BY TAIWO FAROTIMI
In the weeks ahead there may be more than one attempt at probing into the invasion of the federal high court last week by people believed to be officials of the Directorate of State Services, DSS, during the trial of Omoyele Sowore, publisher of Sahara Reporters, an online medium. This followed public outcry over the invasion of the court, where Sowore who had been granted bail by the court was present. The commotion in the court was said to have angered the judge, Ijeoma Ojukwu.
Mr. Femi Falana, a senior advocate of Nigeria, SAN and Sowore’s lawyer had countered the defence by the DSS that Sowore was actually mobbed by friends who were trying to prevent an assumed attempt to arrest the publisher. First was Mr. Abubakar Malami, attorney general and minister of justice who was reported as having said that the federal government had ordered an investigation into the matter. Then the Senate president, Ahmed Lawan also asked the Senate committee on judiciary to conduct an investigation into the matter and submit a report in one week.
If the attempts raise hope that the controversial episode will be probed into and therefore put to rest, there are those who hold suspect such probe by agents of state, one of which is an accused in this matter. The body of SANs is one such entity. The body, which is concerned for the respect of Nigeria in the international community, believes that to get to the root of the matter and also probe claims by the DSS and prevent further abuse of rule of law a believable probe must be done. This view was expressed Wednesday by Mr. Onomigbo Okpoko, who represented the body of SANs at a special valedictory session in honour of Justice Kumai Aka’ahs who retired from the supreme court. The session was held at the premises of the apex court. Mr. Okpoko said as a member of the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA the body of SANs associates itself with the condemnation by the NBA of the invasion. He, however, said the body was going a step further by suggesting an Independent Commission of Inquiry to be put together by President Muhammadu Buhari. The commission will hold public hearing and determine the perpetrators of the act of violation of the judiciary.
He said none of the state security organisations, including the police, was qualified to undertake the investigation, if the result is to be believed. Mr. Okpoko also said that the National Assembly was not sufficiently equipped to do a truthful and deep probe into the act of violation of the sanctity of the court room. Besides, he said, “It is the result of any such judiciary inquiry that will lead to the re-establishment of discipline in society. Officers are not the laws of the land and the Constitution. In Nigerian law and in the Common Law, the Superior Orders is no defence to criminal conduct. It has never been and this administration must not allow it to be”.
Paul Usoro, president of the NBA who was at the ceremony frowned at the persistent disobedience of court orders. He said, “We desecrate the temple of justice when we blatantly flout and disobey the orders of courts. A court that is made to be helpless in the face of flagrant disobedience of its orders is as useless to the society as a toothless bulldog is to its owner.”
The invasion of the court room, after the DSS only released Sowore after the judge had issued another order following refusal of the service to release him even after he had fulfilled all bail conditions, angered the judge. For the judge and the judiciary, it was a further demonstration of the contempt that the DSS has for the judiciary. It also provoked a general condemnation as the height of blatant disrespect for the judiciary under the present administration. It is hoped that the probe will not under show light in the episode at the court, but also start to restrain any further attempt to hold the court in contempt.