Following the arrest, last year of some Federal High Court Judges and Supreme Court Justices, an Abakaliki based lawyer, Onu John Onwe have dragged President Muhammadu Buhari, and the Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, to court.
Also joined in the suit are the Director of State Security Services (DSS), Lawal Daura, Inspector-General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, Chairman of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Magu and National Judicial Council (NJC).
Apparently worried at the manner the whole operation was conducted, the treatment meted out to the judges, and its legal and political implication on the rule of law and activities of the judiciary, Onwe filed a suit at the Federal High Court sitting in Abakaliki accusing the defendants of not acting in accordance with the rule of law.
Onwe also accused the President and Mr Malami of prevailing upon the NJC to suspend the said Judges and Justices from their offices and performance of their judicial functions.
Onwe in an affidavit he deposed in support of the originating summons, said the President, the Attorney General and the NJC did not follow due process as stated in sections 292 (1) and Paragraph 21(1) of the third schedule to the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in the arrest, suspension and arraignment of the judges.
He also claimed that the actions of the defendants induce insecurities in the judiciary and judiciary officers in the discharge of their duties and indeed in the enforcement of the fundamental human rights guaranteed under Chapter 4 of the Constitution of the Federal republic of Nigeria 199 as amended.
When the matter came up for a preliminary hearing Friday, the plaintiff who also doubles as the Counsel to the Plaintiff, Onu John Onwe told the court that some of the defendants including Buhari, Attorney –General, DSS, IGP and NJC have been served while the EFCC have not been served.
Onwe who is the plaintiff and counsel to the plaintiff had told the court that the court bailiff had gone to the EFCC twice to serve the anti-graft agency but that the agency refused to accept the service.
Onwe noted that he instituted the suit to check the excesses of the executive, describing the invasion of judges’ homes in the midnight as unconstitutional and a flagrant abuse of rule of law.
What we are concerned about is the interpretation of certain provisions of the constitution. We are not contesting the fact even though the defendants are saying that I don’t have the locus standi to challenge their actions because it affects the whole nation, that one person cannot come and say that he is aggrieved on their action but I am aggrieved because their action is affecting me as a lawyer and that is why I am challenging their action. I don’t feel secure in my practice and also as a politician – Onwe.
Samuel Ede who is counsel to the National Judicial Council explained that the plaintiff is challenging the arrest of some Judges.
“This matter is what the plaintiff called an unlawful invasion of the various homes of Judges and Justices of the Supreme Court. He said it has put his practice as a Lawyer on line or at stake. This matter concerns NJC because it is the body in charge of laws in Nigeria, it is a supervisory body.
“The plaintiff is in a position to appraise the matter but this court is in a position to take its position on it”, he said.
However, President Buhari and the Attorney General of the Federation, who are the 1st and 2nd respondents in the matter, have denied issuing the orders for the invasion and arrest of the judges and justices of the federal high courts and supreme courts.
According to a counter affidavit filed by Counsel to the President and the Attorney, Mr Balla Ali, the duo in paragraph 8 succinctly denied that the orders for the invasion and subsequent arrest were issued by the Buhari.
“That it is not true that the orders for the act of siege and invasion of residences of the said judges and justices of the Federal High Courts and the Supreme Court of Nigeria were made by the 1st Defendant, neither did the 2nd Defendant issue any such statement owning and/or accepting responsibility for giving order and or directive authorizing the Department of State Security operatives nor agents to carry out any acts of siege, invasion nor searches of residences, arrests nor detentions of any such judges and justices for several hours in the DSS detension cells until the said judges and justices were released at any order of the 1st Defendant”, he said.
The Presiding Judge, Justice Akintola Aluko, however, insisted that EFCC must be served before the matter can commence for proper hearing and adjourned till June 12 for hearing.