’s position. That is the only way somebody can stop saying if a Justice of Supreme Court, second in command, could face this, what about the ordinary people, what will happen? I am quite confident that you will unravel whatever that has happened.”
Continuing, Wike expressed concern that if all culprits are not arrested and prosecuted, law-abiding citizens will be reluctant to grant access to their residence to anyone that brandishes a search warrant at them, pointing out that the October 29 incidence, has generated a lot of misgiving and negative perception about the activities of some security agencies.
According to him, the only way public confidence in security agencies can be restored is when all those who engaged in the despicable act, are exposed and punished in accordance with extant laws of the land, stressing that the government and people of Rivers are concerned that the magistrate who issued the search warrant has not been quizzed to determine the motive for his action.
“Nobody has said anything about the magistrate, and we believe that the magistrate is not unknown”, the governor said and again, commended the IGP for being apolitical and professional in the discharge of his constitutional responsibility.
He observed that because the IGP has conscientiously refused to politicise the issue of security, Rivers security architecture has been yielding positive results, pointing out, “today, in my state, the level of peace, the level of security we enjoy is as a result of your support not to interfere, not to politicise the issue of security. It is unfortunate that the state has had a series of crisis. Since I took over in 2015, I think we have had more than 10 Commissioner of Police .”
While assuring the IGP that his administration will not relent in its support for the police and other security agencies, the police big boss in his remarks said the suspects involved in the invasion of Justice Odili’s residence are still in police custody amid an ongoing investigation.
On the issue of the magistrate who issued the search warrant, he explained that the police had written to the Chief Registrar of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) requesting for his release, but instead, his statement was submitted to the police. “We wrote a letter to the Chief Registrar of FCT to release the magistrate, and instead of releasing him, they replied to our letter, plus his statement to us. So, we don’t want to pick any quarrel. What we needed was the statement. We are working with the statement. He has not denied the fact that he has issued a search warrant and that is what we wanted to confirm.”
Baba said based on one suspect’s and a fake Chief Superintendent of Police, Lawrence Ajodo statement, the police had interviewed the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, who denied he does not know Ajodo. According to him, the Attorney General actually confirmed that his ministry had initially constituted a recovery team, but that team had since been disbanded, and even its default chairman, is undergoing prosecution by Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC).
“He, Ajodo, also told us that he was the one who lifted the AGF signature from another document and imposed it on his identity card.”
The Attorney-General of the Federation aside, the Police high command should also interrogate President Muhammadu Buhari on the messy matter. In other climes, heads of government allow themselves to be quizzed by the police. Nigeria should not be exempted. As a matter of fact, President Buhari will make history if he submits himself to be interrogated by the investigating police team.
As we see it, the Buhari administration cannot exonerate itself from this mess. The administration infamously began raiding the residences of judges soon after it came into office in 2015 with the private property of notable legal officers in many states of the country being on their radar. The raids began in October 2016 when the State Security Service also known as the Department of State Security raided the homes of some senior judges on late Friday and early Saturday on the assumption that it was gathering evidence of corruption.
The raids according to investigations were carried out in Abuja, Port Harcourt, Gombe, Kano, Enugu and Sokoto which were apparently aimed at arresting judges having alleged that the affected judges were involved in corrupt practices which were not clearly stated. Among the judges whose homes were raided included Adeniyi Ademola and Nnamdi Dimgba of the Federal High Court in Abuja as well as Sylvester Ngwuta and John Okoro of the Supreme Court.
In Kano, the home of a High Court judge, Kabiru Auta was raided along with another residence in Enugu belonging to the Chief Judge of the state, A.I. Umezulike. They were later recommended for retirement by the National Judicial Council. Also, the residences of a Gombe State judge, Muazu Pindiga as well as that of his counterpart from Sokoto State, Justice Samia were also raided during the opera during which documents allegedly linked Mr. Ngwuta or Okoro to estates worth N1.5 billion was said to have been recovered.
At the residence of Ademola, the SSS was said to have recovered at least $400,000 and eN39 million in cash in addition to documents of landed properties belonging to him. The raid at Justice Mohammed Liman’s residence in Port Harcourt was said to have been ordered to allow the SSS to search the house because he was said to be in possession of $2 million. And, in 2019, the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen was removed after he was arraigned before the Code of Conduct Tribunal, he was later convicted but he later resigned.
Onnoghen’s trial was roundly condemned with one organisation saying it has led to the collapse of ‘confidence in the individuals’ who occupy judicial offices. Similarly, soon after coming into office, SSS raided Akwa Ibom State Government House in Uyo and did not disclose its mission even though nothing incriminating was said to have been found.
Undoubtedly, the honourable thing for President Buhari is to take full responsibility for the ignoble invasion of Justice Odili’s residence, and also cause heads to roll for embarrassing his administration with such flagrant abuse of power with the use of willing security agencies.